Minca: the best place in Colombia I never planned on going to.

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Minca is one of those small towns that the Lonely Planet barely devotes a page to, so it was never part of my itinerary. I had barely even heard of the place until meeting Jay in Santa Marta, and it turned out that he owned a hostel up there in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After traveling with him and Susan to Tayrona, where I picked his brain about what Minca was like, I decided I should see it for myself and we decided to meet there in a couple days.

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By total coincidence we ended up on the same colectivo from Santa Marta, which made the trip even easier! It dropped us right in front of the church that serves as a landmark for visitors to the hostel, Casa Loma (“house on a hill” — and very aptly named, as you will see). You head past the church, through a small ball-court, up some steps past a few houses, and then start the long climb up the hill towards the hostel itself. There are pretty specific directions on the hostel’s website, but I’m glad that Jay was there to point the way and offer encouragement on the long climb (“don’t worry, we’re almost there!”). He even helped carry my backpack for me. I felt like I was getting the red carpet treatment!

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Okay, so the climb is pretty rough, but it’s totally worth it once you get to the top and collapse on a chair in the hostel’s open-air common area. Casa Loma offers amazing, sweeping views of the whole valley below and at night you can see the lights of Santa Marta off in the distance. It’s a spectacular place to catch a sunset.

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When I visited, they had somewhat limited rooms but were under construction so there may be even more options for accommodation now. In any case, what they had was rustic but very comfortable. I stayed in “The Den”, a cozy private room under the stairs for one night and then in a tent for the next two nights since it was booked by another guest. There are several other private rooms as well as a small dorm, and you can also camp with your own tent or rent one from them for an additional fee. They also have awesome outdoor showers where the walls only come up to your shoulders and you can look out at a great view of the forest while bathing.

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It’s a perfect place to just relax in the mountains and get back to nature. Just remember to check and make sure you have everything you need for the day before setting off… trust me, you do not want to go up and down those steps any more than you need to.

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