My first thought upon seeing Piedra del Peñol was “wow, this would make a great location for Game of Thrones!”. If you imagine a big castle on top, it could absolutely be as a fantasy location.
This big rock can be found near a small town called Guatapé in Colombia, and this strange monolith really sticks out among the gently glowing green hills around it. There is no other rock formation like it anywhere in the region, and you can see why indigenous people originally used to worship it.
Visitors can scale the rock via a staircase built into one side, a path that includes 650 steps. A sign claims it leads to the “best view in the world” which is overselling it a little, but I must say the view of the lakes below was impressive nonetheless.
Stairs were built awkwardly wedged in between the narrow vertical crack going up the rock
There’s a little lookout tower atop the rock, and on the inside of its walls are various murals dedicated to a certain Luis Villegas. “Luis Villegas: man with God in his heart”. “Luis Villegas: a true visionary”. At the base of the rock there’s even a bronze statue of him. So who is this guy and what’s with all the hero worship?
Turns out he was the first person ever to climb the rock back in 1954, and one of the murals (see below) offers a clue as to why he’s so celebrated here…
‘El Pato de Oro’ means The Golden Goose. Over the last few decades the rock has transformed the Guatapé area into a thriving tourist attraction, and it is now also a major centre for watersports, wall climbing and other activities. So that’s why they love Luis Villegas so much.
The town of Guatapé is worth a visit as well. It’s famed for its colourful houses with beautifully sculpted depictions of village life adorning the lower halves of every house. There’s a bunch of art shops and cute cafes to be found in Guatape, as well as a beautiful colonial era church.
How to get there
Guatapé can be easily done as a daytrip from Medellin: take the Metro to Terminal del Norte (next to station Caribe). From there it’s a 11,000 peso bus to Guatapé (about $6). Entrance to the rock costs 10,000.