Without a doubt, Colombia is one of the best countries in the world for hiking. Its varied topography, terrains, and ecosystems create amazing trekking opportunities.
If you enjoy hiking and you are planning a trip to Colombia, you will realize that Colombia tourist attractions for hikers are endless.
You can choose from several different types of hikes. From multi-day hikes to shorter ones of 3 to 4 hours duration. From flat and easy hikes to steep mountain hikes. From jungle hikes to high-altitude hikes. The possibilities are endless.
That is usually great news for travelers, but it can also be overwhelming. With so many hiking options, which ones do you choose to include in your travel itinerary?
To help you out prioritizing and choosing, in this post I will list my favorite 5 hiking spots in Colombia.
Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City), is the most important archaeological place in Colombia. It consists of the remains of an abandoned native city hidden deep in the jungleish mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Its name comes from the fact that this “city” was never found by the Spanish colonizers and was only found in the 1970s by a group of grave robbers.
Nowadays, Ciudad Perdida is one of the most popular Colombia Tourist Attractions, not just for its archaeological, cultural and historical value, but also because getting there involves an adventurous 4 to 6-days hike through jungle and mountains. The hike itself is as great as the archaeological ruins.
The whole adventure starts and finishes in the city of Santa Marta in the north of Colombia. During the 4 hiking days, you will trek an average of 6 hours per day. Two days going up to reach the Lost City and 2 days going down.
Unfortunately, there is only one path, so you have to come down the same way you go up. Nevertheless, the hike is totally worth it as you will pass by gorgeous mountain viewpoint, cross rivers and creeks and witness the abundant nature of the surrounding jungle.
The Puracé volcano is one of the most active volcanoes of Colombia. It is located in the south west of the country, 52 kilometers away from the city of Popayan.
It is a conical volcano whose highest point is located at an altitude of 4646 meters above sea level.
The hike to its top is one of the most challenging day-hikes of Colombia. Not just because of the high altitude, but also for the strong and cold winds that constantly blow in the area.
From Popayan, you can take a day tour. It starts with a drive of around 2 hours to get to the starting point for the hike, where you will meet your indigenous guide.
Ascending at a medium pace and with good weather, it takes around 4.5 hours to climb to the crater. The first part of the hike is through a forest.
Continuing with the ascend, you will witness how the vegetation changes from forests, to Paramo, to finally a desert-kind of rocky landscapes.
The Paramo ecosystem is one of the most predominant of the area. It is a high-altitude tundra ecosystem that is found in almost no other country in the world and offers fantastic views and exotic vegetation.
Click here for more information on the hiking tour to the top of the Purace Volcano. We also made a list of top 5 things to do in Popayan. so you can get an idea of what other activities you can choose from when you opt to add Popayan to your itinerary.
The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, where this National Park is located, is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in South America. It has some of the most dramatic landscapes of Colombia, from snow-capped mountains and waterfalls to glaciers and blue lakes.
The Sierra has 21 peaks, of which 15 are higher than 5000 meters above sea level. The tallest peak is the Ritakua Blanco (5330 meters).
The park offers the following 3 paths for hikers:
– Ritakua Blanco: it starts at the base camp in the entrance of the park at an altitude of 4000 meters above sea level and goes all the way up to the edge of the Ritakua glacier, the biggest of the entire park. The path is 5 kilometres long, and you have to come back using the same way you used to get there. The whole hike lasts between 6 and 8 hours.
– Laguna Grande: it starts a different entrance point called La Cuchumba and takes you on a longer trek of around 9.4 kilometres. You don’t go as high as in the Ritakua and do not get to the border of the glacier, but you will pass a gorgeous valley full of Frailejones (typical tundra plant of the area), see some waterfalls and enjoy the biggest lake in the park. The whole hike lasts around 9 hours.
– Lagunillas Pulpito del Diablo: it is the shortest of the 3 paths, around 4.5 kilometres, but it takes you to see the most iconic spot of the park: the strange rock formation of the Púlpito del Diablo. Additionally, you will visit a sequence of small and colourful lakes and get to the edge of the glacier. The whole hike takes around 5 hours.
I recommend you spend the nights in one of the cabins at the entrance of the park and spend 3 full days doing the 3 paths, as they all offer different aspects of this fantastic park.
The Cerros de Mavecure are 3 huge hills popping up in the middle of the northern part of the Amazon Jungle.
Located in the east of Colombia, almost in the border with Venezuela, these hills are accessible by a 4-hour boat ride through gorgeous nature from the city of Inirida.
The average height of these 3 hills is 250 meters. You are only allowed to climb 2 of them, one to the top (from where you get the best views) and the other one until somewhere in the middle.
The hike to the top is a medium-challenging trek through paths created in the back of the hill. It takes around 1.5 hours to get to the top and 45 minutes to come back down.
In certain parts of the hike, you will need to use ropes and wooden stairs that have been constructed to make the trek easier.
Even though it is a very steep path, the hike itself is not that challenging, but the constant heat and humidity of the area make it a bit more difficult.
The most rewarding part of the hike is when you arrive at the top and have 360-degrees views over the jungle and the winding river.
At sunset, you will not only get the best views but also see and hear thousands of parrots flying close to you on their way to their usual sleeping tree.
Trekking lovers will find paradise in this park. Following a spine of snow-covered volcanic peaks, this park provides access to the most amazing stretches of the Colombian Andes.
It has a total size of 583 km2 located high up in the mountains where 37 rivers are born. Its highest peak is El Ruiz at an altitude of 5325 m.a.s.l.
The southern part of the park is open for hikers. There are paths for the different type of hikes: from single-day hikes to multi-day treks of up to 8 days.
Some of the high points of this park are the Laguna del Otun (a beautiful lake situated in the humid paramo ecosystem at 4000 m.a.s.l) and the hike to the top of the Santa Isabel peak (located at 4965 m.a.s.l).
The hike to Laguna del Otun is usually done as an acclimatization trek before going to higher places.
It is an almost flat walk thought beautiful paramos until you arrive at the gorgeous lake, the greatest of the park. This hike can be done as a day trip from Manizales or from Santa Rosa de Cabal.
The hike to the top of the Santa Isabel peak requires at least 2 full days. On day 1, you will arrive at the base camp located at an altitude of 4000 meters and do the acclimatization walk to Laguna del Otun.
After spending the night in the base camp, on day 2 you will wake up at around 2:30 am to start the ascent to the top of the peak during sunrise.
This is the hardest part of the hike as you will start feeling the lack of oxygen typical of these altitudes. Additionally, you will have to hike over the glacier (with all necessary equipment) for the last hour.
The Los Nevados National Park is one of the top Colombia tourist attractions. Being on top of the glacier while the sun rises is one of the most amazing feelings and experiences you could ever imagine.
Colombia has plenty of hiking opportunities for travellers. There is a trek for every type of traveller, at different locations, ecosystems, and altitudes.
If you are short on time and would like to do only the best treks in the country, then this list of my top 5 favourite ones (Ciudad Perdida, Puracé Volcano, Cocuy National Park, Cerros de Mavecure and Los Nevados National Park) will give you a light on how to prioritize and which ones to choose.
If you have decided on your hike, or hikes, to include. We recommend to check the following list of best things to do in Colombia to create your full itinterary!
By the way, we think it is a great idea to go visit one of the top 5 Colombian´s islands to help your sore muscles recuperate after your hike. Like this you will make sure you have a balanced trip and that you don´t tire your body too much. Don´t forget, you are on holiday after all!