• For the adventurous souls seeking glaciers, majestic Andean condors, and otherworldly fraijones, El Cocuy National Park is a must-visit destination. With snow-capped peaks and vast valleys, trekking through this part of the Andes becomes a spectacular adventure.

    Given the closure of multi-day trekking routes, most visitors base themselves in the town of El Cocuy for day trips into the national park. Planning our own excursion proved challenging and time-consuming, especially without a grasp of basic Spanish.

    How to Trek in El Cocuy

    Decide on Your Hiking Route
    In El Cocuy National Park, visitors can choose from three different hiking routes:

    • La Laguna Grande
    • Ritacuba
    • El Pulpito del Diablo

    Opting for La Laguna Grande, a route leading directly to the glacier, we embarked on a four-hour trek to the lake. Despite being labeled as the easiest route, the altitude of 4,600 meters posed challenges, potentially triggering altitude sickness. The return journey required an additional 3 to 4 hours.

    Other routes are more demanding, not necessarily due to their length but because of steeper inclines. El Pulpito del Diablo, as described by our guide, is exceptionally beautiful but recommended for seasoned hikers.

    Hire a Guide for Park Entry

    Three registered guides speak some English. The cost per group is 150,000 Colombian Pesos. A complete list of registered guides is available at the El Cocuy National Park office. Contacting guides through phone or WhatsApp is necessary, and we recommend doing so in advance.

    • Silva Verlandia Martha Lucia (3115117363): Highly recommended.
    • Ruiz Millan Sergio (3112628385)
    • Suarez Suarez Julio Enrique (3232813827)

    Arrange Transportation In and Out of the Park

    Two transportation options are available for entering and leaving the park. You can hire a private car arranged by the guide for a day, costing 180,000 Colombian Pesos per car, shareable among four passengers. This option was recommended by our guide, Martha, who also facilitated additional passengers to join our journey.

    For a more adventurous and economical choice, consider taking a milk truck (lechero). However, this option has a significant drawback. Milk trucks depart at 6:30 AM and return at 3:00 PM, which doesn’t allow sufficient time for most hikes lasting around 9 hours. Our private transport left El Cocuy at 4:40 AM and completed our trek by 2:30 PM. The milk truck arrives at El Cocuy park around 8:30 AM, making it impractical if you need to return by 3:00 PM.

    If budget is a priority, waiting for the milk truck might be an option, but consider the overall investment in time and money for the El Cocuy trek itself. Completing it becomes a significant factor, and your primary choice is likely to be private transport to the national park.

    Purchase Mandatory Insurance

    Mandatory insurance must be purchased before entering the park. Obtainable near the national park office, it costs 7,000 Colombian Pesos per person. Insurance can only be acquired with a registered guide. Look for a sign that says “póliza accidentes personales” at Carrera 5, 5.75, although it may not appear on Google Maps.

    Register at the National Park Office

    Lastly, you must register at the National Park office (Officina Parque Nacional El Cocuy). The fee is 71,000 Colombian Pesos per person, payable only after arranging a guide and insurance. Before entering the park, you’re required to watch an instructional video in Spanish. Note that sometimes the front gate is closed, and you must enter the office through a side gate.

    Do I Need to Book My El Cocuy Hike in Advance?

    Booking in advance is advisable, especially during peak seasons (December and January) or Colombian holidays. Colombia has frequent public holidays, so check dates carefully. If your schedule is tight, it’s recommended to book in advance. The park limits the number of daily visitors, making it a popular destination during holidays.

    We trekked in November, experiencing cloudy weather with fluctuating temperatures. Rainfall typically started around 4:00 PM.

    What is the Cost of Hiking in El Cocuy?

    The following are the costs associated with trekking in El Cocuy:

    • Insurance: 7,000 Colombian Pesos per person
    • Guide: 150,000 Colombian Pesos per group
    • Entrance fee: 71,000 Colombian Pesos per person
    • Private car transport: 180,000 Colombian Pesos per car

    Total: 408,000 Colombian Pesos

    Private transport and guide fees are per group, so if you find a small group to join, you can share the costs. However, guides prefer leading smaller groups as it allows them to adjust to the group’s pace, usually resulting in a faster pace when walking in a group. It also provides more job opportunities for local guides.

    What to Wear in El Cocuy National Park?

    El Cocuy National Park requires preparation for various weather conditions. While it may be hot at lower altitudes around noon, temperatures can drop to freezing as you ascend. Rainstorms can occur unexpectedly, emphasizing the need for waterproof gear. Be sure to pack:

    • Hiking boots (ensure they are comfortable and waterproof)
    • Lightweight or wool sweaters
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Hat
    • Gloves
    • Water (carry a reusable water bottle as there are no purchases available within the park)
    • Sunscreen
    • Lunch and snacks (nothing is available inside the national park, so bring everything you need)
    • Hot and cold temperatures can both be issues. Our guide brought two hats – a woolen one and a sun hat.


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