We spent three days in this beautiful mountain retreat on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.This post details some of our favourite options for what to to in Minca, and you will find detailed travel directions from Santa Marta at the bottom.
Minca is a short drive away from the hot and humid city of Santa Marta, yet it feels much further. Set up high in the mountains the temperature is pleasantly cooler, and the town is much more relaxed. Its friendly locals are happy to interact with the visitors, and there’s a new age vibe with its veggie restaurants and yoga classes.
We stayed at Casa Loma, a wonderful hideaway nestled above the small town. It was established about 7 or 8 years ago and we were really impressed by its concept. It’s a complex of wooden huts with a range of budget offerings; from hammocks and dorms to deluxe cabins there’s something for everyone. It was built in a way that compliments nature and they care for the environment around them. They have made a big effort to conserve water; in the dry season the water from each shower taken is collected and used to flush two toilets!
With luggage, Casa Loma isn’t the easiest of hostels to get to, but it’s worth the hike. The minibus from Santa Marta drops you off at the small bus terminal in Minca, a five minute walk from the base of Casa Loma’s stairs. With the extra 13kg of luggage on our backs, our knees took a pounding as we climbed the weaving stone stairs up to the the hostel’s reception. We were greeted by friendly faces and a refreshing glass of water, and our reward was the incredible view. The reception, dining room and chill out area all look out over the mountains and towards the sea. In the distance, you can see the sprawling city of Santa Marta hugging the coast.
Our top things to do in Minca
Surrounded by the incredible rolling vegetation of the Sierra Nevada it’s hard to not look around in awe. Just look at this photo, which shows the view from our small cabana at Casa Loma!
There are several hikes and short walks you can do around Minca. As we went in Colombia’s rainy season, we found that the rain arrived almost by clockwork in the afternoons. This meant that talking longer walks beyond lunch time was risky. The one day that we risked it, we hiked up to Los Pinos, and unfortunately got soaked! This is a seven hour hike with beautiful sweeping views of the surrounding areas… on a clear day! Unfortunately for us, the clouds had come in really low and the viewpoint was nothing more than dense fog! The route is fairly simple, but it does get steep in parts, you are hiking through the mountains after all!
There are several shorter walks that you can do to nearby waterfalls. If you wake up early in the rainy season, you can get there and back before the clouds come in. The map below gives some of the options.
Enjoy Casa Loma!
We can’t stress just how much Casa Loma made our stay in Minca, and we would definitely recommend it. We found our small cabana to be cute, yet rather on the small side. The beauty of the hostel complex and their amazing vegetarian food made up for it though!
They serve three vegetarian meals a day and the prices vary. Breakfast is priced at around 4,000-9,000 COP depending on how hungry you are. Lunch is at 14,000 COP and there are usually three options – pasta, veggie burger or tacos. Finally dinner is at 18,000 COP for two delicious courses. The dinner menu is announced on the board in the morning as it needs to be booked in advance. Everyone sits down to eat at the same time, 8pm. As most of the tables are long canteen-style ones it’s a really good way to meet new people. We had some interesting conversations that might not have happened without their social dinner approach. If you are feeling a little introverted (we’ve all had those days!), there are smaller tables to just sit and enjoy the views.
Casa Loma looks westward and the views of the sunset are out of this world – they blaze across the sky. Every day it’s completely different, you never know what to expect! Words don’t do it justice, so here are some photos.
Try a spot of yoga!
Half way back down the stairs from Casa Loma to the town is Casa Yoga. This little haven looks exactly like it’s out of one of those yoga retreat catalogues – the instructor is framed by the wonderful greenery of the mountains which just adds to the calming vibe. They run classes daily at 6.30am and 8am and neither need to be booked in advance. It’s run on a donation scheme, so you can pay what you are able to and/or think the class is worth.
I made it to the 6.30am class on our last morning (just about) while Phil took advantage of a lie in. I’m pretty new to yoga and there were a few points where I didn’t really understand what was happening, but on the whole it was a good class and set me up for the day ahead.
How long to spend in Minca
We spent three nights in Minca, and could have easily have spent three times as long there just relaxing and taking in the beauty of the surrounding area. There are lots of other activities that we just didn’t get time to do. Casa Loma has a huge folder full of information on getting the most out of your stay. They give ideas for coffee and chocolate tours, bird watching, and tubing as well as detailed instructions for self-led walks you can do around the area. We suggest adding at least an hour on to their estimated walking times though, unless you want to run it!
Travelling to Minca from Santa Marta
A small warning in advance
The journey from Santa Marta to Minca is a short one hour long ride. Shared taxis leave from Estacion Minca, and we looked up its location online and double checked with our hostel who assured us that this was right. Be warned, these directions, including those from Lonely Planet ARE WRONG and took us to the wrong place (don’t go to the old office on the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 12). Read ahead to save yourself time.
Just like when we tried to get to Villa de Leyva from Bogota, there has recently been a change in the location of bus station, and we ended up scratching our heads wondering what the heck we were doing wrong.
Santa Marta to Minca – the correct way
To get to Minca you need to go to the NEW Estacion Minca (found at Cra. 9 #11-87). Here you will find a small shop for Cootrasminca and services leave regularly, as soon as the bus is full. Ours was a small minibus which could seat up to seven people, with a small amount of room in the back for luggage.
The journey winds its way up into the mountains and it takes just over an hour (this included a few minutes where we had to get out of the vehicle which the driver topped up with petrol, a standard in Colombia) to get to the small bus terminal in Minca.
The journey cost us 8,000 COP each.
As usual, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch! You can take a look here to find out what else we got up to along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast!