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There’s a hostel in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains that has quickly become a must-visit spot for travellers in Colombia, mainly due to its famous giant hammock that hangs out over the edge of a mountainside, offers stunning panoramic views of the mountains and the Caribbean, and is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Colombia. Welcome to Casa Elemento.
Casa Elemento opened in 2013 on the site of a former private residence in the mountains above the little village of Minca. Since those simple beginnings, it has gone from strength to strength and has become arguably the only hostel in Colombia that is truly a must-visit tourist destination. But what makes Casa Elemento special and different to the many other hostels not only in Minca, but in the whole of Colombia? Two words: giant hammock!
The hostel’s giant hammock has become iconic in and of itself, so much so that the hostel even offers a day-pass for 10,000 COP (US$3.30) for those travellers who simply want to hang out in it and grab the obligatory Instagram snap. A photo lounging around in it, with the green mountains of the Sierra Nevada rolling away towards the sparkling waters of the distant Caribbean Sea, has become de rigueur for travellers in Colombia, and people travel to Minca specifically to visit the Casa Elemento hammock.
With space for at least 15 people, the impressive structure juts out over the edge of the hillside where the hostel is perched and has undergone many upgrades over the years. Nowadays, there’s a new wooden terrace leading right up to the edge of the hammock. It’s been nicknamed ‘the world’s largest hammock’, and ‘the hammock with the best view in the world’, and it’s hard to argue with either of those names once you visit.
Casa Elemento itself is a wonderful place to spend a few nights: with accommodation options ranging from fancy new private cabins and dorm rooms to hammocks, as well as a pool, bar, and another huge hammock in the jungle, the hostel is the perfect place to relax away from the sweltering Caribbean heat, read a book, enjoy a few beers and cocktails, or just chill out in the hammock and make some new friends. Lunch and dinner are communal affairs, with all the guests sitting down at the same long table to eat, chat and get to know each other. The entire place has a delightfully disconnected feel – there’s no WiFi – and is a brilliant place to connect with other travellers.
You can, if you’re feeling adventurous, even opt to sleep in the giant hammock itself (but be aware that it can get really chilly at night), although this isn’t officially an option when you book. The best way to enjoy the hammock, though, is simply to grab a spot on it, gaze at the stunning view, try to spot a toucan or parrot flying past, chat with some fellow travellers and generally absorb the remarkable natural beauty of one of Colombia’s most special destinations.