El Peñon de Guatapé, literally “the rock of Guatapé”, is an unusual attraction in Colombia. It’s a giant monolith in the middle of flatlands that looks like it’s been sutured, but those ‘stitches’ are just the 740-step staircase that will transport you to the top. El Peñol (the rock) or La Piedra (the stone), as it’s also called, is an inselberg — an isolated rock hill that rises from a level surrounding plain –, a landmark in the town of Guatapé.
El Peñon is composed of granite, which is likely why it’s still standing, having resisted erosion. The Tahamies Indigenous (erstwhile inhabitants of the region) worshiped the rock, and in 1940, the government labeled it a national monument.
The monolith was first climbed in 1954 (using nothing but wooden planks); today there’s a switchback staircase that visitors can climb to get to the top. The views from this pinnacle are spectacular; since it’s the only high point for miles, El Peñon gives the climber a 360-degree view of Guantapé’s surrounding lakes and islands.
In case you’re curious, the white letters on the side of El Peñon were a failed attempt by the residents of Guantapé to claim the monolith as their own, but the residents of El Peñol, a bordering town who wanted to claim the rock as theirs, stopped them before they could complete the U.
How to get there
Only a couple of hour by bus from Medellin (Colombia’s second largest city), El Peñon de Guatapé is an easy trip. From the bus station ask for Piedra or El Peñon and Guatapé. The bus will drop you off about 400 metres away from the entrance — you can then walk or take a tuk-tuk to the stairs.
What to consider
- It costs a few bucks (~$6) to ascend El Peñon.
- If the 740-step climb wasn’t enough, you can also walk to the top of the 3-story lookout tower built on the summit of the rock.
- There are facilities and refreshments at the top of the climb.
- Don’t get off the bus at El Penon but at Piedra del Peñol.