Just 45 minutes outside of Santa Marta, Minca is an experience not to be missed. With the rolling tree covered hillsides, plentiful flora and fauna, and refreshing rivers and waterfalls, Minca is a nature lover’s paradise.
After spending nearly a week in the colorful coastal town of Cartagena, hiking along the beautiful beaches in Tayrona National Park
and exploring the historical city of Santa Marta, I needed a break from the heat. I set out towards Calle 11 where I caught a 4 person “collectivo” group jeep taxi for $7000 pesos each.
The 45 minute ride out of Santa Marta and up into the mountains of Minca flew by as I shared travel tips and stories with some “travel brahs” from England and an Australian girl. The Brits were going to Casa Elemento and I decided to go to Casa Loma with the Aussie. It was a steep 20 minute hike up a path behind the town’s church, to the right. I had brought all my belongings, so I was loaded down. When I finally got to the top, I dropped my bag, and gratefully accepted the glass of water that was handed to me. Then I turned around and reveled in the breathtaking view that stretched out before me.
My first night in Minca consisted of one of the oddest gatherings
I have ever attended, but my next two days were just what I was looking for.
As I came down for coffee the next morning, I selected an open seat next to a guy studying Spanish. I had intended to do some work of my own, but soon we were talking, and I came to find out he was from Iran and his mom owned a flower shop and taught floral design classes there. That certainly caught my attention! Then I found out he had been traveling South America for the past two years, and he was chock full of advice on places to see and explore. How cool! I tell you, when you’re traveling, everything and nothing happens by chance.
My new Iranian friend had already hiked to one waterfall that morning, and was setting off for another in a few minutes with a French couple. I liked his energy, and happily accepted his offer to join them. The next two days were full of exploration in nature, swimming in rivers, eating fruit from alongside the road, hiking to miradors and checking out all sorts of unique hammocks and coffee plantations along the way.
If you have two days in Minca, and like to hike, check out these two options. If you get tired along the way you can always cut a hike short or hail a motorbike or taxi in the road- nearly all will be open to driving you to where you need to go for 20,000 pesos or less.
Day 1– Set off for Pozo Azul and spend the day hiking up the river, stopping to sun yourself on the rocks and swim along the way.
All locals can point you in the direction of Pozo Azul, and it’s probably a 30-45 minute walk up the road from the central area in town where all the colectivos and motorbikes wait. The trail is off the main road, and when you reach a restaurant on the side of the road there will be a sign. Pozo Azul is free to enter, and many locals go there to picnic and jump off the rocks on weekends.
We hiked up the river, past the jumping point, and kept going and going until we hit one final, powerful, gorgeous waterfall. With each step we took there were less people and the scenery got even better. It was an awesome way to spend the day, watching birds and butterflies and the wind in the trees, swimming when we got hot, and absorbing the heat from the rocks when we got cold. Make sure to bring food and water so you don’t have to leave due to hunger setting in.
There is a trail along one side of the river, which we took to speed up our walk back. If you would prefer to take that right from the start, it is to the right of the river as you approach it, and it says “Minca Aqueduct”. Technically you’re not supposed to go there…but some rules are meant to be broken. 😉
Day 2– Wake up with the sun and set off hiking for Mirador de Los Pinos, a beautiful lookout point at the top of the mountains. To get there, walk past the church along the same road you would take to get to “the waterfall”. It’s a beautiful walk, with lots of bird sitings and trees providing shade the whole way. There are also dozens of fruit trees lining the road, and we indulged in mangos, jocotes, guava, mandarins, and some other pod-like fruit during the climb.
About 45 minutes after leaving the center of Minca you will come to “the waterfall” or “la cascada”. There’s a 3000 peso cover if someone is attending the entrance, and the waterfall is tall, beautiful and refreshing, but there isn’t much of a swimming hole. We were short on time, so kept hiking, but if you love waterfalls and have the time it’s worth a stop to cool off before continuing on with your hike.
After approximately 2 hours, if you’re taking it slow, you will start to see signs for “Casa Elemento“, which means you’re almost there. When you get to Casa Elemento, pause and relax in the World’s Largest Hammock. Maybe have some breakfast or a cup of coffee, and ask them if they’ll draw you a map to Los Pinos and La Victoria. If you’re feeling too exhausted to continue, you can always have them call you a motorcycle as well.
If you’re fit to go on, Los Pinos is another 15 minutes up the hill, always keeping to the left, and walking through a coffee plantation. If you’re lucky, and the season is right, you will encounter delicious “mora” or black berries along the way.
When you finally get to Los Pinos you will feel so accomplished! It’s a spectacular view, and the tall pine trees at the top provide shade and add a freshness to the air that, when mixed with the breeze, is pure bliss.
If you want to turn this walk into a loop, rather than retracing your steps, continue on down the road for another hour or so until you come to La Victoria, on the right hand side. Stop here to learn the history of the oldest operating coffee plantation in Colombia. We didn’t take the tour, but we had the most delicious sandwich ever, and ended up talking to the German property owner, Mickey, who told us about how he came to negotiate with the Guerrilla back in the 80s to get this property back after they took it over from his parents, who bought it in the 50s.
The coffee is free, the food is phenomenal, and the Nevada Cerveceria is there, brewing its “Happy Jaguar” and “Happy Toucan” in the old chapel on site. Despite being tucked away in the mountains, over 24,000 tourists have been registered here in the two short years that they have been keeping track of their visitors. It is such a cool place to visit.
After walking the property, you could grab a bite and a beer and recharge at the La Victoria restaurant, or you could even take it with you to eat later as you make your way back to the road to continue on down the hill. You will actually run in to Poza Azul before getting to Minca, so if you didn’t walk up the river, as previously suggested, you have another chance to indulge in a spectacular nature hike. Whatever you do, if you’re a nature lover and a river lover, don’t miss the chance to hike Pozo Azul!
When the time comes that you must leave the paradise of Minca, there are always jeeps and rickety cars waiting to bring you back to Santa Marta or wherever you must go. If you’re in a rush, you can pay the whole taxi fare, ~28000 pesos, or wait until the car is full, at ~7000 pesos a person.
In my time in Minca, I stayed at Casa Loma, which was a steep 15-20 minute hike up the hill and to the right behind the Church, and I had the pleasure of visiting Casa Elemento while I hiked up to the Mirador Los Pinos lookout point.
There are quite a few hostels and guesthouses all throughout Minca, especially en route to Casa Loma, and most have either the option of either private or shared rooms, or a hammock. Casa Loma is close to the village, serves food, and had a stream of tourists pumping through when I was there. Casa Elemento was much more removed from Minca, being a whole motorcycle ride up the hill, but it had an epic view, a massive hammock, a swimming pool, and on-site food, plus tons of fruit trees all around.
As you can see, Minca is absolutely amazing. A trip here, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month will leave you feeling naturally refreshed by re-establishing a connection with the great outdoors. Take a break from the city and take a trip to the paradise that awaits you in Minca, Colombia, a must see for nature lovers.