Cartegena may just be stunning fishing village on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, but this tourist destination is also a one-stop place for all your adventure needs. Cartegena’s proximity to the water makes it an easy beach destination. However, it also happens to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the country. If hiking happens to be your game, then Cartegena is the place to be. The area offers so many different kinds of hiking terrain that you can spend days upon days of discovery—as far as your feet can take you. Here are some of Cartegena’s best hiking trips.
1. Lost City Trek
Also known as Ciudad Perdida, Lost City Trek is the ultimate must-do for any hiker in the area. This trek navigates the Inca Trail of Colombia—something that’s just as historically significant as Macchu Picchu but far less crowded. It’s a 29-mile hike through the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Madre. You can traverse the jungles as quickly as you can, but most trekkers take the length of the hike in 4 to 5 days or even longer. At the end of the trail, there are archaeological treasures to behold, so don’t give up. It will take you a couple of hours drive to get to Ciudad Perdida from Cartagena, so make sure you factor in that time when planning.
2. Tayrona National Park
You’ll need to go on a short drive from Cartagena to get to this next hiking destination: Tayrona National Park. Tayrona is known for having many adventure options; but no matter what you do, it’s highly recommended that you spend at least 3 to 4 days in the park in order to get the best experience possible. For some, this might mean renting a space for the night. For many others, a simple backpack tent you can carry on your hike will do. There are several trails in Tayrona that vary in difficulty from easy to difficult. If you’re a more novice hiker, you can start off with the Cañaveral to Arrecifes Trail, which would take about 1 hour to finish. In comparison, the most difficult trail is the Calabazo entry to Pueblito Chairama to Cabo San Juan del Guía. This trail will take you 5 hours to finish, and it includes some of the most challenging terrain as well.
Tayrona National Park is a must-see anytime you’re in Cartagena, and a chance to trek the park is a treat. If you’re not used to the area, it’s highly recommended that you go with a hiking tour for safety. Although it’s not likely that you’ll get lost in the park’s 19.25 hectares, you’ll make the most of your hiking time with a knowledgeable guide.
3. Montes de Maria
Many call this hike the “Jaguar’s Footprint.” Locals say that this hike follows the jungle trail of the jaguars that once inhabited the area. Montes de Maria is an easy day trip from Cartegena, but make sure you allot at least a full day to enjoy your hike here. At Montes de Maria, you’ll find plenty of the lush vegetation that Colombia is famous for as well as some incredible water features. But what you might really enjoy are the jaguar footprints that have been solidified onto caves and rocks over time. It’s something unique that you’ll only find here. The hike at Montes de Maria commences in a private location, so you can only get there through a proper tour. During the hike, you’ll get to enjoy plants and animals, shaded trails, and good company as well. The tours of Montes de Maria are oftentimes locals from the area, and proceeds from tours often support their industries. A hike through the Montes de Maria location will only take about a couple of hours, but there’s a town nearby you can explore before heading back to Cartegena’s city center.
4. Old Town
Here’s the cool thing about Cartagena: you really don’t need to always head out into the mountains in order to get a good hike in. There are plenty of walking you can do right in the heart of Cartagena’s Old Town. This article features a self-guided walking tour of this stunning and historical location in the city. Get your city hike started at La Torre del Reloj or the Clock Tower Gate, and experience the colonialism vibe firsthand. You can walk through the many avenues that can lead you to the Old Town, and the best way you can do this is by taking your time. Take in the architecture at Plaza de la Aduana and spend some time browsing through the many shops and restaurants. You might want to pick up some basic Spanish, so you can converse with the locals. Other than that, all you’d really need to do this hike is some good walking shoes and a camera for good measure.
5. Caribbean Coast
Cartagena’s wonderful ocean side location makes this city one of the best beach destinations in Colombia. If you feel like hiking some flat terrain, there’s no better place to go than on the coastline. You can enjoy miles upon miles of sandy shoreline here on Cartagena’s Caribbean Coast. You’ll get an incredible breeze from the water, and stunning city sights on the other side. The best part about hiking the Caribbean Coast is the fact that you can jump in the ocean any time you feel like it before you get back to trekking. This hike is also a good way to get to Tayrona National Park and beyond to the northernmost tip of the area—if you’re up to the challenge. It’s not the hiking trip for everyone, but it’s a unique adventure that’s definitely worth considering.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn