THINGS TO DO IN MINCA
Minca is one of Colombia's worst kept secrets. Set in the idyllic hills of the Sierra Nevada, this tranquil little village is a haven for backpackers looking to lose themselves in its beauty. Minca is full of incredible bio-diversity, rivers, waterfalls, hikes and coffee and cacao farms. The tragic history of this region, however, is a far cry from the peaceful reality we see now.
How to get there
From Santa Marta - Take a collectivo from outside Mercado Publico on Carrera 9. The 45 minute journey will cost you 8,000 COP (£2.15).
Things to do in Minca #1 - Pozo Azul
Pozo Azul is a beautiful set of swimming holes with small waterfalls surrounded by trees and rocks. From the first pool you can climb up the rocks on the other side of the river to another pool, deepens than the first. For those feeling adventurous (and wearing proper footwear) you can climb up past the waterfall where there are even more pools and waterfalls and much less people. Be warned - the current is pretty strong.
How to get there? It's about a 45 minute walk from town. Take a right at the church and head up the hill until you come to Hostal Colonial. A little further on you'll see a sign, turn left and follow the path down, cross over the bridge and there you have it. The walk is scenic and easy but you can take a mototaxi for 6,000 COP (£1.60) if you'd rather.
Things to do in Minca #2 - Las Cascadas de Marinka
This hike/waterfall combo is the perfect start to the day. The walk leads you past a bunch of beautiful river spots, under giant bamboo and through the luscious trees where you'll be able to see tropical birds and butterflies. At the end you can cool off and have a splash in the waterfall. There is a 4,000 COP entrance fee (£1.10).
How to get there? Head out of town taking a left at the church where shortly after the football pitch will be on your left. From here it's about 45 mins until you see the sign. All in all it should take you about an hour. You can also take a mototaxi for 6,000 COP (£1.60).
Things to do in Minca #3 - Las Piedras
Las Piedras is a beautiful local spot where the stream from the waterfall meets the River Minca. As you arrive you can take a quick swim in the stream to your left. Cross over the stones and walk across the rocks to the left where you'll reach a spot where you can jump into the water. Depending on the water levels you can also use the flat rocks as a slide.
How to get there? Turn left at the church and then take the first right before the football field following the signs for Sierra Sound hotel. Pass the hotel and continue until you reach a large gate. Walk around the gate to the right until you reach the water. Total walking time is no more than 20 minutes.
Things to do in Minca #4 - Los Pinos trek
The trek to Los Pinos will take up most of your day but it's one of the most beautiful ways to experience Minca. You will pass through cloudforest at the top and enjoy spectacular mountain views. On a clear day you can see the snow peaks from Los Pinos. The day trek will take you on a full loop past both Pozo Azul and Las Cascadas. Your best bet is to eave early in the morning as you're looking at around 7 hours round trip including stoppages. There are 2 possible routes you can take, both of which are pretty lengthy to explain but you can get maps at pretty much all of the hostels.
Things to do in Minca #5 - Feast
For such a tiny place, and we do mean tiny (population <1,000), Minca sure has a lot of restaurants. We're not talking about your run-of-the-mill menu del dia joint. We're talking restaurants that wouldn't be out of place on any western city's high street. Two places we highly recommend you try are Lazy Cat and Smoothies coffee bar & restaurant. Top quality food at an incredibly good price.
Things to do in Minca #6 - Learn the history
As mentioned in the intro, this region has a pretty remarkable history. The surrounding mountains have served as the hosting ground for many bloody battles of the civil war. The demobilisation of the occupying paramilitary/smuggling groups has paved the way for an influx of tourism. This is an area where less than 10 years ago there was a complete ban of anyone other than resident entering the area due to the control and danger of the paramilitary groups. Now it is safe, welcoming and in the midst of period of development to accommodate the surge of tourists.
Things to do in Minca #7 - Enjoy the sunset at Casa Loma
Casa Loma sits at one of the highest points in town with a view that will take your breath away, as will the walk to get there. From the open deck you see for miles across the Sierra Nevada as far as Tayrona park and the Caribbean Sea. Grab yourself a beer or cocktail (happy hour happily coincides with sunset) and enjoy as the orange and purple colours wash over trees and mountains in the distance.
Where to stay
Minca is all about R&R - rest and relaxation. No other place in town fits the bill like Hostel Casa Loma. It's set in acres of open, natural space amongst the trees above the town. There is no other noise except for the birds and your fellow travellers.
They offer dorms beds and also giant open-front huts where you can sleep under the stars. One of the most admirable aspects of Casa Loma is their environmental awareness and their self-sustainability efforts. Without doubt the best hostel we've experienced in Colombia.