If you dislike climbing stairs and you’re afraid of heights, it’s probably a major understatement to say that The Rock of Guatapé in Colombia is not a travel destination for you. However, for the adventurous, tackling a set of particularly crazy and awe-inspiring stairs will reward you with a beautiful view from atop this unusual monolithic geological formation.
Located in the town of Guatapé, El Peñol Stone (also known as La Piedra) is a granite dome standing 7,005 feet above sea level at its tallest point and about 650 feet above the flat ground. It’s estimated to weigh about 10 million tons. It was formed thousands of years ago and worshipped by the former inhabitants of the region, the Tahamies Indians.
The rock was first climbed in 1954, long before those stairs were installed, and it took five days to reach the top, where they discovered a new species of plant. The rock is almost totally smooth, bearing juts one large crack which the climbers used to ascend. Now, a 649-step masonry staircase makes it much easier (but still daunting) to look out over the lakes and islands that surround it.
A three-story brick lookout tower and a few religious relics can be found at the top. El Peñon de Guatapé is a national landmark, but owned by a local family, and it costs about $2 to gain access.