accessible mountain retreat
Minca is a small village inhabited by 800 people at an elevation of 650m in the Sierra Nevada above Santa Marta. It is famous for its organic coffee and has a much cooler temperature than the sweltering Santa Marta. The village is charming, and has in the past few years grown as a traveler and birdwatching destination. It's a great base for hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching and other outdoor activities, offering fresh mountain breeze, over 300 bird species nearby and spectacular views.
The region is beautiful and is best explored on hiking or motorbikes. The roads above Minca are extremely low quality so it is advised to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, although if it is not raining a regular car should do.
What to See
The area around Minca is excellent for hiking, mountain biking, coffee and chocolate tours, and bird watching. There is also a small memorial center/cultural museum. Several day and half day trips are possible. Ask around, many people are a good source of information and happy to help.
Be prepared that from around July-November is rainy season, be prepared for early afternoon showers and if you don’t want to get wet, go out early and be back by 1 or 2.
A beautiful day hike is from Minca to Mundo Nuevo, from there to La Candelaria, past Pozo Azul and back to Minca. Lunch can be had in all those places; signposted all the way. Another nice option is to walk the loop to Los Pinos: this is a longish walk of at least six hours, but plenty of lunch options on the way. Take a moto up if you feel like a shorter walk.
The town of Minca boasts an avifauna to rival many nations by biodiversity and is considered to be amongst the most significant bird watching destinations in South America. Consider giving bird watching a try while you're here. Guides can help you see woodpeckers, hummingbirds and toucans. Birds from North America as far as the Canadian Arctic come to this area over winter.
How to Get There
The road leading to Minca has been recently rebuilt and is in a good condition. Local Santa Marta taxi drivers are willing to take you up to Minca for about $40,000-$50,000 COP. There are also colectivos (shared taxis) that leave from Santa Marta and daily bus departures froom The Dreamer Hostel Santa Marta. The journey will take around 30 minutes, however on weekends and public holidays, maybe longer.
Packing for Minca
We recommend bringing the following items:
Passport – You need to show identification to enter the park.
Bug Spray – The walk through nature trails to get to the beaches means you’ll probably come in contact with a few mosquitos.
Sunscreen, bathing suits, towel – you may swim in a waterfall
Water –Can never have enough!
Sweater – The temperature in Minca will likely be cooler than Santa Marta
Extra clothes – In case of rain or any other type of activity that makes you sweat, it’s a great idea to be prepared.
Money – You’ll need money to purchase lunch and if you use the moto-taxi service
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I sleep in Minca?
The trek is not considered dangerous. Colombia’s safety conditions have improved within the last couple of years and visitors should not worry about danger while visiting Colombia or hiking to the Lost City. Just like along any trail, hikers are encouraged to wear closed-toed shoes and watch where they are walking to avoid accidents or injuries along the trail.
Do you recommend a guided tour or self-guided?
No, visitors cannot hike to the Lost City alone. Every group or person must be accompanied by a local guide. This is a government regulation to ensure hikers don’t get lost along the trail. This rule is also to help ensure hikers do not disturb the indigenous people who live in the area or the delicate ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta.
Are the moto-taxis safe?
Expect the weather to be extremely humid in the daytime. The average high temperatures hover between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 23 degrees Celsius) throughout the year. The nighttime cools down a bit with temperatures ranging between 57 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 16.5 degrees Celsius) throughout the year. December through March generally has less rain, but you should still expect afternoon showers throughout the year.
Are there any ATMS?
It can take anywhere from 4 to 6 days from the start of the trail (called El Mamey) to reach the Lost City, then return to the starting point. For visitors who want to hike at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery, choose the 5-day option. If you are short on time or want to spend a day exploring a different part of Colombia, expect to walk faster and farther during each leg of the trip.
Do I need to know Spanish?
It’s always best to know a couple of Spanish words while visiting Colombia, but you do not need to know Spanish to enjoy a Lost City Trek. Your tour guide will speak English and Spanish and assist travelers if translation is needed. For information on Lost City treks led in other languages besides English and Spanish, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I store my bags before visiting Minca?
You can take a Lost City trek any time of the year except September, but consider going during the drier months between December and March. May and October usually see the most rain, making it a bit more challenging to hike because of the mud and downpours. No one is permitted to do the Lost City Trek in the month of September because this is the time local indigenous people take care of the area as part of sacred tradition.