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Guatapé Rock – Complete Guide to Climbing La Piedra del Peñol (Colombia)

Guatapé Rock – Complete Guide to Climbing La Piedra del Peñol (Colombia)

A complete guide to visiting and climbing the famous rock of Guatapé, La Piedra del Peñol.

For those visiting Guatapé, Colombia it’s very difficult to miss Guatapé rock, also known as La Piedra del Peñol. In fact, this geological marvel is a huge reason why so many people visit this tiny town, and it literally has put Guatapé on the tourist map!

Rising 675 feet above the beautiful lakeside town, this massive granite rock is a popular tourist destination and offers a fairly easy ascent due to the stairs. If you’re planning on climbing La Piedra del Peñol, this complete guide will give you all the information you need!

#1 out of 37 Best Things to do in Guatapé, Colombia

Visiting Guatapé to Climb El Peñol

Planning a visit to Guatapé? This is a great idea. It's one of the best places to travel in the country and it's really easy to get here from Medellín.

If you're short on time, then I recommend booking the full-day organized tour to Guatapé, which includes climbing the Guatapé rock and a tour guide for the

There are several tours running from Medellín. However, this is one of the most affordable ways to get to the pueblo. Also, it has 1000s of 5-star reviews on Get Your Guide!

El Penol, giant rock in Guatapé Colombia

About the Famous Rock of Guatapé

La Piedra Del Peñol, also known as El Peñol, El Peñón de Guatapé, or simply La Piedra is a huge rock monolith found near the village of Guatapé in Antioquia, Colombia.

It's one of the town's main tourist attractions and it is culturally and historically significant to the residents of Guatapé.

This ten million-ton granite stone towers 200 meters above the earth and is visible for miles in the Colombian countryside. It's known geologically as an inselberg, a lone, prominent rock in a mostly flat landscape.

El Peñol is almost completely smooth, but it features one long crack running up to the base of the face. This crack contains a 649-step masonry staircase which allows visitors to climb to the top quite easily.

The indigenous Tahamí (Tahamí Indians, or Tahamies Indians) who are native to the area have long recognized the significance of this gigantic rock. They named it named it mojarrá or mujará (meaning "rock" or "stone").

Giant granite boulder in Colombia

How was the Big Rock of Guatape formed?

This feature is a formation of the Cordillera Occidental Mountain Range near the Colombian Andes Mountains.

Similar to other Inselbergs like Uluru, these large rock formations are the result of an eroding landscape. This is often caused by flooding over a long period of time. In this case, this natural wonder is made of granite.

This is a type of igneous rock that forms when magma (molten rock) cools and solidifies deep underground. Since granite is very hard and durable, the massive rock has withstood the test of time and erosion.

The stone is estimated to be 65 million years old, according to geologists.

Guatapé from the sky

Don't Miss: Where to stay in Medellín (best neighborhoods)

Where is the Giant Rock in Guatapé?

The Guatapé rock is located just a short hop outside the small town of Guatapé Colombia, which is about a two-hour drive from the city of Medellín.

Although there have been disputes over the ownership of the rock between the neighboring town of El Peñol, the rock sits within the municipality of Guatapé. There are even two huge white letters that is part of an uncompleted grafitti staking the town's claim.

Map location of el penol in Guatape

How to get to La Piedra del Peñol

If you already find yourself in Guatapé, then getting to La Piedra del Peñol is quite easy. You can simply walk the road from the square (30 minutes). Or, take a tuk tuk (tricycle taxi) from Plazoleta de los Zócalos or the main square (Parque Principal de Guatapé) for around 10,000 Colombian pesos.

We decided to take the walk to get a good view of the massive stone from the other side of Guatapé Lake.

If you're aren't here yet, read my comprehensive guide to how to get to Guatapé from Medellín (four options). Otherwise, I've included a quick summary below.

behind a tuk tuk driver
Tuk Tuk in Guatapé

How to Get to Guatapé from Medellín

If you're planning to visit for a day, then the best way to get to Guatapé is by booking the day-trip above. This is the cheapest option and the most convenient.

However, if you'd like to stay a few days as we did, then you have the option of paying a taxi driver (270,000 pesos flat rate) or taking the public bus.

To take the bus to Guatapé, follow the instructions below.

First, head to the Medellín north bus station called Terminal del Norte. You can take a taxi or Uber here quite easily from anywhere in the city for under 18,000 COP.

Alternatively, take advantage of Medellín’s reliable and safe metro system to get to Caribe Metro Station. This joins Terminal del Norte.

Once you arrive, walk downstairs and head to kiosk number 14. The fee is 17,000 pesos per person.

The buses run pretty much all day long and will drop you off right in the heart of the beautiful town of Guatapé. However, you also have the option of getting out at the base of the rock, and the driver always stops here before going all the way in.

Guatapé bus in Medellín

Climbing Guatapé Rock - What to Expect

Now that you know all about the logistics required to get here, let's dive into the updated guide for the climb!

The truth is, there are two different ways to climb the rock. The most common way is by taking the 649-step masonry staircase built into the vertical crack on its northern face.

The second option for the super adventurous (and experienced) is to book a rock-climbing tour online.

Of course, most people will be interested in the regular stair climb, so that's what I'll cover in this guide.

the giant rock of Guatapé in Colombia

The Staircase to the Top of el Peñón de Guatapé

The climb begins at the base, where you'll find a large area with loads of restaurants, a gigantic parking lot, and tourist souvenir shops. You'll climb the side of the rock (hill) to reach this flat section at the base.

Car Park next to huge stone
Entrance with a vehicle is 2,000 pesos

Once you arrive, there is a ticket booth where you will first need to pay the 20,000 peso entrance fee to climb the rock of Guatapé.

Immediately to the right of the booth, the climb begins and is just one single vertical stroke up 649 steps to the viewpoint at the top!

El Peñol rock in Colombia

At the halfway mark, you'll also find a small place to rest which is also a small catholic shrine.

Girl walking up stairs in Guatapé
Colombian catholic shrine

The Magnificent Views from the Top of the Rock

After the steep but relatively short climb (15-30 minutes depending on fitness level), you'll arrive at a flat section where you will find more food vendors, restaurants, and an observation tower.

The most beautiful views are at the highest part, where you'll climb a quick spiral staircase to the three-story viewpoint tower. From here, you'll get incredible 360 panoramic views of the entire countryside.

Top of La Piedra del Peñol (El Peñol), in Guatapé

On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles in every direction. To the north, you'll have an unobstructed view of Guatapé Lake, the artificial reservoir turned into hydroelectric dams.

View of Guatapé and the lake from the top of the rock

To the south, you'll see a beautiful green landscape with rolling hills and picturesque villages dotting the surrounding countryside.

We spent a good half an hour at the top, enjoying the best view in the region!

On the way down, you'll walk through a souvenir shop where you can buy memorabilia or small trinkets.

View of Guatapé lake
green hills with a lake

Related: La Cazuela – Awesome Guatapé Waterfall

History & More Interesting Things to Know About El Peñol in Guatapé

I hope this quick guide has convinced you to check out this awesome geological wonder. In the below section I'll include a brief history of the rock, and answer some commonly asked questions.

Interesting fact: A German scientist discovered a new species of plant on the rock's face, which he named Pitcairnia heterophylla.

Guatapé rock in Colombia

How Many Steps are there at La Piedra del Peñol?

There are 649 steps in total to climb the masonry staircase to the top of the rock.

Climbing the rock of Guatapé

Who Built the Zig Zag Staircase to Climb Guatapé Rock?

The stairs were built in 2006 by the Colombian government.

Climbing the stairs of the Guatapé rock, La Piedra del Peñol

Who owns the Rock of Guatapé?

The truth is that the rock's historical significance and its value as a tourism icon means that there is a long disputed ownership of La Piedra del Peñol between the towns of Guatapé and El Peñol.

As soon as you see the rock, I'm sure you'll see the huge white letters painted onto its face. This reads "GI", but the second letter is just a single stroke of the letter "U" in the unfinished painting of the town's name. I guess Guatapé decided to take this matter into their own hands to stake their claim!

However, the residents of El Peñol (neighboring village), were not too fond of the town's claim, and a large mob ensured the painted large white letters would not be completed. They'd prefer if the name was the "stone of el Peñol".

From an outsider's perspective, I personally think the letters have tainted this beautiful national monument, and I'm personally glad that the graffiti wasn't finished. It's one of the most beautiful places in Colombia, and I'm sure you'll agree that it should be left as is.

To this day, the towns still dispute the ownership of the rock.

White letters on the stone of Guatapé

How Long Does it Take to Climb Guatapé Rock?

It depends on your fitness level, but it should take you between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the top.

How High is the Rock of Guatapé?

The rock is about 200 meters tall (656 feet), and the top of the observation deck is at an elevation of about 2150 meters above sea level (7054 feet).

Guatapé rock

Staying the night? best Accommodation Options in Guatapé

Prefer to stay a night or two in this colorful little town? Below are my three best picks the best Guatapé hotels and hostels.

  • Casa Pastora - Budget pick (where I stayed). An awesome homestay/co-work hotel that is very close to town, offers private rooms, and costs less than $15 per night!
  • Hotel Santa Maria de las Aguas Peñol - Amazing 4-star hotel offering views over the lake and the giant rock landmark
  • Hotel Los Recuerdos - Huge resort-style hotel with huge open-glass windows overlooking the lake and the rock.
Guatapé waterfront accommodation
One of the amazing Guatapé hotels on the lake

More Colombia & South America Travel Guides

I hope that you've enjoyed this quick guide to visiting Guatapé rock or La Pedra del Peñol in Colombia. If you have any questions, make sure to drop a comment below.

Otherwise, check out some of my other articles for more travel inspiration to this epic country and beyond.


Sunday 29th of January 2023

What is the cost to go up, and how long does the whole climb up and down take.