Have we told you recently we love Colombia? Uhm… so we love Colombia very much! Especially bikepacking backroads of Colombia stole our hearts and we spent most of our time in Colombia on them. Cycling on these roads is completely chilled experience!
And why is it so good to cycle on the backroads in Colombia? There’s abundance of them, in pretty good state, with super friendly people living in those few houses by these roads (just greet everybody ;)), the views are incredible and apart from few steep sections, they are all perfectly rideable even when loaded.
Where did we enjoy bikepacking backroads of Colombia the most?
1. Ibagué to Salento 100 kms
This road is a pure cycling paradise if you like to stay off the paved roads. It has got everything. We even wrote a separate post about it and published a video. If this doesn’t make you inspired to try it, then I don’t know what will! This area is part of Eje Cafetero – Coffee axis of Colombia and it’s very interesting to watch the locals dry the coffee by the road. If you don’t have your own bicycle with you, Salento Cycling offers tours when they take you to the pass in the jeep and you only ride downhill sections.
2. Riosucio to Jardín 50kms
For few kilometres after Riosucio you will stick to pavement which will then change to not very good dirt at this point. Quite washed out, loose stones. But that doesn’t last long thankfully. Overall the quality of the road will depend greatly on the weather. We just had a little bit of rain, otherwise quite sunny so it wasn’t bad at all.
The road will take you through beautiful forest and past fincas where you will see mainly tomate de arbol (tree tomato). Occasionally you will meet a motorbike or twice a day in every direction local public transport – chiva. This is a great tip for non-cyclists as well – experiencing this road in colourful chiva must be a lifetime experience too. You need to climb over 2900m pass (starting at 1770m). On the other side of the pass you will see many impressive waterfalls and then massive view into the valley as well as tiny Jardín down there. We had to rush the downhill a bit as there was a storm brewing over the hills but the beauty of this part of Colombia is incredible.
Jardín itself is a cute colourful town, with a selection of good restaurants and cafés (some of them vegan and vegetarian) and you can easily spend couple of days there.
3. Jardín to Jericó 35kms
Natural continuation of the previous road. Instead of going around through Andes, this one will take you through Buenos Aires. There will be couple of summits on the first 10 kilometres before the main one (2152m). Especially the start from Jardín is crazy steep (but quite short) and the locals from the jeeps and motorbikes will look at you as a “gringo loco”. The road is quiet with very little traffic. Again the quality of the road will greatly depend on the weather. The last section to Jericó we rode in the rain (and it was raining previous night) so there was a lot of water on the road, some mud and lots of slippery stones. By being careful though everything is possible.
Jericó is another charming little Colombian town. Locals sitting and chatting on the main square, colourful houses. We didn’t stay here but there are people who find it even more pleasant to stay than Jardín.
4. Sonsón to Nariño to Florencia 85kms
The highest point of this road is 2836 m asl. right after Sonsón, from which you gradually drop down to 620 m asl. It’s Colombia so don’t expect downhill all the way, nothing like that exists in this country :). You will climb even on the overall downhill. From Sonsón to Nariño the road is paved which helps on the steeper climbs. Nariño is very charming especially from the distance ;). What I mean by that is that riding through the town is nothing exciting but looking at it with the backdrop of the mountains and white fog when you take the road from the town is just spectacular. The “downhill fun” starts after Nariño. The road is not good and it will shake your soul out of you. But it’s downhill with very occasional uphills. When you get right before Puente Linda, there’s a treat awaiting. We didn’t plan camping at Termales Espiritu Santo but we arrived with dusk so to soak in the hot water after all day ride and next day early morning was quite nice. Only thing that wasn’t nice was the price. 26 000 COP ppn for camping including entry to the thermal pools.
Refreshed, it’s time to tackle the climb to Florencia (1624m asl). This is again coffee country and you’ll see many people drying their coffee at the roadside. Water is abundant with all the waterfalls, you’ll just need the filter. The views are absolutely breathtaking. People are kind and friendly (well, that’s Colombian classic). Florencia is little but very well stocked for re-supplying.