Isla Baru / Península de Barú / islas del rosario
This peninsula, also called “isla de Barú” (Baru island), is located south of Cartagena de Indias separated from the coast by the canal Del Dique. Since 2014, the bridge “el puente de Barú” (bridge of Baru), links the two sides of the canal.
The area becomes more and more touristic and popular each passing year. What makes the peninsula famous for? Mainly its beaches and turquoise blue sea. But there is more than just beaches there…
South west of the peninsula, the Rosario islands complete the heavenly picture of the area.
This little archipelago of 28 islands has a land area of only 20 hectares. The Rosario islands are famous for their natural beauty, especially as they’re part of the “Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario”.
WHAT TO DO – Isla Baru
The main goal of the vast majority of tourists visiting the península de Barú (Isla Baru) is the white-sand-beaches, be it private or public. In fact, most beaches of the area are privately owned by hotels and resorts located along the coastline.
A few beaches are public : Playa Bobo, Punta Iguana, Puerto Naito, and the most famous : Playa Blanca, which, because of that popularity, can be packed with visitors.
A couple of advice: firstly, to find more empty spots on the beach, go to the left side of the beach, secondly, get ready to be harassed by vendors... Fortunately, The area has more to offer than just laying on a beach!
Cholon, considered one of the biggest lagoon of the park. If you can, have a meal there, there is a restaurant where your table is set in the lagoon, in other words, you eat while dipping in that warm crystal clear water!
The place is also famous for being the “floating party destination”! As it is touristic, vendors tend to push prices up,therefore, ask the price before ordering and don’t hesitate to bargain… Rates could be cut by up to 50%!!!
Isla Baru – El Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo (Corals of the Rosary and San Bernardo natural national park) : this huge national park covers 120.000ha of lands and waters and is composed by about 30 islands sheltering many coral reefs, mangroves, colourful fishes and marine plants.
Thanks to that diversity and the beauty of the sceneries, activities such as snorkeling and scuba-diving are a must do! Bear in mind that, as any national park in Colombia, there is an entrance fee, around COP 8.000 per person.
Day trips can be organised and you can find accommodation options on the main islands of the archipelago (Isla Grande and San Martin de pajarales).
San Martin has an aquarium which offers a dolphin show. If you have the opportunity, do some snorkeling in the crystal clear waters surrounding the island, you may meet with turtles, rays and other exotic fishes.
Isla grande : is the biggest island of the archipelago. There, you can find three different ecosystems : coastal lagoons, mangroves and tropical dry forests.
A canoe ride in the mangroves is a must do and if you’re spending the night, then you should really consider going to the Laguna encantada (enchanted lagoon).
These lagoon is just incredible scene at night as it shelters glowing planktons (tip: there is no need to go there on full moon as the moonlight would waste the show).
The island is also a stopover for migrating birds which could be seen while walking around, especially in the forest. Lastly, a bird sanctuary (free) can be visited.
HOW TO GET THERE – Isla Baru
Isla Barú can be reached from Cartagena either by boat (approx 45 min) or by the road (approx 1.5 hours).
If you pick the “road option”, you can either get a shuttle bus (booked through your hotel, a tour agency or via the internet), or take a bus to Pasacaballos then a taxi.
Rosario islands are only reachable by boat and the easiest way to find transportation is from Cartagena.
Guatapé, one of the country’s largest lake located in the Antioquia department. This body of water has been created in part in the late 1960s by the construction of a hydroelectric dam providing ⅓ of Colombia’s electricity supply.
Guatapé is also a small, colourful, quaint village. Its name comes from the Quechua language and is related to “stones and water”.
The picturesque town of Guatapé also called the Pueblo de Zócalos, named for the beautifully sculpted and painted depictions of village life that adorn the lower half of most buildings in the town center.
Those drawings show products sold by the shops, the beliefs of the residents or images depicting the daily life of the owners.
Guatapé is located 62 kilometres east of Medellin (a 2-hour-trip by bus), bordering the lake of the same name. It is a growing area of recreation for citizens of Medellín, and aims to be a tourist destination for foreign travellers.
WHAT TO DO:
The main attraction of Guatapé is its “peñón” (rock). Also called “La Piedra Del Peñol” (the stone of El Peñol) as this rock’s ownership is disputed by the 2 villages (Guatapé and El Peñol). over 200 meters high and visible from far around.
Visitors can scale to the top of the rock via a 650-step-staircase built into a rock break. On the flat top of the rock, all you wish is a fresh bottle of water or an ice-cream…
luckily, food vendors are waiting for you and offer outdoor tables overlooking that stretch to the horizon in every direction above those food vendors…souvenir shops!
Going up the tower on top of the rock, an open-air viewing area to see the spectacular scenery. The entrance fee to have a chance go up : 15000 COP.
Apart from the peñón de Guatapé, many activities can be practiced, mainly water based which is not surprising when you have so much water around!
Traditional activities such as taking a boat tour around the lake to discover the “Viejo Peñol”, submerged when the dam was built, kayaking or fishing are just a few options available to have a good time on and/or in the water. In you are more adventurous, you can try jetskiing or flyboarding too.
If you want to feel like a bird then, hang-gliding or zip-lining would be your treat! Another option, more costly is the helicopter ride…
If you are more comfortable with your feet on the ground, wander in the village, visit the church “Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen” or just go hiking around. Renting a motorbike is also a good option to discover the surroundings of the lake.
HOW TO GET THERE:
To/From Medellín: Direct buses leaves from the Terminal del Norte (connected to the Caribe Metro Station), passing through El Peñol on the way to Guatapé (about two hours). Buses depart approximately every hour starting at 6am.
The average fare is between 12 000 (La Piedra) and 13 000 COP (Guatapé). Many buses continue to San Rafael.
The last bus from Medellín to Guatapé is at 7:00pm. The last bus from Guatapé to Medellín is at 6:30pm (7:45pm on Sundays and Holiday Mondays).
Return buses from Guatapé to Medellín fill up quickly especially on weekends – buy your ticket in advance (can buy for exact time either in Medellín or in Guatapé bus terminal).
Get your direction on GOOGLE map here.