Alto de Letras Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Alto de Letras


Second longest bike climb in the world!

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Climb Summary

Cycling Hwy 50 to Alto de Letras - roadway leading up the mountains


Climbed by PJAMM on 9-12-17

And the top two adjectives to describe this climb are:   Beautiful and Lush.  

Beginning of Alto de Letras road bike climb - Mariquita.

We stayed at a very nice hotel in Mariquita -

 Hotel Brisas La Gaviota - highly recommended.

Beginning of Alto de Letras road bike climb - Mariquita.

PJAMM leaving the hotel in Mariquita, Colombia heading to start.

Beginning of Alto de Letras road bike climb - Mariquita.

Start of bike climb - Hwy 50, Mariquita, Colombia.

 The climb is also very, very long (third  longest in the world behind Mauna Loa from the Kona side and Wuling Pass East).  It is a bit of a trek to get to - we fly first to Bogota (there are many nonstop inexpensive flights from the U.S. and even Europe [Heathrow has nonstop to Bogota], but most travel from Europe requires a layover), then drive 175 km/110 miles to Mariquita where the climb begins.

The roadway is in excellent condition, has a shoulder for the most part and, while it does have a fair amount of traffic, felt safe to us, in spite of the fairly dramatic road warning signs we saw along the way.

Climbing Alto de Letras by bike - roadway and big trucks.

O.k. - there is a bit of traffic along this route.  

 Bicycle ride up Hwy 50 to Alto de Letras - crazy driver sign

Not sure if that is a statement or warning . . . ?

Be prepared for the altitude as this one rises to nearly 12,000’.  Since this climb is generally known (incorrectly) as the longest road in the world, it does get a fair amount of foreign cycling traffic, and rightly so.  However, beware that it is very difficult for an average rider to do this trip in one day as an out and back because its length and because there is nearly 3,000’ of climbing on the way back - it is a 100 miles 15,000’ day riding to the top from Mariquita then back to the start.

Fruit stand on Hwy 50 Colombia Alto de Letras bike climb

Many roadside fruit stands and little cafés along the way.

Cattle on Alto de Letras cycling climb Hwy 50

Much agriculture in this part of the country

Riding bicycle up Hwy 50 to Alto de Letras - panorama of roadway, moss fence and mountains

Beautiful scenery along the route.

Cattle on Alto de Letras cycling climb Hwy 50

Colombian camouflage . . .

Colombian coffee fields on Hwy 50 on bike climb to Alto de Letras

Colombian coffee fields

Riding bicycle through Fresno-Tolima on Alto de Letras bicycle climb.

Riding through the narrow streets of Fresno at km 25

Founded 1574; elevation 1,465 m (4,806’) population 30,750 (2005).

Steep grade sign and bicycle leaning against it on Alto de Letras climb by bike.

Steep sections along the climb.

Sign on Alto de Letras road bike climb 

Finish of Alto de Letras road bike climb

82 km later . . .

John Johnson and Will Plaugher at finish of Alto de Letras bike ride.


Steepest Gradients by Distance


We stayed at Hotel Brisas la Gaviota in Mariquita - the hotel is very nice, reasonable priced and just a couple kilometers from the start.  It is down some fairly obscure back roads, so be sure to have good GPS to assist you in navigating to this hotel.

Colombia Bike Tours: if you are interested in a cycling tour in the wonderful country of Colombia -   We have used this company and they are exceptional - we highly recommend using hiring them if you are interested in cycling in Colombia.