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South America » Colombia » Medellin
May 17th 2016
Published: May 17th 2016
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Seeing pictures of Guatape, it looked like a paradise in its own right. Tree covered mountains surrounding what looked like a mirage of blue sparking lakes and rivers encircling tiny green islands.

After spending Christmas in Medellin, we wanted something a little more green and local for Chris’s birthday and new years. Coming here was one of the best decisions we could have made. Only a 2 hour bus ride from Medellin, many people opt to visit on a day trip but we could not understand the logic of this since we arrived. This place was beautiful, relaxing and charming with its small town feel but at the same time you could feel it was alive, with the buzz growing the nearer NYE drew.

Our journey here was closer to the 3 hour mark due to it being the 30th of December. There was so much traffic on the road. People leaving and arriving Medellin from all directions. What we enjoyed most about the journey however was that as soon as you left the boundaries of Medellin, you are surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills and a lot of untouched scenery. Sometimes leaving big towns it’s a gradual reduction in buildings but within no time the built up feel was replaced beautiful scenery.

The following day was Chris’s birthday. Since we arrived in the evening we only really got to witness the real beauty of this area the following morning. Opting to rise with some Yoga, P got to enjoy her surrounds with her own personal Yoga session since no one else opted to join. Chris treated himself to a bulky breakfast burrito with coffee and juice on the rooftop of the hostel complete with a 180 degree balcony.

Whilst on the hostel terrace hanging out some clothes, a gust of wind blew Chris's hat (a birthday gift from P) right off his head and landed on the car park roof below. Being around 4 storeys up it was impossible to get to, after asking at the car park office below they told us the roof wasn't safe to walk on. One of the hostel workers suggested we could try their fishing rod. Only having fished once in India with a handmade rod we didn't really stand a chance but decided to give it a go nonetheless. Within about 2 mins of deploying the line, P had managed to reel Chris's hat in. Result. Go P!!!

Not wanting to waste any more time we decided we wanted to appreciate the views more and climbed the unusually located limestone rock known as La Piedra located on a 15 minute tuk tuk ride out of town. This rock is an attraction in its own right with a zig zagging staircase climbing its way up, its unusual unsymmetrical form and dark black chalky colour.

After a 20-30 minute climb up around 700 steps we were treated to some of the most magical views we'd ever seen. The greens of the islets contrasting against the shimmering blues of the rivers and surrounding lakes took our breath away. At the top you have a full 360 degree view of the whole area. We took picture after picture, worried that one picture may not capture the real essence of this place. Afterwards we sat at the top of a small tower just appreciating it all and watching the local Colombians trying to capture this place on camera too.

Back in town, we wandered its quaint colourful streets, admiring its charm with terraced houses all oozing bright colours with their own 3D motifs of animals and traditional scenes molded onto their walls. Some homes had beautiful balconies decorated with flowers draped over. What was lovely about this town at this time of year was that every street was decorated with colourful lights and decorations that could be appreciated both day and night. Town was bustling with activities with people in costumes and face paints, all ready in preparation of the small annual festival the town hosts every year.

The festival kicked off at 6pm with a parade making its way around the town, ending in the main square. Unlike the dia de Independencia in Cartegena that showcased many different styles of traditional dress and dance form, this parade was rather quirky. There was a vicar or priest of some sort flicking water at people, a pink unicorn (horse painted pink of course) with wings and all, groups of youngsters dressed up as the Flintstones, a group of people imitating a roller-coaster ride with costumes that made them look as though they were sat down. The most surprising costume to see was a group of Colombians dressed as Isis members running up to Chris surrounding him with their props - water pistols and juice cartons as bombs.

It was all very entertaining and everyone had came out to appreciate the parade, take photos with the paraders and contribute to the great atmosphere. I would like to say that this was when the aguardiente started spilling onto the streets, but in truth Colombians drink this anytime of day. New years eve celebrations were only cause for more to be drank in copious amounts.

Surprising however despite the strength of the drink, you never see any really drunk locals, fights or any tension that you normally associate with street drinking, instead it brought people together. Your never too far from an offer of an aguadiente shot in Colombia.

As the night rolled closer to the new years countdown, the streets were packed with the main action located in and around the main square. Musical performers were on the main stage, couples of all ages came together to dance whilst youngsters doused each other in the popular espuma. Free slices of fruit cake were handed to all and we also sampled some street food; pizza being the only veggie option for P and a Chicken/beef burrito for Chris.

We spent some time with a few of the travellers at our hostel, some of whom had had too many aguardiente shots and were using us as espuma shields from the people they continually targeted with their own espuma. After having enough of being sprayed we went onto the upper floor of a bar overlooking the square, housing many dancing couples to the popular reggaton and salsa songs we have came to enjoy and recognise.

It was great watching the locals below and talking to the ever friendly locals we were sat next to. We've said it before and will probably say it again - this has got to be one of the friendliest nations we have visited! People are incredibly friendly and despite our limited Spanish are happy talking to us and getting to know us.

At midnight there were lots of hugs, celebrations more aguardiente and a fireworks display. It was a brilliant way to spend both new years eve and Chris’s birthday and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Whilst here we also tried out the small zip line along the riverbank and took the opportunity to hire a kayak to paddle around the rivers that weave their way around the town. We never realised how heavy kayaks were until we had to carry ours with one of the hostel staff to the riverside.

After a slow start we were finally off paddling with the current. To our left up the riverbank, was the town with it's fairly busy riverside market where families and couples perused the many street food and clothing stalls. In the river itself, we watched on as kids and young adults jumped onto an inflatable with somebody already lay on part of it. As the jumper landed, this shifted the air in the inflatable and sent the other person flying high into the air before splash landing in the water. We found this pretty amusing as we floated past.

Continuing on past the town, we took in the tranquility of the our surroundings, sometimes taking a random left here and a right there. Unfortunately back on the main river, the tranquility was ruined by the large boats coming too close and the passing speed boats, sending our kayak rocking uncontrollably in their wake. Thankfully we never capsized. The paddle back was a lot more arduous going against the current, and took us double the time to get back.

Another popular attraction here is paint balling in an old property once owned by Pablo Escobar which Chris was looking forward to trying on his birthday. Unfortunately due to the time of the year, there wasn't enough names on the board. We actually waited it out an extra 2 days as more people were expected to arrive in the town/hostel. Finally on the last day when there were enough names on the board...it rained, all all night and all day long! The trip was cancelled and we just didn't have enough time to wait another day. We guess it just wasn't meant to be.

We enjoyed our time in Guatape, it was very relaxed but they sure knew how to throw a party when the time came. We would recommend any travellers here to spend a few days here rather than just half a day as it is a very beautiful place.

Medellin to Guatape: 26,000COP for 2 people

Accommodation: Lake View Hostel

Date: 30/12/2015


Additional photos below
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Chris with 'ISIS'Chris with 'ISIS'
Chris with 'ISIS'

Only in Colombia
This guys having a cigarette break...This guys having a cigarette break...
This guys having a cigarette break...

..in a coffin. The irony.






17th May 2016

What!! where's that!!
Damn, we were in Colombia and didn't even think of going there - I guess we need to go back. It is so interesting how you wrote about the lack of violence despite alcohol being sold on the street. We just kept saying "if they sold this much booze in Sydney there would be fights everywhere", such a different temperament.
21st May 2016

Re: What!! where's that!!
Guatape is highly recommended, such a beautiful place and only a few hours from Medellin. Yes the difference in culture is really noticeable with the street drinking. The UK is quite the same as Sydney and we're guessing Australia too in that fights are regular occurrence when mixed with drink.
18th May 2016
Appreciating the view

Medellin
I'm guessing he is thinking, his life is pretty good.
21st May 2016
Appreciating the view

Re:Medellin
Oh yes, it truly was. Loved this view, could've stayed up here all day
19th May 2016
A spot of kayaking

Happy Birthday, Chris!
What a fantastic place to spend your special day! I'm always so impressed by how you find beautiful paradises and great activities. Those panoramas and the tower view are spectacular! I'd heard that Colombia is really crowded from Christmas on, and finding a place to stay is tricky, but it sounds as if this was a perfect place to be. Best wishes to both of your for a fabulous new year!
21st May 2016
A spot of kayaking

Re: Happy Birthday, Chris!
Thank you Tara. Guatape was a beautiful place with some amazing scenery and a lot of fun too. Your right, certain places in Colombia can get filled up very quickly during special occasions - christmas, new year, religious festivals & carnivals (there's a lot of these) etc. Despite it being quite busy we were able to book our hostel a few days in advance. Guatape was a great mix of fun, activities and relaxation.

Tot: 2.868s; Tpl: 0.071s; cc: 12; qc: 40; dbt: 0.0409s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 3; ; mem: 1.4mb