Hiking in Colombia – Top Trails for All Abilities!

Hikers on the Lost City Trek

Colombia is a great hiking destination, with diverse trails catering to all skill and enthusiasm levels. From the challenging peaks of the Andes to the lush landscapes of the Amazon rainforest and the coastal beauty of Tayrona National Park, there are some incredible hikes in Colombia. 

Whether you’re tackling the iconic Ciudad Perdida trek, exploring coffee region trails, or meandering through cloud forests, Colombia’s rich biodiversity and stunning vistas make it an ideal destination for those seeking both natural beauty and a rewarding hiking experience. Check out the amazing hikes in Colombia below to get a kick-start on your research! 

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Best Hikes in Colombia

1. Ciudad Perdida Trek

Ciudad Perdida, or Colombia’s Lost City, is a legendary archaeological trek and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve tucked in the lush Sierra Nevada mountains. The trek offers an amazing adventure through indigenous villages and breathtaking landscapes, navigating dense jungles and river crossings to reach the ancient ruins of the Lost City (called Teyuna) that the trek is named after.

Tourist at Lost City
The Lost City is Colombia’s answer to Machu Picchu.

Along the route, you’ll encounter indigenous villages inhabited by the Kogi people. These encounters provide you with a neat opportunity to learn about their traditions, customs, and way of life as you continue the trek. 

Approximately 46 kilometers (28 miles) in total, with 2,700 m (9,000 ft) of elevation gain and loss, this trek usually takes 4-6 days and is definitely considered challenging due to its steep ascents, descents, river crossings, and varying terrains. 

It’s strongly recommended to go with authorized tour operators due to the remote and challenging nature of the trail. Many of these tour guides are members of the indigenous communities themselves, and add a wonderful educational and cultural element to the experience. 

Our Top Pick!
Lost City Trek by Expotur
  • Take on Colombia's most popular trek!
  • Explore the ancient Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida)
  • Hike, swim and climb through Colombian jungle
  • Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Note: Expotour is part of Corpoteyuna, a corporation that protects the welfare of farmers and indigenous communities living in the area of the Lost City.

The climax of the trek is certainly the arrival at Ciudad Perdida, an ancient archaeological site dating back to the 9th century. The site consists of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside, as well as impressive tiled roads and circular plazas. 

Lost City Upper Levels
If you tackle the steep steps, the views are worth it!

To reach the city, you’ll need to climb up 1,200 stone steps, definitely providing a major sense of excitement and anticipation! Note that permits are required, however, this will be organized by the company you book the trek through. The hike usually starts from the towns of Machete or El Mamey.

“Choosing one must-do hike in Colombia is super hard as there are so many to choose from but this would be my pick!”

Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker. 

Book your Lost City Trek here.

2. Laguna de la Plaza, El Cocuy National Park

Located in El Cocuy National Park, this multi-day hike is an amazing showcase of the beauty in the country’s high-altitude Andean region, providing a stark contrast to other hikes in Colombia. 

El Cocuy National Park-2
Make sure you leave time to acclimatize to your new surroundings!

Here, the two parallel north-south mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy feature a whopping 25 snow-capped peaks – a mountainous haven you’ll find nowhere else on the continent other than Patagonia. 

This trek comes out at around 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length and kicks off from the base camp at El Cocuy National Park, the largest glacial mass north of the equator. Here, you can acclimatize to the altitude before embarking on your adventure. 

“Keep in mind that, like any high-altitude trek, it’s critically important to give yourself a few days to acclimate, or you could get really ill – trust us, nothing ruins a great hike like altitude sickness!”

Consider packing coca leaves or bringing medication with you if you’ve struggled with altitude sickness in the past, but relaxing for a few days prior at the base camp is often enough to feel ready. 

Once you head off, the trek itself usually takes three to five days to complete, culminating at the breathtaking Laguna de la Plaza, a pristine mountain lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Permits are required, and guided tours are advised to help you stay safe. 

While there, it’s really important to adhere to park regulations and stay on the trail to preserve the fragile ecosystem found in the region. Also, keep in mind that there’s no accommodation on the main trekking circuit (only on the outskirts of the park), so you’ll have to bring your own to do the trek. 

Note that this hike isn’t always available, and is dependent on the state of the ecosystem and the park administration’s judgment. When planning your trip, be sure to check updated park regulations and plan for alternatives if the circuit isn’t accessible. The good news is, the park is packed with day hikes, so there are loads of alternatives! 

3. Cabo San Juan Hike, Tayrona National Park 

Combining jungle and beach, this coastal hike in Tayrona National Park leads to Cabo San Juan, a pristine beach with turquoise waters. The trail shows you a mix of ecosystems and ends with a rewarding swim, and is a beautiful way to experience Colombia’s Caribbean coast – definitely a departure from all those mountain hikes! 

Cabo San Juan, Tayrona
Grab a beer and enjoy the sand!

This hike starts at the park’s main entrance, where you can pay the entrance fee and receive information about the trail. Initially, you’ll meander through a lush jungle environment, where you’ll see all sorts of diverse flora and fauna native to the region. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including birds and monkeys. 

The trail then passes through Arrecifes, a scenic area with coconut palms and sea views. La Piscina, a natural swimming pool formed by coral reefs, is a great place to stop for a swim. From there, the highlight of the hike is reaching Cabo San Juan – a picturesque bay with golden sands, turquoise waters, and idyllic thatched-roof huts. 

All in all, it is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) in length and can be either a day trek or split over two days to overnight inside the park. The best part? Cabo San Juan has camping facilities for those who wish to extend their stay. If you do decide to camp, be sure to respect designated camping areas and avoid disturbing wildlife.

Easy to moderate in difficulty, the most important thing to remember here is to carry essentials with you (including water), as services are limited along the trail. Permits are required to stay overnight in the park, but this is an amazing experience if you can swing it – the entrance fee is a bit steep for just a day. 

Cabo San Juan Campsite, Tayrona
The campsite at Cabo San Juan.

Also, note that Tayrona is the ancestral home of the indigenous Kogi people, and the park closes for a few weeks a few times per year. Be sure to check that the park is open when planning your visit.  

“If you do choose to overnight in the park, you may be lucky enough to wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys in the surrounding forest – an incredible experience!”

4. Nevado del Ruiz Trail, Los Nevados National Natural Park 

An ascent to the summit of Nevado del Ruiz gives you panoramic views of glaciers and one of the best vistas over the Colombian Andes. The length and difficulty of the trail vary depending on the route you choose, with options suitable for both moderate and experienced hikers. 

While Ruiz is considered by many to be an easy climb for a mountain of its size, summiting can still be a two to three-day trek, and (similarly to Laguna de la Plaza) is considered challenging due to the altitude. Guided tours are recommended for safety, and again, acclimatization to the altitude is essential. 

The trail winds through the paramo ecosystem, so keep an eye out for unique plants and diverse birdlife – they’re specially adapted for the conditions and some aren’t found anywhere else in the world! 

As the trail ascends, you’ll start getting panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes that define this part of the Andean region, and of course, the ultimate reward is reaching the summit of Nevado del Ruiz.

Note that the park has varying regulations, so it’s a good idea to check ahead of time if permits are required. Some routes may require specific permissions, and it’s a good idea to be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions. Dress in layers, and bring the necessary gear for both sunny and chilly conditions. If it seems a bit much for a day, multi-day hikes exist that combine Nevado del Ruiz with overnight camping at Paramillo de Cisnes and Laguno Otún.

5. Laguna de Buitrago Trek, Chingaza National Natural Park 

This day trek in Chingaza National Park explores the Piedras Gordas area, leading to the serene Laguna de Buitrago. Surrounded by the paramo ecosystem mentioned in other hikes, this hike is a great way to explore what makes this Andean region so unique and is located quite close to Bogotá

Funicular, Bogota
Bogotá is a surprisingly good jumping off point for several hikes.

The trail is approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) in length, moderate in difficulty, and offers amazing bird-watching opportunities plus the chance to explore the unique alpine moorlands. You can do this trail self-guided, but tours are also available, particularly for those interested in the flora and fauna. Note that a few of the route options are more difficult than others, and the tougher ones are worth hiring a guide to do.

The trek begins at the park’s visitor center near Cundinamarca. Weather can be quite unpredictable here, so come prepared with layers ( particularly a rain layer). Keep an eye out for native plants such as frailejones, a signature feature of the Andean paramo, and amazing photo ops once you reach the lake. 

6. Volcán Puracé Trek, Puracé National Natural Park

In this trek, you can hike to the summit of Volcán Puracé for breathtaking views of the volcanic landscape and the Caldas River Valley. In total, the hike is around 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) in length, and like others on the list, gets a difficulty designation of challenging due to the high altitude. Guided tours are advisable for safety, and there are a few different route options to consider. 

YouTube video

At the park entrance, you’ll receive information about available routes, safety guidelines, and current conditions, as well as whether a permit is needed for the route you’d like. Keep in mind that some routes include visits to thermal springs, providing a relaxing opportunity to soak in the toasty warm, mineral-rich waters, while others feature other active volcanic highlights, such as fumaroles and steaming vents. 

Some can also be done by mountain bike. However you get there, you’re sure to learn a lot about the geological processes shaping the region, as well as the opportunity to conquer a higher peak without technical mountaineering skills.

7. Cocora Valley Loop

Best known for its towering wax palm trees (Colombia’s national tree), the Cocora Valley Loop offers a beautiful day hike through cloud forests and wide-open vistas. As the trail ascends, it provides panoramic views of the expansive valley below, featuring lush greenery, open valleys, and the iconic wax palms, reaching up to 60 meters in height. 

Cocora Valley
The wax palms create an otherworldly landscape.

About 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) in length, the loop is considered moderate in difficulty and is doable in a day if you depart from nearby Salento, a cute little town also worth a visit. All in all, it should take you about five hours to complete the loop, and it can be done clockwise or counterclockwise. 

The clockwise version is considered to be a little easier, as it has fewer uphill ascents, but you reach the Wax Palm Valley in the first half hour. The counterclockwise hike is harder but culminates at the valley at the end of the hike, so it’s usually considered the preferred option. 

Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, bring rain gear, and start early to avoid unpredictable weather. You should also keep an eye out for birds! The Cocora Valley is known for its rich birdlife – particularly hummingbirds. You can likely do this trek without a guide if you’ve hiked before, but guided hikes are also available if you want more context and commentary. 

Cocora Valley hiking
The hike is easy to do self-guided.

The Cocora Valley Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Colombia and a wonderful way to explore its coffee-producing region.

“Don’t miss the 4km detour to Acaime La Casa de Los Colibríes. This hummingbird reserve not only offers a break from the trail but you’ll also get to see these incredible birds up close while you sip on a cup of aguapanela!”

8. Cloud Forest Loop, Chicaque Natural Park

Conveniently located half an hour from Colombia’s capital of Bogotá, the Cloud Forest Loop in Chicaque Natural Park is a very doable day hike through dreamy cloud forests, with panoramic views of the Andean valleys characterized by misty landscapes, ancient trees, lush vegetation, and diverse plant and animal species. It’s a convenient escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, and at only 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) in length, ideal for a day trip. 

Plant in cloud forest
Cloud forest trekking is great for lovers of flora and fauna.

As you walk, keep in mind that Chicaque Natural Park is known for its rich biodiversity. You may encounter various bird species, butterflies, and more amid the dense foliage. While on the trail, be sure to visit Mirador El Rocío, a scenic viewpoint with panoramic vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys from an elevated perspective. 

In addition to sturdy hiking shoes and water, be prepared for mist and potential rainfall due to the cloud forest’s environment. Definitely bring a waterproof jacket and maybe a poncho. Horseback riding is also possible through different parts of the nature conservation area.

9. La Chorrera Waterfall Hike

Ranked as Colombia’s tallest waterfall, La Chorrera is conveniently located in the Andean foothills, only an hour from Bogotá. Coming in at about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) in length, this hike is perfect for a day trip from Bogotá and is a great alternative or second hike option to the Cloud Forest Loop. While guided tours are available, this is a good example of a popular hike that can be done independently. 

YouTube video

The trail takes you through the lush landscapes of the cloud forest, leading up to a stunning arrival at La Chorrera, a breathtaking waterfall cascading from a height of over 500 meters (1,640 feet). 

There are a few opportunities to detour to swim in natural pools created by the waterfall’s runoff, so pack a swimsuit if you’re interested in taking advantage of this. Additionally, it’s good to keep in mind that staying hydrated is particularly important due to the humid conditions of the cloud forest, so be sure to bring along fresh water as well.

Also read: Amazing South American waterfalls.

10. Guatavita Lake Loop

You may have heard of this loop for its association with the legend of El Dorado, making it well worth a visit for history buffs and culture lovers. As a bonus, Guatavita Lake is a lovely destination in and of itself, in the foothills of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes. A relaxing scenic loop trail around its shores is perfect for those seeking something outdoorsy but not too strenuous, coming in at 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).

Gold Musuem, Bogota
After you’ve done the hike, check out Bogotá’s Gold Museum!

The trail passes through areas associated with the Muisca civilization, a pre-Columbian indigenous group, including the legendary El Dorado ritual site. The Muisca people lived in the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, which includes the areas around Guatavita Lake, and this is where the El Dorado ceremony is said to have been held. 

The ceremony crowned a new Muisca ruler, known as the ‘cacique’ or ‘zipa’, with elaborate rituals and offerings to the gods. One central element of the ceremony was the placement of gold and precious objects into the lake as offerings, which caused the lake to become particularly fascinating in the European imagination as the mythical city of gold, or El Dorado.

While you can definitely meander this loop independently, guided tours are also available and can provide valuable insights into the history and significance of Guatavita Lake through folklore, historical facts, and ecological information.

Hiking in Colombia FAQs 

What’s the best time of year to go hiking in Colombia?

The dry seasons (typically from December to March and often July and August as well), are ideal for hiking in Colombia, as trails are more accessible.

How safe is hiking in Colombia?

Hiking in popular areas (like Cocora Valley and Tayrona National Park) is generally safe, but you should certainly take all normal safety precautions. Be sure to stay informed about local conditions and potential risks, including weather changes and wildlife. Stick to marked trails, consider guided tours or group travel for tougher terrains, and be cautious in remote areas. It’s also a good idea to check travel advisories and register with local authorities or tour operators when embarking on the more challenging hikes.

What to wear hiking in Colombia?

You can’t go wrong with lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing, sturdy hiking shoes with good ankle protection and strong tread, and a few layers for varying elevations. Sun protection and rain gear are also essential, as well as a big bottle of water and some trail mix or other energy-boosting snacks.

The hikes listed above offer a diverse range of landscapes, from ancient ruins to coastal paradises and high-altitude wonders, all within beautiful Colombia. Remember that while some are suitable for day trips, others require careful planning for multi-day adventures, and it’s always important to plan, pack appropriate gear, and stay safe. 

While other South American trekking hotspots get a lot of attention, don’t miss out on the amazing hikes in Colombia. Have you trekked any of these? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. 

Tegan & Alex Bio Pic
Tegan George & Alex McKenzie | Why Not Walk

Tegan and Alex are travel, hiking, and biking enthusiasts currently based in Boston, USA. There is nothing they love more than exploring new places by walking, and they have visited over 30 countries together since they met in 2015. Their love for “walking the world” led them to found Why Not Walk, a travel guide site. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest to start planning your next adventure!

Find them on: Facebook | Instagram

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