Everything You Know About Hiking in Colombia is Wrong

For decades, Colombia’s wild areas were a no-go zone because of guerilla fighters and narcos, who occupied and fortified rural areas across the country. To venture beyond the city limits was to risk being kidnapped and held for ransom, a lucrative scheme the outlaws called miracle fishing.

Beginning around 2000, the government started negotiating peace deals with the armed rebels, all but putting an end to the practice. In 2016, Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, brokered a peace deal with FARC, the main guerilla group, and earned the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, Colombia’s once empty backcountry is seeing its first pioneering backpackers, with areas like the Páramo de Ocetá poised to become epicenters for adventure travel.

Páramos are unique places—the biome exists only in the eastern Andes, and Colombia has more of them than any other country. Páramo de Ocetá is considered by Colombians to be the most beautiful, with sweeping views, craggy ridges, rushing creeks, and endless stands of frailejónes.

Water is everywhere. The meadows hold it with such efficiency that hiking here is like walking on a sponge. We cross hundreds of little streams where the terrain funnels rainwater into lakes. Every step is guessing game as to which tussocks will bear weight.

The abundant water nourishes vegetation that exists here and nowhere else. The ground is such a patchwork of greens that it looks like camouflage. With these garden slopes perched at 12,000 feet, in a nature reserve that sees few visitors, the Páramo de Ocetá feels like a secret that’s maybe too well kept.

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