This town is one of the most colorful and vibrant colonial towns in Colombia. Although the town itself was founded in 1811, the area was inhabited by indigenous groups long before that. The area’s economy was formerly based on agriculture and mining, but the development of a hydroelectric complex in the 70s changed things pretty drastically. This project included the building of the Punchiná Dam, which formed Guatape Lake and turned the town into a key center of electric production for much of Colombia. Tourists come from all over the world to visit this lake, which is full of archipelagos and ideal for all kinds of watersports. Also, since it’s located right next to El Peñol, it makes for a stunning view from 220 meters up in the air.
The hydroelectric dam did bring prosperity to Guatape starting in the 70s, but at great cost to the inhabitants of nearby villages – their homes and properties were flooded by the new lake. However, even as this project took something valuable from local residents, it also created the opportunity for a thriving tourism industry in the following decades. The origins of the Punchiná Dam were full of controversy, but at least the residents were eventually able to benefit from it.
Among Guatapé’s most unique attractions are the zocalos, or brightly painted tiles that form murals along the lower edges of many of the town’s houses. They’re typically designed by each building’s owner, and represent local life, important regional products, or symbols that hold some kind of personal significance. The zocalos are beautifully designed, and are completely in harmony with the brightly colored houses. Whether you want to get some amazing photos, or you just enjoy being in colorful and charming environments, the Guatapé and El Peñol tour could be just the ticket.
Any description of the town’s highlights wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the coffee! Guatape is in the heart of Colombia’s coffee district, where regional growers produce coffees that may not even be available for export. If you enjoy coffee, you’ll love getting a cup of freshly brewed java here.