Why Chiribiquete is called the Sistine Chapel of Colombia?


Serranía de Chiribiquete mountain range, and its surroundings, present a landscape in which strange forms rarely seen or even imagined stand out.

Together with the enormous extensions of virgin forest, it makes an illusory, magical and very old “lost world”, in the heart of the Colombian Amazon.

The Guiana Shield

The Guiana Shield is a geographic region located in the northeast of South America. It is a very old geological formation, being one of the oldest areas on Earth, from the Pre-Cambrian era.

Almost from the very moment of the formation of the planet Earth, some very high plateaus with vertical slopes, called tepuis, have originated in this place.

Tepuy is a term from the indigenous Pemón language, which means “mountain”.

Tepuis Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

In the Guiana shield, you will find the famous Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai Meru, the highest waterfall in the world with 979 m. Also, the highest and most impressive tepui of all, Mount Roraima. Both in Venezuela.

The Guiana Shield of Colombia

The western part of the Guiana shield is located in the eastern zone of Colombia, covering the departments of Guainía, Vichada, Vaupés, Caquetá, and Meta.

Guiana shield MAP ©Free Art License

The Guiana Shield penetrates Colombia, across the border with Venezuela and Brazil, and possessess those characteristic rocky outcrops known as Tepuis.

Being so far away from the Andean system, deep in the Colombian Amazon, these outcrops of the Guiana Shield are little known, with some exceptions.

Serranía de Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

Among the most famous tepuis are Cerros de Mavecure, in the department of Guainía, Sierra de La Macarena, place of the rainbow river, in Meta, Serranía de La Lindosa in Guaviare and the Iguaje tables, in Caquetá.

These mountains are a reduced scale version of the great mountains of the Guianas that culminate in the hills of La Neblina and Roraima in Venezuela.

Serrania del Chiribiquete

The Serrania del Chiribiquete is one of the oldest geological formations on the planet and is part of the Guiana Shield.

The mountain range of Chiribiquete was the territory of Paleoindian groups that left graphic testimony of the temporary occupation of some of its tepuis in many cave paintings.

Petroglyph Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

According to the experts, Chiribiquete was used as a rocky shelter that served as a temporary refuge and also as a place of worship for centuries.

The Rupestrian Art of Chiribiquete

Chiribiquete is one of the most emblematic places of American rupestrian art.

In this place, there is a collection of murals with more than 75,000 cave paintings, where the jaguar is the protagonist. But this number only represents between 5% to 8% of all of the paintings there.

Jaguar Petroglyph Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

The pictographs are supposed to be ancient writings that have maintained the existence of the ‘secret of the world’. For this reason, it has been called the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon. From there, the ancestral stories of some of the indigenous peoples of the region emerged.

Some studies point out that the human presence in the area of Chiribiquete possibly dates back to 15500 years BC.

According to more recent archaeological and chronological evidence, it has been specified that the age of the rupestrian art of Chiribiquete is around 22000 years, which makes it the oldest on the continent.

Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park

Chiribiquete is also a place where the biological richness is almost intact. There are few places in the world with these conditions, these characteristics of insularity, endemism, fragility and biodiversity.

Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

The Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park was created in 1989. This park is a mega reserve that contributes to maintaining the physical and biotic components of one of the areas with the highest biological diversity on the planet.

Scientists refers to Chiribiquete as a place with a high degree of endemism, and there is the discovery of new species with every expedition that has been made.

Colombia BIO expedition in Chiribiquete Park – Map ©MinCiencias

The declaration of Chiribiquete as a World Heritage Site (by UNESCO) occurred in July 2018; at which time the Government of Colombia also expanded the park’s territory.

Thus, the park constitutes a mixed heritage of humanity, since it represents a great contribution to the preservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems for the planet; as well as the multiplicity of cultural expressions of the communities that have settled through time in the territory.

Tourism in Chiribiquete

The demobilization of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016 made one think about tourism.

Unfortunately, the human presence caused vandalism, and the park has also been threatened by mining and illegal logging.

Opening this place as a tourist destination would end up greatly altering the conditions of the place, because it requires infrastructure, services, and permanent transit of people.

Thus, in order to protect Chiribiquete’s archeological and natural treasure, it is closed to the public. And you can only fly over it.

Overflights in the Serranía de Chiribiquete NNP

The aircraft will take off and land at the Jorge Enrique González Airport in the city of San José del Guaviare.

The overflights will take place in a single corridor defined and approved by National Parks, and there is a maximum time of three hours per overflight.

Chirbiquete Aerial View ©Parques Nacionales Naturales – Julia Miranda

The season, duration, and route of the overflights were designed to guarantee the protection of the ecosystems, and of the indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation who inhabit the area.

Where to stay in Chiribiquete NNP

Staying in Chiribiquete NNP is not allowed. However, since flights take off from San José del Guaviare, you can think about staying there. This way, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the natural and cultural richness of the Serranía la Lindosa.

Serranía La Lindosa

The Serrania La Lindosa is located 1.5 hours from San José del Guaviare. It is one of the places with more cave paintings in the world, and has been declared a Protected Archaeological Area of Colombia by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, ICANH.

Cave paintings of the Nukak, Serranía de La Lindosa. ©Julian Ruiz P. CC

This place is open for ecotourism, being the ideal space for you, before or after your flight, to get close to what you can find in the Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park.

Best time to visit Chiribiquete NNP

Only two overflights are allowed per week and during January, Easter, June, July, October and December.

Chiribiquete NNP Entrance fees

Overflights might vary according to the season, availability, tour operator and the number of travelers. However, an overflight may cost around 1450 USD.

 If you are planning a trip to Colombia, we are happy to help you have an unforgettable nature experience! Contact us

 

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.