Colombia’s Pristine Mountains

Christian Kober / Corbis

The Colombian Andes offer climbing at its most pristine, without a tourist in sight. Of course, the peaks of Sierra Nevada del Cocuy have remained untrammeled for a reason: Guerrilla factions found their remoteness ideal for hiding out and preparing for war. That started changing in 2003, when a presidentially appointed brigade began patrolling the area. Now El Cocuy National Park, more than a thousand square miles of mossy boulders, craggy summits, and crisp glacier ponds, has been deemed safe for travelers.

A six-day customizable trip from See Colombia Travel Services starts and ends in El Cocuy. After a first-day hike to acclimate to the altitude and environs, your days are soon spent on the peaks of Laguna Grande de la Sierra, crossing glaciers, and standing atop waterfalls. The itinerary from the mountains overlooks famous peaks like Púlpito del Diablo and the plains of Colombia, and most nights you’ll sleep 16,000 feet closer to the stars. December to February travel is your best bet for good weather. [from $639;]

Before or after the climbs, spend a few days in Bogotá, which throbs with salsa beats and tiny restaurants that offer chocolate santafereño (hot chocolate served with a bit of cheese in the mug). Stay at Abadia Colonial house, in the Candelaria district [from $75;]. And for a unique way to get to Colombia, book passage on the Stahlratte, a shuttle sloop from Panama to Colombia, for a gorgeous four-day sail [$385 with meals;].

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