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A Complete Adventure Guide to Hiking in Colombia

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Frailejones in the paramo landscape of Colombia



While Colombia might be more well-known for its colorful culture, cuisine and history, where we believe the country truly shines is in its stunning landscapes. Seriously, if you want to really discover this gem of South America then you need to head out on the trails, for hiking in Colombia is truly an incredible adventure.

We were lucky enough to spend over six months in Colombia and during that time we tried to get out and explore as much as possible. Including, heading out on many different single day and multi-day hikes - oftentimes in the breathtaking Los Nevados National Park - home to multiple volcanoes and snowcapped peaks (as well as some of the last tropical glaciers in the world).

Hiking has always been one of our favorite ways to explore a new place, for it pushes you to get out of your comfort zone, see various landscapes and oftentimes, gets you pretty far off the beaten path (which we obviously strive to do as much as possible). If you are looking to explore all of the magic that Colombia holds then we cannot recommend heading out on at least one hike (luckily we have 5 great ones below).

For if there is a country that really shines when it comes to hiking trails and hiking regions, then Colombia might be it. With its large array of unique and beautiful landscapes, incredible biodiversity and overall safety, Colombia is a paradise for people looking to partake in everything from easy day hikes to overnight backpacking trips to multi-day treks.

Below is everything adventure travelers need to know about hiking in Colombia.




\\ An Overview of Hiking in Colombia

Below is everything an adventure traveler needs to know about hiking in Colombia, including the best times to hike, overall safety and Colombia's various regions - each of which is of course full of exciting adventures.


In our experience, the month of February was one of the best times to head out for a hike in the Andes mountains as well as along the coasts. During this time of year you can still expect a bit of rain, but overall, you are more likely to have sunny skies and nice temperatures.

Another good option when looking at the best time of year to hike in Colombia is the months of August (especially late August) and September. Both of these months are kind of the shoulder season so you can also expect relatively warm temperatures and less rain overall. Plus, unlike in February when crowds can still be quite high after the holidays, you can expect far fewer people on the trails during these two months.

☁ RAINY SEASON: April - May and October - November

☼ DRY SEASON: December - January and July - August


Overall, we would say navigating the hiking trails in Colombia is pretty easy. For the most part, the trails will be well-marked and well-trodden, especially in the popular national parks like Los Nevados and Tayrona.

But with that being said, we would still recommend having some form of offline map with you when heading out on the trail, especially if you are doing it without a guide (more on that below). There are a couple of offline map options available, including some of our favorites and Gaia GPS. Both of these mapping apps can be downloaded ahead of time and both tend to be pretty accurate for hiking trails (Gaia GPS is especially good at tracking backcountry hiking trails in Colombia).

When we decided to hike in Los Nevados National Park for four days without a guide we made sure to have our route planned and downloaded on the two apps above as well as on another adventure tracking app Komoot (which was recommended to us by a Colombian friend). All three maps helped guide us along the trail, especially in the areas where the trail was somewhat hard to follow due to mud and overgrowth.

❔ GOOD TO KNOW: there is also the option to use the popular hiking app Alltrails while exploring Colombia. We tend to use this app while exploring the United States but found that it was a pretty solid mapping option in South America too.


Safety is usually the biggest concern when heading out on a hiking trip - no matter where you are. And in Colombia, a place with a history of being unsafe, that fear only multiplies. So let us be the first to tell you: Colombia is incredibly safe - especially out in the wilderness (including in the mountains and along the coasts). In fact, we found ourselves feeling more safe hiking around the high mountains of Central Colombia (in Los Nevados National Park specifically) than we sometimes did back in the USA.

Below are some of the biggest safety concerns that you need to be aware of when planning to hike in Colombia:


If you are planning to do a hike up in the high Andes mountains it is quite likely that you will reach some pretty high elevations. Therefore it is important to know how to deal with adventuring at higher elevations - most importantly, how to recognize signs of altitude sickness and how to help someone (and yourself) if you do start to feel sick while at higher elevations.

The most common signs of altitude sickness are: headache, feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (throwing up), dizziness, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and shortness of breath. These symptoms, though possible during the day, usually are worse at night. Some of the best ways to counteract altitude sickness - which can occur anytime you spend a decent amount of time above 2400 meters (7,800+ feet) - is to slow down and focus on acclimating (especially if coming from much lower elevations, like the coasts in Colombia), to drink lots of water, to avoid climbing more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) in one day (especially in the beginning), and to eat higher calorie but lighter meals.

💬 INSIDER TIP: even though the two of us have spent years hiking around at higher elevations, both of us experienced pretty bad altitude sickness while hiking in Colombia. Seriously, even if you feel like your body is prepared for adventuring around at higher elevations, you still need to be aware of the symptoms and dangers of altitude sickness. Because nothing sucks worse than having to hike with a massive headache.

Man trekking in the paramo of central Colombia


The weather can change really quickly in Colombia - from warm and sunny one minute to a full blown downpour the next. Depending on where you are planning to hike, the dangers from weather can range from blistering hot heat that can cause heat stroke to dense fog that hinders your ability to find your way on the trail.

While it can sometimes be tough to plan for every type of weather, we would say a good rule of thumb is to plan for the worst case scenario and to take steps to counteract any possible negative weather. Here is what we mean: if planning to hike in the hot, humid Caribbean region (like the Lost City Trek) you will likely want to head out nice and early to beat the worst of the heat. You will also want to wear loose, breathable clothing that protects you from the sun's harmful rays but isn't stifling hot. Now, if you are instead planning to hike in the mountains, especially at higher elevations, make sure to bring good rain gear (a rain jacket, a cover for your backpack, etc.) and warm clothes for at night (it gets quite cold). Also, in the higher elevations the fog can be quite intense - to the point where you can easily get disoriented, therefore make sure to give yourself enough time to finish the hike in the daylight (night only makes this worse) and to have a good offline map with you (see our recommendations above).

In terms of wildlife, the most dangerous animals are not the big carnivores like bears and mountain lions (both of which are found in Colombia) but instead are quite a bit smaller and harder to see. For example, one of the most dangerous animals is the equis snake (aka the fer de lance). This venomous snake is found throughout the country and is known to often live near people (because that is where rodents live, which is its main source of food). Obviously, fear of this snake shouldn't keep you from hiking, but it is important to note that it is relatively common and sometimes deadly. Other dangerous animals that you might come across on the trail are poison dart frogs, scorpions, and spiders. While this might seem a bit nerve0-wracking, just know that in most cases, as long as you are smart and are aware of your surroundings, you should be fine and totally safe.



By far one of the most common questions about hiking and trekking in Colombia is whether you can do it with or without a guide. The answer? It totally depends on where you are going (some hiking routes require a guide), how comfortable you are with the terrain and whether you yourself would feel more comfortable having a guide with you.

For us, two people who grew up hiking in the mountains of Colorado, we usually steer clear of going on guided hikes just because we like the freedom to choose how far we go, what speed we go at, etc. But with that being said, there are obviously some instances where we even find ourselves seeking out a guide for a specific adventure and hike.

For example, when we spent a week along Colombia's Pacific Coast we headed out on two guided hikes: one to El Tigre Waterfall and one on a night hike in the jungle. In both instances we were so glad we got a guide because a) it is quite likely that we wouldn't have been able to find and follow the trails on our own and b) we really enjoyed having someone tell us the history of the area and about the various animals and plants we were seeing along the way.

So the question of whether or not you need a guide usually comes down to what kind of experience you yourself want to have. Do you want to have the freedom to totally plan your own route, your own meals and your own itinerary or do you want to have someone do that for you? Do you want to learn more about the landscape from someone who knows it like the back of their hand or would you rather just walk through it and learn about the animals and plants later (or not at all)? Finally, do you think you are prepared and skilled enough to do these hikes (especially multi-day treks) without a guide, especially in a foreign land and likely in a totally different landscape?

Having a guide with you can be a lot of fun and a great way to learn about the various landscapes and biodiversity. We personally have enjoyed all of the guided hikes we have done and while we are still very much independent adventurers we are starting to understand the appeal of going on guided hikes.


Choosing whether or not to hike with a guide isn't always an easy decision. Here are three more things to consider:

The Cost | Some guiding services can be quite expensive, especially if the hike is multiple days and includes lodging and food. Figuring out the cost of a guide vs what you would pay if you did it solo is a great way to make a decision (in our opinion).

The Gear | Are you planning to bring all of your outdoor hiking gear with you to Colombia? Maybe... maybe not. Another thing to consider when deciding whether to get a guide or not is whether you will need specific gear for the hike. Sometimes finding outdoor gear can be tough and relatively expensive, whereas a guiding service will have all of the stuff you need with them.

The Planning | Finally, the last thing you need to consider is whether you want to do all of the adventure planning yourself (including buying food, finding transportation and lodging, etc.) or have a professional do it for you. In our case, we actually enjoy the planning part so this is not an issue, but we totally understand that for other people this can be one of the toughest parts. If you don't want the stress, consider getting a guide.

➳ You can find many guided hikes around Colombia - including to the Lost City - at GetYourGuide. Check it out here.



This region covers the three branches of the Andes mountains found in Colombia (these are known as cordilleras): the Cordillera Occidental (western), the Cordillera Central (middle) and the Cordillera Oriental (eastern). This region is fantastic for hiking and trekking, coffee tasting, culture and history. Some of the most famous hiking areas are Los Nevados National Natural Park (home of the famous Valle de Cocora), El Cocuy National Natural Park, Chingaza National Natural Park and the area around San Gil and the capital city Bogota.


This hot and humid region covers the area adjacent to the Caribbean Sea in the northern part of the country. This region is great for hanging out on colorful beaches, exploring the local marine life and partaking in various water activities (like snorkeling and scuba diving), learning about Colombia's turbulent history and heading out on some beautiful hiking trails. The most famous areas to hike in the Caribbean Region are Tayrona National Natural Park and the famous Lost City/Ciudad Perdida trek, both of which are located near the town of Santa Marta.


This region is part of the Llanos or plains landscape and is mainly located in the Orinoco river basin along the border with Venezuela. This lesser-known region is perfect for people interested in archeology and history, nature - the famous Cano Cristales river (or River of 5 Colors) is located here - swimming and waterfall spotting. Some of the most popular hiking areas are El Tuparro National Natural Park and Tinigua National Natural Park.


As the largest region in the country - it covers around 35% of Colombia - the Amazonia region is obviously part of the vibrant Amazon rainforest and home to some beautiful landscapes and lots of wildlife. The Amazonia region is awesome for wildlife spotting, nature-focused excursions and learning more about the country's indigenous tribes. For the most part, the majority of hiking will be done from the town of Leticia, which is located a riverboat ride away from Amacayacu National Natural Park.

❔ GOOD TO KNOW: another somewhat well-known hiking area is in the far northern part of the Amazon near the town of Inírida. The Cerros de Mavecure are three massive rocks that stick out of the dense jungle. While you likely cannot reach Inírida from Leticia you can from Bogota. You can read more about this unique and crazy landscape below.


This lesser-known Colombian region is comprised of the islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, most notably the islands of San Andres and Providencia. This tropical region is great for water activities, relaxing on the beach and exploring the various cultures. While there are not a ton of trails on these islands, there are a couple of shorter walks that take you through the vibrant island landscape - including one up to the top of a small peak that affords you great views of the island and the surrounding ocean.


Colombia's other coastal region covers the area on the west side of the country along the rugged and rainy Pacific Coast. This region is awesome for animal watching, off the beaten path adventures, jungle hiking and relaxation. Due to this regions rugged landscape, most of the hiking is done either along the coast (near towns such as Bahia Solano, El Valle or Nuqui) or in the inland region off of the major rivers.

Wide view of a palm tree lined empty beach in Colombia.


Former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos once said, "biodiversity is to Colombia, what oil is for the Arabs". And after looking at how biologically rich this country is, you might also agree. Luckily, for the most part, the country is trying to preserve its rich biodiversity in national parks, reserves and other protected areas.

Just to give you an idea, Colombia is...

1st in the number of orchids, birds and butterflies

1st in the amount of rain - aka Colombia is the rainiest country in the world

2nd in overall biodiversity (behind Brazil, a country 10x its size)

2nd in the number of plants, amphibians and freshwater fish

3rd in the number of palm trees and reptiles (it is also home to the largest palm tree in the world, the wax palm)

6th in number of mammals

Colombia is home to roughly 63,000 different species, and of those 14% are endemic (aka only found in Colombia). The country is also one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. A designation given to other countries like China, India, Australia, and the USA.

Many of the best hiking trails in Colombia will give you a great chance to see this biodiversity in person, including many of the country's colorful birds (like toucans and parrots), unique plant life (including frailejones) and various mammals (like tapirs).


Due to Colombia’s highly diverse landscapes, which includes everything from humid, Caribbean coastlines to one of the rainiest places on Earth, you need to make sure to pack items for almost all types of climates.

While this might seem like a lot, for the most part, you can get away with good, hardy basics. Below is a basic list of items to pack for a full-country adventure tour of Colombia:

| A rain jacket (we promise this will come in handy no matter where you are in the country; but more specifically if you are looking to explore the Coffee Region - Salento, Cocora Valley - or the Pacific Coast). This women's option is great.

| A light sweater, this is especially nice for nights spent high up in the Andean region. This men's sweater looks especially cozy.

| Moisture-wicking shirts, both long and short sleeved. You will be thankful you have these in the Amazon and along the Caribbean Coast (especially while hiking in Tayrona). Check out our favorite one.

| A few pairs of active shorts, especially ones you don't mind getting wet or muddy. These lightweight women's shorts are perfect.

| A couple of pairs of warm pants or tights, for it can get quite chilly in places like Bogota and the Coffee Region.

| Sandals for those moments after you finish hiking for the day (your feet will thank you). These sandals pack down nicely and can easily be shoved in a backpack.

| Sturdy boots that can handle mud (because there is always mud) and slick trails, perks if they are waterproof. We especially like this pair by Vasque.

| Bug spray, which is especially needed if you are planning to explore the Amazon and the Pacific Coast.

| Sunblock, even better if it is environmentally safe like this one by MadHippie.


| A hiking backpack that is at least 30 liters in size. We have always used Deuter bags and can't recommend them enough (seriously, they withstand everything).

| A dry bag or something similar; it doesn't specifically have to be a dry bag (like this one) but it should be able to keep your valuables (like phone and camera) dry in case of rain.

| A hat that keeps your face out of the sun and also helps keep the rain away from your eyes. This hat is fun and functional.

| Trekking poles, this isn't a must have but it could be nice, especially if looking to do a hike with lots of elevation change. This pair of poles by Black Diamond packs down nicely when not in use.

\\ The 5 Best Hikes and Hiking Areas in Colombia

Colombia has so much to offer the adventure traveler in terms of hiking and trekking trails. While it was tough to narrow it down, below are what we believe are five of the best hikes and hiking areas in the country.


It is very likely that if you Google Colombia hiking one of the first photos that appears is of towering palm trees in a vibrant green meadow. That is because those palm trees - real name: wax palms - sit in one of the most photographed destinations in Colombia: the Valle de Cocora, or Cocora Valley.

This stunning area of Colombia is in the center of the country in a region known as the Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Region. The Valle de Cocora is actually part of the larger Los Nevados National Natural Park (see more below), though when you visit it feels like a stand-alone destination. Within the valley, you can find a couple of trails; including, the most popular hiking route, the Cocora Valley Loop.

The Loop is 12 kilometers / 7 miles in length and takes between 3-7 hours depending on the amount of time you spend at the miradors (there are 2 big ones) and whether or not you take a side trip to a nearby hummingbird sanctuary (this adds on an extra 2 kilometers total). This loop trail is an amazing way to get up close and personal with the towering wax palms, explore the thick jungle and test your metal on some questionable wooden bridges.


| COST: the whole Cocora Valley Loop Trail costs 11000 COP (so roughly $3 USD / €3 Euros) per person. You will pay this at two different pay stations along the trail. Also, it costs 8000 COP to get to the Valle de Cocora from the nearby town of Salento.

| TIME: expect to spend 3-7 hours on the trail depending on the number of stops you take, your fitness level and how often you want to take photos.

| DIFFICULTY: we would give this hike a 3.5/5 in terms of difficulty. There are a couple of steep sections and if it has recently rained the trail can be quite muddy and slick.

💬 INSIDER TIP: besides the Cocora Valley Loop Trail, there are a couple of other options including heading up the nearby mountain, Cerro Morrogacho, or deeper into Los Nevados National Natural Park. You can read more about the other hiking routes here.


Likely the most well-known multi-day trek in the country, this 4-5 day adventure is often touted as one of the best hiking routes in all of Colombia and one of the country's can't-miss adventures.

Located in the northern part of the country near the town of Santa Marta, the Lost City Trek takes you into the deep forested mountains of the Sierra Nevadas of Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range on Earth. The hike is roughly 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) total, so you should be prepared to spend a good portion of your day on the trail. While this hike is a great way to explore the beautiful natural scenery, it is also fantastic for people looking to learn more about the region's indigenous communities and history. In fact, the Lost City or Ciudad Perdida is one of the largest ruins in all of the Americas (it is also 650 years older than the slightly more famous ruins of Machu Picchu).

Similarly, along the route, you will be able to learn more about the local indigenous tribes, including having the opportunity to visit a Kogi village and learn more about their day to day lives and their culture, as well as speak to the living descendants of the Tayrona civilization, the group responsible for building the beautiful site.

❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the name the "Lost City" is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, the city wasn't ever really lost - it just wasn't known to the outside world until the 1970s (when it was promptly looted by treasure hunters). In truth, the local indigenous groups, including the Wawa people who still call the area home, have always known about the site. Today, only a fraction - around 10% - of the ancient site is uncovered, meaning there is a lot more to discover in the jungle.


| COST: you cannot do this hike by yourself (it is illegal). Therefore you will have to pay to join a tour group doing the trek. One of the best tour operators is G Adventures, which offers a 7-day tour from Santa Marta. Their tour includes an indigenous guide, all meals, transportation and lodging. It costs around $799 USD per person.

| TIME: the whole trek, from Santa Marta and back to Santa Marta, is between 6 and 7 days. The trek itself takes 4-5 days.

| DIFFICULTY: while the total distance isn't too bad - 70 kilometers / 43.5 miles - over 5 days, the landscape (thick jungle), elevation change (lots of ups and downs including 1200 stone steps at the very end) and weather (hot and humid) make this trek pretty tough. We would say it is a solid 4.5 / 5.

➳ Read more about the hike - including 23 helpful tips - in this in-depth Lost City Travel Guide.


Los Nevados is not only a beautiful national park, but also one that is incredibly important to Colombia and the rest of the world.

Within the park, glaciers occupy 4% of the area and belong to three main volcanoes: Nevado del Ruiz (which is pretty highly active), Nevado de Santa Isabel and Nevado del Tolima. The waters from these glaciers feed the rivers that originate within the park. In total, there are 10 basins and 19 streams of different sizes and characteristics. But besides being very important to the world and Colombia in particular, the national park is also worth exploring because frankly, it is drop-dead beautiful.

A couple of important things to know about hiking here: for starters, it is quite likely that you will be entirely alone out on the trail, especially when out in the wide expanses of the páramo, a biome that feels like an alien planet, or while making your way through the dense, vibrant green jungle that radiates with the sound of birds. Secondly, it is important to note that most of this park sits high above sea level (even Cocora Valley, which is near the very bottom of the elevation profile is still above 1800 meters or 5900 feet. Therefore you must be prepared for colder temperatures and the possibility of altitude sickness. Finally, one of the best things about hiking in this park is that you quite likely do not need to camp. Instead, there are numerous fincas (farms) dotted around - and many of them offer food and lodging for a price.

To adventure within Los Nevados National Park is like exploring a real life Garden of Eden. It's magical, colorful and awe-inspiring. We truly cannot recommend this area of Colombia enough.


| Cocora Valley - Paramillo del Quindio - El Cedral | 29 miles / 46.6 kilometers, 4 days

| Cocora Valley - Finca Argentina - Cocora Valley | 12 miles / 19.3 kilometers, 2 days

| Cocora Valley - Finca Primavera - Cocora Valley | 17 miles / 27.3 kilometers, 2 days

| El Cedral - Laguna del Otun - El Cedral | 25 miles / 40.2 kilometers, 3 days

► Read about our own personal experience trekking for four days in Los Nevados National Park without a guide here.

View of a snowcapped mountain in the Andes of Colombia


Located in the Santander department, this exciting city is full of amazing outdoor adventures; including, canyoning, white water rafting, kayaking, caving, and hiking and trekking. One of the best places to head to for hiking trails is the nearby Chicamocha National Natural Park, which is approximately one hour from San Gil. This stunning national natural park encompasses part of the Chicamocha Canyon, which has many other outdoor activities on offer - including paragliding, spelunking and climbing. It is also home to an aerial tramway that crosses the canyon on its 6.3 kilometer course (this makes it one of the longest tramways of its kind in the world).


As one of the least visited regions of Colombia, the Pacific Coast - with its lush jungle landscapes and mix of white and black sand beaches - is the perfect place to head to for a rugged hiking adventure. While there are not very many long distance hiking trails, this region is perfect for people looking to get off the beaten path and do most of their exploring by foot (including exploring along the beaches). Plus, the amount of biodiversity in this area is absolutely incredible.

► Make sure to check out our in-depth hiking guide to El Tigre Waterfall - one of the best trails in the Pacific Coast region.

► Want even more Colombia hiking inspiration? Then check out our videos of some of the prettiest natural landscapes in the country. Find our cinematic travel films here.



Located just south of the city of Popayan, this national park has some awesome hiking trails - including one to the top of an active volcano. If that seems like too much you can also do a 20 kilometer (12 mile) hike lower down that takes you through various ecosystems, mountain lakes and even by natural hot springs.


This rather short hike is perfect for people looking to explore Colombia's southern region and also check out some large waterfalls. The Fin del Mundo hiking trail (or End of the World trail) is located near the town of Mocoa, which is just east of the larger town of Pasto, Colombia. The trail takes hikers through the dense jungle and past crystal clear pools until reaching the large Fin del Mundo waterfall, which stands 80 meters (or 262 feet) tall.


Located way out in the eastern part of the Guainía department (near the Venezuela border) is a somewhat unique jungle landscape. The Mavecure Hills are three gigantic rock hills that tower above the thick jungle - supposedly you can see for around a hundred miles from just the shortest of the three hills. To reach this "trail" you will first need to fly into the small town of Inírida and then take a boat for a couple of hours along the Inírida River. Talk about off the beaten path...


Colombia is an absolutely beautiful country that is teeming with life and adventure. With so much to offer the adventurous traveler it can tough to narrow down exactly where you want to go and what you want to do. In our opinion, while many other activities like snorkeling and paragliding are definitely worth seeking out, hitting the trails is one of the best ways to get to know this magical country.

Hiking in Colombia is not only relatively easy to do, but it also will give you an amazing up close view of why the country is so special. While we absolutely loved exploring the central Andean region - and in particular Los Nevados National Natural Park - we know that there are many other awesome hiking areas that will fit everyone's interests and fitness levels.

So if you are looking for an epic way to explore Colombia, then grab your hiking boots and hit the trails!

► If you have any questions about hiking in Colombia, then please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us directly.



Pinterest pin on hiking in Colombia





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| Allbirds shoes: comfortable shoes can make or break an adventure or travel day, these eco-conscious and cozy shoes from Allbirds have been our faves for years.

► Find our full sustainable travel packing list here.



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