Minca is a delightful little village in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa, popular with a wide range of travellers, from birders to budget backpackers. A new road means that Minca is now just 30 minutes away from Santa Marta, meaning that it’s now easy to visit the area for just 24 hours. So if time is tight but you want to experience Minca, here’s a guide on how to spend 24 hours there.
You should aim to arrive in Minca by 9am to make the most of your time, so hop on a bus (or take a taxi if you are two or three people in a group) at around 8:30 am. When you arrive head straight up the hill behind the church to Casa Loma Hostel, a beautiful spot to spend the night with breathtaking views over the mountains and the distant Caribbean Sea. Check-in, drop off your bags, order yourself one of their delicious vegetarian dinners for that night, and then head back down into town to get your day started.
Grab a quick breakfast at La Miga bakery before continuing out of town on the hike to Marinka Waterfalls, a stunning jungle waterfall located roughly an hour’s walk from the town. The walk itself is mostly along a dirt road through the jungle, so keep an eye out for stunning jungle birds like toucans and hummingbirds along the way. Make sure to pack swimming gear for the waterfalls, as you’ll want to jump straight into the cooling waters after your hike in the Caribbean heat. Once you’ve enjoyed a swim and taken some photos of the beautiful scenery then hike back to Minca (this part’s downhill, so it’s much easier).
You should arrive back into Minca by around lunchtime, so head to The Lazy Cat restaurant to grab a bite to eat – the food here is some of the best in town, and there’s plenty of choice no matter what your taste or diet. Once you’re done with lunch head to the mototaxi stop on the corner of the main street and jump on a bike up to La Victoria coffee farm (this shouldn’t cost much more than US$4 (€3.25) one-way). When you arrive at La Victoria ask to join their next coffee tour.
The La Victoria coffee tour is a fascinating insight into the process of harvesting coffee, at one of the oldest working coffee farms in Colombia. Their machinery dates back to the Victorian era, hence the name, and it’s amazing to watch as these 100+-year-old machines still process the coffee as if they had been built yesterday. When you’re done with the tour ask to be shown around the adjacent brewery, which produces excellent craft beer made with mountain spring water from the Sierra Nevada.
To get back to Minca you have two choices: you can ask your moto driver to stick around and take you back, or you can walk (it’s all downhill through some stunning scenery). Either way, make sure to stop off on your way back at Pozos Azules, a lovely little river swimming area, perfect for another cooling dip.
You’ll want to make sure you’re back in Casa Loma Hostel for sunset: the view from their bar area is the best place in town to watch one of Minca’s spectacular mountain sunsets, so head back up the hill, grab a Happy Hour cocktail and prepare to be amazed! Once the sun has set you can spend the rest of the evening socializing with the other guests, enjoying their excellent vegetarian dinner, and making the most of that cocktail menu! Get to bed early so you are fresh tomorrow morning for one last quick activity before you have to head back down to the coast.
You’ve still got a few hours to enjoy if you’re prepared to get up nice and early, and one of the best pre-breakfast activities in Minca is to take a dawn birding tour with Jungle Joe. His introductory birdwatching tours run from 6:30 am until 9 am and offer an ideal introduction to the remarkable bird diversity of the Sierra Nevada. Joe provides binoculars and is a patient and relaxed guide. There’s a good chance you’ll see toucans, owls, parrots, and woodpeckers during your morning trip, and it’s a fun and easy way to explore some of Colombia’s biodiversity while you’re in Minca.
One you leave Joe there’ll just be time to grab a quick local coffee at Cafe Minca before you jump on a bus and head back down the mountain to Santa Marta, but if you follow this itinerary you will certainly have had a fun and memorable 24 hours in Minca!