Travel in Latin America
A mere 17 km (10.5 miles) from the coastal city and capital of the department of Magdalena, Santa Marta, is the seductive and enchanting town of Minca. Seductive, in that its temperature here in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada is much more accommodating than the often stifling days experienced in Santa Marta when the sea breeze fails in its task. And it is an enchanting location in that it is a perfectly contained village with residences and inns dotted around the steep walls of this valley, rivers in which to bathe, polite locals and good dining options.
Minca Appeals to Birdwatchers and Hikers
This is true; Minca has long been a destination for birdwatchers coming to Colombia. Given its location in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, the various microclimates here, the dense vegetation and that it is on the flight plan for many migratory bird species as well as playing home to dozens of endemic species, this should come as no surprise.
And hikers, while they may be thrilled to catch a glimpse of the rare and colorful birds that flitter between the treetops here, will be more tuned into the opportunities available around Minca. At the coffee shop at the entrance of town one can purchase a homemade map of the area (this can also be found in the Explore Colombia guidebook) and most of the hostels in town will be able to furnish you with the appropriate information.
Hikes often follow pre-Columbian trails through the foothills. You can see the stonework in many places and if you are looking carefully you’ll probably encounter rock carvings as well. This area is of incredible spiritual importance to the local indigenous peoples, so please be respectful of their culture and tradition.
Las Piedras, Minca
If you are not keen of hiking the six-hour trip to Paso del Mango or up to the waterfalls roughly an hour away from town, then occupy yourself with no more than a stroll down the hill to the river. This area is referred to as Las Piedras – the stones – for obvious reasons. Huge slabs of river-smoothed stones allow the visitor to clamber down for easy access to bathe in the cooling waters that come from the snowmelt of the Sierra Nevada. Soak up the rays, bathe, read … relax.
How to Get to Minca
You need to plan your trip to leave Santa Marta in the morning since collectivos from the city cease to run after a certain hour in the afternoon. Head to the market in Santa Marta, look for the collective taxis headed to Minca and hop in. The journey, once the collectivo is filled should take around one hour. Minca is not far away but the condition of the road is not the best (certainly not the worst in Colombia) and it is a climb.
There are probably a dozen places to stay in Minca and just about everybody here lets out a room in high season. We recommend that you try to come to town outside of long weekends and Colombian high season (December 15 – January 15, June and Easter Week) to enjoy the calm in all of its glorious tranquility so that you can have your pick of the hotels. Our pick is the newly opened British-run Casa Loma.
Casa Loma Minca
Located, as the name suggest, at the top of the hill, the Casa Loma opened towards the end of 2010 and the owners are setting about making this one of the most comfortable places in town for travellers and backpackers. With four rooms and a campsite, you can enjoy some of the best views from any hostel in Colombia here. Home-cooked meals are offered adding to the friendly family atmosphere. The owners know the region well and can advise on any and all trips and hikes nearby.