Mocoa, Colombia 🇨🇴 Gringo's Guide
The jungle "hidden gem" that's quickly being discovered by the world...
I recently went to Mocoa as part of a massive motorcycle trip.
I had been invited by a close friend who I used to date, and finally took her up on the invitation. She had been studying in Bogotá and had moved back to Mocoa to start her own business.
I had no idea what to expect, but was thinking I would be coming to a rough-and-ready run-down jungle town.
I was right about the jungle part. Otherwise, boy, was I wrong!
Mocoa, Colombia 🇨🇴
Approximately 56,000 people live in Mocoa. Being so small, it almost doesn't really have suburbs or outlying towns.
When you are in Mocoa, you are definitely in the jungle, and you can feel it!
The climate here isn't very hot in terms of degrees, but the humidity is consistently above 80%. And, of course, the sun almost couldn't be stronger, because of how close you are to the equator.
Mocoa, like a lot of the rest of Colombia, also sees a good deal of rain. The good news, though, is that the rain comes down hard but doesn't last very long.
For people who like the weather in Florida, for example, Mocoa won't be a problem at all. For the rest of us, we can just seek shade during the early afternoon hours and we'll be fine.
Why Visit Mocoa?
This small city, or large town, has a lot going for it…
It's quickly turning into a boutique town, with lots of amazing restaurants, shopping etc.
It has tons of things to do in and around town
It's incredibly friendly
It's quite cheap, even by Colombian standards.
The women here are exotic and beautiful
How to Get to Mocoa
The trip to Mocoa may be something everybody should do in their life. Be prepared, however, getting there (really, getting anywhere in the south of Colombia) is far from easy.
As you can see by the map below, it's more than a bit out of the way:
As is almost always the case, you can either go by land or by air.
You will save a lot of travel time by flying, this is true. But there are several disadvantages to flying into Mocoa.
Only one airport (BOG) connects directly with Mocoa, and there's a pretty limited schedule.
In addition, flights to Mocoa are surprisingly expensive, often costing $500-600 USD or more each way.
As if this weren't enough, you will be flying in an uncomfortable small plane and landing in a tiny regional airport. Also, because of this, your baggage allowance may be next to nothing, depending on circumstances.For this reason, if you do choose to fly to Mocoa, check the airline's baggage policy very carefully!
And, finally, the airport is actually in Villa Garzón, which is at least half an hour's drive away from Mocoa.
Most Colombians choose this route, despite the many downsides. This would be my preferred way of going to Mocoa also, believe it or not. There's one very important caveat to this, however.
Starting from Bogotá, Medellín or Cali (or almost any other point in Colombia), you have two ways to get to Mocoa. One of them is through Huila, the other is to take the Panamerican down to Pasto and then go to Mocoa from there.
I highly recommend that you take the Huila route and AVOID the road between Pasto and Mocoa, which is locally known as "the highway of death" or "the devil's trampoline." This stretch of road is about 80 miles long, and the half of it closest to Mocoa is one of the statistically most dangerous roads in the world!
Despite not being heavily transited at all, it has claimed over 2000 lives since it opened in the year 1930.
If you want to see it on video, check it out over here.
If you're a hardcore thrill-seeker and a big fan of extreme adrenaline, you will not be disappointed if you choose this route!
Your other choice is the Huila route. It's still far from perfect, although they are working like hell to make it better. The worst part, once again, is the part closest to Mocoa, of which some sections are still not paved. There's no sheer 2-mile drop into the abyss anywhere on this road, though.
Going by Huila leads you through a lot of gorgeous scenery and cool small towns. It's also a bit shorter in both distance and time than the other route, and it avoids going through Lower Cauca, which is probably my least favorite part of the country.
The total trip will take you 13 to 14 hours if you go on a bus, and will cost around $13-36 USD, depending on the season.