My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
Hiking in Colombia
If you think of Colombia, you probably won’t immediately think of hiking. However, the country is a paradise for hikers. In addition to the 3 Cordilleras, there are other mountains, which means fantastic landscapes and routes.
Then of course there are also all the areas in the lowlands, such as the Llanos, the Amazon, and the Caribbean coast.
Colombia is at the geographical equator and temperatures are therefore stable all year round. It is hot at low altitudes and the temperature decreases as the altitude increases.
Colombia’s highest peak is in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is over 5,700 meters (18,700 feet) above sea level. In addition to the lowlands, the Caribbean Sea, and very hot areas, there are snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and volcanoes.
In the following, I will give information about the respective regions for hiking and show explicit routes.
Hiking and walking routes in Bogota
Bogota is the political and economic capital of Colombia. It is a huge city with a catastrophic traffic system. Bogota is located at over 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) above sea level and there are many hiking opportunities inside and outside the city.
Crossing the Circunvalar above the Parque Nacional, you reach the beginning of the path. On a hill next to the entrance you can see works of art and installations by the waterworks, as points of orientation.
The city organizes a guided walk on various days. However, many residents also go up alone, most of them accompanied by dogs.
At the moment, the road doesn’t seem too be safe, I was told about robberies. Therefore, the situation should be clarified in advance.
The entrance gate is only open until 10 a.m., so you should leave early.
The Chorrera waterfall is about an hour’s drive from the center of Bogota. You can take the bus, but you still have to plan about an hour’s walk as the bus does not stop in front of the entrance. It is easier to organize custom transportation.
The short trip is worthwhile, however. You have a good hiking trail, which goes steadily uphill. There are 2 stations. The first station is less than an hour’s walk away and is the lower part of the waterfall where the pool is located.
You can walk behind the waterfall. If you like it cold, you can also bathe in the natural pool. Drinks and meals are also offered there.
Another hour’s walk up the mountain takes you to a higher viewpoint of the waterfall. There you can have the water mist sprayed on your face as long as it is not the dry season.
Although Colombians are out and about with the most unsuitable footwear, I recommend some good shoes here, as it can be a bit muddy and slippery in some places.
Cerro de Monserrate
Monserrate is the local mountain of Bogota and if you spend some time in the city and are sporty, you should also conquer this mountain on foot.
My last time was around 45 minutes to the summit, but I would describe myself as an average athlete.
The entrance to the path is around 50 meters (165 feet) above the valley station. The path is 2,350 meters (7,700 feet) long and has 1,605 steps. The start is at 2,700 meters (8,860 feet) above sea level and finish at 3,150 meters (10,350 feet) above sea level. Therefore, you will master 450 meters of altitude (1.475 feet).
I think the path opens at 5 a.m. I do not recommend visiting Monserrate on Sundays and public holidays, because it can get quite crowded.
Quebrada La Vieja
Quebrada la Vieja is one of the most famous and popular hiking trails within the city. The entrance to the path is at Avenida Circunvalar at Calle 71.
The path was only reopened in October 2019. The opening times are from 5-11 a.m. from Tuesday to Friday and 6-11 a.m. on weekends and public holidays.
The path not only offers a good view of the city but also offers a lot of nature and small waterfalls.
Laguna de Guatavita
The Guatavita lagoon is a truly historic place of great cultural and spiritual importance.
It is not a hiking trail in the classic sense, but you walk on a nature trail. There are also guided tours in Spanish.
At the end of the path, you come to the edge of the lagoon, where you can enjoy a spectacular view. At the exit on the other side of the hill, you can either drive back to the entrance with vehicles provided or you can also walk back.
Laguna La Siecha
The three lagoons are part of the Chingaza National Park, but have a separate entrance and the journey from Bogota takes about 2 hours.
The journey is definitely worth it. At the entrance, there is a short video introduction. Then you can climb up to the lagoons, the terrain is steep and the ground is very wet and soft. I definitely recommend rubber boots or high and waterproof hiking shoes.
You climb to a height of over 3,600 meters (11,810 feet) above sea level and are thus in the middle of the Paramos. I’ve been there twice, once with good visibility and once in thick fog. For me, however, this is one of the most spectacular hiking trips near Bogota.
Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza
The Chingaza National Park is right in the neighborhood of Bogota, but is surprisingly little visited. It is an absolute natural paradise and perfect for hiking.
There are different entrances and different routes in the park. You can also camp. The park goes up to over 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) above sea level and the climate is generally cool and humid, fog is nothing unusual.
In 2018, on Global Big Day, I stayed with two colleagues at the Chingaza lagoon in the administrative building. The next day early in the morning we drove to Villavicencio, an altitude difference of approximately 3,500 meters (11,500 feet). We registered 120 bird species.
The national park is huge and offers incredible hiking experiences, I can recommend a visit to everyone.
Hiking and walking routes in Boyacá
The Boyacá department is located north of Bogota and is an absolute paradise for hikers and cyclists. There is also a tour where you can horse ride from Bogota through Boyaca to Yopal in the Llanos.
Boyaca has very high mountain peaks and much of the landscape resembles the pre-Alps. Well-known destinations are Villa de Leyva, Monguí, and the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.
The department is also known for its Christmas lights in December. Due to the colonization, there are very pretty colonial villages and towns with the associated churches and central squares throughout the region.
Hiking and walking routes in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is probably the most popular destination for residents of the capital. It is at an altitude of 2,150 meters (7,050 feet) above sea level and therefore welcomes its visitors with a very pleasant climate. The area around Villa de Leyva is dry and sometimes appears steppe-like.
Visiting the Iguaque lagoon is a very good option when in the region. The altitude is around 3,800 meters (12,500 feet).
At this altitude, you are in the Paramos and the climate can get very humid and cold. Good shoes and rain protection are absolutely essential in poor weather conditions.
The views you can experience on this hike are absolutely worth the effort. The ascent to the Laguna takes about 3 hours.
Also near Villa de Leyva, you should plan around 3 hours for this tour. You should also have enough water with you as it can get quite warm.
You can start this hike directly in Villa de Leyva. Don’t forget sun protection.
Hiking and walking routes in Monguí
Monguí is not only a member of the Colombian Cultural Heritage Club, but is also a fantastic and underrated travel destination. The village is at an altitude of around 2,900 meters (9,510 feet) above sea level.
Paramo de Ocetá & Laguna Negra
For connoisseurs, this Paramo is an absolute must. The route measures approximately 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and is classified as demanding. The path was opened in 2019 after a two-year construction period.
The path leads into the Paramos and you pass the Laguna Negra. The Paramo de Ocetá is often referred to as the most beautiful Paramo in the world. This is certainly possible because Paramos are only found in a few countries in the world.
Hiking and walking routes in El Cocuy
El Cocuy is a small historic village, almost at the end of the world. The journey from Bogota by bus takes around 12 hours and contains what feels like 5 million curves. El Cocuy is located at 2,750 meters (9,000 feet) above sea level.
El Cocuy was founded in 1541 and is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. The peaks of this mountain range rise to over 5,300 meters (17,400 feet) above sea level.
Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy
The El Cocuy National Park was founded in 1977 and is located in the territory of Boyaca, Arauca, and Casanare.
The territory is also home to the indigenous Uwa.
To my knowledge, 3 routes are currently open. The park was partially closed due to problems in the past where tourist activities led to pollution and destruction. If interested, information about the current situation should be obtained in advance.
Hiking and walking routes in the coffee triangle
The Colombian coffee zone is certainly one of the most beautiful regions in Colombia, if not in the world. The landscapes are hilly to mountainous. The coffee triangle consists mainly of the 3 departments Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio, and part of the department Tolima.
On the east side of the zone, you will find the middle Cordilleras and towards the west, the western Cordilleras. After that comes the Pacific coast.
There is a huge number of hiking routes in the whole area, many unknown and yet spectacular. It is best to ask each time on-site, so you can get good tips in many cases. In the following I will only describe a handful, otherwise, I would have to extend the text by 20 pages.
Nevado del Ruiz
The Nevado del Ruiz can be reached very quickly from Manizales. Its height is 5,321 meters (17,460 feet) above sea level.
One can take day or multi-day tours in the Los Nevados National Park.
Due to regular seismic activities, the park and hiking trails are not always accessible. You should inform yourself in advance.
Nevado del Tolima
Ibague is the best starting point for climbing this volcano in the Tolima department. To climb this, however, you need professional equipment and an appropriately experienced guide. There is usually snow and ice on the summit. The altitude is 5,220 meters (17.125 feet) above sea level.
However, if you do not want to experience this multi-day tour, you can also hike in the Cañón Del Combeima, below the volcano.
This area is easy to reach and offers some nice destinations. In the past, the valley was cut off from the environment for days or even weeks after heavy rain.
Salamina can be reached from Manizales in around 2 hours, but there are endless curves.
The small, pretty and original village is one of the cultural assets of the country and has so far been little visited by tourists.
Only 90 minutes away is the Samaria forest, where you can hike or ride between the wax palms. If I had the choice between this destination and the Cocora Valley, I would always choose this one.
Ecoparque Penas Blancas
Very close to Armenia at the village of Calarcá, you can find this climb to the summit at 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level.
There is a restaurant at the entrance where you also pay the entrance fee. After a short climb, there is a fork in the road, difficult and easy. If you choose difficult, you will have to climb and also have to find your way from time to time. This is exciting but not stress-free for all hikers.
The easy route is excellently created and leads to various viewpoints over the department of Armenia.
This tour can be done in half a day and I can only recommend it.
According to the restaurant operators, there is also a project to open up the entire side of the mountain for cyclists and hikers. This will certainly not happen tomorrow, but if the project is carried out it will be a great destination.
Valle del Cocora
I probably don’t have to write too much about the Valle de Cocora, as this is one of the main tourist destinations in Colombia. In this way I just want to give a tip, don’t go on weekends and holidays, then the experience is sure to be great, have fun!
From Salento, there is also a tour in the direction of Tolima, where you can also see many wax palms. If you still have time, I definitely recommend a detour, it’s worth it.
In Risaralda you have the opportunity to drive to Quibdó, the capital of the Choco department on the Pacific. In this border region, I’ve already been doing bird photography.
The zone is incredibly beautiful and exciting because on one side you have the ascending hills and the entire coffee cultivation and then you advance into the area of influence of the Pacific.
I don’t know any specific hiking trails there because we were traveling with a local guide. However, if the description has sparked interest, you should take a closer look at the area around Apia.
Other good destinations in Risaralda are Nevado Santa Isabel and Laguna del Otún.
Hiking and walking routes Putumayo
I have been to Putumayo twice and always far too short. The department used to be a center of guerrillas, but tourism has slowly developed since the peace agreement.
The entire area is very virgin due to the former occupation of the militant groups and nature is largely untouched. There are dozens of waterfalls and many routes, but you should definitely hike with a local guide.
Fin del Mundo
The end of the world! That’s the name of the waterfall near Mocoa. The region is also known for ayahuasca experiences with local indigenous people.
The ascent to the waterfall takes around an hour. Before you get to the waterfall, you can take a dip in the cool water in various natural pools.
The waterfall is spectacular and you are secured on-site with climbing equipment. Then you can step to the edge of the waterfall and look down.
Hiking and walking routes in Popayan
Popayan is the capital of the Cauca department. It is also called the white city and is extremely beautiful. Also, Popayan is a sanctuary for Christians.
The city tour can already be described as a hike since you also climb the nearby hills. However, the real hiking destination is the following.
The Puracé volcano is about an hour from Popayan. It is over 4,600 meters above sea level. The area is inhabited by indigenous people who also offer hikes.
The area is best known for condor sightings, although there is no guarantee given for sighting.
The indigenous population has limited the number of daily visitors. There are always conflicts with tour operators in the region.
Hiking and walking routes in Narino
Narino is also an absolute hiking paradise. The department is located in the very south of Colombia and borders on Ecuador. There are countless routes and around 15 volcanoes. The department is truly unique because it borders the Amazon region in the east and the Pacific in the west.
There are 2 areas I would like to highlight below.
Laguna de la Cocha
One of the country’s largest water reservoirs is just an hour’s drive from Pasto, the capital of the Narino department.
Around the laguna, various farmers have started to conserve natural resources and set up eco-trails. You can therefore move around in the area and also get food.
The smallest national park in Colombia is also located in the lagoon. The island of Santuario de Flora Isla de la Corota can be visited by boat.
About 2 hours drive from Pasto is the Azufral volcano with the green lagoon inside the crater.
The highest point of the volcano is at over 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) above sea level. However, you can drive up pretty far with a vehicle and it took me about 90 minutes to walk from the entrance to the Laguna. My deputy at the time took another 30 minutes to arrive.
The climb is easy and the trail is well managed. The view is absolutely worth it. However, due to the altitude and the climate, visibility can also be poor.
However, the Azufral volcano is not always open. Mainly due to tourist pollution, the route has been closed again and again. If you are interested in climbing a volcano, you should inform yourself in advance. Fortunately, there are alternatives in the area.
Hiking and walking routes in Santander
The department of Santander has long been known for outdoor enthusiasts and extreme athletes. With the Chicamocha canyon, 2 kilometers deep and over 50 kilometers (31 miles) long, and San Gil, this region is an absolute reference. The region also has the most beautiful colonial village in Colombia, what a paradise!
Camino Real from Barichara to Guane
This historic route connects the villages of Barichara and Guane. The indigenous Guanese traveled these approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) centuries ago. Today it is one of the most famous routes in Colombia.
Although the climate in the area is very pleasant, I recommend starting the route early because it can get hot and there are no shadows anywhere.
Hiking in the Chicamocha Canyon
The Chicamocha Canyon is extremely large and therefore offers countless hiking routes. There are various providers of guided tours on-site.
Due to the difference in altitude, you move in very different climates. For me, this region is an absolute highlight in Colombia.
Hiking and walking routes around Santa Marta
As I always and everywhere explain, I am an absolute fan of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. The city is small and fine, has a pretty historical core, and is the perfect starting point for various activities. With the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the region also has the highest coastal mountains in the world.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The highest peak is over 5,700 meters (18,700 feet) above sea level. However, if you want to go there immediately, the area is inhabited by various indigenous peoples and access is not easily possible.
Nevertheless, the area around Minca offers various hiking routes. In order to escape the sometimes loud and penetrating crowds of tourists in the surrounding area around Minca, you should have a transport option.
To get to higher altitudes you need either a higher 4×4 or an all-terrain motorcycle.
For special tours, access to closed routes or hiking deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, I recommend a professionally guided tour.
This is probably the hottest hiking route on the list. The national park is located directly on the coast and is the most visited park in the country. Therefore, there is also an access restriction.
From the main entrance, you can hike to Cabo San Juan, which takes about 3 hours. You will pass various beaches. Warning, there are dangerous currents on various beaches and there have already been some deaths.
From Cabo San Juan you can either take a boat back to Taganga or hike out of the park on foot. If you want to take the boat, it goes once in the afternoon and has a limited number of places. You should therefore reserve your seat in advance or immediately upon arrival.
In Tayrona Park you can of course also hike other routes and take guided tours.
The lost city
The Ciudad Perdida is an absolute highlight because in 4, 5, or 6 days you hike up the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the lost city.
You should have good shoes because the paths are sometimes steep and a bit muddy. You can only experience this adventure on a guided tour, whereby a private small group with a guide is possible.
The total distance is around 50 kilometers (31 miles). For me personally, the distance was not the big challenge, but the hot, humid climate. You are always wet right from the start.
If you want more detailed information, you can consult my report on the trip to the lost city.
Hiking and walking routes on Providencia
Providencia is the Colombian Caribbean dream island par excellence. The highest point on the island is on a hill and is called “The Peak”. You can easily reach it and be up in about an hour.
The view from up there is breathtaking and you can see not only the various shades of blue of the sea, but also the different coral reefs around the island.
Since it can get quite hot on the island during the day, I recommend climbing early in the morning.
Colombia Travel Guides
With all the wanderlust that arises with this article, you should already think about a future visit to Colombia. And to make planning easier, below are the links to my travel guides.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogotá Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
- Liked our content? You are welcome to share it and spread the message that Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.