Colombia is one of the best travel destinations in the world for hikers. Thanks to its privileged geographical location and topography, this country offers some of the best trekking possibilities in the entire world.
Hikers will have plenty of options to include in their Colombia vacation packages. The options differ on difficulty level, length, and location.
The difficulty level is usually determined by a combination of the state of the path, the altitude and inclination.
The great news is that in Colombia you will find fantastic hikes for all different levels. From calm beach walks for beginners, to glacier hikes at 5000 meters above sea level for experts.
In regards to the length and duration, the options are also endless. Hikers will find amazing possibilities that range from short walks of around 3 hours to 6-days adventure hikes.
Additionally, Colombia offers a wide range of diverse locations for hikers. The options here are truly varied, ranging from beaches, forests, deserts, jungles, mountains, paramos, and even glaciers.
In Colombia, there is plenty of trekking options for all sort of travelers. However, in this post, I am going to help you choose which short-hikes you should include in your travel itinerary to Colombia.
By short hikes, I mean trekking paths that will take you a maximum of 6 hours to complete them.
The following is my top 5 favorite places for short hikes in Colombia:
The Paramo de Ocetá is located in the municipality of Monguí, in the Department of Boyacá in the center of the country.
This Paramo is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and one of the best preserved in Colombia.
A Paramo is an intertropical montane ecosystem with a predominance of scrub (shrubby) vegetation. This is why it is classified biogeographically as prairie and mountain scrubland.
The Paramo de Ocetá is located at about 4000 meters above sea level, and its temperature can oscillate between 0 ° C at night and 17 ° C during the day.
Colombia has around 60% of all the Paramos in the world, and the one of Ocetá is your best choice for an unforgettable short hike.
The most common path in this amazing ecosystem takes a total of around 6 hours. The difficulty is medium-high as the paths are not well marked or maintained, the temperature is very changeable, the inclination at some spots is though and the altitude levels don’t allow you to breathe that easily.
Nevertheless, doing this hike is one of the most amazing experiences in Colombia. The vegetation is so bizarre that you probably won’t see anything like it anywhere else. On top of that, the views over the canyons, caves, lakes, rivers, and valleys are just breathtaking.
To do this hike, you need to hire a guide in the charming town of Monguí and start early in the morning to have better chances of good weather. You can find some official information about Ocetá from the government here. (in Spanish)
For centuries, before the times of the Spanish colony, the indigenous people of the Santander department were living in small villages in the mountains. (If you are interested in discovering Colombia´s indigenous tribes, you should check out this article)
The only way to get from one of those villages to another was by foot.
To make things a bit easier, the indigenous tribes created some paths by carefully placing long sequences of flat rocks next to each other.
These rocks were easily found in the surrounding mountains and allowed them to build long stretches of paths to connect their villages.
With the arrival of the Spanish people, many of these paths were abandoned as people started using other means of transportation.
One of the most important paths was the one connecting the villages of Barichara and Guane.
This path has been restored using the same rocks, and it is now available for anyone wanting to go on an incredible short hike.
Through this path, you will find astounding views over the valley. You can also spot plenty of birds, especially next to the fruits of the cacti following the way.
If you start the hike in Barichara, the path goes mainly downwards and takes around 2 hours to get to Guane.
From Guane, you can decide to take a bus back to Barichara or return by hiking back the same path. This option will be a lot harder as you will have to hike the entire time upwards.
Don´t forget to bring a hat and enough water as the heat can be quite intense. Especially around noon when temperatures can rise to around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
Click here for more information on the cute village of Barichara, from where you can do this amazing hike.
Colombia is a nation filled with stunning landscapes, but perhaps the most striking of all is the Cocora Valley. It is a gorgeous green and foggy valley enclosed by sharp peaks.
However, what makes this valley so unique is the existence of the tallest palms in the world: The Wax Palms.
These palms can grow up to 60 meters tall and have been named as the official Colombian National tree.
Walking through a valley filled with this enormous palm trees, while appreciating the beautiful sights of the surroundings, is one of the greatest things to do in Colombia.
In this fantastic valley, you can choose between a short or a long hike. Nonetheless, both of them are some of the best hikes in Colombia.
The short hike takes about 2 hours. This path takes you directly to the valley, without visiting the surrounding forest, rivers, creeks, and nature. It is the perfect trek for a traveller on a tight schedule and for those whose physical condition is not in shape.
On the contrary, the long hike is a fantastic medium-high difficulty that follows a loop and lasts around 5 hours. This path takes you through gorgeous forests and creeks, stopping at a hummingbird feeding spot, and ending with a trek right through the wax palms.
The Cocora valley is located 12 kilometres away from the cosy town of Salento. You can easily take a shared Willys (traditional jeeps of this area) from the main square of Salento. It takes around 45 minutes to get there.
If you are looking for a place where you can combine one of the top highlights of this country with a short hike, the Cocora Valley is your place, and you shouldn’t doubt in including it in your Colombia vacation package.
Tierradentro might be Colombia’s most important archaeological site. It was declared world heritage by UNESCO in 1995.
It is located deep in the dramatic mountains of the Cauca department in the south-west of the Country.
The entire area, which is nowadays an archaeological park, is full of underground indigenous tombs.
These pre-Columbian tombs were discovered in the spectacular mountains surrounding a village called San Andrés de Pisimbalá. Most of these tombs are located in the highest spots of the hills of this area.
The tombs were built by indigenous cultures that inhabited this area hundreds of years ago. These tribes had already disappeared by the time the Spanish colonizers arrived.
The surroundings are so beautiful that even those not interested in archaeology will love this park. Going on a guided hike, from hill to hill discovering underground tombs is one of the best activities you can find in Colombia.
The hike is relatively tough as some of the tombs are located in steep hills. However, the views are breathtaking, and the surrounding nature is impressive too.
The hike is a loop that lasts around 5 hours and takes you to the most iconic and colorful tombs that have been discovered in the area.
The last of my top 5 favorite places for short hikes in Colombia is a bit different than the others, as this one is located at the seaside instead of in the mountains.
The Tayrona National Park has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. So stunning, that plenty of travel guidebooks use pictures of this park as their cover photo.
Its beautiful white-sand beaches are dotted with gigantic rocks and are surrounded by jungle. One of the most impressive things about this park, is this mixture of wilderness, mountains, white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters.
The park has plenty of pretty beaches, but the most beautiful of all is the one at Cabo San Juan. Here you will be able to see two almost-identical beaches divided by a huge rock, on top of which there is a majestic viewpoint. It is one of the most beautiful parks you can visit when you are interested in ecotourism in Colombia.
To get to this fantastic place, you need to do a short hike for about 2.5 hours through some gorgeous jungle and over some pristine beaches.
Throughout the hike, you will get to see many tropical flowers, and if you are lucky, you could even spot some monkeys that only live in this area.
The hike is relatively easy and the paths are usually in a good shape. Keep in mind that you will have to come back using the same path. But even with the path not being a loop, it is still one of the best hikes in Colombia.
This means that the entire hike lasts around 5 hours, but you will have an ideal break at Cabo San Juan to relax, have lunch and enjoy the views.
You also need to know that this is the most visited National Park of Colombia and it can get quite busy, especially at Cabo San Juan in the weekends. To avoid the crowds, you should enter the park as early as you can.
Additionally, the entire park is closed for maintenance, every year during the full month of February. Click here for more information on this amazing hike.
Colombia is a big country that has been blessed by its geography and topography. This has created plenty of amazing hiking opportunities for all type of trekkers.
If you are looking to include some of the best short hikes in your Colombia vacation package, my recommendation is that you choose one, two or even three, from (i) Paramo de Ocetá, (ii) Barichara-to-Guane, (iii) Cocora Valley, (iv) Tierradentro or (v) Tayrona Park.
For those interested in longer or multiple day hikes, we recommend to check out our list and information on multiple day trekkings in Colombia.
If you need help organizing your itinerary and package for your next trip to Colombia, don´t hesitate to contact us.