Day 1: Santa Marta to Buritaca. 4 hours ride time.
The first day of the tour begins at 9:30 am where we meet at our Santa Marta office for a safety briefing, introduction tour introduction and to complete the paperwork, before heading out on the road around 10 am. Day 1 will be an easy cruise down the coast towards Palomino, including some very basic offroad riding for everybody to get comfortable on the bikes. We will have lunch with our friends at Prima Luna restaurant and check out Palomino beach before continuing on our way to find our accommodation for the night. After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we swap our bikes and riding gear for swimmers and inflatable tubes, then jump on local mototaxis to go floating down the Buritaca river, coursing our way through the jungle. We will get back to our accommodation around 5 pm for dinner and leisure time in the evening.
Day 2: Buritaca to Palomino. 5 hours ride time.
Day 2 is where we take things up a level. After breakfast at our accommodation, we leave the luggage behind and saddle up to tackle the first of our offroad days. The trail starts easy enough with a mix of gravel and small river crossings, but after an hour or so the climbs get steeper, the roads get muddier and the river crossing get deeper, making for some of the best 4-5 hours of enduro riding the coast has to offer. Oh, and did I mention the views? Sweeping grassy plains, indigenous villages, and mountainous, ocean views from over 1,000 meters up in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta make for scenery so beautiful you will struggle to keep your eyes on the road. We’ve got you covered though, photo stops are plentiful so you´ll always have something to remember your adventure by.
After finishing the loop, we grab lunch at a local eatery, decompress and pick up our luggage, then cruise just a little further up the coast to our night’s accommodation.
Day 3: Palomino to Uribia. 5 hours ride time.
After a good night’s sleep and recovering from the previous day, we get started early on day 3 and head out to the coastal town of Camarones, where we will hop on a local-guided tour by boat of the surrounding wildlife sanctuary, where 100’s of pink flamingos call home. After the tour, we will grab a quick bite to eat in town, before cruising up the highway a couple of hours to Uribia, the last major urban center before La Guajira desert, and our accommodation for the night.
Day 4: Uribia to Cabo. 2-5 hours ride time
Day 4 we enter the desert. The earlier the better this morning, as the desert is only a 2-hour ride away, however during the rainy season the normally hard sand can turn to mud, making for some potentially difficult riding, plus the earlier we get to Cabo de la Vela, the more we get to see. For those that want a break from the bikes, Cabo is the perfect place to go kitesurfing, snorkeling, shopping for indigenous souvenirs, or simply sitting on the beach sipping Polarcita beers and soaking in the magic. Alternatively, those that want to put a few more km’s behind them can saddle up with the guides after lunch and go explore Pilon de Azucar and El Faro lighthouse, both within an hours drive of Cabo de la Vela. Accommodation options in the desert are limited and basic but at Rancheria Utta we will be looked after, with running water and private, twin share rooms for all.
Day 5: Cabo to Riohacha. 5 hours ride time
The morning in Cabo we can allow ourselves a lazy breakfast by the water and enjoy the cool morning air before the sun starts to take over. By mid-morning we’ll be back on the bikes, riding the seaside, coastal route towards Riohacha. On the way, we will stop in at the town of Manuare and check out the salt refinery, where the mineral is extracted from the earth for commercial consumption, before pushing on towards Mayapo beach, just outside the city limits of Riohacha for a late lunch and/or an evening drink before cruising the final 20 minutes into town and our accommodation for the night.
Day 6: Riohacha to Valledupar. 4 hours ride time
We leave Riohacha after breakfast at a local eatery, then head south-east along the highway towards the agricultural town of Valledupar. On the way, we will stop in for lunch at La Mina and check out the unique rock formations around Badillo river while cooling off in the beautiful blue water that runs between. We reach our accommodation in the late afternoon to check-in, before relaxing to enjoy dinner and leisure time in the evening.
Day 7: Optional Rest day in Valledupar. 3-5 hours riding time
By now some of the group may be wanting a rest day from the bikes. Or maybe not. In both instances, we’ve got you covered. For those that want to, we will organize a day trip of the city and surrounding area using local tour guides, either by foot or by air-conditioned van, or for those that are up to it, another intense section of offroad riding awaits en route to the Indigenous village of Nabusimake. This route is for experienced enduro riders only, as even the smallest amount of rainfall can turn the dirt roads into technically challenging, muddy climbs. Accommodation tonight will be in the same location as the previous, giving us a rare break from unpacking and repacking our bags!
Day 8: Valledupar to Cienaga. 5-6 hours ride time
We get moving reasonably early on the morning of day 8 and start moving south towards Cienaga. On the way, we do an hour or so section of intermediate offroad riding, before cruising along the beautiful highway 45 around the back side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and up towards Cienaga. Today is a big highway day, so a quick stop-off for lunch at a local eatery will be the order of the day. This does, however, give us extra time in Cienega if we arrive early enough, to go see the village of Ciénaga Grande, a fishing community that lives in the UNESCO heritage listed area in houses supported above the water by stilts. Never fear though, if we are a little pushed for time, we will visit the area the following morning. Either way, we’ll sleep well the night of Day 8.
Day 9: Cienaga to Journey. 4 hours ride time
The 9th day on our tour is one of the smaller riding days, giving us time to explore the natural hot springs around Cienaga, as well as visiting the fishing village of Cienaga Grande if we missed it the day before. After finishing up Cienega we will make our way around the back of Santa Marta, to Paso del Mango, for another section of off-road riding. Swimming holes and thousand-year-old Indigenous rock carvings laying roadside will be seen during this section, and lunch will be had at Caoba Biological Reserve, an indigenous and wildlife haven nestled deep in the jungle. After a late lunch, we saddle up and head back out to the main highway, cruising a further half hour up the coast to The Journey hostel, our accommodation for the night.
Day 10: Rest day: Journey
Day 10 is the only day of the tour without any scheduled riding. The 2 options for the day are to visit Tayrona park for the day or to go on a short hike to a secret beach in the morning, then cruise a short ride (20 minutes) up the coast to Quebrada Valencia waterfall/swimming hole. Tayrona park is the most famous site on the northern coast, with over 300,000 visitors per year coming to enjoy the crystal clear, white sands beaches and Indigenous, jungle landscape, and the whole day is required to do the park justice. Alternatively, the short hike takes us within the bounds of Tayrona park to the easternmost beach, Los Naranjos, which rarely sees more than 3 or 4 people at a time, if any at all. Quebrada Valencia waterfall in the afternoon is a popular attraction on the north coast as well, and a short hike from the main highway brings us to a tremendous, rocky falls nestled deep inside the indigenous land. We relax in the evening and get a good night’s rest, preparing ourselves for the riding to come the following day.
Day 11: Journey to Minca. 4-5 hours ride time.
After breakfast at Journey, we saddle up and prepare to tackle the off-road dream that is Minca. The first section of the trip up is on a winding, newly laid, asphalt road through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, but soon enough, we take a detour from the path and find our own way up through the jungle. This section of riding is a challenging one, with a lot of rocky climbs and bouncing over boulders, made even trickier if there has been any recent rain. We will arrive in the town of Minca for lunch after a couple of hours riding, before pushing on even further up the mountain to our accommodation at Casas Viejas, making sure to stop in at a waterfall and a viewpoint along the way. An early night is the order of the day, as the final morning brings with it an early rise.
Day 12: Minca to Santa Marta. 5-6 hours ride time.
The morning of the final day we plan to be on the bikes and riding by 3 am. Yes, it is dark, so we slow the pace a little and ride with care, guided by our headlights, for approximately 2 hours, all the way up to San Lorenzo weather station, 3,000 meters above sea level. The sunrise from our vantage point is absolutely breathtaking, and as the light starts to creep in, rocky, icy peaks start to become visible, 1,000’s of meters above the dense, green, jungle below. Once the sun is up enough to light the way, we complete the final 15-20 minutes ascent over the most technical part of the ride, to Cerro Kennedy military base, the highest point accessible by road in Minca. After getting our fill of the amazing scenery, we head back down the mountain at a much faster pace than on the way up, and back to Casas Viejas for breakfast. After breakfast, we often find people are wanting a quick nap, which is strongly advised if you are feeling like fatigue is affecting your riding performance, and after regrouping, we make our way down the other side of the mountain, stopping in to see a coffee plantation, swimming hole, and local smokehouse for some of the best barbecue the northern coast has to offer. We end the tour at approximately 3 pm back at our office in Santa Marta, with plenty of time to debrief over a couple of drinks, and memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives.