The Central Andes Birding Trail of Colombia: Coffee and Birds!

The Central Andes Birding Trail of Colombia is probably one of the most wonderful and complete birdwatching tourism routes in Colombia since it gathers a great diversity of environments and all the richness of the Colombian coffee cultural landscape, the heritage of Colombia, and humanity.

The Central Andes are basically composed of the proximity between the 3 mountain ranges of Colombia, which occurs precisely in the departments of Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda. Watch our video below and know more about these beautiful departments of Colombia.

In this region, you have contact with the inter-Andean valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers, and you can go from zero to 5000 meters above sea level. These characteristics make this region concentrate a high variety of ecosystems and unique environments ranging from the transition dry forests of the inter-Andean valleys through the Andean cloud forests, to the paramos and the perpetual snows.

The most relevant birding hotspots of this route are the Magdalena Valley Endemic Bird Area, the Choco Forest, and the paramos. In particular, in the western Andes, the Chocó ecoregion has a unique avifauna. Also, the páramo, an ecosystem above 3000 m, is full of range-restricted endemics and area specialists.

Paraphrasing Audubon, this is a land of endemic hummingbirds, colorful tanagers, singing antpittas and gorgeous parrots!

The Central Andes Birding Trail

Once again, the National Audubon Society of the United States was involved in the design of this route along with Colombian institutions and Government, training about 60 service providers linked to the birding offer in the region, including guides, lodging and nature reserve owners, local travel agencies and community-based tourism associations:

“The Central Andes Birding Trail was developed in partnership with Audubon’s Birdlife International partner Asociación Calidris, with support from the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism and FONTUR, Colombia’s Tourism Fund. The trail is network of Audubon-trained professional birding guides and operators, sites such as national parks and private reserves, and small businesses and support services. Bird-focused tourism benefits local communities and organizations such as the Yarumo Blanco Community Association, which works directly on local conservation issues and community development in and around the Otún Quimbaya Sanctuary.”

Among the places to be visited are included national parks, civil society nature reserves, private reserves, farms, and sanctuaries. And why not? you can also include some coffee farms that, although not officially part of the itinerary of the Central Andes Birding Trail, we highly recommend you to visit.

Small Area – Huge Diversity

This is a region of approximately 13880 square kilometers, an area similar to the area of Puerto Rico or the state of Connecticut, or even the Death Valley National Park in California and Nevada in the United States. And it is surprising that in this relatively small area there is so much diversity.

For this reason, on this trip you will be able to combine a great variety of destinations where each place has its own specialties; do not think that because it is such a small area you will not find a great diversity. You are in Colombia!

It is precisely this richness of landscape and birdlife, together with the cultural richness and the hospitality of the people of the Colombian coffee region, which gives this birding route in Colombia a very special character.

Birding Spots of The Central Andes Birding Trail

You should know that in this region there is a wide range of destinations for bird watching tourism, however not all of them are included in the itinerary designed for this trail.

The reason for this is most likely due to the difficulty of access or lack of hotel infrastructure or roads that prevent these places have minimum standards for high standard tourism, or the basics for the birdwatchers.

This does not mean that these places cannot be visited, but you will have to be prepared for difficult terrain or to have to travel long distances the same day or stay in rural houses or farms of medium to low infrastructure.

In our blogs about each department, you can find the complete offer of birding destinations in each of them. I recommend you to visit our entries 9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas and Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle.

Highlight Species of The Central Andes Birding Trail

Among the almost a thousand birds you can find in this route, the most highlighted are Northern Screamer, Cauca Guan, Colombian Chachalaca, Chestnut Wood-Quail, Buffy Helmetcrest, Dusky Starfrontlet, Spot-crowned Barbet, White-mantled Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Grayish Piculet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Rusty-faced Parrot, Indigo-winged (Fuerte’s) Parrot, Yellow-eared Parrot, Parker’s Antbird, Moustached Antpitta, Bicolored Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Hooded Antpitta, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Tatama Tapaculo, Stiles’s Tapaculo, Paramillo Tapaculo, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Apical Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Yellow-headed Manakin, Club-winged Manakin, Munchique Wood-Wren, Black-and-gold Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Multicolored Tanager, Turquoise Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Tanager Finch, Yellow-headed Brushfinch, Sooty Ant-Tanager, Crested Ant-Tanager, Baudo Oropendola, Red-bellied Grackle, Velvet-fronted Euphonia.

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri) at Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas, Colombia
Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii
Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi
Black-and-gold-Tanager – Bangsia melanochlamys



  • La Romelia, a.k.a. Finca Romelia Colors of Life.
  • Tinamú, a.k.a. Tinamu Birding & Nature Reserve.
  • Cameguadua, this is a reservoir.
  • Los Alcázares, is an ecopark in the heart of the city of Manizales.
  • Rio Blanco, a private Nature Reserve.
  • Rio Claro, a Private Nature Reserve in the coffee-growing area of Villamaría.
  • Recinto del Pensamiento, a very nice hotel on the outskirts of Manizales. The annual Avitourism Congress is held there.
  • Los Nevados National Park.
  • Bellavista Reserve, a transition area of tropical dry forest near the town of Victoria.
  • Guarinocito, oxbow lake also near to the town of Victoria and La Dorada.


  • Mistrato, a little town in Risaralda.
  • Santa Cecilia, found in the Choco region.
  • Montezuma Road and Tatama National Park.
  • Apia
  • Botanical Garden of the Technologic University of Pereira
  • Cortaderal
  • Otun Quimbaya


  • Salento-Area
  • Quindio Botanical Garden
  • Rancho California
  • Pijao

Itinerary Example

The following itinerary is just an example of the route you can take. However, if you want to see more options, visit the itinerary designed by us.

Remember that you can customize your trip with us. Don’t miss the opportunity to live cultural experiences such as coffee tasting, rum tasting, chocolate production, visit the wax palm forests, among many other activities, either alone or with your family.

The following example trip proposed by Audubon lasts 17 days. It starts in Honda and ends in the Nevados National Park, and includes experienced tour leaders and trained local guides in every location.

Day 1 – Arrival in Bogotá. Overnight near the airport.
Day 2 – Birding travel to Honda. Begin your day birding the marshes near the airport in Bogotá, hoping for the endemic Bogotá rail. The afternoon will be spent traveling to Honda or the Victoria area. Overnight in Honda (or Victoria).
Day 3 – Birding Victoria. The morning will be devoted to visiting the Bellavista reserve. Overnight in Honda (or Victoria).
Day 4 – Laguna Guarinocito and travel to Manizales. Overnight in Manizales.
Day 5 – Río Blanco. Birding in the morning at Río Blanco. Overnight in Tinamú lodge.
Day 6 – Tinamú reserve, travel to Salento. Birding at the Tinamú reserve and then travel to Salento, stopping at the Cameguadua reservoir. Option 2 for this day starts early in Tinamú to drive to la Soledad, Río claro to bird with the community and travel to Salento.
Day 7 – Birding Salento and Camino nacional. Option 2 for this day includes a visit to Pijao.
Day 8 – Morning birding and drive to Otún Quimbaya after lunch, overnight there.
Day 9 – All day Otún Quimbaya. All-day in the Otún Quimbaya area, with a post-lunch break. Overnight in Otún Quimbaya.
Day 10 – Morning in Otún Quimbaya, drive to the western Andes. Last morning in the Otún Quimbaya. Afternoon driving to the town of Mistrató. Overnight in Mistrató. Option 2 for this day starts birding in Otún Quimbaya and then driving to Apía.
Day 11 – Visit the wonderful Chocó forests of Mistrató or Apía, returning for lunch in town. Then travel to Pueblo Rico, and onward to the Montezuma ecolodge. Overnight in Montezuma.
Day 12 – Montezuma all day. All-day in Montezuma starting at the high elevation site and birding our way down. Overnight in Montezuma.
Day 13 – Montezuma all day. Morning visit to Santa Cecilia, afternoon and overnight in Montezuma.
Day 14 – Montezuma in the morning, drive to Santa Rosa de Cabal.
Day 15 – Start early to look for the Indigo-winged (Fuertes’s) parrot in Cortaderal. In the afternoon, transfer to Manizales and Los Nevados national park. Overnight in hotel Term ales del Ruiz.
Day 16 – Los Nevados National Park. Overnight in Hotel Termales del Ruiz.
Day 17 – Transfer to airport in Pereira. Flights back to Bogotá and home.

As time goes by, the list of Colombian birding trails has grown and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country.

Check all of our Birding Routes here!


Take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots, and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours contact us and plan your trip with us.

  • Birdwatching in Colombia – Procolombia
  • Audubon Society Website
  • The Central Andes Birding Trail
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The 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.

What Kind of Birder You Think You Are – Birding Colombia

Yes, we have been watching you. We want you to come and make a birding trip in Colombia, and that’s why we are interested in knowing what kind of bird watcher you are.

Since we can’t give you a direct diagnosis, here I will tell you what the most common types of birders are, according to recent studies. This will help you identify with one of them.

If you know what kind of bird watcher you are, it will be easier for you, and for us, to plan the birding trip of your dreams in Colombia. 

We will give you some of our suggestions on what you could do and where you could go if you come to Colombia to watch birds. To start, I recommend you visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

Without further ado, here are the most common bird watchers’ types: Hard Core Birders, Enthusiastic Birders, and Casual Birders (Ecotourists). Each segment differs in objectives and means to achieve satisfaction.

Hard Birding

Hard birding corresponds to extremely specialized tours to find difficult bird species targets.

The Hard Core Birders 

You are the difficult to influence birdwatcher. If your interest is to identify the greatest number of birds from a given location, and increase your life list, you can consider yourself as a hardcore birder.

In general, hardcore birdwatching is associated with competitions among birders, whether it be on a lifetime/region basis, or during a specified period. Examples of this are the Global Big Day, the Big Year, or to get into the top ten world listers.

If you are a lister, Colombia is a must to visit since we have more than 70 endemic bird species in our country. There is no way to avoid your visit.

Comedy icons Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson star in THE BIG YEAR. ©HBO

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

For a hardcore like you, Colombia can be expensive because of transportation. Many of the endemic species are found in places far form big cities, where the road infrastructure, and even hotel infrastructure, is not very good. Additionally, add the costs of the flights you must take to arrive there.

Once in the place, you will need specialized transportation, as for example 4×4 trucks that can enter these sites, or horses. It is also necessary your willingness to endure long journeys to get to some places.

Examples of places where you need specialized transportation are Bahía Solano, in Chocó, Montezuma, in Risaralda, the Ukuku Lodge, in Tolima, or Mitú, in Vaupés.

Guianan Cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola rupicola, Mitú, Vaupés

Getting up very early in the morning is almost unavoidable. This is because some birds appear at specific times early in the morning, so if you arrive late, you will miss it.

Examples of such morning birds are the Fuertes’s Parrot in Risaralda, the Santa Marta Parakeet in the Sierra Nevada, or some antpittas in Caldas.

Finally, the guide will be expensive. Local birding guides in Colombia with a high level of expertise in birds, and who also speaks your language are few. 

There are some specialized birding companies who can offer you these services, many of them from outside Colombia. In Sula, we want local companies to grow, and that is why we support and promote local operators and guides.

Characteristics of a Hardcore Birder

  • Extremely dedicated birders
  • Impatient with less-skilled birders and crowds
  • Pursue to increase “life list”
  • Competitive
  • Bring their own equipment
  • Not interested in other activities
  • Satisfaction comes from nature observations
  • Predominantly men
  • Will travel long distances to see new or rare birds
  • You guys are the smaller segment, less than 20%

Soft Birding

If you like birds, but also socializing, living other experiences. Or if you are not interested in filling lists, or competing, or do not want to be “suffering” so much in your birding trip, this is your group of birders!

The Enthusiastic Birders

I consider myself into this kind of birder, I am a broad-based nature lover. Yes, I am under suspicion for being a biologist, but I know competing of life lists are not in my preferences.

However, I have the desire to watch a large and diverse number of birds. And this does not imply going through discomfort.

Enthusiastic birders still need specialized attention related to birds, with good and fast transport services, easy to walk trails, and satisfaction. Satisfaction comes from being able to watch, as much as possible, all the available birds.

Local Birders at Vado Real, Suaita, Santander, Colombia

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

Places that will make you happy are the civil society nature reserves. Among them, we recommend you Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve in Caldas, El Dorado Bird Reserve in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Mururito and Lagos de Menegua in Meta, El Encanto in Palestina – Huila, El Descanso in the Old Way to Buenaventura, and La Minga Ecolodge in Valle del Cauca.

If you want to know more about nature reserves in Colombia visit our entry Responsible Travelers and Nature Reserves in Colombia.

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

The above-mentioned places still retain some of the privacy and direct contact with nature that we always try to find. There, everything is ready for you to watch the birds, and take with you the best experience.

Characteristics of an Enthusiastic Birder

  • Broad-based and knowledgeable nature lovers
  • Slower, more relaxed travelers
  • Tolerate birders of all skill levels
  • Satisfied as long as birds are seen
  • Confortable in larger groups
  • Interested in other nature and cultural activities
  • Satisfaction comes partly from socializing with others
  • Slightly more women than men
  • You represent about 50% of birding tourists.

The Casual Birders

The family guys! If you like to watch birds with less effort and more comfort, and/or travel with your spouse and kids, this is your group!

For these groups, birds are not the main goal of the trip. Birdwatching may be an add-on to other activities such as cultural experiences, safari, trekking, bicycling, glamping, etc.

@Colombiafrank at Mururito

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

There are plenty of option in Colombia for you to find. The coffee destinations and the coffee triangle are the most recommended for this kind of experiences. You can mix your love for coffee with your interest in nature and watch some birds, I recommend you read our entry Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

So, if you like birds, but also to do trekking or bicycling I recommend you visit Minca, in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Or if you prefer to experience the local culture and observe other animals, I recommend you El Encanto de Guanapalo, Hato La Aurora or Altagracia in Casanare for a safari and eastern plains cowboy activities.

For more information about safari in Colombia read our entry Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

But, what if you like is coffee and rum, and walk around, a swimming pool?, visit Hacienda Venecia in Caldas, or La Palma y El Tucán near to Bogotá.

Safari in Casanare

In general, these tours do not need an expert birding guide. You can venture out just to look for the birds, as there will always be easy routes designed for this within the places you lodge or in the surroundings.

You would be paying for the comfort, convenience, and variety of activities.

Characteristics of a Casual Birder

  • Non specialist birder
  • Combine birding with other nature-based activities
  • Interested in seeking something different from home
  • Prefer nature destinations accessible by road
  • Satisfaction comes from superficial interaction with nature
  • Your group represents about 30% of birding tourists

I hope you found your answer about what kind of bird watcher you are. Now you are ready to plan your trip!

If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us



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.

The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamú Birding is a natural reserve 15 km away from the city of Manizales, in the village of San peregrino. More than 40 years ago, in the heart of the coffee region in Colombia, Tinamu Birding was a coffee farm. Over the years, the Londoño Jaramillo family allowed their coffee and banana plantations to become a forest.

The family started supporting the planting of native trees in the region, protecting and reforesting a small part of the sub-Andean forest in the department of Caldas. This resulted in a high density of fauna and flora, concentrated in a land completely surrounded by open coffee and fruit tree plantations, becoming a refuge for local wildlife.

Origins of the Tinamú Birding Lodge

The real story begins just six years ago, in 2014, when Mauricio Londoño, its owner, made the decision to build a bird lodge. Since then, it became a successful and unique project in the country, competing internationally with eco-lodges and bird-lodges in countries like Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Costa Rica, which have a longer trajectory in birding and nature tourism. Since that time, ecotourism has been one of the main sources of self-financing for the reserve. They are specialized in offering a high level of service for birding tourists, who seek comfort and at the same time all the facilities to observe and photograph birds in their natural habitat.

According to Mauricio, a lot of perseverance and discipline was needed, because one of the main challenges was to adapt the facilities around the lodge to attract the birds. As is well known, the installation of bird drinkers and bird feeders requires a daily commitment to maintenance, to ensure the presence of the birds, but most of all, the health of the birds.

Tinamu Birding Visitors

Initially the bird lodge received hardcore birders, and still does, if not all of them have already passed through this place. As time went by, it became specialized in receiving people interested in having contact with nature and, at the same time, having the best possible comfort and attention. Today, Tinamú Birding is oriented to travelers looking for quality and comfort, and does not receive backpackers or outlanders. Just so you know, even camping is forbidden and no buses are accepted that bring more than 10 people.

Bird photographers at Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

Eventually, Tinamu specialized to hosting bird photographers. Bird photographers are a particular segment of bird watching tourism, who generally carry photographic equipment that can weigh up to 15 kilograms. These people do not walk much, but rather sit and wait for the perfect conditions to photograph the birds.

Facilities for bird photographers and bird watchers at the Tinamú Birding Lodge

Steely-vented Hummingbird at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The facilities offered for bird photographers at the Tinamu are concentrated on attracting the birds with food and water to scenarios well suited for bird photography. These locations are native plant gardens, with feeders and waterers installed around them. There are several natural perches installed there suitable for bird photography.

Around the lodge you can observe around 60 species of birds, among them the Gray-headed Dove, and the Little Tinamou itself, which gives the name to the reserve, has been baited to facilitate its observation. Some sectors even have hides for photographers.

Hide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Accommodation and staff

Highlights at a glance:

Tinamu offers a high level of service, from food, lodging, cleaning in the lodge and in the forest. All the employees are from rural families who live nearby, and are trained in the love of service and the appreciation and respect for the clients, and so provide a qualified service. There are 9 staff members in charge of providing the best attention in all the services of cooking, lodging, guidance and maintenance of the reserve.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The lodge has large rooms of between 25 and 30 square meters, with comfortable beds, designed for a senior and family segment, so that people receive good service and feel good. The bathrooms are very spacious, with hot water, and are safe and functional for the senior tourist.

Accommodation capacity in the Tinamu is reduced to guarantee peace in the natural environment, allowing wild animals to come close. For this reason there are no dogs, cats, television or radio that can disturb the tranquility. It is a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of nature.

Accomodation at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Today, the recovery of the forest has been so successful that, only 3 months ago, Tinamu Birding Lodge was declared as a Civil Society Nature Reserve (CSRR 031-19 before Colombian National Natural Parks NNP according to resolution 056 of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development). Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve is proudly rising as one of the most important private wildlife conservation centers in the region, and becoming a national reference for others who are beginning to understand and follow its example.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve, notice it is a refuge in the middle of a highly fragmented landscape.

Today, the reserve guarantees the regeneration and restoration of the ecosystems within its 12.6 hectares. It protects a strategic habitat in the middle of the agricultural zone. This habitat is a refuge for 227 species of resident birds and 33 species of migratory birds. Also, different types of mammals, reptiles, insects, and attractive butterflies and moths, as well as many plants and fungi. Check out the gallery of wildlife you can photograph at Tinamu at the end of this post.

Sustainable Practices at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Their new goal is to increase their environmental education programs focused on children and youth living in the surrounding area, people with disabilities, and the elderly. They are also looking for alliances with institutions, schools and universities, and agreements with ornithological associations in the country, to develop research projects for the conservation and biodiversity of nature.

Children from San Peregrino at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Among the main activities carried out in the reserve for the protection of the forest are:

  • The use of native trees for reforestation.
  • The creation of artificial nests for birds and mammals.
  • Research of the avifauna by carrying out permanent bird censuses.
  • Day and night monitoring of species with camera traps, videos, sound recording and photographic records.
  • Free workshops for children and young people in the San Peregrino area with emphasis on water, nature and bird care.
  • Workshops for groups of blind and disabled people with a focus on awareness and care of the environment.
  • Invitation of international experts, through PROCOLOMBIA and other institutions, as advisors for the preservation of the environment.
Juan Pablo Culasso at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Birds and Coffee at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Within the reserve there are also some relics of the coffee plantations of the past. These trees have been left to grow along with the native species from the reforestation. The banana is also kept, but this time for the maintenance of the birds’ food. The coffee and banana plantations are maintained naturally as they do not receive any agricultural treatment. Birds like the tinamou and some species of grallarias are very attracted by these mixed covers of coffee and forest.

Recently Tinamú created the Café de las Aves, a completely organic coffee, roasted in Chichiná, Caldas which is offered to visitors during their stay, and for sale in general. The production is not industrial, and the profits from the sale of this coffee are destined to the maintenance of the food for the birds. If you want to know more about the relationship between birds and coffee read our entry Did you know birds can be saved by the coffee you drink?

What has been happening at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve during Covid-19 pandemia?

During the pandemic, Tinamu has taken care of the people and their jobs. The lovely staff have prepared all the necessary biosecurity protocols to receive you with all the care you need. At the moment they only recommend you to #stayhome. If you like to know how to visit the reserve, write to us and we will be happy to design your trip.

Fernando Galvis – Birdwatching Guide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve
Verónica Echeverry – Receptionist at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
James Martínez – Gardener Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Dorany García – Housekeeper Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Nancy and Natali -Chefs Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Fauna and flora you can find at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve (Photo gallery)

Pieridae Butterfly
Blue-headed Parrot
Zingiberaceae Plant
Bee pollinating a passion fruit flower.
Water lily.
White-bearded Manakin
Western Emerald
Spectacled Owl
Bamboo mushroom
Earthstar mushroom
Berthold’s bush anole.
Long-tailed weasel.
Tent-making bat.
Moustached Puffbird.
Gray-headed Dove.
Nine-banded armadillo.
Stump-tailed porcupine.
Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth.
Crab-eating fox.
Western basilisk.
Bay-headed Tanager.

Sula thanks Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve for the visual material shared for the publication of this post. Also for receiving us at the reserve to know first hand everything they have to offer. This allows us to give the best information to our clients about this destination.


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. 


Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

In a previous post about coffee and birding we told you about the important relationship between the coffee you consume and the conservation of wild birds and ecosystems. Colombia is the number one country in terms of bird species richness and at the same time it is a world reference for the quality of its coffee. Recently, there is a growing awareness in the coffee sector about the importance of shading coffee to obtain better flavor qualities. But the benefits are not only in terms of flavor quality, but also in environmental terms, since shade is facilitated by the use of native tree species or even fruit trees of agricultural interest such as avocado, orange, chachafruto, among others, that protect and shelter wild animals like birds, bats and bees.

There are coffee farms with different approaches to nature and bird conservation. Some, in addition to maintaining a shade grown crop, are concerned with preserving relics of primary or secondary forests that serve as biological corridors and wildlife refuges. In addition, some of these farms have understood the importance of caring for these forests near rivers and streams, as this ensures the protection and maintenance of water sources and soil. Finally, they are also concerned about the social and economic development of the local human communities.

On the other hand, these estates offer unique experiences related to coffee, from showing how it is produced from the seed, to conducting experienced tastings or barista workshops. Thus, they offer their visitors incomparable stays in typical coffee houses, unique in their architecture and colorful, where they can stay and relax. Here we will tell you which are the best coffee farms in Colombia where you can join the passion for coffee and birds.

Top 5 Coffee and Birding Destinations in Colombia

Hacienda Venecia – Caldas

226 species


Located in the countryside between Salento and Medellín, 20 minutes (10.5 km) from the center of the city of Manizales, near the Coffee Highway, towards Pereira. It is located in the Central Andean Mountain Range, near Los Nevados National Park. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its exclusive Coffee Cultural Landscape (PPC).

How to get there

Due to its central location in the coffee axis, there are routes from Manizales, Pereira, Salento, Medellín and Bogotá. It can be done by public transportation or private transportation organized by the hacienda.

The Farm

Hacienda Venecia is a coffee farm with 100 years of tradition with experience in growing, processing, exporting, roasting and marketing coffee. Its coffee brand is known as Hacienda Venecia, and is a coffee of Colombian origin. Its coffee plantations are surrounded by native trees and water springs, which support the movement and permanence of birds and wildlife in general.

The most interesting thing about the Hacienda, for travelers, is that it offers a variety of accommodations that encompasses all types of travelers from the most demanding high-end to the cheapest backpackers and overlanders. It has a main house, a lodge, and a hostel. Free coffee is always available at each of the accommodations. The farm has a swimming pool at the Coffee Lodge that can be used by all guests. It also offers coffee tour, coffee preparation and barista workshop, chocolate workshop, banana cooking class, bird watching, ecological walks around the reserve and horseback riding.

Environmental responsibility

Organic food production is promoted, such as happy hen eggs produced by neighboring farms. The farm also protects bees through beekeeping, providing shelter and sustenance for these important pollinators. One of their current projects is to support the local primary school located a few meters from the Hacienda Venecia. In this project, biology students from the University of Caldas teach the children of the school how to observe birds. The Hacienda offers binoculars as a gift, so that they can connect with nature and inspire older generations to care for the environment. The class also promotes the children’s interest in perhaps one day becoming birding guides.

Bird watching at Hacienda Venecia

This activity is open to the public and guests at no cost. The hacienda itself has developed a self-guided birding tour, which includes a guide, binoculars and checklist, and which is free of charge. Just over 220 species of birds can be observed here. The development of this activity at Hacienda Venecia is so important, especially for promoting this activity as part of local development and education about birds. You can even find a guide for people who do not have experience in bird watching. In the guide you can learn from how to use the binoculars, to what applications are recommended to identify and list birds, which are Merlin and eBIrd.


Colombian Chachalaca, Dwarf Cuckoo, Blue-tailed Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Grayish Piculet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Parker’s Antbird, Black-chested Jay, Scrub Tanage, Black-winged Saltator among others.

Hacienda la Sierra – Antioquia

150 species


it is located in the Central Andean mountains of Antioquia department, Via Medellin – Fredonia, Corregimiento Los Palomos, Colombia.

How to get there

by car just one hour from downtown Medellín and two hours from José María Córdoba International Airport. Private drivers from Hacienda La Sierra can pick you up and drop you off at the airport or at your accommodation in Medellín. You can also arrive by helicopter upon request.

The Farm

Oro Molido is a family business that produces and exports premium gourmet coffees. Through the Foundation that carries the same name, they are committed to social and environmental responsibility, through sustainable practices to increase the economic growth of the region.

Hacienda la Sierra is located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Cerro Bravo. It has a large, traditional house with very spacious and luxurious rooms. From the Hacienda you can visit the village of Fredonia. Inside the hacienda you can take walks or horseback rides through the plantation and the reserve; a guided tour of the coffee harvesting process; a barista workshop; picnics on horseback. Walks through coffee plantations or along wide shady paths in the middle of walnut trees are also offered, as well as an ascent along a pre-Hispanic trail to the top of Cerro Bravo, located at 2600 meters above sea level, or the top of Cerro de Tusa, the region’s archaeological site.

Environmental responsibility

The welfare of the communities living around it, especially children and young people, are the main concern of the hacienda, offering education programs, medical brigades, research stations, art exhibitions and music training for the Peace Symphony Orchestra. Hacienda La Sierra is certified by the Rainforest Alliance for protecting the region’s biodiversity. It protects eight natural water sources, which guarantee the viability of the plantation, as well as the well-being of the local communities. At the same time, they ensure the protection of the flora and fauna and the sustainable use of the soil.

Bird watching at Hacienda la Sierra

About 150 species of birds have been reported at the farm. When we had the opportunity to visit, we completed a list of about 50 species in a short time and without much effort of walking or searching. This activity can be booked as a day trip or during your stay, the tour is done with professional birding guides who take guests or visitors through the different trails of the hacienda.


Colombian Chachalaca, Striped Cuckoo, Andean Emerald, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-headed Barbet, Azara´s Spinetail, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, among others.

Finca Vista de Nieve – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

100 species


The farm is located 14.5 km from the municipality of Minca, towards the village of Cincinati, a road that ends about 30 km from Minca.

How to get there

The only way to get to the Finca is by 4×4 car due to difficult road conditions. It is also possible to arrive by motorcycle from Minca. The inhabitants of the region generally use motorbikes for transportation.

The Farm

Vista de Nieve is one of the most special coffee farms in Colombia. It has a spectacular view of the Barranquilla – Santa Marta highway through the Magdalena swamp and the sea. Like Hacienda la Sierra, it belongs to Oro Molido, a family business that exports premium coffees.Finca Vista de Nieve is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, immersed in one of the most emblematic places for bird watching in Colombia, as there is a great concentration of endemic bird species. The farm, located between 1300 and 1500 m asl, has shade grown coffee plantations, where you can find several endemic species of the region. It has private lodging, a comfortable house of more than 100 years of construction. The advantage of Finca Vista de Nieve is that it offers good quality alternative accommodation in Minca for bird watchers. At the moment, no coffee or barista tours are offered there.

Environmental responsibility

As part of the Oro Molido company, Finca Vista de Nieve is also under the objectives of the Oro Molido Foundation to preserve the region through sustainable practices, in this case, by strengthening the local economy by hiring local personnel and producing a coffee of origin.

Bird watching at Finca Vista de Nieve

bird watching can be done around the house, along the road or between the paths of the coffee plantations. Lodging and food service must be reserved in advance. The place serves as the epicenter for visiting the hotspots in the area such as the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo.


Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, White-lored Warbler, Bay-headed Tanager among others.

El Encanto Natural Reserve – Huila

219 species


km 2 via PNN Cueva de los Guacharos, Palestina, Huila. It is located in the area of influence of the Guacharos Cave and Churumbelos National Park, within the Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO as a mega-diverse territory.

How to get there

you can get there by motorcycle or 4×4 truck through an open road from the municipality of Palestina Huila, which is 2.6 km away. Its location within a radius of less than 200 km from the capital cities of Popayan, Mocoa and Florence is strategic as the epicenter to travel the region. The nearest city is Pitalito, 22 km away, which has a transport terminal and airport.

The Farm

El Encanto is an ecotourism project that emerged in 1997, in the municipality of Palestina Huila. Today, it is a Civil Society Natural Reserve declared by National Parks as one of the best ecotourism destinations in the Department of Huila. El Encanto is a natural paradise surrounded by mountains, water, coffee, flowers and birds. Thanks to the effort of 20 years by the Molina Cruz family, today it offers lodging services in Guadua Cabins, typical food of the region, gourmet dishes with local ingredients, and also offers vegetarian and vegan options. This is the dream come true of this family that hopes to share with their guests the richness of their region and offer the best service. They produce a delicious organic coffee grown under shade and with permaculture practices, where more than 260 species of birds live.

Inside the reserve you can enjoy guided bird watching activities, coffee production workshops, orchid watching, arthropod watching and hiking. This is a community tourism destination where you will find the coffee landscape along with the magic of the Andean forests of southern Colombia.

Environmental Responsibility

In addition to enjoying one of the most beautiful regions of Colombia, the Colombian Massif, many farmers are being supported in their hard work to conserve natural resources as well as native fauna and flora. As a Nature Reserve, it works to improve land use, conservation, agricultural production and ecotourism. Its main objective is the preservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of them, combining agricultural production, in a permaculture system, with the conservation of Andean forest. The use of ecotourism specialized in birds, orchids and arthropods also helps to finance the reserve. By promoting sustainable tourism practices, El Encanto guarantees the conservation of these ecosystems, as well as the work and livelihood of many rural families who respect their territory. They also offer volunteer work.

Bird watching at El Encanto Natural Reserve

El Encanto offers specialized birding guide service, with 219 species of birds, among which 7 are endemic species. You will be able to enjoy the birds between 1400 and 1500 m asl as follows:

  • El Encanto Ecoturistic Reserve, subandean forest with +200 species;
  • La Riviera Natural Reserve, Andean forest, between 2000 – 2200 meters above sea level, with +300 species;
  • Alto del Oso, Andean forest between 1900 and 2100 meters with +200 species.

El Encanto also has one of the best bird feeders in the country, well adapted for bird photography.


Colombian Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Tolima Dove, Tolima Blossomcrown, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Apical Flycatcher, Dusky-headed Brushfinch, Velvet-fronted Euphonia among others.

La Palma & el Tucán – Cundinamarca

360 bird species around


The farm is located 2 hours from Bogotá, in the municipality of Zipacón, Cundinamarca.

How to get there

You can get there by private transportation leaving from the south of Bogota on the Bojacá-Cachipay road, a journey of about 65 km. This is the closest coffee destination to Bogotá.

The Farm

La Palma & el Tucán is a small producer of specialty coffee, awarded for its high quality. The plantation is surrounded by relics of Andean cloud forests. In 2017 this farm made an innovative proposal around coffee production, creating a boutique hotel to offer experiences. Among the experiences offered by the hotel, visitors can: learn about the different stages of the coffee process in an ecological coffee farm, get in touch with nature, learn about the different species and factors that make coffee special, coffee cupping workshops, learn about the machinery that is behind the processing of coffee, learn about the steps needed to transform a freshly picked coffee bean into the coffee that is packaged in the markets. The food offered by the hotel is prepared with ingredients that grow in the region.

The hotel consists of nine wooden cabins, all with terraces and an open-air shower in the middle of the coffee plantations. They are built with an eco-friendly vision, as if they were palafittes. Interio Magazine published a review of the particular architectural concept envisaged for the hotel. The idea was to maintain coherence with the coffee brand and add value by being respectful to the environment and landscape. The location of the cabins was carefully chosen so that each had optimal orientation in terms of lighting and view. They were named after nine varieties of coffee. The farm’s rugged topography allows all the cabins to be surrounded by a unique natural environment.There is a main house, overlooking the Valle de la Mesa, where the restaurant, the kitchen, a bar for tasting and drinking coffee, and outdoor jacuzzis are located. The Hotel also offers an ideal space for corporate, educational and recreational events.

Environmental responsibility

La Palma & El Tucán has a model of inclusive, purposeful and value-driven coffee farming, working with over 100 traditional coffee growing families in the region. The community project (called “neighbors & crops”) benefits coffee growing families in the area by supporting fair trade and agro-ecological farming methods. Small coffee growers strive to create a sustainable business by marketing their product, so La Palma & el Tucán offers a solution by distributing and processing coffee in a fair manner, so that farmers can focus on the care and quality of the product. All the coffee is roasted and distributed by Libertario Café, which has two stores in Bogotá and Cartagena.

Bird Watching at La Palma & El Tucán

Bird watching is done at the Pedro Palo Lagoon located 8 km, 20 minutes, from La Palma and the Toucan. Inside the farm you can also visit the coffee plantations to watch birds.


Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Tropical Parula Blackburnian Warbler Yellow Warbler  Canada Warbler  Andean Guan  Booted Racket-ta Turquoise Dacnis Moustached Puffbird American Redstart Black-crested Warbler Yellow-billed Cacique Mourning Warbler, among others.


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. 

Did you know birds can be saved by the coffee you drink?

The coffee belt, in fact, is one of the areas with a great diversity and richness of bird species in Colombia. The temperate regions, between 1200 and 1800 meters above sea level, with temperatures between 17 and 23° C and average annual rainfall of around 2000 mm, offer optimal conditions for coffee cultivation, and are also regions that constitute a crucial habitat for many species of birds.  

A bit about Coffee History

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, Africa, where it was consumed in infusions or by chewing its leaves. But it was the Arabs who were responsible for its expansion, first throughout the Arab world in the 16th century, then in Europe in the 17th century and finally in America around the 18th century. It is believed that coffee was introduced to Colombia in the early 18th century by Jesuit missionaries, being the main region of expansion of cultivation in Santander and Norte de Santander, in the east of the country. Later, coffee production began to expand to other departments and by 1850 it had reached Cundinamarca, Antioquia and Caldas. By the end of the 19th century, coffee was already the main export product for which Colombia received foreign currency. In the 20th century, the smaller producers made their way and the leadership of coffee development moved to the western part of Colombia.  

In 1959 the character of Juan Valdez was born and the Colombian Coffee office was opened in Tokyo, making Japan the second largest consumer of Colombian Coffee in the world. In 1984 the distinctive brand Café de Colombia is created an identifies colombian coffee in all corners of the world. 

Today, coffee crops are grown almost all over the country, except for 9 of the country’s 32 departments where  geographical conditions are not suitable for coffee. Conditions such as flat, arid or swampy lands in Sucre, Córdoba, Atlántico, Arauca; or jungle and rocky lands of the Guyanese shield like Guainía, Vichada, Guaviare; or humid, floodable and sandy Amazonian lands like Vaupés and Amazonas.  On the contrary, coffee extends through all the mountain ranges of the Andean region, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá, as well as in the Pacific and in each of the Andean foothills of the three mountain ranges and the Colombian massif, covering a wide variety of ecosystems. 

Coffee Regions of Colombia – Copyright

Shade-grown Coffee and Birds Conservation

In recent years, the importance of maintaining a balance between natural ecosystems and crops of any kind has been recognized. In the case of coffee, sustainable practices such as shading the crop with native trees has become an ecological and economic added value. It has already been demonstrated in Colombia that there is a greater diversity of birds and bats in shade-grown coffee plantations attracted to the insects, nectar, and fruit that trees provide, compared to traditional plantations exposed to the sun and devoid of trees. The conclusion is that with greater tree connectivity and the presence of forests in the plantations there is a greater presence of wildlife. Even small increases in tree cover – between 7% and 13% – can make a significant difference to birds.

In Colombia, migratory birds need to find high quality habitats to replenish their energy, and coffee plantations, with a mixed landscape of forest and plantation, offer birds the quality of habitat required to recover. And this applies to resident birds as well. Trees not only benefit coffee and birds and wildlife in general, but they also help maintain soil and water by preventing erosion and landslides, adding nutrients to the soil, storing carbon, etc. There are more than 40 species of North American migratory songbirds that benefit from shade grown coffee, including the Tennessee warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina), Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca), Summer tanager (Piranga rubra), Black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) among others.  

It has also been found that the shade favors the slow maturation of the bean, giving it time to develop all its properties, creating a softer coffee because it contains less concentration of carbohydrates (CENICAFE). In traditional crops, sunlight accelerates the production of coffee beans and increases yields, which translates into a faster profit for the farmer but results in a loss of forest, and therefore a loss of wildlife. Every day consumers have become more selective when buying a brand of coffee, and appeal for conditions such as: 

  1. A greater presence of species, such as birds and insects, which exercise important biological control, instead of an excess of agrochemicals,
  2. Farms committed to saving forests and conserving biodiversity 
  3. Support to small producers who use agrochemicals less regularly and keep their crops more frequently immersed in forests and natural stubble. 
  4. Taste

Main birding and coffee destinations in Colombia


In the area of Nariño there is a great variety of plant formations such as dry forests, Choco forest, mountains and paramos, each one differentiable thanks to the altitudinal and climatic level. The Nariño coffee region is surrounded by the Amazon slope and the tropical forests of the Pacific coast, which provide an immense asset of biodiversity. Coffee crops, besides being basic to the economy of the Nariño region, are extremely important in the process of environmental conservation and sustainability. They are home to 33 species of trees used as shade trees, whose supply of seeds, fruits and flowers are used by many birds, especially from the Thraupidae family, specialist birds such as toucans and migratory birds. Nariño has approximately 1048 species of birds, including 155 species with some type of migration and 242 species that are contemplated within one of the criteria for bird conservation at the international level (AICA/IBA). According to a publication in the scientific journal Biota Colombiana (Vol. 12, number 1, Calderón et al 2011) the department of Nariño stands out as an important center for the conservation of birds in Colombia due to its high number of endemic and range-restricted species and the fact that it is considered by some authors as a speciation center, especially for the hummingbird group. 

Coffee Triangle (Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, Valle del Cauca) 

The Coffee Triangle, also known as coffee axis, is a territory composed of six zones located in 47 municipalities of the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca, surrounded by an area of influence or buffer zone. The geographic position of the coffee axis determines an environment enriched by the influence of the altitudinal gradients of the central and western Andean mountain ranges that generate unique ecosystems producing the so-called coffee cultural landscape (PCC).  The PCC demonstrated an exceptional universal value that incorporates human and family effort, the culture developed around coffee, the social capital generated by the coffee and the coexistence between tradition and technology. These reasons made the Coffee Cultural Landscape be declared as a World Heritage by UNESCO on June 25, 2011. 

In studies carried out by the National Coffee Research Center in Colombia (CENICAFE, Technical Report 265), more than 600 species of birds have been registered in the coffee zone, which constitutes more than 20% of the avifauna reported in the country. The most visited birding hotspots in this region are:  National Natural Park Tatamá with recognized sites such as Montezuma Hill in Pueblo Rico, the Cerro de la Línea and the Aguabonita Reserve in Apía, as well as the environmental corridors of municipalities such as Mistrató and Santuario. Los Nevados National Natural Park with all its several access routes, the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, the Rio Blanco Reservethe Barbas Bremen Canyon, and the Riosucio road to El Jardin in Antioquia.  

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta 

According to the Alliance for Critical Ecosystems (ALPEC), coffee growing began in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the first decades of the last century with the establishment of large coffee farms such as Cincinnati, Vista Nieve or La Victoria owned by foreign families. Coffee growing is one of the most important economic and productive activities developed in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is the engine of the economy in a wide area known as the coffee belt that has an estimated total area of 168,000 ha.

Due to the rainfall, latitude, high slopes, and soil types of the Sierra Nevada, coffee cultivation requires permanent shade. These productive systems present characteristics similar to natural habitats and maintain patches or corridors of vegetation through basins and micro-basins, benefiting the conservation of birds. 72 species of migratory land birds, use those plantations as a place of season and permanence, including 19 species of conservation targets in the USA and Canada. They also benefit endemic or threatened species. Of the 18 species of restricted range distribution (Endemic Bird Area – EBA) in elevations of the coffee zone, 11 were recorded in shaded coffee plantations. Of the 13 threatened species recorded in the coffee zone, 9 species use shaded coffee plantations as their habitat. Know more about the birds you can find at Sierra nevada in the post here.


Santander’s coffee is recognized for its quality and soft flavor, subtly chocolatey and very balanced. It is mostly cultivated with the shade-grown method, which gives it special characteristics and, in addition, protects biodiversity. Santander is the second department in Colombia in terms of the number of species registered, after Antioquia, according to preliminary results of the Santander BIO project, led by the Departmental Administration and executed by the Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS) and the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute of Colombia.  

According to the researchers, the department has land from the Magdalena Medio to the highlands of the eastern Andean mountain range. This vast transition from dry to humid areas makes the biological diversity very large, even greater than in the Amazon. The outstanding natural areas are the Serranía de los Yariguíes, the Chicamocha Canyon, the Almorzadero Páramo, the Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna Guanentá Alto de Río Fonce, the Paturia Wildlife Sanctuary among others, bringing together paramos, cloud forest, tropical rain forest, wetlands and arid areas.

The richness of birds in Santander is very high, representing almost 8% of the birds of the planet. Birds’ habitat in Santander has been damaged by deforestation due to mining, livestock and agriculture. However, projects have emerged such as the La Mesa de Los Santos Coffee Park, a project created by the farm Hacienda El Roble, which produces one of the finest and most expensive coffees on the planet. In this place there are 300 hectares of shaded coffee with native tree species, benefiting around 126 species of birds. There are other coffee regions, such as Suaita, where it is also possible to find shaded-grown coffee plantations that favors many local and migratory birds.   


The south of Huila is a coffee region that borders on natural areas of great interest such as the Guácharos Natural National Park and the Colombian MAssif. Studies in the area conducted by Cenicafe, found about 280 bird species, concluding that the most outstanding environmental condition is the presence of fragments of native oak forests which sustains a great part of the diversity of the area. The coffee crops, which also use the shading system, become important buffers for the loss of habitat in the region. Threatened species such as Dusky-headed Brushfinch (Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus) and Tolima Dove (Leptotilaconoveri), which are protected by these coffee areas, can be found in the coffee plantations. 


Now you know that you can make magnificent bird watching tours around shade – grown coffee farms covering almost all the main birding routes in the country and all of the main coffee profiles in Colombia. Wait for our next entry where we will tell you about the farms and coffee plantations where you can combine the passion for birds and coffee. 


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.