I am a long-established sucker for a good view. Particularly up high where you can see the whole world spread out under your feet. So there was basically no way that I was going to miss El Peñol when visiting the Medellin area.
The first time I saw a photo taken from El Peñol, I was mesmerized. I couldn’t figure out why it looked like deep blue ocean riddled with little lush jungle islands. I wanted to know why it looked different from all the other Colombian landscape I’d seen photos of. In short, I wanted to know why, and I wanted to see it for myself.
To make my life easier, I booked a full-day private tour from Medellin—mostly because I couldn’t find a small group tour doing what I wanted, on a Sunday—to be able to visit the colorful town of Guatapé, tour a coffee farm, and climb El Peñol. Killing three birds with one stone, if you will…four birds if we count transportation, and I always do. And having a translator since I don’t speak Spanish, so we’re getting to a lot of dead birds.
This is getting weird. Let’s move on…
Read all about my Colombian adventures:
What is El Peñon?
El Peñon or Piedra del Peñol is a 10-million-ton rock once worshiped by ancient native peoples, and today a crazy workout for locals and tourists alike. Its steep staircases wind around the giant rock, helping thousands of people each year climb the giant rock rising out of the plain. Why, you ask?? Well, the views don’t suck. You’ll see.
My guide, Carlos, dropped me off here and then sent me on my way. He was like, “I’m not climbing that!” I started up the steps, taking them pretty quickly. As you climb, make sure to stop every so often to look back at the view. (Also, to catch your breath and give your quads a rest…no judgment here.)
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After close to 700 steps, you’ll finally reach the top! It really didn’t take me too long…maybe 15 or 20 minutes? And boy, the views are crazy! Due to the hydroelectric dam nearby, the landscape is full of bright green-teal water with tons of little bits of land cropping up like islands.
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I was starving and so thirsty when I reached the top (not to mention sweating profusely), so I grabbed a bottle of water from a vendor and treated myself to unripe mango with lime and salt, a refreshing Colombian treat.
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Knowing that colorful Guatapé awaited me once I was finished, I took a few last pictures and then started down the long staircase…DEFINITELY more pleasant than going up. Though awkward because my ankles don’t really bend and those are some steep steps!
How to get to El Peñon de Guatape
- El Peñol is a couple hours away from Medellin by bus, or about an hour or hour and a half by car (which is what I’d recommend). If you do take the bus, make sure to get off at Piedra del Peñol, NOT El Peñon.
- There is a small fee to climb the rock (about $6 USD)
- There are tons of refreshment stands, souvenirs, and other shops at the base of the rock, and a few at the top as well.
- I visited as part of a full-day tour, combined with old El Penol (the town), a coffee farm, and Guatapé. I highly recommend this approach, and there are lots of tour options from Medellin, which can solve for transportation challenges and give you a much more full perspective!
Other hikes with a view:
- Hiking the Quiraing on Scotland’s Isle of Skye
- Hiking the Hooker Valley Track on New Zealand’s South Island
- Why a Sunrise Hike Up Masada Should Be On Your Bucket List
- Hiking Pinchgut Track in Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand
- A First-Timer’s Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zelve: Cappadocia’s Best-Kept Secret
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