Oct 21

10 Reasons Why You Have To Visit Mocoa, Putumayo

Visit Mocoa Putumayo


There’s another puente (or Colombian national holiday) next weekend and, instead of heading a couple of hours away to tierra caliente, I have (happily) accepted the ‘offer’ to accompany some friends on another trip to Mocoa in Putumayo – my third this year! The majority of Colombians have never visited the department and most foreign tourists to Colombia pass through the country without even realizing that the southern department, where the Andes crumble into the Amazon, even exists. So why am I booking a bus for my third visit of the year? Surely the guidebooks and tourist agencies would have realized if it were that good, right? Wrong! Putumayo has a slightly dodgy reputation, and much of the department is still to be treated with caution; however, the capital city of Mocoa and it’s surroundings has been safe for a while now, the news just hasn’t travelled very far yet…

So visit Mocoa, and experience it while it remains undervisited! Need more convincing?! Here are 10 reasons why you have to visit Mocoa! 

1. Off-the-beaten-track exploration


visit Mocoa Putumayo
An off-the-beaten-track track. With a person on it. Damn.


As I mentioned, very few people have really clocked onto the potential and beauty of Mocoa – therefore the area remains gloriously untouristy and underexplored. There are a couple of hostel options, very sporadic buses, and very few luxuries: sounds like a travel dream, eh?! The thing is, it really does! A visit to Mocoa will yield amazing travel experiences for very little extra effort, and will give you a great “I’ve been there” travel tale for your next flashpacker hostel…


2. Accessible Colombian Amazon


Mocoa Putumayo Jungle
Welcome to the jungle!


Colombia isn’t famed for it’s Amazonian adventures: the capital of the country’s largest Amazon department (the appropriately named Amazonas), Leticia, requires a non-too-budget flight to visit, and many of the eastern jungle departments are still considered pretty dicey to visit. Therefore, many people experience the jungle in Peru, Ecuador or Brazil (which is still amazing!). However, Mocoa offers the chance to visit some stunning jungles, amazing rivers, and view some remarkable wildlife, just a night-bus from the nation’s capital. It’s also really accessible from other towns and cities in Colombia’s southern backpacker circuit, making a detour fairly easy. It might not be the vast rivers of the Amazon, but Mocoa offers a similar-yet-different jungle experience at a fraction of the price, plus the whole ‘no visitors’ things I already mentioned!


3. Waterfalls!


Mocoa Putumayo Waterfalls
Not bad…


Backpackers love waterfalls. It’s been proven by a team of scientists working all-hours in an underground Swiss bunker. Love ’em! Every backpacker town outside the frozen tundra has a waterfall tour available. Sometimes it can get a little tiresome – not every point of collision between gravity and water is the greatest thing ever. However, in Mocoa you can visit some of the most spectacular (and spectacularly isolated) waterfalls you will ever see. From Hornoyaco falls, set deep into the jungle, down a rock-strewn, rope-bridge path, to the Fin del Mundo hike (click here for my full post on this), where a series of lovely small falls build to an 80m drop-off into the misty jungle below; Mocoa is a town of waterfalls. This scientifically makes it backpacker heaven. Point proven.


4. Wild-swimming


Canones del Rio Afan Mocoa Putumayo
Taking a leap into the Rio Afan


If waterfalls aren’t your thing and you prefer something a little less turbulent then Mocoa still has you covered – there are also a wealth of places to visit just for a pleasant swim in cool waters with beautiful surroundings. The aforementioned Fin del Mundo falls all look over delightful, bottle-green swimming pools, with rocks nearby to cannonball from. Other worthwhile swimming trips include the Rio Afan and Rio Mandiyaco canyons, where the river has cut lovely creek-like channels into the rocks carving their way through the jungle. Or even the Rio Dantayaco which sits about 10m in front of the best hostel in town and, on weekends, is full of locals enjoying the fast-flowing, fresh water. NB. do not forget swimming shorts!


5. Jungle livin’


Tamarin Amazon
Don’t you stick your tongue out at me! (seen in the garden of Casa del Rio)


I mentioned a hostel in the previous point: this is the (under new ownership) Casa del Rio, and it’s one of my favourite Colombian hostels. Why? It’s a little shabby, and certainly not a party hostel…but it has a charm all of it’s own. Set over a large garden with a creek flowing through it, and with a garden replete with tropical birds (including wild toucans and parrots) and wild monkeys, the Casa del Rio is a lovely place to spend a few days. It has the swimming river in front, dorms (with a good breakfast included) at 29.000COP, and a pleasant, sociable atmosphere, since, purely by being there, most of the guests are fairly like-minded.


6. It’s super cheap!


Mocoa Bus Terminal
The bus is bigger than this!


A bus ticket to Mocoa from Bogota cost less than 70.000 (down as low as 55.000 depending on the season) – that’s about 20 bucks! The hostel is good value (as mentioned above), and, the best part: the activities are basically all free! The fun stuff all involves hikes through the jungle to swimming holes and waterfalls, with barely an entrance fee to pay. Food is cheap (and cheerfully basic!), as is booze. You won’t spend a lot of cash in a few days in Mocoa, that’s for sure!


7. Monkeys will sit on your head…


Paway CEA Mocoa Putumayo
This is Chonta. She’s a nuisance.


The Paway Centro Ecoturistico Amazonico (read all about it in this post) is an amazing little animal rescue and rehabilitation centre set deep in the jungle not too far outside Mocoa. They provide homes for rescued Amazonian wildlife, including macaws, monkeys and turtles. Many of these animals are preparing to be released back into the wild so their interaction with humans is limited. However, Chonta and Chonto, a pair of Colombian Brown Woolly monkeys are too tame for that, and are simply living out their days in something approaching their natural habitat. They are supremely friendly, and will spend the entire visit sitting on your head and pulling your hair. Which is objectively awesome.


8. The most extreme Colombian selfie?


Fin del Mundo Mocoa Putumayo
Pretty extreme, eh?!

You decide!


9. It’s a city of Indiana Jones bridges!


Visit Mocoa Putumayo
I reckon even Indy would have been overwhelmed…


Seriously, these things are everywhere! If, like me, you love the idea of walking across rickety rope bridges deep in the jungles of Colombia, Indiana Jones-style, then you’ll love Mocoa! Ad how could you not, right! Have you no soul!


10. This baby monkey


Mocoa Putumayo wildlife
No words need be spoken.


Point thoroughly proven…


13 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why You Have To Visit Mocoa, Putumayo

  1. Sylvia on

    Sad to see, how things can change dramatically from one moment to the next. Life changing for the region.

  2. Caitlin on

    Hey Chris!

    Traveling to San Agustin in a few days and was hoping to head to Mocoa from there, and then over to Pasto to eventually cross into Ecuador. Any insight into travel between San Agustin and Mocoa?

    Cheers for your great blog!


      Chris on

      Hi Caitlin, as far as I know there is direct transport from San Agustin to Mocoa: if not you’ll need to get to Neiva or Pitalito and from there you can get bus direct to Mocoa

  3. Robert Stuart on

    hi Chris thanks for your blog. What’s the safest route from Cali? I guess you feel that route is safe. My safety concern as I’ll be traveling all alone with a backpack and only fair Spanish skills. Thanks Robert


      Chris on

      The ‘safest’ route would probably be to get from Cali to Pitalito and then take the bus from there to Mocoa. But to be honest, the route from Pasto over the mountains to Mocoa is much safer these days than years ago. Many travelers in Colombia basically have zero Spanish so with ‘fair’ skills you’ll be fine. Just make sure to get going early on the road from Pasto


        Kamil on

        Hi Chris,

        Based on your blog posts, I find that Putumayo may be the place to travel if one seeks natural healing, practices plant based medicine and studies Shamanistic methods and approaches to human well being. Are you, or anyone on posts familiar with these areas, and are they easily accessible in Putumayo, specifically in and around Mocoa regions. I would greatly appreciate a response at earliest convenience. Thank you

        P.S. i am also traveling throughout Colombia, similar to that of Chris, department by department, and i am looking, sooner or later, to “tag along” if anyone is interested


          Lela on

          Hi Kamil! I’ll be in Cartagena at the end of this month and am looking for people to explore with if you’ll be around 🙂

  4. Mercy on

    Hey! How many days did you stay there? I am a teacher in Pasto, and I have a week off work for Semana Santa. I’m not sure if I should spend a whole week in Mocoa, or just visit for a long weekend. Please help! 🙂


      Chris on

      I spent 4 days there, but could easily have filled a week. You could always combine a visit to Mocoa with a day or two in Sibundoy, in Putumayo but closer to Pasto and the Laguna de la Cocha in the paramo.

  5. solangie on

    Gracias por visitar mi país, y principalmente mocoa y sus alrededor son lugares maravilloso, gracias por hablar bien de esta región tan olvidada.

  6. Chris Davais on

    Thanks for your blogpost. I have traveled to Colombia with Habitat for Humanity a few times and I am also a novelist and part of my novel takes place near Mocoa. Could I contact you about some questions about the area? Christopher_T_Davis@hotmail.com


      Chris on

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. Happy to answer any questions you have: cbell@seecolombia.travel



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