Trekking the El Cocuy Mountain Range
Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is a mountain trekker's dream located in the easternmost Colombian Andes. El Cocuy is high.
All 31 of its peaks are over 15,000ft (4,500m) and the tallest, Ritacuba Blanco at 17,749 feet (5,320m) is higher than two of the World 7 Summits. The highest areas of the range are perennially snow-capped and are a striking contrast of glaciers and sheer rock faces.
El Cocuy is not all rock and ice, however. Amidst the clouds, glacier melt feeds sapphire blue lakes with water so pure and devoid of minerals that it is actually unhealthy to drink it for long periods. Peculiar plants abound species that can thrive only at high altitude in the tropics.
Frailejones, cactus-like plants that resemble stooped friars, fill Cocuy's valleys. Below its glaciers and moraines, El Cocuy is a lush paradise that is home to spectacled bears, foxes and Andean condors. And perhaps most amazing, the stunning beauty of El Cocuy is unspoiled and free of the crowds and evident human impact present in most of the world's big mountains.
This adventure takes you to the most spectacular areas of El Cocuy and gives you a comprehensive south to north tour of the mountain range. You will see El Cocuy's most impressive peaks, including Pan de Azucar, El Pulpito del Diablo and Ritacuba Blanco. To approach the peaks you will trek on three of the park's most scenic trails.
You will see all of El Cocuy's different environments: its rich valleys full of exotic plants and streaked by streams and waterfalls; its barren but beautiful moraines that are dotted by glacial lakes; and its towering mountains, perennially covered in ice and snow and considered sacred by the indigenous people of the area.
This five-day trip includes three long hiking days of 7 to 8 hours each, and two nights spent in charming mountain cabins where the air is thin and the blankets are thick. The physical challenge of this high altitude adventure combined with El Cocuy's amazing scenery makes for a truly rewarding trekking experience that is one of Colombia's best.
Children are not accepted on this tour
- Immerse yourself in páramos, unique ecosystems found only in Colombia and two other countries.
- See glaciated mountains, towering rock walls and crystalline glacier lakes.
- Hike through the diverse and scenic landscapes of El Cocuy National Natural Park
- Scheduling: Private Tour
- Languages offered on the Activity / Tour: English, Spanish
- Duration: 5 days
- Printed or Mobile Voucher Accepted
- All participants pay the adult price
- A minimum of 2 adults is required to book this tour
- Children under 13 are not permitted on this tour
- Easy Cancellationi) Cancellation 45 days or more before departure: no fees. Full refund. ii) Cancellation 44-15 days before departure: 50% of cost of services booked. iii) Cancellation less than 15 days before departure: 100% of cost of services booked.
- Confirmation will be received within 24 hours of booking, subject to availability
Cut-off TimeAvailable to be booked until 7 days before the tour starts. We reserve the option to confirm the tour or not due to availability.
- Entrance fees.
- Mountain insurance for 3 days.
- Guiding service.
- All meals from lunch of Day 1 to lunch of Day 5 including snacks and trail food.
- Transportation from Bogotá and back (via public bus) and within the Cocuy area (using private vehicles).
- Travel insurance.
- Personal trekking gear (backpack, boots, poles).
From Bogota, you take the long bus ride to the town of El Cocuy, passing through quaint pueblos and scenic countryside along the way.
When you arrive in El Cocuy you check into your hostel and do a quick tour of the town and its surroundings before having dinner and getting some rest for your first day of trekking.
You begin your hiking adventure in the southern part of El Cocuy mountain range and trek to the Lagunillas, an area with small lakes surrounded by mountains.
From there you can see some of El Cocuy's most well-known and imaginatively named peaks: Pan de Azucar (sugar loaf) and the two Campanillas (bells) – Negro and Blanco.
After about 7 hours of trekking you end the day at the scenic Pulpito mountain cabanas.
Today you hike to the Laguna Grande, the largest of El Cocuy's glacial lakes. You trek through the Valley of the frailejones, an area filled with the strange-looking succulents, before arriving at the sandy shore of the lake.
If not for the five snow-capped mountains surrounding you, you might think you were at the beach. Millennia of glacier movement has ground rock into fine sand.
The sapphire blue lake and its backdrop of sheer rock faces and snowy peaks create one of the most impressive landscapes in Colombia.
Your 7 to 8-hour trek ends at the Hacienda de la Esperanza, a charming inn and sheep farm in the mountains.
For your final day of trekking, you visit the northern part of the Cocuy mountain range and see the big one: Ritacuba Blanco rising to 5,320 meters above sea level.
It lords over several adjacent peaks – Ritacubo Negro, Picacho, Ritacuba Norte, San Pablines and others – all of which are over 5,000 meters high.
After your 7 hour hike to the land of the giants you drive back to the town of El Cocuy where you spend the night back at the hostel.
After breakfast you say goodbye to El Cocuy and travel back to Bogota.
- On the hikes you will need to carry a daypack with trail water, extra layers and snacks.
- The physical demand of this trip is very high, with Days 2 to 4 each involving 7 to 8 hours of high altitude trekking on moderately hilly to steep terrain. You need to be very physically fit to go on this adventure.
- This entire adventure is at high altitude. We recommend acclimatizing in Bogota (2640 meters / 8660 feet) for at least 2 days prior to this trip to avoid altitude sickness.