When you first spot the great rock of El Peñol de Guatape it is impressive. As you get closer and start to clearly see each individual step you must climb to reach the top it is downright intimidating. However, don’t let this stop you from actually climbing El Peñol! The 360 degree view of the surrounding lush, rolling hills which pop out from the man-made reservoir is worth each one of the 740 steps it takes to reach the top.
As you make your way up, pause frequently; enjoy the view. Think of all the work that went into constructing these solid, concrete stairs that you’re climbing. Take note of the air plants which cling to the rock, and run your hands over the rough texture of the walls, noting the different minerals and colors that come together to make up this gigantic wonder.
When you make it up to Step 675 of El Peñol breathe a sigh of relief -you’re technically at the top! However, you will quickly notice that there is another large structure, with more stairs, which tempt you to climb them for an even better view. You might be tired, but trust me, those next few steps are worth it!
At the top of the rock there are snacks, refreshments, and trinkets available for purchase, so why not have a look? If it’s a warm day and you’re in the mood for a treat, enjoy an arequipe and queso ice cream on a stick while listening to the traditional music of the Colombian country people and soaking in the spectacular surrounding view.
The first person to climb El Peñol was Luis Villegas back in 1954, and he was the visionary behind putting stairs up to the top so others could enjoy the view as well. At the very top there are many artistic facades, or zócalos, honoring him and his dream.
The way down from El Peñol is a different route from the way up. By the time you reach the bottom, your legs will probably be shaking. Again, take it slow and enjoy the journey. Once at the bottom, head up the road to the magically colorful town of Guatape.
The town of Guatape is covered from the waist down with the impeccably painted zócalos depicting different flowers, animals, cars, or scenes of traditional Colombian life, like the famous “silleteros” who carry things like flowers from their farms to the cities in containers on their backs.
Back in the 1980s the leaders of Guatape decided to beautiful the town, and thus began the creation of the artistic zócalos. Because of this, easy to spend hours wandering about Guatape, enjoying the cheerful colorful houses, and admiring the details of the town.
If you are traveling in Medellin, Colombia, then a day trip to El Peñol and Guatape are definitely a “must” on your to do list. From climbing the rock to exploring the town, you will be happy you took the time to come out and explore.