On Friday, March 3, we left Casa Salsipuedes in Medellin for the village of Guatape, less than two hours by bus to the northeast. It's a popular tourist get-away from Medellin, and there are two things for which it is particularly noted.

First are the zocalos, colorful panels of painted plaster that adorn the lower course of most buildings. At first we suspected the zocalos were just a tourist contrivance, but in fact they turn up even on obscure streets away from the tourist center. They seem to be an old tradition in this town that has been maintained for many decades.

Example of zocalos along the lower few feet of an exterior wall

Detail from the zocalos above

Guatape's zocalos may be simple (or not so simple) geometric designs, or birds and animals, or scenes from everyday life, or representations of the occupant's profession or interests. Or anything.

Trucking bananas and platanos to market


As well as work, birds, butterflies and flowers are popular motifs. All the photos below are panels from zocalos that we particularly liked.

In need of a touch-up

One of the most beautiful floral zocalos we saw


As we said, zocalos can depict anything

A family, with all its household goods, moving to, or away from the village in the background.

Somehow the zocalo here evolved into trompe l'oeil

An addition to the zocalos

Besides the zocalos, which may be reason enough for Guatape's popularity, there is also "the rock," known variously as el Peñon de Guatape, la Piedra del Peñol, or for visitors, simply "the rock." Whatever you call it, the rock is a huge monolith that can be seen from all over -- including from the hostel where we were staying.

The place where we stayed in Guatape, Casa Encuentro Hostel Boutique

The place was beautiful, but for us it combined some of the disadvantages of a hostel and of a hotel without the shared facilities of a hostel.

We could see the rock from just outside the hostel, so of course we wanted to climb it.

The Rock, who could resist?

It's steep walk to the base of the rock, from where you can see the hundreds of stairs ascending to the top.

Old man starting up

Taking a break

Only part of the way up

From the stairs, getting closer to the top

740 steps to the top
Made it!

 Our next destination after Guatape would be Manizales, in the coffee region. We left on Sunday morning, March 5, and the trip turned out to be quite an ordeal.