Be prepared for jungle hiking, adventure, waterfalls, and eating great food while enjoying a the small growing village with an energetic, yet laid back vibe. It's our third time in Minca, and we continue to come back over the last few years to enjoy it again. It’s a great place to stay before you head to Tayrona National Park or the beaches up the coast like Palomino. It is where you can rest and relax before the Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) or if you just want to take a break from Santa Marta. Minca Colombia is also finding its purpose and building its own reputation as an ecotourism destination.
Minca is a 45-minute drive from Santa Marta. Sometime this area is known as Minca Santa Marta, but correctly its Minca Magdalena as its part of the Magdalena department. It is a pleasant drive up a windy and circular 600 meter climb up the mountains of Sierra Nevada Colombia. The ride going up is scenic with views that eventually lead to spectacular vistas of Santa Marta and the ocean at the distance. You will just have to put up with the narrow, two-lane road, which is somewhat harrowing when traffic is coming from the other direction. The bonus is that the road is also paved in the last few years so that makes for an enjoyable trip.
The common question we are asked is, "Is Minca safe?" Minca was originally guerilla territory and was closed off to everyone, except locals. Following the ceasefire by the paramilitary and guerilla groups over the last several years, Minca was only recently ‘discovered’ by backpackers in the last eight years and was eventually opened up to host visitors. It’s not just a place for backpackers either because it has something for everyone (even mid-life travelers like us). And the answer to your question, not once have we heard any issues or concerns about safety in Minca Magdalena.
Not only are there tonnes of things to do in Minca Colombia, there are ample hiking trails in the area. We decided to do the Los Pinos trail to get a whole perspective of the village and area. This is a three-hour (one way) hike uphill or a six-hour walk if you want to take this circular trail back to town that ends on the opposite end of the main street. To start this trail, exit the main street at the alternate direction past burger town, past the soccer fields, and further into the village. You will see waterfalls, birds, and forests on the way up. When you reach the cloud forest and the Dos Pinos or “Two Pines”, you get a welcome view from the top of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We recommend taking the walk up, then relaxing at Casa Elemento (at the top), and take a moto-taxi down back to Minca. This will cut your trip down to three hours, plus the views are best on the way up.
Discover Minca's Interesting History
Visit Minca's museum and memorial center. (Centro de Memoria de la Sierra Nevada) Take a guided tour through this nonprofit center learn about its evolution from the armed conflict and political history, its importance as a coffee region and the indigenous groups of the Sierra Nevadas. Now rated the #1 for the things to do in Minca on Trip Advisor, check out the great reviews!
What more could you ask for? It has a restaurant, bar, pool, climbing wall and a giant hammock to hang over the mountain and contemplate on how great your life is while you look down at a stunning view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is our top Minca things to do thing. No doubt there will be other travelers from all over the world to hang out and join you. This an ideal place to chill out which takes your present-moment living to the next level. This place is a calming oasis. They also organize tours. They charge a small the entrance fee, (at the time of booking it was 10,000 COP) and you can already spend the afternoon there to use their facilities or you can stay there! Check latest prices and availability here.
Even if you’ve had your fill of coffee farms by now, this tour is different. In fact, the place is the production facility and not an actual farm. (The coffee is in the hills surrounding the building) This is where their coffee is processed by traditional equipment and methods from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The delightful tour guides will be ready to take you through the buildings, and share some of the ingenious engineering methods they apply to produce modern-day coffee, using equipment that is a big step back in time.
At the center of the village, there is also a couple of pool halls for travelers to drink and connect with the local village men. For such a small town there is no shortage of places to eat and drink. Here are some of the cool little hangout spots all over the town.
There are over 162 species of birds in the area of Minca, so it is not surprising that bird watching is an important pastime here. There are tours available to El Dorado and San Lorenzo trails or birdwatching areas. For three hours, it is around COP$25,000 ($8USD).
Did we mention that it’s hot up in the Northern Caribbean? Although the Minca breeze is a welcome reprieve from Cartagena or Santa Marta, you may still want to cool down after a day of walking. Pozo Azul is a watering hole, not the drinking kind. On Sundays, it is full of local families, so we skipped this one. Who doesn’t like a good place to have a cold, refreshing dip? The entrance to Pozo Azul Minca is free. One of the many local moto-taxi drivers would be more than happy to take you there for the afternoon. The cost is around 7000COP ($2.30USD) to get there from the main street.
Sometimes time really isn't on your side, you can book a daytrip or overnight from Santa Marta and have the whole day organized and planned for you, book on line and give yourself freedom with Get Your Guide.
There is no shortage of places to stay in Minca Colombia and we've stayed in a number of them now. Here are our favorites that are well worth it.
Minca accomodation has grown big time! One of the popular spots is Hostal Casa Loma Minca, an awesome part Minca hostel and a rustic cabin with both dorm and private rooms. We loved our stay in the Casa Selva room; it’s like a tent cabin (or rustic forest hut, as they call it), with comfortable bed and a long lock box to protect your valuables. The dinners here are sensational – hearty vegetarian dishes like Vegetable Curry and Vegetarian Lasagna. Important note: It’s a steep climb before you arrive at the Casa, so you may want to consider leaving all your gear in Santa Marta. But once you get there, you will witness some of the grandest views looking across the mountains. The cold beer at the top is worth it. There is a range of charming accommodations from dorms to tree cabins, and all reasonably priced. Check here for the prices and availability at Casa Loma
For a little more pampering, Ecohabs Minca are stilted rustic cabins that are very tastefully decorated and with views overlooking the mountains. We toured the rooms and grounds for a future stay as we didn't book here. But these come highly recommended by tour companies we work with, and they seem open to negotiating room rates. Click here for prices and availability at Minca Ecohabs.
Casa Elemento really does have everything and its known for the biggest Colombian hammock overlooking Sierra Nevada Colombia. We've eaten here and spent the day here. * Keep in mind, its way up the hill of the Sierra Nevada mountains so you will need to get transport to get there from the main street in town.There are many options for accommodations include dorms, cabanas, and hammocks, and now a newer set of cabanas all facing the mountain views. Check here for prices and availability at Casa Elemento
This is one of those places where you feel truly in nature and the jungle. It's just 2 km up the hill and right beside the Pozo Azul Minca watering hole. There are lovely accomodations surrounded by trees and a babbling river, its super serene and a true escape. Check prices and availability here.
This place is great not just for a brief retreat, but also a place to stop for excellent food. During our time there, our Canadian friend was the chef there, we hope the food is still as good as it was for us. Here is a photo of the shepard's pie and salad. And you can stay there too! Check pricing and details here for Casa Elemento Minca.
This is a really good Italian food joint. The chef here has some classical training, which is evident in the thin crust pizza and fresh made pasta and lasagna. Be prepared to wait, as it is all made from scratch. You can find this place by heading to the police station; turn left head up the hill till you see this tree house-style spot on the left.
These are not fast food burgers. They are hand crafted, juicy, BBQ’d burgers made by an Argentinian chef. The burgers come with fries on the side, as well as several choices of dipping sauces.
We had excellent cappuccinos, fresh juices and breakfast sandwiches here. It’s also a store with artisan jewelry, as well as homemade hot sauces and condiments. This is the mainstay cafe in Minca.
This place is on the way to Pozo Azul and beside the entrance to Casa Pozo Azul. Its a simple and delicious place for Menu del dia, Almuerzo(lunch) and coffee. Its also a hostal and camping area, surrounded by the jungle.
There is no shortage of friendly, eager, to young Minca men who would love to take you on a moto-taxi around Minca. Distances are a quite far, so it’s worth the ride. We used moto-taxis to get back down from Casa Elemento and to travel up the hill to via Victoria Coffee Farm. Head to the main edge of town near the bridge to negotiate moto taxis and cabs.
1. First, you need to get to Santa Marta:
From Cartagena and Barranquilla, there are bus services to take you to Santa Marta. From Bogotá, Medellín, or Cali, we would recommend taking local flights, which are reasonably priced ($40USD one way at this time of booking). VivaAir discount airlines have flights. Often, Avianca airlines has seat sales. If you are coming from the Airport in Santa Marta –you can take the public bus for 1800COP with the bus marked 'Bonda' and head into the city to the central market.
Important Tip: The airport is quite a long way from the main city center. We made the mistake of getting off too early, so make sure you get off at the Centro Mercado (the Central market). The next step to get to Minca from Santa Marta that is easy.
From Santa Marta Airport to Minca you can get there are few ways:
Given Minca to Santa Marta is so close, you can do a day trip to Minca very easily, but we think you should stay at least one night and catch the vibe there.
To Get To Tayrona National Park from Minca, your guesthouse can arrange for a transport there or to Santa Marta. or walk down to the main street and negotiate with a taxi to take you down. At the time of our visit there was no Minca to Tayrona bus service.
Alternatively if you want to get from Cartagena to Minca, or Minca to Cartagena - the bus journey is about a 5 hour journey. It will stop in Baranquilla. A good choice is Berlinas bus company, there are frequent buses leaving from the Berlinas bus terminal and it should cost around 40,000 pesos (~$14 USD). Note there are several bus stations in Cartagena so you need to specify the name.
And we really appreciate readers who have gone to Minca Magdalena and want to give us their updates and opinions. Let us know!
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com