Minca, renowned for its natural beauty, is in Magdalena Department, Colombia. It is located about 15 km south east from Santa Marta.
Minca is a small village inhabited by 800 people at an elevation of 650m in the Sierra Nevada above Santa Marta. It is famous for its organic coffee and has a much cooler temperature than the sweltering Santa Marta. The village is charming, and has in the past few years grown as a traveler and birdwatching destination after the conclusion of the armed conflict. It attracts mostly backpackers who want a week or two off from the beaten track and indulge into tranquility. It's a great base for hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching and other outdoor activities, offering fresh mountain breeze, over 300 bird species nearby and spectacular views. For such a small town Minca has a really diverse and interesting history, so be sure to ask about it or visit the local memorial center (its small and rustic but a great source of information in English or Spanish).
The road leading to Minca has been recently rebuilt (2015) and is in a good condition. Local Santa Marta taxi drivers are willing to take you up to Minca for about $40,000-$50,000 COP (as of March 2019).
There are also colectivos (shared taxis) that leave from the marketplace in Santa Marta. “La Estacion de Minca” is the old station for the colectivos. The new one is located in Calle 12, carrera 9, the company is called "Cootrasminca". The journey will cost you 8,000 COP (as of March 2019) and the car leaves when it is full. It normally takes 15-20 min for the car to fill up so don't be in too much of a hurry. The journey to Minca will take around 30 minutes. However, on weekends and public holidays, it might take longer.
The region is beautiful and is best explored on hiking or motorbikes. The roads above Minca are extremely low quality so it is advised to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, although if it is not raining a regular car should do.
There is a mototaxi collective in Minca called Motomink which has organized themselves greatly in the last couple years, including fixing their prices. Look for the drivers in the blue and black jackets, they will charge you the set price and have insurance/mechanical checks. They hang out around the yellow bridge in the center or town. The prices of the different destinations in and around Minca are visible on a board in their office.
- La Victoria Coffee Plantation located just north, uphill of Minca is one of the major attractions. It is a completely self-sustaining coffee plantation, using water from mountain streams to power generators. Coffee beans are moved and processed using only gravity and power from the generators and they still use all of the original machinery that was brought up the mountain by pack animals in the late 1800s. Harvest season begins in October and ends by mid-February. Tours are offered in English or Spanish for $15,000 COP per person (as of March 2019) and include a cup of freshly-brewed coffee.
- Los Pinos/The Pine trees From Los Pinos (the pine trees) you have an amazing view all over the mountains of Minca and all the way to the coast and Santa Marta. The view is best in the morning as sometimes clouds roll in around midday. It takes 2.5 hours from town to walk there or you can make a trip of it seeing the Marinka waterfall, sleeping in a hostel up there and then walk the last bit the following morning, or just pay a mototaxi to take you up there. There are two roads leading to the spot one is the main road and the other is off-track, taking small paths leading you through coffee-plantations. Ask your hostel for information.
- Marinka waterfall. Also visit the Marinka waterfall, its a beautiful waterfall with a natural pool for swimming down below. You can walk there in 40 min/1 hours depending on how fast you walk or take a moto taxi for approx 6000 COP. There is a small entrance fee since it is on the private property of $5,000 COP (as of March 2019). edit
- Pozo Azul is a popular swimming hole with two small waterfalls. You can jump from the top of the second waterfall into the refreshing water below (be sure to ask locals where it is safe to jump, there are some rocks and accidents have occurred. Reached by walking for about 45minutes from Minca town - if coming from the church, walk to the junction, then turn right and follow the signs.
- Cerro Kennedy The end of this hike is the viewpoint of Los Nevados. From here you can almost see the entire Sierra Nevada and the sea. If the weather is good the two highest mountain Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar are also visible. It takes at least a day to hike up and is recommended for experienced hikers. Before Cerro Kennedy is a beautiful viewpoint and natural reserve called San Lorenzo which is worth a visit.
- The Memorial Center of the Sierra Nevada is located in the center of town, behind Cafe Minca on the way to El Mirador. They are a new project pushing for collaboration between tourists and locals, and the only real historical/culturally integrative activity in the area. The entry is free and they also provide a 45-minute comprehensive tour in English or Spanish for donations, which they use for community development projects. Minca has a surprisingly diverse and interesting history for such a small town, and the memorial center and tour are well worth the visit. They offer local coffee samples, have free internet and local products/art. It is run by a couple, one from the US and one from Minca itself, who are both very friendly and willing to answer any questions, help with translations and give tourism advice.
- La Candelaria Coffee and Chocolate Farm BnB It is about 1 hour and 15 minutes hike up from the center of Minca, you can also take a moto taxi for 20.000 (2018) and then you only have to walk 15 minutes to get there. They have private rooms for 50.000 COP (December 2016) and it includes breakfast and a coffee and chocolate tour. You can also just hike up there and enjoy a coffee or chocolate with their friendly pet toucan. The toucan is usually around in the mornings. Furthermore, they offer the coffee and chocolate tours for 25,000 COP (as of March 2019) each and sell organic coffee and chocolate. The owners are super welcoming and it is definitely worth the hike up there.
The area around Minca is excellent for hiking, mountain biking, coffee and chocolate tours, and bird watching. There is also a small memorial center/cultural museum. Several day and half day trips are possible. Ask around, many people are a good source of information and happy to help. There are several new local tour agencies that work with exclusively local guides, so go to Opertur de la Sierra (near the entrance and cafe Minca) or Minca Tours in the plaza, though they speak mostly Spanish. If you hike on your own, most of the walks will bring you to a cascade at least once, for a much needed cooling session in the very cold water.
Be prepared that from around July-November is rainy season, be prepared for early afternoon showers and if you don’t want to get wet, go out early and be back by 1 or 2.
A beautiful day hike is from Minca to Mundo Nuevo, from there to La Candelaria, past Pozo Azul and back to Minca. Lunch can be had in all those places; signposted all the way. Another nice option is to walk the loop to Los Pinos: this is a longish walk of at least six hours, but plenty of lunch options on the way. Take a moto up if you feel like a shorter walk.
There is a company by the entrance of town that rents mountain bikes for a challenging but beautiful way to get about the mountain.
The town of Minca boasts an avifauna to rival many nations by biodiversity and is considered to be amongst the most significant bird watching destinations in South America. Consider giving bird watching a try while you're here. Jungle Joe's tours, located right near cafe minca, offers a basic, entry level morning bird watching walk for COP30.000 binoculars included. You’ll see lots of birds on a basic loop around the town. For more serious bird enthusiasts willing to spend a little more for an expert local guide, ask the local tour agencies and if you don’t speak Spanish find a translator to help. There’s a local guide who has even given tours to National Geographic. Here you can likely see woodpeckers, hummingbirds and toucans. Birds from North America as far as the Canadian Arctic come to this area over winter. A species count of 35 isn't unusual for the three hour stroll. If you'd like to fly solo a pamphlet called the Birds of Minca available in town but very basic (doesn't illustrate sexual dichromatism). Hilty & Brown's a Guide to the Birds of Colombia, now out of print, is authoritative but unobtainable in Colombia. Bring a copy from your home country and possibly sell it for double here.
There are several tiendas in the village for your basic needs, but expect to pay a bit more. It is better to buy food in Santa Marta if you want to stay for more than 3 days.
Cash withdrawals are available at Minca through a local ATM system that works with any debit or credit card at The Embassy Center, across the church.
There are several restaurants in town and near the waterfalls. Several tiendas in the village sell Colombian take away and empanadas, etc.
- Lazy Cat is known for its good hamburgers but offers a wide range of other dishes as well, its located right in the town center. On the terraces below one can have a nice view of the river. Be aware that the Lazy Cat doesn't advertise it's priced for a reason. Happy hour specials on drink and food.
- Santisabella is a 5-minute walk from the main junction and features a lot of good meals as well. Try the different kinds of ravioli, they are worth it! If you want a liquid appetizer, can go into the bar below.
- Tienda Cafe de Minca  A nice café, by the main road with very good local coffee. Try frappuccinos! The shop sells various interesting things and is definitely the best place to buy souvenirs in Minca.
- Hotel Restaurant Casa d'Antonio  About 200m after the bridge in direction Pozo Azul. Run by a Spanish - Colombian couple. Spanish and Latin American Cuisine. The seafood and paella are delicious.
- Casa Cristi  Just beside the football pitch, this restaurant offers various delicious dishes of Argentinian style grilled meat. You can also sit next to the grill and see how your meal is prepared. Ask for the Chimichurri sauce if you eat there. Nothing for vegetarians or vegans though.
- La Miga Panadaría  This French bakery sells baguettes ($3,800 COP), chocolate bread ($3,500 COP), sourdough bread ($6,000 COP), ciabatta, hummus ($6,500 COP), babaganoush ($6,500 COP), artisanal yogurt without sugar (1L for $8,000 COP), and cheese spreads. They also serve coffee, and there is a seating area. Great for breakfast.
- Restaurant Donde Orfi Located across the street from the church, this local restaurant offers "menu del dia" for $12,000 COP (soup, drink, main). Simple and filling.
There are several bars and clubs in Minca. The most central one is just after the yellow bridge in the center of town, a typical Colombian open air bar, it is a good place to sit and watch the town pass by from. Restaurant Santisabella also has a very nice bar with good drinks. If you want to dance go to Donde Raul. The hostels will sell you beers as well (COP3,000-4,500). Locals also sell beers at the waterfalls (COP2,500). At Los Pinos lookout ask for a delicious milkshake. Minca has a proud coffee culture. You can buy locally grown and processed coffee. Be sure to drink plenty of it during your stay and try it black without sugar.
Minca is unavoidably loud on Saturday nights, one can hear the music from most hostels until 3 am, but the weekdays are quiet so don't let it put you off too much.
- Casa Loma  Tel: +57 313 808 61 64, is a 10minute walk uphill from behind the church in Minca. Great view from the patio area, accommodation from hammocks to dorms to privates. Communal meals, but vegetarian only. You can always walk down to town for some meat, or to use the internet (Casa Loma is a "wifi-free zone").
- Finca Carpe Diem is a hostel & eco-farm set in a natural paradise with a large swimming pool alongside a beautiful river. They offer luxury cabañas, private rooms and dorms. A perfect place for relaxing, hiking, visiting an Organic Cacao or Coffee Farm... You find swimming spots and waterfalls closeby in the rivers. A Nature Paradise! Close to Minca! Phone: 3184705820 Mail: [email protected] http://www.fincacarpediem.com/
- Finca Hostal Bolivar Tel +57 322 280 83 42, 200m after the main bridge in direction Pozo Azul. Boutique - style guesthouse with view on the river as well as terrace and kitchen. Satellite-TV in the living room. 2 Double rooms and 1 Dorm for 4 people available. Free Wi-Fi and hot water in the showers. Prices between COP 45.000 and COP 160.000, COP 490.000 for the whole house per day. Private access to to river and hut with fireplace. There's also a parking place for campers with caravans and motorcycles with shower, toilet, water, Wi-Fi, fridge and a common room with hammocks and furniture.
- Hostal Mar(y)monte  is situated around 300m from the village, close to the telephone antenna. A camping ground, hammocks, dorms and private rooms are available. Prices range between COP40'000 and COP120'000. Mar y Monte offers camp sites for COP15.000. The camping price includes access to the kitchen but not breakfast. The terrace is reliably cooled by a gentle breeze and has a beautiful vista across the surrounding mountains, the Caribbean sea and the city of Santa Marta. Other features include a little bar, an à la carte restaurant, free WiFi, free parking.
- Faunal Reserva Natural WhatsApp/tel: +57 313 6932 101 a private nature reserve, camp ground and cafe ~300m from the Pozo Azul waterfall. Turn right and head uphill 100m before you reach the falls. Camp sites are COP12000 a night and they can supply some basic gear. The nature reserve has numerous walking trails and is located close to some longer hikes. They also offer safari tours, guesthouse accommodation and 4x4 transport.
- Emerald Green Guest House Tel: +57 311 403 55 27, Irish run hostel next to the police station with single, double and 4 Bed rooms. Every room comes with a private bathroom fitted with a shower. It has a nice garden and the forefront looks like a castle. Rooms start at COP100,000.
- Minca Ecohabs  +57 317 586 40 67, This lodge is just before the Marymonte and also offers private rooms and huts. It also features a restaurant, free parking and WiFi. However this spot is a proper hotel and therefore more expensive. Prices start at COP250.000.
- Casa Marinka  Leaving the town walking towards the waterfall Marinka you will find the hostel. Newly opened hostel started by two young climbers where from they offer different kinds of tours and activities like canopying, rock climbing, rappelling etc. Prices vary depending on whether you want private room with private bathroom, dormroom or just want to crash in one of their many hammocks on the roof.
- Casa Elemento Accommodation options vary from private rooms to dorms to tents and hammocks (use theirs or bring your own). Bring coconut oil as there are lots of sandflies here . No wifi. If you only visit Casa Elemento on they way to/from Los Pinos, you have to pay 10 000 cop entrance fee (includes a drink).
- Yoga Pati Hostal Located 5 minutes walk from the bus stop in the direction of Los Pinos. Apart from Yoga classes one private double (COP 50,000/room) and a 7 bed dorm (COP 15,000/bed) are available, the plumbing for both toilets blocks up frequently. No WiFi. There is a kitchen but this isn't available for guest use, food and drink are offered to try but expect this to be added to your bill on check out.
The only place in town with wifi outside of hotels and hostels is the Lazy Cat restaurant (closed every Friday). There is an internet café next door with just a couple of computers. It is a good idea to buy a SIM card with a data plan (very inexpensive) before arriving here if you want to remain connected.
UPDATE 2018 there are a variety of restaurantes, cafes and workspaces with internet that are happy to let you connect, and one internet cafe called Caja Magica where they have computers to use and can print documents.
- Mamancana is a private game reserve where you can do wallclimbing and canopying. Check out their facebookpage  or talk to your hostel for arranging a trip.
- Palomino Take a moto back down to Yucal and a bus from there to Santa Marta, or wait at the crossroads for a colectivo to fill up (both about COP7-8,000). If you are going to Palomino you don't need to go all the way back into Santa Marta. Get out at "La Bomba" and flag down a bus for Palomino.
- Santa Marta Take a colectivo from the junction at the bridge. Tickets are sold at the cooperative office next to the bridge, but the people hang around outside and will ask you where you need to go. COP 8,000 (as of March 2019). The terminal is the Mercado in Santa Marta but they'll let you out anywhere you like.
- Cartagena Take a collectivo from the junction to Buena Vista mall as above. From there take a taxi to either the bus terminal or to the office of one of the faster minibus services like Berlinave or Marsol. More expensive (~40,000 COP, feb 2017), but a lot faster.
- Hike to Paso del Mango. Continue up past the police station, and after a few hundred meters you will see the first sign - the whole way is signposted, but some signs can be missed or misinterpreted, so pay attention. The hike takes around 6 hours, and as you get closer to Paso del Mango, you can swim in the beautiful mountain rivers and waterfalls.
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