Weekend Trip to Medellín and Guatapé

I had been so antsy to leave and see more of Colombia, but my pregnancy and new baby (who never sleeps) had kept us from doing so. So, when Gray came home one day and asked if I wanted to go to Medellín the following weekend, I jumped on it. He had to go for work anyway, so the Embassy would pick up some of his expenses, including one night in a hotel! Yay, savings!



Gray left super early on a Thursday morning in March, and I followed with the kids on a later flight. Once we arrived in Medellín, we are picked up at the airport by a pre-arranged driver. The international airport is about 45 minutes outside of Medellín, so my kids took short naps while we drove in. The driver left us at the hotel to check in and we met up with Gray shortly afterwards. I had thought I was booking a hotel in El Poblado, the nicer walkable area of Medellín, but I had gotten the hotels mixed up and our hotel was on the edge of the city. Lesson learned… for someone else, I guess. (We probably won’t be going back to Medellín.)

We have lunch in a nearby mall and then Gray leaves for more work errands while I entertain Ingrid in the ball pit at the mall and we explore and walk around. Eventually I take the kids back to the hotel. Everyone is dead to the world that evening so we order in and hang out at the pool. Ingrid hasn’t been swimming in over a year and has gone from being a total water baby to screaming every time she gets wet. David, on the other hand, is totally in love with the water and happily swims back and forth with Gray while I sit with Ingrid huddled, sulking under a towel.


On Friday, we spend the morning at the Medellín Santa Fe Zoo, per Ingrid’s request. A lot of people recommended Parque Explora and the Jardin Botanico to us, but I think my kids (Ingrid is 2) were a little on the young side to enjoy Parque Explora and we have a Botanical Garden in Bogota. We do not, however, have a zoo.

Hardly anyone was there, so we basically had the place to ourselves. Gray left for another work errand and I took the kids back to the hotel for naps and lunch. Gray eventually met us back at the hotel and we decided to go down to El Poblado and walk around and find some early dinner.


Guatapé was one of those places I’d pinned on my Colombia Bucket List pinterest board back when we arrived in the country. Guatapé is a heritage town that is beautifully preserved. It is situated in the lake district about 2 hours from Medellin. There is also a huge, ginormous rock that hovers over the region called El Peñol which affords beautiful views of the countryside. It takes 700+ stairs to climb it.

So, more than I wanted to go to Medellin – I really wanted to go to the lake district and Guatapé.


Saturday morning we arranged a driver to take us to Guatapé from Medellin. There are cheaper ways to get there via buses, but we opted for private transport since we were traveling with two tiny humans and had some slight concerns about security. The driver relayed some of the history of the region to us – including why the rock has a enormous “GI” painted on it. This occurred when the residents of Guatapé decided to take ownership of the rock, which had been in dispute between them and the residents of El Peñol. Except an angry mob stopped when after they’d only gotten the G and part of a U painted. And so it remains.

We arrived at our hotel (Hotel Los Recuerdos) which was more of a resort style place. There are cheaper places to stay, but this place had a pool, restaurant, and was kid-friendly. Many of the places to stay near Guatapé are backpacker-friendly… and not so kid-friendly.

El Peñon is only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel and the town of Guatapé is less than 5 minutes away by taxi.

We decided to immediately go to the rock and hike it. We took a tiny open-air taxi to the foot of the rock (since we were going to carry the kids up the rock, we opted not to walk up the hill to the foot of the stairs as well), bought our tickets, and climbed all 700+ steps to the top. It was actually a lot easier than I envisioned it. At the top, we shared some ice cream, took a million pictures, and then started the descent down.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Caitlin Gustafson and Gray Gustafson, people smiling, sky, outdoor, nature and water

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the pool and enjoying warm weather, peace, and clean air.


Sunday morning we got up early, ate breakfast and took a taxi to the town of Guatapé. The town was still waking up and there wasn’t a whole lot going on. The main plaza was lined with market tents, and some Colombians were out having a café before heading to mass in the cathedral. We explored some of the shops and walked around. There isn’t really anything “to do” in Guatapé. But that’s sort of the point. It’s just a pretty place to explore and walk around.

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there since we had to get back to the hotel to catch our shuttle to the airport, but we felt like we saw a piece of Colombian history.

I’m really glad we took this trip. I’ve been fairly disappointed by how little traveling we were able to do during this tour, so it was good to get out of Bogota and see another place in Colombia. I know a lot of people really love Medellin, and for me – I definitely prefer Bogota. But, I didn’t make it to the Plaza Botero (in a mediocre neighborhood that I didn’t want to go to alone with the kids) where all the famous Botero sculptures are, or the Botanical Gardens, Parque Arvi, or a lot of the other “must-sees” in Medellin. So maybe my experience was a little slanted. And maybe I just prefer the “cold” of Bogota to the sticky warmth of tropical Medellin when I have to be baby-wearing.

The best part of the trip really was the countryside. We drove through so many beautiful places, gorgeous farms on mountainsides, everything so green! I only wish we could have stayed longer in Guatapé.

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