Escaping it all to the Mountain Town of Minca Colombia3 min read
By the time I arrived in Colombia, I’d been traveling through Central America, heading south, for three months. After a week in lively Medellin visiting Pablo Escobar’s stomping grounds and paragliding in the Andes Mountains, and a quick stop in touristy Cartagena, I was searching for somewhere to unwind.
Heading east by bus from Cartagena along Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, I reach the laidback, seaside city of Santa Marta in about four hours. The city is sandwiched between mountains drenched in greenery and postcard beaches. Santa Marta has a beach-town feel, but with a population of over 500,000, it’s more of a tropical metropolis than a relaxing vacation spot.
Luckily, Santa Marta isn’t my final destination. My escape-from-it-all getaway is instead nestled up in Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, in a tiny little town called Minca. Minca is less of a conventional “town” and more of a steep mountainside dotted with eco-lodges, ultra-chill hostels, boutique hotels and glamping spots. The one commonality between them all? The breathtaking mountain views and a horizon lingering beyond the distant lights of Santa Marta and the Caribbean Ocean.
In choosing my accommodations, I prioritized total peace and relaxation. I settled on an ecolodge which provided breakfast, lunch and dinner made fresh from their gardens. My room had a comfortable queen size bed, draped in a mosquito net with a giant open-air window looking out to the jungle and mountainscape. Cell service was non-existent and wifi was spotty at best which was perfect for what I had planned for my 3-day getaway (i.e. nothing).
To start with, however, reaching my accommodations turned out to be anything but relaxing. Because Santa Marta is a jumping-off point for not only visits to Minca but also to the remote Tayrona National Park and The Lost City trek (the Colombian Machu Picchu that can only be reached by a 3-6 day hike), the hotels and hostels in town make it easy to store your bigger bags. So I widdled my belongings down to the sheer necessities and hopped the collectivo from a questionably marked street corner heading to Minca.
Since the lodgings are spread over vast expanses of mountainside, you’re dropped in the tiny town center of Minca. Once I unload myself, I’m greeted by a few men with dirt bikes asking where I am staying and if I want a ride.
Armed with a paragraph of “directions” from the lodge’s website, I politely decline a ride, throwing my daypack behind me and setting off to “take a left at the police station and follow the dirt road 4km uphill.”
The journey is significantly more grueling than expected and, with a rapidly setting sun, I’m left using my phone’s flashlight to navigate the last 15 minutes of the hour-long hike. It’s all made worth it the following morning when I wake up to a bowl of fresh fruit and coffee made from beans grown on the mountainside, overlooking one of the prettiest vistas I’ve ever seen.
For the following three days, I laze about with my book in one of the many hammocks draped among the trees. I enjoy organic, vegetarian lunches and dinners with fellow travelers from around the world. I set off on exploratory hikes through the jungle, stumbling on indigenous villages. They’re empty. The nomad residents are currently not at this home. It’s only a few roosters happily strolling about, pecking food off the ground.
The best part of the entire experience happened every evening about an hour before dark. All the guests would lazily make their way down, through the gardens, to the sunset point. Here, couples shared a blanket and a bottle of wine. Groups gathered around a ukulele player softly singing. And many others like myself, sat in peace, watching the most vibrantly colored birds I’d ever seen swoop across the sky. At sunset, a haze settled over the mountains, creating the feeling that the sky’s pastel colors were lingering in the air all around you. As darkness spread, everyone would make their way back uphill in collective silence, filled with perfect peacefulness.