De Una! ~ Colombia Trip 2013


The Plan - Colombia in 8 days

I'm heading to Colombia for 8 days on a solo trip.  I won't be doing much (or any) updating on the road, but here is my itinerary:

 Route Map and Points of Interest

Day 1: Cartagena

  • Arrive in Cartagena (mid afternoon)
  • Lodging : Hostel de la Chicheria (approx $25/night) -  bed in 9 bed dorm with A/C and a pool, rooftop terrace.  This hostel is in the centro, the most desirable area to stay for safety.  Also the most expensive.
  • Explore Cartagena this evening
  • Notes from the travel agency (Colombia Eco Travel assisted me in reserving spaces in several locations, as there are no means of booking online for the hammocks in Tayrona or in Oscar's place in Minca.  They have been a pleasure to deal with, and this is coming from someone who does not use booking agents!)
    "The airport is located about 3km northeast of the old city in Cartagena. There are taxis right out front of the terminal which charge approximately 15,000.  A short walk out of the airport and to your right will bring you to the main street where you can catch a taxi to Casa Chicharia for 5,000 to 7,000. Be sure to agree on a rate before you get in the taxi. It is this way on the coast - there are no taxi meters."

    Cartagena harbor at night


Day 2-4: Tayrona National Park

  • Early morning transport from Cartagena to Santa Marta (3-4 hrs by bus or minivan), then transfer to a bus to Tayrona national park on the Caribbean coast (1 hr)
  • There is an entrance fee for Tayrona (I think it's like $25 or something for foreigners)
  • Hike 1 hr to Arrecifes Hammocks in the Park - Avitur Yuluka
  • Hammock camping for the night (~$15), with the option to choose for the next 2 nights whether to stay here or on another beach.
  • You cannot swim in the beach at arrecifes, due to strong rip currents.  20 minutes further is a swimming beach at la piscina, or 45 minutes farther you will come to cabo san juan beach, which is a long beautiful beach with another campground located there.  I may stay here for nights 3 & 4
  • Activities: Swimming, hiking, exploring beaches, bonfires, perhaps a hike to the ruins at El pueblito.
  • Notes from the travel agency:
    We recommend you take Berlinas del Fonce from Cartagena to Santa Marta - 4 hours. You’ll then take a bus toward Riochacha and get off at the main entrance to Tayrona park. Yuluka is the first camping spot on your right when you enter the park (after the 2 km hike). It has a reception desk where you’ll register. You will need to bring your own blanket and warm clothes. There are restaurants on site in the park and we recommend that you bring lots of snacks and water with you as food is expensive in the park. It’s a 2 km hike into the park from the entrance - you can also rent horses and mules to carry you and your stuff. We highly recommend the hike to Pueblito, if you get a chance.

  • Tayrona National ParkTayrona beaches

Day 5-6: Minca

  • Trek out of Tayrona early in the morning (1-2 hrs), take the bus to Santa Marta (1 hour), then catch a ride up to Minca (1 hour)
  • From the town of Minca, ask locals for directions to Oscar's place, which is approximately a 15 minute walk down an unmarked footpath through the jungle to his property.
  • Lodging: Oscar's Place (approx $25/night for the hammock & private bungalo with bed, open air, including homecooked breakfast and dinner).  Oscar's place is highly reviewed and not bookable online.  There is no website or info other than rave reviews from other travelers.  The hostel has a small pool and the property is run off of hydro and solar power implemented by the owner.  He grows most of his own food and apparently cooks a mean meal!   
  • Minca itself is a town in the Sierra Nevada of Colombia, a mountain range just south of the Caribbean coast with peaks, jungle, trails, waterfalls, and lots of bird watching for the so inclined.  There are coffee and cacao farms to visit here as well. I plan to do some relaxing and some hiking to the waterfalls, in the 2 days I have here.
  • Notes from the travel agency:
    Address: On the hill in Minca “Oscar’s Place”. When you get there, ask where Oscar’s is - people will show you / tell you how to get there. The signage isn’t great, and there’s isn’t a road name, so you’ll have to rely locals to let you know you’re headed in the right direction. You can call him (or us) if you get lost. We recommend you leave Tayrona in the morning to allow enough time to get to Minca in the afternoon. To get to Minca, catch a car from the Mercado in Santa Marta (6.000 COP). They leave every hour. The other option is to catch a bus to Mamatoco (1,200 COP) and then take a moto-taxi to Minca (6.000 COP)

  • Hiking in MincaWaterfalls in MincaDining in the river!My bedroom for 2 nights in Minca, at Oscar's PlacePool at Oscar's PlaceSunsets from Oscar's placeI'm really concerned for this person...

Day 7-8: Cartagena

  • Depart Oscar's place to Santa Marta (1 hour), and catch a bus or minivan back to Cartagena (3-4 hours)
  • Lodging: Hostel de la Chicheria (same as first night) for 2 more nights
  • Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (mud volcano tour)
  • Activities:  I will have the evening, the next full day, and then depart mid-day the following day.  I plan to do the volcano mud bath tour for the majority of the full day and spend the other time exploring, shopping, and maybe going out for some salsa or cumbia dancing!
  • Notes from the travel agency:

    Regarding travel from Minca to Cartagena:
    We recommend Berlinas del Fonce to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena. Get off in downtown - by the clock tower, and walk to Casa Chicharia.

    Regarding the Volcano tour:
    "Today you will take an unforgettable trip to the Volcan de Totumo. You will be picked up at your hotel in the morning. Your guide will prepare you for the adventure on your way to the Volcan. Here you will don your bathing suits and enter the buoyant volcanic mud that flows up from the depths of the volcano. Locals offer massages and you are invited to float in gooey bliss for up to an hour. Enjoy lunch on the beach. Round trip private transport from your hotel in an 11 person van. They will pick you up at your hotel between 8 and 9 am. They will drop you off at your hotel between 2:30 and 3:15 pm.
    Meals: Lunch included

    TIP: Wear sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburn! Bring lots of drinking water! Also bring a bathing suit, towel and water shoes /sandals.

    FYI: Bring an additional $10.000 COP per person in cash to pay the local community that work at the volcano."

  • Colombia Eco Travel also arranged for 3 bags of coffee to be dropped off at my hostel for my departure so that I can pack them on my way to the airport rather than carrying them with me.  The coffee is from their favorite coffee farm "Alto de la Mina". 

    Mud Volcano -- stairs to the mud bathVolcanic mud bathView from the mud to the lagoon where you rinse offCafe Del Mar - good but touristy spot for drinks/music/view on the city wall, close to the hostel

 Day 9: Depart Cartagena

  • Depart from Cartagena at 1:30 pm and arrive home late (11 pm) the same day.