Colombia is a fantastic country to explore by bicycle. The options of which routes to take are endless. Many parts of Colombia are beautiful so even without a defined route you will come across gems of stretches of road. You can easily zigzag through the country cycling paved and unpaved roads. Choosing paved roads you won’t have any problem finding a cheap place to eat and/or sleep. Taking the more adventurous backroads ‘trocha’ it can be a bit more difficult to find a hotel or place to camp. We haven’t had any problems though, but there have been some tough days to reach the next town with places to sleep. Here is our top three of best cycling roads in Colombia
Cycling in the coffee region
Cycle through cloud forests, valleys filled with coffee plantations, and visit colorful colombian towns along the way
- Route: Cauca Viejo – Jericó -Jardín – Riosucio
- 124 km | 4300 altimeter ascent | 3100 altimeter descent
From Cauca Viejo a 22 km long gradual climb brings you up to Jericó. This smooth paved road seems to be famous among Colombian road cyclists. We cycled this road on a Sunday and shared the road with many other cyclists. Sunday apparently is the national cycling day and every Colombian with a bike goes for a ride. The reward for the long climb is the arrival in Jericó. Jericó is a nice colourful town, with a vibrant plaza and impressive cathedral. While most foreign travelers visit the nearby village Jardín, the Colombians can be found in Jericó for a long weekend.
The next day we cycled from Jericó to Jardín, another colourful coffee village although a lot more touristy. The road from Jericó to Jardín starts with a long unpaved descent to the village Andes. From here a paved road brings you to Jardín. The 15 km long climb up to Jardín is tough but becomes easier as you get closer to Jardín. You get rewarded with beautiful views on the valley filled with coffee plantations.
The road from Jardín to Riosucio takes you through cloud forests up to 2900m altitude. Gradually, the forest changes to pine tree forests. The mountains are decorated with all the colors of green you can imagine. The combination of green and steep mountains can make for some spectacular views.
Colombian wax palm route
A 100 km stretch of dirt road with thousands of wax palms
- Route: Salento – Toche – Ibague
- 106 km |3200 altimeter ascent| 4000 altimeter descent
Wax palms are the national tree of Colombia. While most tourists visit the wax palms in Valle de Cocora, this route will show you thousands of wax palms instead of a hundred. The climb is a long but gradual one. We stayed in Toche for a night, a little village halfway up the route. There was such a serene feel to this road and the village of Toche, it was all very relaxed.
The second day we cycled to Ibague. The last part of the road follows an old train road, and goes through some tunnels. It’s a tough last couple of kilometers to get into Ibague, so we advise to avoid going into the city if you can. Ibague is just another big city, nothing special in our opinion. From Ibague you can follow the road south (towards Tatacoa desert) or east towards Bogota. In hindsight, taking three days (instead of two days) to complete this route, we would probably have enjoyed it even more. There are some wild camping spots available, so it’s easily divided into three days.
A challenging Colombian trocha
The thougest route we cycled in Colombia, but also the most memorable
- Route: Sonson – Aguadas – La pintada
- 85 km |2000 altimeters ascent | 4000 altimeter descent
The road from Sonson to Aguadas is ‘just’ 43 kilometer, but with 2400 altimeter descent on a rocky road ánd another 1900 altimeter climb uphill, it has been the most challenging cycling day in Colombia for us. It took us more than 8 hours of cycling on the trocha between Sonson and Aguadas. But all the ingredients of what a fantastic bike day can be were there: a technical but beautiful descent, fantastic scenery, waterfalls, beautiful butterflies, a very difficult and tough climb, hike a bikes because we couldn’t make the 20+% inclines, a thunderstorm and sheltering at a small farm. Aguadas, the finish of this day, is a typical Colombian mountain village. It is one of 17 villages belonging to the Caldas Coffee Culture Landscape.
From the mountain village Aguadas you have a nice smooth descent back to the tropical temperatures in La Pintada down in the valley. We started in the clouds and slowly dropped below them going down, which made the scenery even more spectacular. The paved and winding road brought us to La Pintada. The town itself is noisy and dirty. Maybe we were unlucky with our hotel, we would advise to find a place a bit out of the centre.