Colombia’s Magdalena department has more to offer than Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park‘s beautiful beaches; it is also home to Minca, a small village located high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Some people choose to spend a few days in Minca, enjoying the slow pace of life, but it is also a great option for a day trip from Santa Marta or Taganga. Hire a taxi to take you to the cool mountains, and you’ll be there in no time. I’ve outlined a full day of Minca activities, after the jump.
The taxi ride from Santa Marta takes about 45 minutes, and should cost about 200,000 COP (~60 USD). We had our hostel call us a driver, which made things easy. If you make the challenging and pot-hole-ridden drive up to Minca, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views along the way. You can see Santa Marta and the Caribbean in one direction, and the verdant Sierra Nevadas in the other.
What morning stop could be better than La Victoria coffee plantation? At La Victoria, the owners still use the original equipment from the 1940s, so it’s almost like visiting a working piece of history. The local streams power their generators, so they are completely self-sustaining. Tours are available in English and Spanish, and end in their cafe where you can enjoy a freshly roasted cup of seriously delicious coffee. Cakes and other sandwiches are also available. Their cafe has no windows, so you’re up close and personal with the rainforest, including some incredibly colorful tropical birds and flowers. It has to be one of the most perfect places to enjoy a cup of joe!
After the coffee farm, our driver drove us through the giant bamboo groves and amazing lookout spots to the start of a hike to a local waterfall/swimming hole. The hike was pretty easy, more or less just a 15-minute walk through some farmland and over a rickety looking bridge. There were actually a few swimming holes and waterfalls, and people were climbing up a mountain path (using tree roots and vines for handholds) to access the second. It looked like something only mountain goats could accomplish, but when I saw an elderly woman using it I knew I had to see what the other waterfalls looked like. It was definitely worth it! There were only about 4-5 people swimming at that level, versus 20+ down below. The waterfall was a lot prettier, too, and some daredevils were performing stunts their mothers would just as soon not know about…
Many people relax there for a while and then eat at one of the traditional Colombian restaurants nearby – many which boast an impressive view – but my group headed back to Santa Marta and had dinner at a barbecue restaurant. Whatever you do, make sure you come prepared with sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and some spare pesos – we did need some to use the closest bathroom (a semi-common practice in this part of Colombia).