Guatapé: Rock, zócalos, and lake

posted in: Panama and Colombia 2023 | 0

Guatapé is a cute, colorful town. There’s a big rock nearby. And there’s a lake, well actually a human-made reservoir. 

We climbed the rock. Then we walked around the town. We went to a replica of another town that was flooded when they created the reservoir. And we took and evening dinner cruise on the lake.

That’s pretty much it, except for the pictures.

El Peñol de Guatapé

Or is it “El Peñon”? I’ve seen it called both. “Peñon” is Spanish for “crag.” “Peñol” is Spanish for “peak.” So I’m calling it “El Peñol,” because it seems to me more a peak than a crag.

In English I’ve seen it called a monolith or an inselberg. Per Wikipedia, an inselberg is “an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain.” Ones you’re probably familiar with are Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) in Australia, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, the Rock of Gibraltar, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and for my Mexican friends, Peña de Bernal in Queretaro. El Peñol de Guatapé is, depending on how these things are measured, one of the ten biggest inselbergs in the world.

It’s 740 steps to the top of El Peñol. This seemed daunting, and it wasn’t a breeze, but with a few stops to “enjoy the view” along the way, I made it to the top without suffering a heart attack. And the view were worth it, plus I decided I earned an ice cream for my effort.

You can see the steps going up the side of El Peñol. The steps to come down are inside a narrow fissure.
Just one part of the 360 views from the top


Aside from the big rock, the town of Guatapé is very popular with tourists because of its zócalos, baseboard murals on the houses and shops, which are also painted in bright colors. We wandered around for a while. I enjoyed it despite the crowds.


In 1978 this large area was flooded, creating the reservoir and the many islands that are easily seen from the top of El Peñol. A nearby village, also called El Peñol, was a victim of the reservoir. Its residents were relocated, and the site of the town sits at the bottom of the lake. Before they left, they erected a 28-meter-high column with a cross on top. Only the cross is visible today sticking out of the lake.

They built a replica of the town square, and we paid it a quick visit. It’s really just a church and a few shops and restaurants. No one actually lives there.

At the end of the day, we rode in Tuk Tuks to a strange boat that is actually a floating restaurant. We had dinner on the boat. It was nothing to write home about, so I won’t.

Here are all my photos from Guatapé.

This morning we drove back to the Medellín airport and flew to Santa Marta. Then we drove along the Caribbean coast about two hours to Palomino, and here we are staying tonight and tomorrow night. I’ll have another blog post soon.

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