Nestled way back in the Sierra Nevada high above Santa Marta, you will find Minca, another up-and -coming -destination on the backpacker trail of this region of Colombia. And nestled way back high above the town of Minca, you will find Casa Elemento, the hostel/dramatic-viewpoint that everyone is talking about right now and which you cannot miss if you are going to Minca.
Until recently, Minca was considered unsafe and inaccessible for tourists due to the presence of paramilitary forces in the surrounding mountains. With the recent peace treaty that the Colombian government has reached with these forces, it has now been declared safe and is opening up it’s doors up to share all it has to offer to eager tourists. (Read more about these peace treaties in Why Colombia is Hot for Travel Right Now.)
And Minca offers something that a lot of the surrounding attractions do not: a breath of fresh air, up in the mountains and away-from-it-all. Up here it’s cooler, the air is cleaner, it’s greener; it’s another kind of paradise. It’s where the mountains and jungle become one, with cool cascades to take a dip in and cool off. I was glad to get up here and get a chance to check out this impressive Sierra Nevada that has been in the background the whole time I was enjoying the coastal attractions of the region. Since I didn’t get to do the Lost City Trek as I originally planned, Minca presented itself as the perfect alternative option to get into the Sierra Nevada and explore.
The general consensus among the travelers I’d met that had already been to Minca seemed to be to stay in Casa Elemento, so I followed that advice and made my booking along with some other friends I’d met traveling, eager to see what all of the fuss was about.
The adventure begins when you get dropped off in the actual town of Minca, and realize that you are only a little more than halfway to your destination. Casa Elemento is another 3 hours walking uphill, or a crazy 35-40 minute motorbike jaunt down a sketchy, unkempt, uphill dirt road to the top of the Sierra (and 20,000 pesos more for the bike ride- yikes!) You don’t have to stay in Casa Elemento when you are in Minca, there are plenty of (cheaper) options for accommodation in Minca town. I do however suggest at least making a visit up there to check out the hammocks and hang out for the day.
The motorbike ride is as I mentioned, a bit sketchy but, part of the thrill of this adventure. Hold on tight and enjoy the ride- these guys know what they are doing and it’s better to just relax and have fun with it than to freak out and get scared (like I did at first). Look at it like this: you get to try motocross for free as part your transportation up to Casa Elemento!
We were beaming with excitement after our joyride up the mountainside to Casa Elemento, in part because of the thrilling race up there, and in part from taking in the insane views from the point at which we had just arrived, looking down the from the top of the Sierra to the town of Minca, the city of Santa Marta, the coast, and beyond….
At the back of the hostel, the installation that perhaps this hostel is most famous for, the world’s largest hammock, inviting you to come crash and take a load off with the most sweeping, stunning views this mountain has to offer.
Particularly nice at sunset time, with a beer and some friends….
If you wanted to, you could spend your whole time in Minca at Casa Elemento chilling on the hammock, socializing, using the pool, and eating great food from their restaurant. But if you are feeling more active (like we were) there is also plenty to do in the area and within walking distance from Casa Elemento:
Los Pinos is a very easy little 20 minute walk uphill from Casa Elemento, so you have no excuse to miss it. We laughed when we arrived as there are literally only 4 lone pine trees up there, standing awkwardly above the jungle brush. If you’re feeling extra ambitious you can do like we did (at the suggestion of the staff) and hike up there to catch the sunrise which comes up over the other side of the mountain. You will enjoy views of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the distance.
VICTORIA COFFEE FARM
Oh yea, now that’s what I’m talking about: COFFEE. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a coffee freak so I was particularly excited to get closer to the origins of one of my great life’s passions here in the famous coffee-producing Colombia. This was my first stop at one of the coffee farms and it was a beautiful experience. It’s going to take you about 2 hours to get here walking down from Casa Elemento (or up from Minca town) but the walk is gorgeous and mostly paved for trucks to get up and down from Victoria and the surrounding farms, therefore not too strenuous.
The farm is now offering tours for 10,000 pesos to see how the coffee is grown and processed.
Alternatively you can walk around inside, they have a cafe with food and snacks and a tasting room where you can sample their delicious coffee for free:
We continued walking downhill another hour and a half to reach “Los Pozos”, some small waterfalls with icy cold water pouring down from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, where there actually is snow (despite being alongside the Caribbean sea). The Pozos offer the perfect refreshment that you will need at this point after walking around the mountains for hours. Ice cold never felt so good.
On the same road that you would have come up on from Minca town on the motorbikes, there is a turn off for “Las Cascadas”. It’s the same type of deal as Los Pozos except that here you have to pay 4,000 pesos (little over $1) to enter. Totally worth it, especially if you have been walking up from Minca or down from Casa Elemento for a few hours, which you probably have been.
My girlfriends and I marveled at the perfection of our time in Minca. Casa Elemento is a unique hostel experience, although as I mentioned you could just as well stay somewhere down in Minca and head up here for the day. We had a great time staying there. Everybody was so happy and eager to socialize and meet each other. We had so many laughs and made so many new friends effortlessly. There was so much to do and see within reach of the place and all of it was so amazing. We were active, but we also got plenty of time to relax and enjoy the experience of being tucked back in the mountains, in the most beautiful of surroundings, and disconnected for a while from the outside world. Do not miss Minca.