Climb 740 steps to the very top of this big rock

The view from the bottom as you approach. La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

Also called la Piedra del Peñol (“the rock of Guatape”) or Peñon de Guatapé, this is a fun, daytrippable excursion from Medellin. Spend the night or weekend in Guatape if you like (it’s a pleasant enough city), but if you’ve left Medellin before lunch there’s a very good chance you can make it here, climb the rock, and make it back to Medellin the same night.

Welcome to the rock. The sign, at least. La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

Resist the Sean Connery accent… Resist… Can’t… Do… It… Welcome to the ROCK….

As for the promise…? It is a nice view, but you’ll have to keep reading (or hiking) to see it for yourself.

A look up at the almost never-ending stairs of La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

A look from the bottom – plenty of souvenirs along with some food and drink (wait until you’ve come down from the rock before buying the souvenirs, obviously).

A look up at one of the first men to climb the rock, La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

On your way up, pay your regards to Don Luis Eduardo Villegas Lopez, one of the first people to climb the rock in July 1954. He didn’t have the stairs of course, and it isn’t clear how he scaled the thing.

Say your prayers. La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

This is one of a few religious statues along the way — say your prayers, or just stop for a second… You know, to appreciate the artistry…

The climb itself is straightforward, with different paths for those going up and those going down. Look for the faded yellow numbers along the way — and the generously-sized areas to pull out of the way to catch your breath while letting other hikers pass.

This is not an easy climb, I thought — and was continually surprised at the stamina of the people also making the journey. Old, young, and more than a few folks that looked less active than myself — all climbing.

Once at the top, take a break — you’ve earned it! Grab a soda or beer and find a chair (or ledge), and rest for a few minutes. The views here are good, but not quite 360 degrees. As you’re looking around, you’ll note the one multi-story building, and may also see a crowd on top of the roof. It’s then when you realize your journey isn’t quite complete.

We made it! The very top - 740 steps. La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

Huff…. puff… when you see the 740, you’ve reached the tip-top, the very highest point you can go. Two floors worth of souvenirs await, just in case you begin to cramp up along the way… This is where you’ll get the more dramatic selfies and 360-degree pictures:

The view from the top. La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia.

It’s the land of many lakes, and it’s gorgeous.

The climb down is again fairly straightforward, just a bit on the long side. If you still have energy for some more exploring, head into Guatape for some wonderful murals around the church in the center of town.

Details and directions

Start from Medellin’s northern bus terminal (connected to Caribe metro station), then look for window #14 to buy tickets. The ticket should have the bus’ license plate — use that to ensure you get on the right bus. The bus stops at a tourist information booth after a couple of hours — if you’re just making a daytrip here, jump off here. (If this is a weekend trip, consider heading into town to drop off your stuff at your hotel, then backtracking).

From the tourism information booth/main road, it’s a 900 meter hike uphill to the official entrance. Pay one of the tuk-tuks to shuttle you to the entrance, or start hiking. That 740 step count doesn’t officially start until you’re past the ticket taker.

Once down, head back to the visitor information booth for the bus to head back to Medellin. They come about once an hour.



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