Hikers are spoilt for choice in Colombia, with hiking trails that stretch over mountain tops and pass through paramo landscapes, wind across deserts, weave through jungles and end in unspoilt beaches. There are plenty of well-marked day hikes close to the major cities and others that take a little longer, requiring the expertise of a guide and, occasionally, some specialist equipment. Here are some of the most popular routes:
The Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) is Colombia’s most famous hike, a 44km walk through the jungle close to Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast, that peaks with a climb to this ancient site. The city is thought to have been built in 800AD, some 650 years before Peru’s Macchu Pichu, and only 10% of it has been excavated since it was re-discovered in the 1970s. The hike usually takes six days and hikers sleep in hammocks, accompanied by a guide and support team. The highlights of the trip are the 1.200 stone steps climbed to reach the city, which comprises around 170 terraces and plazas carved into the mountainside, and the frequent river crossings.
Photo: William Neuheisel
Paramo de Oceta
At 3,400m above sea level, this is Colombia’s most beautiful paramo with abundant freilejon (shrubs that only grow at this altitude) colorful flowers and the remains of an old, stone city. There are several ways to explore the paramo, with hikes ranging from one to three days and most hikers take a guide. The paramo is close to the small town of Mongui, one of the prettiest colonial towns in Boyaca.
The Cocora Valley is one of the last places in the world where hikers can walk amid the legendary wax palm, the world’s tallest palm tree that can grow up to 200ft. The walks in this valley, part of the Los Nevados National Park and close to the small town of Salento, range from five-hour day hikes, where walkers enjoy great views of the valley and usually encounter hundreds of hummingbirds, to longer trips that can climb up to 3,500m.
Los Nevados National Park
Los Nevados (which means “snow-capped mountains”) is a hiker’s paradise, a national park bursting with trails and terrains. One of the most popular is the 5,300m-high Nevado del Ruiz volcano, one of the tallest and most majestic volcanoes in Colombia. It’s still active and hikes depend on safety, but when possible, most hikers climb it in a day. You can walk to the start of the glacier, usually around 5,000m, at which point specialist snow equipment is required. Most visitors combine their hike with a trip to the nearby hot springs.
Photo: Parque del Café Travel
If you’re a hiker seeking stunning landscapes and rare flora and fauna, the answer is Colombia. If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any of your social networks.
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