Dubbed 'Colombia's most colourful town', Guatapé sits on the shores of a vast artificial lake with rolling hills behind. The town is an easy day trip from Medellín so every weekend a festival atmosphere takes hold as city dwellers come to relax by the lake. During the week you can wander through the streets admiring the bright zocalos (paintings and murals) adorning every house. Stop for a freshly brewed coffee in the square while you decide which water sport you fancy.
Most hostels in Guatapé have open-air common areas and bars so you can barbecue with new friends or lounge in a pool overlooking the lake. Stay in a Guatapé hostel with a private beach and daily activities or one with timber cabins up in the trees. One of the oldest houses in town has been converted into a hostel if you're curious to see inside, or you could choose a family home opened up to guests. Many Guatapé hostels have free breakfasts and some offer evening meals too.
Compact Guatapé is built around two squares. Parroquia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen, the Catholic church, is on the main square where you'll find people lingering on benches in easy conversation. Meanwhile, Plazoleta de Los Zócalos is a riot of terraced buildings in every colour imaginable. This is where you can eat, shop and drink alongside locals and travellers. A 15-minute drive south is La Piedra Del Peñol, the 200m high rock that dominates the horizon around Guatapé.
La Piedra Del Peñol is a popular place to visit. Whether you take the 740 steps or scale it with a harness, from the top you'll have exceptional views over the lake. You could go kayaking, jet skiing and fishing, or simply tuck into a freshly caught trout in a waterfront restaurant. Look out for the maracuyá (passionfruit) salsa: it's a speciality in Colombia. You can also rent a motorcycle to explore the waterfalls and swimming holes along the road to San Rafael.
There's an hourly bus service from Medellín which takes 2 hours, arriving into Guatapé bus terminal. On weekends, buy your return ticket on arrival as late buses often get booked up. If you've got your eye on climbing La Piedra, catch a Colectivos shuttle to the turn off on the main road or take a moto-taxi to the entrance. Tuk-tuks also gather on the lakeshore if you don't want to wait for the next shuttle.