Minca is a a tiny, isolated town perched high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains overlooking Santa Marta. The journey from Santa Marta to Minca is spectacular, winding up the side of the mountain watching Santa Marta and the coast recede into the distance.
We stayed in a recently-built hostel called Finca Hostal Bolivar which helpfully offered to arrange transport for anyone coming from Santa Marta, but taxis and colectivos are also an option. The journey takes around 45 minutes.
Shopping and banking facilities in Minca are extremely limited so do your main shopping and stock up before heading out.
Fincar Hostal Bolivar in Minca
Finca Hostal Bolivar is just five minutes walk outside of the main hustle and bustle of Minca. There are some quite steep steps down to the entrance then serendipity awaits. The building is fresh, well equipped and spacious and the kitchen was one of the best we’ve seen. We stayed in one of the two private rooms and had a terrace all to ourselves, a comfy bed, even a hidden musical box in the bathroom! Most Colombian bathrooms don’t have hot water, but Finca Hostal Bolivar is an exception; provided you don’t linger a hot shower will be the order of the day. The hostel also has access to its own ‘beach’ on the river, hammocks to lounge in, a garden full of wildlife to explore and a firepit and grill down by the river.
Minca itself could never be called photogenic, it’s ramshackle and a bit makeshift but the surroundings are nothing short of breathtaking. Lush greenery all around, dancing streams and rivers, waterfalls, coffee and chocolate farms, spectacular sunrises (and sunsets), hikes, jungle, viewpoints, lovely people and decent food.
The area around Minca is famous for its bird diversity, in and around the area Tucans, Macaws, Oropendolas, and many species of Hummingbirds. The first morning we were at the Finca I woke quite suddenly, not sure what had woken me. As I lay in bed looking out of the window, a humming bird came into my line of sight, hovered at a flower for a few moments and then was gone. I wasn’t quite sure if I’d dreamt it but then it happened again and then again. Humming bird alarm clocks!
The walk to the Coffee Farm
We’d heard a lot about La Candelaria cacao and coffee farm, it sounded like an interesting thing to do. The path is marked with easy to follow signs and should take around 45 minutes. They lied!
45 minutes comes and goes, an hour comes and goes, an hour and a half comes and goes and we’re still walking. I guess the people who do it in 45 minutes are younger, fitter, don’t fall over and don’t keep stopping to take pictures. Eventually we came to a sign telling us to leave the path, take some steps and up the hill. I gave a silent cheer that we were nearly there – except we weren’t. Up we went for another 15 minutes and then there it was; a cottage and a farm and people and… shade! I arrived, red in the face, huffing and puffing and looking every inch a fat, unfit 59 year old. Cool drinks in the shade and 20 minutes to cool off and appreciate the stupendous view and we’re ready for the tour.
The Coffee Farm
There’s a choice of coffee or chocolate tour, or both. We took the coffee tour.The tour starts with a walk around the farm and a lesson in coffee growing and farming in the area. The coffee here is grown to tree height rather than cut to waist height for easy cropping, this is not only good for the coffee beans but is great for the farm’s bio-diversity. The history of the farm is fascinating, as is the politics of the area and how it influences coffee production in Colombia.
The walk finishes with a return to the main buildings to see how the beans are washed, dried in the sun and then roasted. The owner has a tiny, hand-built coffee roaster and will roast some beans just for you before grinding them and producing the freshest coffee you’re ever likely to taste.
Tuki the Toucan was found as a baby with a damaged beak and taken in by the farm. He’s a real star and if you’re lucky he’ll sit on your arm and let you feed him.
Minca and this tour in particular was one of the highlights of our time in Colombia, definitely a ‘must do’, not so touristy thing to do and supporting local business at the same time. By the way, the journey down was a lot quicker than the journey up.
Fact: The Sierra Navadas is the highest coastal mountain range in the world