An hour and a half outside Medellín, there’s a monolith surrounded by beautiful lagoons and green hills which goes by two names, either El Peñón de Guatapé or La Piedra del Peñol (apparently, the former is correct while the latter fell into popular use). The ride out to the Guatapé region from Medellín is one of the most beautiful scenic routes I’ve ever been on, especially if taken in the early hours of the morning (7-8AM). In order to do that, take the metro to Estación Caribe (Caribe station), then walk over to the Terminal del Norte (the Northern Bus Terminal). The price of a ticket at Sotrasanvincente bus company is about US$5.
When I went there, it was mid-October and the hills were surrounded by fog and green for as far as I could see. In the sometimes bumpy bus ride out there, we passed many colorful fincas, semi-hidden lakes and roadside shops and during certain stops (if the morning bus isn’t full when it departs, the driver picks up people until the bus is full), bread or candy vendors would hop on to sell their goods.
The only strange part is not knowing when to get off and what to do or where to go once you do get off. Being that I had never been there, I just stayed on the bus waiting to see the monolith or some street sign pointing the way down some separate would-be road, although my wait eventually paid off as La Piedra came into view.
Even then though, it’s not certain that one needs to get off by the lake and take a boat over or if the bus even passes along a road near the monolith. Again, I just waited and the time came when we got close enough that I just asked to get off. Luckily, I chose the right spot but little did I know, the view I was waiting for was still a little less than an hour away….straight up.
In mid-October, there was no one there at the bottom of the hill that led to the bottom of the monolith so I waited there for a few minutes trying to guess how I’d get to the top. An older gentleman on a mule slowly came down the same road as the bus took and I considered asking him but since I hate looking like a burro myself, I let him go on his merry way.
Behind me was a semi-functioning gas station so I asked someone there and they told me to go up the road that leads up the hill or wait for a transport van or car or bus. Since a little hill doesn’t scare me, I started walking and 15 minutes later, I made it to the bottom of La Piedra, where I found a mini market with many mini stores and a restaurant or two. From there, I paid the 6,000 pesos (about US$3) to enter and started climbing.
The climb took about 30 minutes but only perhaps because I walk fast and during the climb and even when I reached the top, there were maybe 5 people total either on their way down, up or at the top. Very different from other times of the year. Once at the top, I took a look around and decided it was pretty nice but not that great, and that’s when I bought a bottle of water from the slightly overpriced little market there and the young woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted to see the view. Not knowing what she meant, as I was already at the top, I followed her around to the side of the little tower where she worked and she showed me a door that led to stairs inside the tower. The stairs led to a souvenir market and one more story up, was the view I had been waiting for. A 360 degree mirador (lookout) all to myself! It was then that I knew the climb was worth it.
* A little tip, go check out Guatapé the town, it’s a little further than La Piedra and a nice place to hang out for a few hours. I wish I knew that when I was actually there…I would have made the short trip into town.
* Tip number 2, to catch a bus going back, I can’t help you with that aside from telling you how I returned. When I got back to the gas station at the bottom, I waited around and saw no buses so eventually a guy drove by and stopped, asked me if I needed a ride and I said yes. He then took me to El Peñol, a small town about 10 minutes towards Medellín and charged me 15,000 pesos (basically a rip-off) and I waited by the road until a bus came 30 minutes later.