Minca is a tiny village just outside of Santa Marta and close to Tyrona national park. It’s a must see for anyone exploring this area.
The place to stay is Casa Elemento, a now pretty well know hostel. Well know because of one giant hammock overlooking the vast Colombian jungle, the perfect spot to sit back and take it all in. Casa Elemento boasts ‘Farm fresh food, craft beer on tap, climbing wall and high ropes course as well as dorms, hammocks and private cabanas’. With a daily happy hour and sociable guests this hostel can get pretty lively considering it’s in the middle of nowhere. Another great feature is the outdoor showers that overlook the jungle. There’s also a yoga class in the morning which takes place on the decking again overlooking this view of the jungle.
The most difficult part of this trip was getting to Casa Elemento which does require a 40 minute motor taxi ride at 20,000 pesos (about £5.40). On my first trip I did fall off, the journey isn’t exactly risk assessed but getting to the destination was worth the pain. If you’re a little nervous on a bike this is not the way to travel and jeeps are available. Alternatively, hiking takes about 3 hours depending on fitness and luggage. I’d recommend getting there in time for sunset.
Hiking back down to Minca is much easier and makes for a nice relaxed walk the next day, only a couple of hours. From here, you have a whole wealth of surrounding area to explore. A great trip is to Palomino for white sand beaches and tubing. A great place to stay here is The Dreamer Hostel, which has cabana style rooms with hammocks and a large bar area with a pool. It feels more like a resort than a hostel and was only 30,000 pesos a night (about £8.15). We had a great buffet breakfast and headed to the canyon the next day for tubing. This was a great way to relax once we had trekked in inappropriate footwear to the start of the river. One grueling climb through the trees, with rather heavy rubber rings on our backs, and one lost shoe later, we got to ride down the river and enjoy beautiful scenery. Flip flops are not recommend but bear in mind that anything you take or wear is going to get wet. Luckily, I could turn my clothes into a head scarf and use my flip flops as paddles..
Our last stop on this trip was Tyrona national park, a place I was lucky enough to visit quite a few times during my time in Colombia. This is one of the most popular national parks in Colombia and it’s easy to see why. With beautiful white sand beaches, like the mirror beach at Cabo San Juan (the cover to pretty much any Colombian travel guide or brochure), and vast jungle for both casual and more challenging hikes, there’s plenty available here. On my first trip, we had to undergo a pretty pacey trek to Cabo San Juan before sunset (which is rather early in November, about 5pm). Walking through jungle paths and over beaches for about three hours, we made it to the camp and managed to secure hammocks for the night at only 15,000 pesos (£4). There’s an outdoor restaurant at the sight, and hammocks are under a large thatched roof which at least protected us from the rain if not mosquito attacks. Being the number one mosquito attraction in the group, I had to sleep in head to toe clothing and a thick layer of 99% deet mosquito repellent. Making it to Cabo San Juan on the first day of hiking is definitely worth it as we spent the next morning sunbathing on this beautiful beach and taking some pictures of the notorious hammock cabana over that overlooks the park.
A more hard core hike through Tyrona involves trekking straight through the middle of the jungle and out of the second exit in the centre of the park. This includes a walk through the indigenous village called Pueblito (meaning small town). Although the inhabitants ask that you don’t take photos of the thatched huts and people, some tourists are just disrespectful enough to ignore that and do what they like. Feeling that gawping at the indigenous way of life is slightly rude, we trekked through quickly admiring the tranquility of this sacred site, and continued our trek back down to exit the park, which only took about 2 hours despite the map suggesting it would take 4. Give yourself plenty of time to explore Tyrona (at least three days) and appreciate the vastness of this Colombian treasure.