Apr 17

Trek the Andes in peace – El Cocuy: Information and photos

el cocuy national park colombia

Hi, I’m Chris! I have been living in Colombia for the last 8 months, teaching, travelling and trying to experience all that this wonderful country has to offer. I’m really excited to be joining the See Colombia team, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the joys of Colombia with you. 

Parque Nacional El Cocuy might just be one of Colombia’s, and indeed South America’s, best-kept secrets. Remote and untouched, El Cocuy boasts stunning glacial lakes, unique wildlife, and 17,000 foot peaks. Trekking in El Cocuy is a great way to experience the Andes without the crowds you get in other countries.

There are two options for hiking in El Cocuy: day-trips or the 6-day trek. The infrastructure for day hikes is great – there are cabañas all along the fringes of the park. You can wake up and be at the snow line of a 5,300 metre mountain in 3 hours. The 6-day trek is trickier; the altitude takes time to adjust to and the paths can be steep and challenging. But if you have the time to spare, it’s one of the most rewarding treks in South America – in 6 days we met only one other group. It’s just you and the condors!

One of El Cocuy's beautiful glacial lakes
One of El Cocuy’s beautiful glacial lakes

El Cocuy – Practical Information

Cost: Hiring a guide will set you back about $150.000 between 2 people; the more people you go with, the cheaper it gets. You can ask around the town and join up with groups. A guide for day treks cost $35000-$40000. The day treks can easily be done without a guide, but for the 6-day trek a guide is essential – it’s easy to get lost!

When to go: December-March. These are the only months when you stand a chance of getting good weather. Go in mid-December for clear skies and no crowds.

How to get there: From Bogotá there are usually 2 buses a day to the town of El Cocuy, one in the morning and one in the evening. It takes about 12 hours, but the roads past Tunja are unpaved, so don’t expect to get much sleep!

Equipment: There is no need to take your own specialist gear; you can hire tents, sleeping bags, cooking stoves etc. in the town. Your guide can arrange all of this, and will help you buy all the necessary food for 5/6 days in the park. Just pack warm clothes – the nights are cold.

You can begin the trek from either El Cocuy or Guican following the same route. Starting in El Guican is slightly easier and the trek can be completed in as little as four days, leaving time to hike up to the snow-line of Pan de Azucar.

You can find everything you need on El Cocuy’s main square. It’s a friendly town and people go out of their way to help you.

If all this sounds a bit complicated then See Colombia offers tours to El Cocuy.



7 thoughts on “Trek the Andes in peace – El Cocuy: Information and photos

  1. trekking atlas mountains on

    Thanks for sharing this great & very interesting article! I really enjoyed reading it because it’s full of information! keep up the great work! I will definitely keep reading all new stuff written by you!

  2. Caitlin on

    Hi – a friend and I would really like to do this hike in late June. We heard a part of the 6 day route is closed. We would be coming from the US. Is it possible to find a guide in advance? Or would you recommend just going to El Cocuy ?


      Chris on

      Hi Caitlin,

      There are mixed reports coming from El Cocuy, but it does seem like the full 6 day route has been closed until further notice; something to do with improper tourist behavior, which is a real shame. Finding a good guide in advance would be tricky, your best bet would be to go to El Cocuy and ask around, that’s how I found my guide, and he was great. Be wary of the weather in June: high season is Dec-March, any other times the weather is a bit unpredictable.

      With the route closure, I would imagine you are more limited to smaller hikes around the closer lakes and mountains, but, as is often the case with these national parks, what the officials say and what actually happens is quite different. When I did the trek I heard reports of closures along the route, which turned out to be false. Even if it’s true this time, the parts of the park you can access in a day or two are still stunning and well worth visiting.

      Enjoy your trip, and let us know how it all goes.



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