Colombia is one of the most naturally stunning countries in South America and the perfect destination for hikers in search of a few thrills. The coastal Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains, three ranges of the Andes and the Amazon rainforest provide a wealth of landscapes to explore. Here are just a few of the best.
The Lost City Trek
The hike to Colombia’s Lost City is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the country, but don’t let that deter you. The four-day trek crosses some of the region’s richest landscapes and traverses a few rivers that might make you rethink ever attempting this in the first place. It’s arduous and fun and a great way to explore one of the oldest ruins on Earth. Hikers are required to hire a guide to help get you through, after a kidnapping over a decade ago, but they are all highly trained and know all of the best spots to camp.
Purace National Park
Purace National Park, just two hours outside of Popayan, is a popular trek for experienced hikers looking to reach the top of the Purace Volcano. It’s rare to see the friendly weather needed to make the ascent, but those who find the time are in for some incredible views. Meanwhile, a little lower down there’s a strenuous trail that winds twenty miles through cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, treeless plateaus, and Andean lakes. If you’re lucky you might even spot one of the country’s elusive Andean condors.
Páramo de Ocetá
Colombia is known for its beautiful páramos, tropical, alpine tundra ecosystems that exist at high altitudes, and the Páramo de Ocetá is widely considered the most impressive. A thirty mile trek from Las Cintas to Monguí will take you over 3,000 feet up and provide sweeping views of the treeless tundra, low-growing forests of páramo flora and fields of lupine wildflowers. It’s expansive and strenuous and one of the greatest hikes the country has to offer. The craggy ridges and endless hills will wear you out quickly, but there plenty of creeks and rivers along the where you can take a break and relax.
El Cocuy National Park
El Cocuy National Park is one of Colombia’s greatest marvels. Over 1,150 square miles of rocky valleys, glacial lakes and snowcapped peaks are tucked away inside the park just waiting to be explored. Unfortunately, local officials have cut down on the opportunity to explore much of the park for the time being, limiting hikers to a 50-mile area, but it’s still certainly worth the trip. Pack for a few days as you’ll definitely want to camp out as you check out the stunning topography and make your way to the snowline.
Nevado del Tolima Summit
If you’re waiting for a challenge look no further than Nevado del Tolima. This monstrous peak stands 17,310 feet tall and requires a great deal of experience in order to reach the top. It takes a minimum of three days in high-altitude and typically hateful weather to make it there. The main hike begins in the jungles at the base before ascending into the glaciers. You’ll need to pack ice axes and the right boots to traverse this beast. Nevado del Tolima is actually a volcano, so as you can imagine the views inside and from the peak are pretty epic. Don’t worry, though, it hasn’t erupted in over 3,000 years.