TLDR? Cerro Tusa is the biggest natural pyramid in the world and an amazing day hike from Medellin.
If you’ve stepped into Medellin (or Colombia in general) then you’ve probably heard of Cerro Tusa. If you haven’t, well look at your next bag of coffee.
Cerro Tusa is not only the largest natural pyramid in the world but also the logo of the National Coffee Growers Federation. However, the real feat isn’t drinking a bag of coffee with its logo; it’s hiking the beast.
But, how does someone go about hiking Cerro Tusa? And, is it something that you can do alone? Plus, how do you get there? Not to worry, I’ve you covered.
World’s Largest Natural Pyramid: Cerro Tusa
As we mentioned Cerro Tusa is the largest natural pyramid in the world. It is located outside of the quiet mountain town of Venecia. No, not Venice, Italy, which Google will get confused about every time you type it in, but Venecia, Antioquia.
Depending on traffic and your choice of transportation, Venecia is about a 1.5-hour drive from Medellin. If you’re coming from Jardin, then it’s a bit longer but we will get to that later.
Cerro Tusa is 1,850 meters (6,070 feet) above sea level. The formation is caused by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The mountain is part of a protected area and home to many different species of plants and animals.
How To Get to Cerro Tusa
As we mentioned earlier, Cerro Tusa is located in Venecia, Antioquia which is about 1.5 hours from Medellin. If you’re driving, then the drive is very straightforward. You can also choose a private shuttle or bus from Medellin.
If you choose to take a bus, it’s a non-stop ride from Medellin at Terminal Del Sur. The bus rides are fairly inexpensive, and you can purchase your tickets at the kiosk in the terminal. The trip takes about one hour and 45 minutes to two hours and 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Getting to Cerro Tusa From Jardin
If you first want to hang out in the beautiful mountain town of Jardin (which I recommend), that is no problem. You can buy a bus ticket near Parque Principal in Jardin that will take you to a town called Bolombolo.
More than likely, the trip will be in a passenger van, and the ride should take an hour to an hour and a half.
When you get to Bolombolo you’ll need to get off and catch a ride on a Jeep. If you get confused the locals at the stop will be more than happy to help you out.
The Jeep will take you on an hour ride on a mountain road to Venecia. The trip is very scenic as you wind your way through the mountains.
Where to Stay in Venecia, Colombia
Unlike in Jardin, finding Airbnbs in Venecia can be a bit tricky. However, if you’re not set on staying in an Airbnb there are a few hotels in Venecia.
I recommend Hotel La Verada which is across the street from where the Jeep let us off. It’s also across from the street of Parque Venecia.
The hotel is clean, inexpensive, and has a very friendly staff. You can find Airbnbs outside of town but they will be more expensive and you’ll have to take a bit of a walk to town.
We walked into Hotel La Verada without a reservation and got a room for about $18 USD per night (subject to change). If you’re traveling on a budget, this is an excellent option.
Plus, if you’re only there to hike Cerro Tusa, you’ll want to be close to town so you can get an early start.
Do You Need a Guide to Hike Cerro Tusa?
Okay, so this is the question I had before I went. However, the information I could find online on the difficulty of the hike was conflicting.
I found some people saying it was impossible to do without a guide and others saying it was a moderate day hike if you’re in good shape.
However, as I talked to more locals in Jardin and in Venecia I found that it was highly recommended to have a guide.
As you’ll see soon, the trail is hard to find, and the hike is far from being moderate.
We lucked out, and the hotel host’s brother was a guide and agreed to take us to Cerro Tusa.
Hiking Cerro Tusa: What You Need to Know
Before we get started, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to pack for the hike. You should bring the following:
Day Pack with Water
Snacks (trail mix, candy, granola bars, etc.)
Sunhat or baseball cap
Hiking boots or shoes
First Aid Kit (unless your guide has one)
Here’s a play-by-play on getting to Cerro Tusa and what the hike is like.
Your guide will arrange to pick you up at your hotel or Airbnb in Venecia and take you to the trailhead. The ride is around 5km (about 3 miles) from the center of Venecia.
If you came from Jardin, then it will be the same road the Jeep brought you in on.
Enter Through a Series of Fences
Once, they drop you off, your tour guide will take you through a gated fence. You’ll find that there won’t be any signs saying you’ve arrived at Cerro Tusa.
There’s also no ranger station or any other buildings around. So without a guide, this can be confusing.
You’ll continue through grassy fields with cattle and cross more fences. However, the next fences are electric and your guide will help you disconnect them so you can pass.
This is about 20-30 minutes from the beginning of the hike. You’ll find it offers incredible views and it is peaceful in the mornings.
Start the Hike Up Cerro Tusa
After crossing the fences you will finally come to a big Cerro Tusa sign. From here the real hike begins.
The first 5-10 minutes aren’t too bad with a fair incline. However, quickly after you will be on your hands and knees crawling up rocks, grabbing tree trunks, and having your guide pull you up.
Momentum will be your best friend on this hike. If you stop, it is very difficult to start again.
However, there will be footing from previous hikers to help you out. When you come across these footings take advantage of them to take a break.
When you do take a break in a safe spot, look back to see how far you have come. It is incredible to see the views and how high up you are getting.
Summiting Cerro Tusa
When you see the Cerro Tusa sign at the top, you know you have made it!
Depending on your fitness level, hiking experience, and whether or not you had a guide to help you navigate the trail, it will take you around 1.5-3 hours to summit.
When you do finally make it to the top, enjoy the incredible 360 views of Venecia, Jardin, and the surrounding mountainside.
On a clear day, you can even see Medellin in the distance. Take your shoes off and sink your feet into the volcanic soil.
One thing to note is that there are a lot of bugs at the top. Be sure to bring bug spray, and also wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid getting eaten alive.
Take your time enjoying the summit because going downhill will take a while.
Hiking Down Cerro Tusa
Due to its steep pitch, you’ll be going downhill on your butt for most of the descent.
This sounds easy, but it’s actually quite difficult and dangerous if you don’t do it correctly.
When you aren’t on your butt, walk sideways or side to side to avoid slipping.
Also, keep your hands free as much as possible and use a walking stick if you have one. This will help you keep your balance.
There’s no need to rush going down because a fall could be disastrous. Plus, you’ve already accomplished the hard part which was summiting.
Your guide will go first and then help you down when needed. Before you know it, you’ll have successfully summited the largest natural pyramid in the world!
What To Do After Hiking Cerro Tusa
When you get back into Venecia, it is time to celebrate! Venecia is beautiful and home to friendly locals like Jardin or Guatape.
I recommend grabbing lunch and a beer at one of the many outdoor restaurants. You can also buy some souvenirs to remember your time in Venecia.
If you need to catch a bus back to Medellin then the bus station is on the same block as Hotel La Verada. The bus leaves every hour starting in the morning.
Keep in mind, that the bus every hour is during mid-hour, not during the hour. For example, the first bus would leave at 10:30 am.
Do You Have What it Takes to Summit Cerro Tusa?
Overall, hiking Cerro Tusa is an incredible experience. The views are some of the best we have seen in Colombia and it’s an adrenaline-pumping hike. For a safe and more enjoyable experience, get a guide. It’s worth it!
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