Slow cities in Colombia: Pijao, at the Coffee Triangle

Pijao is a quiet and unexplored natural destination, and the first Cittaslow town in Colombia. A Cittaslow town is a community-managed system of continuous improvement with a sustainable outcome that strives for quality of life for its residents.

Pijao is a town with a coffee architecture tradition that stopped in time, as well as the church clock, with a long tower and with little grace, painted in pale orange that stopped at 7:25 minutes, one day, many years ago.

Discovering Pijao Cittaslow

It is located in the west of the department of Quindio on the central mountain range at 1700 meters above sea level, and has no more than 6,800 inhabitants.

At the village entrance there is an arch of raw brick columns with a chipped statue of Virgin Mary; when you are in the center of the village you will notice that the people live without worries.

In addition, Pijao has a high Andean forest ecosystem and Páramo; in the Páramo the rivers Lejos and Azul are the source of the town’s water supply and its average temperature is 23°C (73º F).

How to get to Pijao

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to El Edén International Airport (AXM) at Armenía city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1-hour ride to Pijao

Where to stay in Pijao

When in Pijao you will feel part of the town, as the facades of the hotels are very traditional and you will feel like you are in another era. There are few lodging options and we recommend you to stay at Finca el Otoño.

Activities and attractions in Pijao Cittaslow

Tour of the town

We recommend that you start your tour in the central park, from there you can have a panoramic view of the houses where you will fall in love with its beautiful architecture and colors.

Then you can visit the town hall which looks like an anthropological museum, in fact, it is in a way.

Moreover, you can visit the church of San Jose which has a very particular structure, the colors contrast with the architecture of the square and its clock tower preserves the original structure.

La Floresta Coffee Shop

This cozy coffee shop despite its humble appearance has a space where you can live a wonderful coffee experience; where you can learn the methods of filtering and preparation. They gave us a live demonstration of the chemex method and we did a tasting of different types of coffee, both hot and cold.

Bar Los Recuerdos

The owner of this bar, Gonzalo, over the last 50 years has collected about 3,000 photographs and posters of Argentine, Spanish, Colombian and Mexican artists, which adorn the walls and ceilings of this magical place.

Inside the bar you can observe the collection of more than 2,000 vinyl records of boleros, rancheras, pasillos and tangos, which play in a 33 and 45 revolutions player.

Pijao Social Bar

Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in the only steam-powered ink machine in Quindío that is more than 70 years old. While enjoying your coffee you can play pool with the locals and listen to the anecdotes of this historic bar.

Contemplate the sunset in “the place where the herons arrive”

Just 20 meters from the central square you will find a tree where every day hundreds of herons and other birds come to rest, including those flying  away from the North American winter.

Mountain biking through the Paramo de Chili

If you have previous experience in mountain biking you will love this activity, 28 kilometers of biking from Pijao you can live a unique and unforgettable experience where you will overcome your limits until you reach 3,750 meters above sea level.

This tour has a duration of 7 hours and its degree of difficulty is high.

Excursion to the Mellizas Lagoon

If you want to know a hidden place of Los Nevados Natural Park, if you like trekking and hiking this plan is for you. During 6 hours of hiking with a medium-low degree of difficulty in the middle of swampy paths but of special beauty.

During the tour you will be able to observe a great diversity of birds, trout and frailejones and  discover 7 additional lagoons that are little known by the visitors of the Natural Park of Los Nevados.

Coffee Experience

In the rural zone of Pijao it is possible to take tours of the coffee plantations. You will have a tour of the coffee process from the beginning, exploring from the coffee plantations to the coffee roasting and grinding process.

Finally, you will be able to enjoy a delicious cup of high-quality coffee, due to the soil conditions and the processes that the farmers of the town manage.

Tour to the Wax Palm Forest

Initially you must have a local guide to carry-out this activity. The first trail you take goes to the farm La Playa, where you can have breakfast and from there you will reach the school of Vereda Las Palmas. his point can be reached by motorcycle, jeep or bike before starting the ascent on foot.

During 40 minutes of walking at more than 3200 meters above sea level you will be surrounded by the imposing and beautiful wax palms, until you reach the farm El Alto. There you can have a hot snack or lunch while you contemplate the beauty of the mountains decorated by the enormous amount of wax palms.

It is recommended that you wear warm and waterproof clothes, if possible bring a change of clothes in case of rain.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

 About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Salamina the ‘City of Light’, is the perfect alternative to Salento

In the midst of the mountains of northern Caldas, the ‘City of Light’ of Colombia, Salamina, declared a National Monument and a National Asset of Cultural Interest, highlights its cultural and historical legacy through its colonial houses, balconies, steep streets and its extensive religious tradition.

This municipality, founded in 1825 and today inhabited by more than 18,000 people, was the birthplace of Mother María Berenice Duque, the nun who is in the process of beatification by Pope Francis since 2018.

The catholic temples have given way to the construction of the cultural identity of this beautiful municipality. Wwhile other municipalities in Caldas exhibit and are recognized for their panel, coffee or mining culture, the people of Salamina proudly preserve the religious legacy of their history.

In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to this beautiful town, and also how to get to know the wax palm neat to it.

Discovering Salamina

The town was founded in 1825, Salamina is known as “The City of Light” of Caldas. Its name “the city of light” is due to the fact that many famous poets and actors have come from this traditional paisa town.

One of the most traditional and important events for the people of Salamina is the celebration of Holy Week, which enjoys great renown at the departmental and national level, as well as the “Night of Fire”, the celebration of the day of the Immaculate Conception, patron saint of this municipality.

The night of every December 7 and 8, the streets and balconies of the town are decorated with thousands of lanterns and lights to pay homage to the Virgin Mary.

Salamina is located north of the department of Caldas and has a township called San Felix is located 74 Km away from Manizales, the capital of the department.

Moreover, Salamina is a beautiful town with streets of iconic wattle and daub houses and clay tiles, the average temperature in Salento is 23 ºC (73ºF) and it is located at an altitude of 1,775 meters above sea level.

Salamina is considered a representative of the paisas’ traditions and customs because of its well preserved 19th century architecture.

How to get to Salamina

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Airport La Nubia (MZL) at Manizales city. Once in Manizales you take an approximately 2-hours ride (75 Km) to Salamina.

Remember that you can get to Manizales from any of the major cities in the country by air.

In addition, if you wish to take the overland route from Bogota, the journey takes 9-hours and 365 Km.

Where to stay in Salamina

In Salamina you will find a great infrastructure, depending on your budget and personal tastes you can choose; our recommendations for you are:

  • Las Marias Family Home
  • La Estancia Hotel Boutique
  • Hospedaje Casa Real

Salamina Attractions and Activities

La Pila de Salamina

It is a fountain that you cannot miss, it is located in the central square of the town and is an imitation of another one that can be found in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. It is considered the most beautiful fountain in Colombia.

It is said that it was brought to the country via Barranquilla and transported by the Magdalena River to the department of Tolima where it was then transported by mule to Salamina.

Visit to the Rodrigo Jiménez Mejía House of Culture

It is considered the most important architectural jewel of Salamina thanks to the wood finishes, beautiful balconies, majestic doors, lintels carved with figures and lanterns complete a wonderful set.

Visit the San Esteban Cemetery

It has a chapel of gothic architecture, beautiful gardens and a relaxing view of the mountain.

When you walk through the cemetery you can notice the socio-economic differences of some tombs, since in ancient times the dead were buried in certain places of the cemetery as a distribution of the social classes of the former inhabitants of the town.

The Natural Forest of Wax Palm La Samaria

Wax Palm Forest

Located just 30 km away from Salamina’s urban, this forest is one of the most amazing and best preserved corners that the department of Caldas offers.

Unlike the Cocora Valley in Salento, Quindio, in this forest there is not much noise, nor commerce around. It is a place with more tranquility, more contact with nature, a solitude that will help you to have that encounter with yourself.

Besides, the forest is the habitat of one of the most beautiful birds in America, the yellow-eared parrot lives in the canopy of these immense plants.


We recommend you visit the  “Mirador de la Samaria”, where you will be able to do birdwatching, and check one of the most representative birds of the region, the woodpecker and one of the most beautiful birds of America, the yellow-eared parrot that inhabit the tops of the immense wax palms.

The entrance fee to the forest is COP 10,000 and you can stay in the forest for a maximum of 7 hours.

Taking into account the above you can decide when you can know the beautiful town of Salamina. Plan your trip with us!

About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

What to do in Salento in the Colombian Coffee Triangle?

In the department of Quindio you will fall in love with one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia: Salento, which historic center was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” in 2011.

It is perhaps the most important municipality for tourism in Quindío, due to three fundamental reasons:

  1. The first, the beautiful and preserved architecture left by the Antioquian colonization;
  2. the second, the imposing Cocora Valley, which is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia;
  3. and the third, the contagious atmosphere of peace and well-being that permeates immediately upon arrival.

In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to these beautiful town, and also how to get to know the wax palm, the national tree of Colombia.

Discovering Salento

Located 26 km from Armenia, on the western side of the Central Mountain Range and to the northeast of the department, Salento is like a historical account of the region, since its streets reflect intact the tradition of the initial settlers.

Tradition that even today many still strive to preserve so that the place projects its full charm. This town of colorful houses and balconies adorned with flowers has among its residents some foreigners who one day arrived and decided to remain trapped by the charm of the place.

And speaking of charm, Disney released its new movie, called Encanto, inspired by this place.

Salento was founded on September 16, 1842 but its creation would only take place until 1908. Moreover, Salento is the oldest municipality among the 3 departments that make up the Eje Cafetero (Quindío, Risaralda and Caldas). In addition, it is the gateway to the Cocora Valley and one of the entrances to Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Salento is between 17 ºC (63ºF) and 23 ºC (73ºF) and it has 2 dry season periods, one from mid-June to early September and from late December to mid-January.

How to get to Salento

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to El Edén International Airport (AXM) at Armenia city. Once in Armenia you take an approximately 45-minutes ride (25 Km) to Salento.

Remember that you can get to Armenia from any of the major cities in the country by air. In addition, if you wish to take the overland route from Bogota, the journey takes 6.2 hours and 305 Km.

Where to stay in Salento

In Salento you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • Hotel El Mirador del Cocora
  • Montana Glamping
  • Hotel Terraza
  • La Cabaña Ecohote
  • Hotel Kawa Mountain
  • Hotel Real

Salento Attractions and activities

Tour the town

We recommend that you start the tour walking through the beautiful streets of Salento, where you will see the predominance of adobe and mud houses with colorful wooden balconies and gates decorated with flowers. On your walk you will be able to appreciate the authentic architecture of the traditional coffee towns from the beginning of the 20th century.

Walk along the Calle Real (Royal Street)

This is the main street of the municipality. On your walk you will be able to appreciate beautiful restaurants, coffee shops, handicraft stores and commercial passageways.

At the end of this street you will find some colorful stairs that take you to one of the viewpoints of Salento, the viewpoint of Alto de la Cruz. From the viewpoint you will be able to see a large part of the town and its church, and if you are lucky you will be able to see part of Armenia and the mountains of Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Visit the Cocora Valley

This beautiful tourist place is something you cannot miss on your visit; it is a world-class tourist attraction for its majestic beauty and it is one of the last cloud forests that are home to the Ceroxylon quindiuense or Quindio wax palm, the tallest in the world.

The Cocora Valley is an important habitat for many animals such as the yellow-eared parakeet, the toucan and the spectacled bear, hence its importance of protection.

That is why we recommend you to have a lot of respect for the flora and fauna, and to walk ONLY along the areas allowed by the park rangers.

To get to the Cocora Valley you must take the road that takes you to the access point, the trip takes 25 minutes by car 11 km from Salento.

Visit Acaime and the hummingbird house

Acaime is a natural reserve full of native flora and fauna, located on the Central Mountain Range 4 Km from the Cocora Valley.

In this reserve you will be able to appreciate a great diversity of hummingbirds, as well as other species of the region and beautiful streams.

The entrance fee is COP 5,000, which is redeemable for a traditional snack (panela water with cheese or a delicious coffee).

Visiting the Los Nevados National Natural Park

It is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country, where you can visit beautiful landscapes and see the greatness of the most important snow-capped mountains where you will connect with nature and its majesty.

For more information on how you can make the most of this beautiful National Park you can read our blog:  Best Things to Know Before Visiting Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Go to Santa Rita Waterfall

This beautiful waterfall of no more than 20 meters high has a natural with a quiet and romantic atmosphere for its visitors.

In the village of Los Andes, 4 km from the center of Salento, at this point there is a walk of 1.5 km, on the way to the waterfall you will see tunnels, suspension bridges, water sources and the old train track.

The entrance fee is COP 5,000.

El Mirador Ecopark

It is an obligatory point of visit because from there you can observe the Cocora valley that is born between the mountains of the Central mountain range and slides parallel to the Quindío river; it is possible to arrive by car and park it in the parking lot of the place, which also has public restroom.

The structure, in the form of a balcony, is built in guadua, thus representing an excellent tribune to admire the landscape, even through some telescopes rented by the locals. From the lookout point, a short trail leads from the lookout point to the Alto de la Cruz.

There they sell delicious sweets, honey, wafers and candies for the cold. The best way to get there is to ask any inhabitant.

Coffee Process and Coffee Tour at Finca Hotel El Ocaso

Finca El Ocaso is located on a hill just 4km from Salento (20 minutes by car or one hour walking), with a unique landscape surrounded by mountains and adorned by the murmur of the Quindio River that passes along the farm 300m downhill.

It has a typical coffee house with more than 100 years of history and tradition where lodging services are provided for a maximum of 10 people. Finca El Ocaso has extensive gardens with a great variety of flowers and native trees and several hectares of coffee.

Enjoy the trails that go to the bamboo forest, to the hill (viewpoint), to the water source and to the Quindio River where you can do bird watching and learn about the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest.

Alto de la Cruz Viewpoint

Through the more than 200 steps that start where the Fieal de Salento street ends, you can access this site that allows you to get an idea of the magnitude of the Cocora Valley, and at the same time offers a panoramic view of the town.

During the breaks in the tour, the images of the Way of the Cross that Jesus traveled on his way to Mount Calvary appear. The viewpoint, besides being a tourist attraction, is a permanent pilgrimage destination.

Morrogacho Hill

This is the stage before Los Nevados Park, which can only be reached on foot from the Cocora Valley and by a difficult road on which all precautions must be taken.

The hill, of unique morphological characteristics, is located at an altitude of 3,450 m, in the midst of a dense Andean forest landscape that makes it one of the favorite natural destinations of the people of Quindio.

The cave represents the mystery of having been a cemetery and ritual center of the Quindos Indians who once lived in the area. It is recommended that the expedition be accompanied by a guide.

La Explanación Bridge

Around 1948 this western railroad crossing was built as part of the road project between Buenaventura and Bogota. Currently, the structure, with arched bases, is a national monument belonging to the Boquía trail. It is also known as the Amparo Bridge.

Quindío National Road

When in other times communication between east and west was required, this road was the most important articulation route. Although since the 18th century Viceroy Pedro Messia de la Cerda was interested in its creation, it was not until 1823 that the work began, while in 1830 it was Simón Bolívar who ordered its opening. The old road extends between the Boquía trail, the river of the same name and the Quindío River.

Bird watching

The upper canyon of the Quindío River is the habitat of endemic and near-endemic species and specimens that captivate with their colors, shapes and behaviors. In the vicinity of the Cocora Valley, near the canyon, you can go on hikes to observe birds such as the torrent duck and the blackbird.

Along the same route, going up on horseback, the Acaime nature reserve is home to birds such as the masked saltator, the Golden-plumed parakeet, and the White-capped tanager. Other special birds can be observed along the Estrella de Agua, La Montaña and La Picota nature reserves, considered one of the best corridors for bird watching.

The Ocellated tapaculo, the Mountain cacique, the Grey-breasted mountain Toucan and the Chestnut-naped antpitta, are special birds that fly through this landscape.

About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

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 is a Birding Photography Tour and Where to Go in Colombia

Doing bird photography in Colombia is a must. It is the ‘birdiest’ country in the world. Nowhere else on the planet you will find more bird species than in here. There are over 1,900 registered species   80 endemic  and this number represents 20% of all the species of birds in the world.

Every region of Colombia boasts unique bird species for birders to enjoy. However, photographing birds is a whole another scenario and not all the birding spots throughout the country are apt to do bird photography tours.   

Find out the best tips for bird photography in our entries Brief Overview about Bird Photography for Beginners and How to Prepare for a Birding Tour in the Neotropics?.

In this post, we will talk about the difference between bird photography and birdwatching tours, and the most recommended bird photography destinations in Colombia. 

Bird Photography vs Birdwatching 

The Guide

In South America, both fields are commonly undistinguished. However, it is essential that a guide leading a bird photography tour has knowledge about birds in the region as well as photography, to help tourists improve their pictures.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Colombia did not have this kind of complete guides, but currently the landscape is changing. 

The Destination

Also, the destination for doing bird photography is totally different from a spot for birdwatching. Photography guides are used to visiting the destinations in advance to know if those are convenient for doing a photography tour or not.

Aspects to take into account for a bird photography destination, and which offer ease to the photographers, are:

  • The bird perches.
  • The background.
  • The slope of the terrain where you are going to place your tripod or seat.
  • The suitable infrastructure for photography such as hides, or observation towers.
  • Access to electricity.
  • Spacious rooms with extra desks and outlets.

Experts Advice

We interviewed 2 South American photographers at the Colombia BirdFair 2020 on the subject, and here we will share their recommendations.

Steve Sánchez

Steve Sánchez is a birding guide and nature photographer specialized in bird photography from Peru. He is the manager and CEO of Kuntur Birding and Steve Sánchez Wildlife Photography. 

Steve thinks a birdwatching tour is very different from a photography tour or a bird photography tour.

Usually, what a birdwatcher wants is to observe as many bird species as possible during their trip. On the ther side, a nature photographer is not interested in having a lot of species photographed if those pictures are mediocre or do not turn out well. For a photographer, the priority is quality, not quantity. 

Steve Sanchez recommends to lodge owners to listen to the professional photographers advice to make the lodge more apt for photography (that means changing the perches or moving the feeders to a better place and this does not negatively impact birds, as it is commonly believed). 

Memo Gómez

Memo Gomez, a nature photographer from Colombia, and CEO of the El Cantil Ecolodge, says that photographers need to spend time with birds.

Memo explained to us that bird photographers need the right landscape, the right spot, the right button for every picture, while birders seek to spot a bird and cross their checklists, it is quite different. Photographers are more patient, because they need to wait for the perfect conditions to take a shot. 

Some practical tips for bird photographers, explained by Memo Gomez, are:

  1. Exposure is key, if you learn how to control exposure well, you will get more and more pictures.
  2. Understand pretty well the focus system of your camera, for example when photographing birds in flight, cause it depends on the camera manufacturer.
  3. Have the right local guide. When going to the jungle or complex environments, finding a bird is tough if you do not bring a local guide that has a deep knowledge of the area.

The Coffee Triangle Bird Photography Tour 

In the western and central ranges of the Andes lies the region where the best-quality coffee of the world is grown: the Colombian Coffee Region 

Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda are the mainly constituents of the region, with stunning landscapes and high biodiversity hosted in dry forests, tropical humid forests and páramos.

This area concentrates about 45% of all birds in the country, Quindío has around 690 bird species, Caldas has approximately 880 species with 22 endemic  and Risaralda around 890 species with 25 endemic.

That being said, you may notice why the Coffee region is a special destination for bird photography. In Sula, we have a bird photography tour around the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee region) 

It starts in Pereira and ends in the town of La Virginia, in Risaralda too. It is an unforgettable 14-day birding experience.

You will visit the next spots: 

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

The Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve is a renowned birding place in Manizales where you can hear, observe and photograph from 70 to 110 bird species at 1,225 meters above sea level!

Find out more information about Tinamu in our entry The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Moustached Puffbird (Malacoptila mystacalis) at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Among the species you can find are the Little Tinamou, Colombian Chachalaca, Gray-headed Dove, Dwarf Cuckoo, Common Potoo, Common Pauraque, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Western emerald, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Grayish Piculet, Bar-crested Antshrike and Scrub Tanager. 

The Reserve offers Facilities and Avitourism Services with a comprehensive and specialized service for photographers and birders, as follows:  

  • Tour of photography and bird watching
  • Birding Library for consultation
  • Space for workshops with audiovisual equipment
  • Wide screen for review of photographic and video files
  • Hummingbird garden with support feedlots
  • Feedlots for birds with hide for photographers
  • Fishing lake for birds only
  • +3 Km. of private and safe paths
  • Hides
  • Trails with recognized perches and crossing points for some birds

Río Blanco Reserve

The Rio Blanco Reserve is 3 km from Manizales and has the cloud forest ecosystem at over 2,159 MASL. It is key in the preservation of water and biodiversity. The place has been suitable with feeders and drinkers for hummingbirds and tanager, as well as with small observation benches to photograph the 4 different species of antpittas that have been bait in the reserve.

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri) at Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas, Colombia

Here you can photograph species such as the Masked Saltator, Rusty Faced Parrot, Golden Plumed Parakeet, the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta and the near endemic Bicolored Antpitta. There are approximately 350 bird species here! 

Cameguadua Reservoir

The Cameguadua Reservoir is an aquatic ecopark commonly visited by around 250 species of aquatic birds.

Cameguadua Pier

From the pier you can photograph Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Blackish Rail, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Neotropic Cormorant, Snowy Egret, among others. It has a dock that goes deep into the lake, from where it is possible to locate the camera to take photographs. 

Romelia Colors of Life Farm

In the Romelia Colors of Life farm, you will have the possibility to spot over 200 bird species including the Golden-plumed Parakeet, Bar-crested Antshrike, Crimson-rumped Toucanet , Yellow-vented Woodpecker and Golden-olive Woodpecker, in a nice area with orchids, bonsai, citrus fruits and avocados crops. 

There is also a striking collection of orchids and bonsais from around the world.

Orchid at Finca Romelia Colors of Life

Termales del Ruiz Hotel 

If you want to discover highland birds, Termales del Ruiz Hotel hosts approximately 190 species including Andean Siskin, Shining Sunbeam, Glowing Puffleg, Red-crested Cotinga, Buff-winged Starfrontlet,  Great Sapphirewing, Slaty Brushfinch, Masked Flowerpiercer and Black-backed Bush Tanager in a páramo ecosystem at 3,500 meters above sea level.

Shining Sunbeam – Aglaeactis cupripennis

Also, you can enjoy several hot springs here. This place is known for its large number of drinking fountains and gardens with native plants that attract hummingbirds and other high mountain species. It has benches and terraces to facilitate photography. It is even possible to have the experience of feeding the birds in your own hand. 

Tatamá Hill and Montezuma Ecolodge

One particularly recommended birding spot is the Finca Montezuma eco-lodge, located on the hillside that connects the Risaralda with Chocó, in the western range of the Andes.

It has a huge cloud forest that borders the Tatamá National Natural Park and boasts fauna and flora wealth. It is not so known among birders but is home to various endemic species, such as the iconic Black-and-gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers and the Chocó Tapaculo and Warbler.  

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

Find out more information about Tatamá and Montezuma Lodge in our entry The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination.

Other birding spots within the Coffee region are the towns of Santa Rosa de Cabal, Santa Cecilia, Apía, Mistrató and La Virginia. These boast ecosystems such as páramo, rainforest, wet premontane forest, cloud forest and tropical dry forest, so the variety of birds you can spot is unbelievable. However, there is still lack of good infrastructure to photograph them.   

Chicoral, Dapa and Km 18, Cali 

Find out more information about Km 18 and the San Antonio forest in Valle del Cauca in our e entry Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18.

Finca Alejandría Farm

Finca Alejandría is 18 km down the road from Cali to Buenaventura, on the Pacific coast. This place covered in cloud forest has several feeders that attract hummingbirds and other regional bird species such as tanagers, toucanets and motmots.

Red-headed Barbet – Eubucco bourcierii at Finca Alejandría

The stars of the zone are the Multicolored Tanager, which is really difficult to see, Blue-headed Sapphire, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Crested Quetzal and Golden-headed Quetzal. Our Valle del Cauca birding route has a stop in this farm. Check the itinerary here

Finca La Conchita Farm

In this zone known as the 18 Km, you can also visit Finca La Conchita to photograph hummingbirds, honey creepers, tropical mockingbirds and plenty more bird species. Experienced photographers such as Augusto Ilian have taken gorgeous shots at this birding spot.

Bronzy Inca – Coeligena coeligena at La Conchita

La Minga Ecolodge

Another eco-lodge for bird photography is La Minga, which is located within the Rio Bitaco forest reserve. In the cloud forest, over 300 species and 4 endemic birds have been spotted.

La Minga Ecolodge

You can easily photograph up to 17 species of hummingbirds, up to 30 species of tanagers, flower piercers and honeycreepers. Watch our birding experience in Km 18!

Upper Anchicayá

Find out more about this destination in our entry Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá.

El Descanso km 55 – Doña Dora

It is also important to mention the immense effort local people is putting into develop adequate places for bird photography. It requires a lot of compromise, money and time.

Compas – Toucan Barbet – Semnorinis ramphastinus at El Descanso Km 55

Here is one of the most impressive places in Valle del Cauca, where bird watching and bird photography helped local people to transform and enhance their life conditions, El Descanso, Km 55 Old Way to Buenaventura with doña Dora.

As time goes by, the list of bird photography destinations in Colombia gets longer and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country. Check all of our Birding Routes here

About the authors

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

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 Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia

According to the World Biodiversity Ranking, Colombia ranks third in the number of palm species (Arecaceae Family). The Andean region presents the richest flora of the palms in the country, with 43% of the total species of Colombia. Among all the palm species found in Colombia, the Wax Palm is the most special. Here I will tell you why.

Palm trees have been linked to the life of man and his feelings since immemorial times, principally because of their graceful appearance and the innumerable benefits they bring.

For this reason, the term palm is not only applied to palms but also has a connotation of triumph, victory, and applause; it is also used as a title of honor for the great ones of a kingdom.

Colombia is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of palms, with 289 species, 47 of which are endemic.

The Wax Palm Ceroxylon quindiuense (Karsten) Wendl

The Wax Palm under its natural view

The first news about the existence of wax palms is due to José Celestino Mutis. It was found by him in the Andean Mountains, in the passage between Quindío and Tolima departments.

He found them distributed between 2400 and 2900 meters (7930 – 9700 ft) above sea level , within cloud forests composed mainly of native pine trees (Podocarpus) and oaks (Quercus granatensis). The species was validated by a description published in 1808.

Other remarkable explorers and naturalists, Alexander Von Humboldt and Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland, re-discovered the wax palm in 1801, and just like Mutis, they were also fascinated by this plant. Humboldt described the spectacle as one of the most moving of all his journeys:

“The forest upon the forest, where tall, slender palms penetrate the leafy veil that surrounds them”.

Alexander Von Humboldt
The Forest upon the Forest

William Purdie, a Scottish Botanist from that time, also described the characteristics and features of our national tree in these terms:

“The haughty, noble trunk of this tree is covered with a layer of resinous wax, which gives it a whitish marble appearance, providing a lively distinctive feature to the very peculiar scenery of the Quindio moor, where the palm abounds in extraordinary degree without causing any damage to the subordinate forest under its pleasant shade.

To obtain the wax the tree is felled and I was informed by my guides that each tree provides up to 25 pounds… The wax is used mixed with tallow to make candles… to offer to the saints and the Virgin… it is in considerable demand but is abundant and easy to obtain”.

William Purdie

These chronicles and descriptions show the importance of the wax palm since ancient times. Some historians even claim that it was used by indigenous people for the extraction of gold.

Wax Palm Facts

Each Each palm can produce up to nine bunches simultaneously, each with 4,000 fruits or more. ©Makalu Pixabay
  1. Its stem is covered by a layer of wax that can be used to make candles.
  2. It can live up to 200 years.
  3. A seedling takes around 50 years to reach the adult phase.
  4. The wax palm can reach 70 meters in height.
  5. It lives in an uncommon habitat for palms, above 3000 meters above sea level, with low temperatures that are unusual for a palm to resist.
  6. The seedling is shadow dependent, so fragmentation and deforestation are killing these palm populations.
  7. Each wax palm can produce about 24,000 fruits per year.
  8. Each palm can produce up to nine bunches simultaneously, each with 4,000 fruits or more.
  9. Despite the number of seeds and seedling a wax palm produces, less than 8% survive at the end.
  10. In the wax palms, there are females and males, as in humans. This implies that for its reproduction the palm needs some mechanism to carry the pollen from the males to the females.
  11. Wax palm pollination is carried out by several species of tiny beetles of the genus Mystrops.
  12. Pollinators, in turn, depend on the wax palm for their survival, since the adults feed exclusively on its pollen and the females lay their eggs in the small flowers of the palm, where the larvae that are born feed on the tissue of the petals.
  13. The wax palm attracts its small pollinating beetles by the aroma of its flowers, which have volatile chemical compounds specially designed to conquer them. It is a system as precise as a key in its lock.
  14. A well-conserved population of palms can produce more than two billion mature fruits each year, which represents an extraordinary source of food for the fauna.
  15. It is home and refuge of the Yellow-eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis).
  16. It is an ‘umbrella species’ since its conservation is key to the survival of many others, or of entire ecosystems.
  17. Each stem ring represents a year of growth.

Colombia’s National Tree

The Wax Palm was proposed by the colombian botanist Armando Dugand as the national tree of Colombia. He was the director of the Institute of Natural Sciences of the National University of Colombia and a recognized specialist in palms. In July of 1949, Dugand proposed it as such to the organizing committee of the Third South American Congress of Botany.

The Wax Palm, Ceroxylon quindiuense (Karsten) Wendl, was proposed by Armando Dugand as the national tree of Colombia.

Dugand highlighted the wax palm as a true aesthetic heritage of Colombia and as its most typical plant, not only because it is an outstanding and characteristic element of the Andean landscape, but also because of the wax it produces and the extraordinary nature of its habitat, which goes far beyond the geographical and altitudinal limits common to the palm family.

He also described it as the most beautiful and most developed among the palms, since it can surpass 50 meters in height. Due to the characteristic of these plants to take a long time to decompose and take up to 200 years to complete its life cycle, they were thought to symbolize the capacity to persist and last.

Since then, the wax palm has been considered the national tree, and so it appears in many writings, minutes, documents, and postcards.

Colombia stamp with the Wax Palm
The Cocora Valley and the Quindio Wax Palm, honored in the 100 thousand peso bill issued by the @BancoRepublica on August 8, 2014 and put into circulation on March 31, 2016.

Additionally, in 1985, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia adopted the Quindío wax palm, C. quindiuense, as the national tree with the Law 61 of 1985. It is so valuable and so representative of our country that this law stipulates in its article 3:

“The felling of the wax palm is forbidden under a criminal sanction applicable in the form of a fine, convertible into an arrest, for the benefit of the municipality where the infraction has been committed”.

Law 61 of 1985

Palms as a Sign of Scientific and Botanical Values, as well as Biological Diversity.

Some historians affirm that in the 19th and 20th centuries, palms were planted around patriotic places as a sign of scientific and botanical values and to emphasize that Colombia is biodiverse. The preferred palm was always the Wax Palm.

In Bogotá, you can find wax palm gardens in places such as Universidad Externado de Colombia, the botanical garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis, the El Dorado Avenue (26th street) in Bogotá, which is a temple of the wax palm, and the Eje Ambiental in the center of the city.

Wax Palm at the botanical garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis

All the important buildings that frame the El Dorado Avenue and the Eje Ambiental in Bogota have in their facilities, or very close to their facades, a wax palm. These are, on El Dorado Avenue: The National Administrative Center (CAN), the Military Forces, the National Registry Office, the Government of Cundinamarca, the Bogotá Police Hospital, the Bank of the Republic of Colombia, the National Health Institute, and RTVC-Public Media System. In the Eje Ambiental, the Colombian Academy of Language, the Icetex, the Icfes, and the monument of the Templete de Bolívar.

The Wax Palm at the botanical garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis

The Wax Palm in Risk of Extinction

But it has not been worth so much recognition, nor that many people wrote poems or songs to this plant. The Colombian Wax Palm is under serious risk of extinction, initially due to its exploitation by religious interests, and later by changes in land use such as deforestation for agriculture and livestock.

The Colombian Wax Palm is under serious risk of extinction, among the causes are deforestation for agriculture and livestock.

Recently, it is the cultivation of the Hass avocado that has endangered the survival of the Wax Palm. The situation is worrisome because the area declared as a Coffee Cultural Landscape by UNESCO is beginning to change due to the displacement of the traditional coffee cultivation by the Hass avocado.

This has also led to the endangerment of a species of bird endemic to the Colombian Andes, the Yellow-eared Parrot. The Wax Palm is the plant where it builds its nests and on which it feeds.

Yellow-eared Parrot flying over the Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve in Jardín, Antioquia

Wax palms have special protection because several investigations determined a few years ago that they are dying of old age and the new plants take more than 50 years to grow!

Tourism is one of the most promising conservation strategies for this species. On the other hand, rural communities prefer it over agriculture, livestock, and mining.

If you want to know where to go for visiting the most emblematic landscape of the Colombian Andes, read our entry The Unique Wax Palm Forests Destinations in Colombia.

If you want to schedule your visit to Colombia, do not hesitate to contact us, and 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.

Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle

Find here the top 7 unmissable birding spots in Risaralda, a department with more than 800 species of birds, almost the same quantity of bird species in all North America, and even more than all the birds of the European continent.

Risaralda has been a region developed from an agricultural coffee economy, in addition to livestock, industry and commerce. Due to its homogeneity between the cultural, social, and economic elements based on this coffee culture, this department of Colombia is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list as a Coffee Cultural Landscape.

Risaralda crosses the Andean region from the western slope of the Central Andes through the inter-Andean valley of the Cauca River to the Pacific slope of the Western Cordillera. It comprises four thermal floors from warm, medium, cold and paramo, contemplating the perpetual snows on the Nevado de Santa Isabel. All this plurality of sceneries, nurtures a suitable context to host a great diversity of species of fauna and flora.

Thus, despite being Risaralda such a small department with only 4,140 square kilometers, it has more than 800 species of birds, among them, 25 endemic and 54 almost endemic. This means that it possesses 42% of the birds of Colombia, 80% of the birds of the Coffee Triangle, and close to 8% of the birds of the world.

1. “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

The first of the unmissable birding spots in Risaralda is “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. This place is characterized for being an easy observation point of two charismatic species: the Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax), an endangered endemic bird (EN), and the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus), a huge spectacular black-and-red cotinga with a strong, heavy bill, and a red throat and breast. These birds inhabit the cloud forests of the subtropical zone of the Cauca River Valley.

Cauca Guan – Penelope perspicax ENDEMIC
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow – Pyroderus scutatus

Other attractions of this place are the birds with striking songs like the Hooded Antpitta (Grallaricula cucullata), the Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni) and the Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Grallaria nuchalis), all almost endemic and vulnerable (VU), and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri). Also, wrens such as Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti) and the Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) can be found here.

2. Montezuma Road and National Natural Park Tatamá

Along the Montezuma road, there is a great variety of species due to the altitudinal gradient, ranging from 1300 to 2600 m above sea level. Recently the government of Risaralda has installed shelters, observation towers, and viewpoints in strategic places along the road to improve bird watching.

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

The route begins at the Cerro de Tatamá, in the Tatamá National Natural Park, at 2600 m. Here it rains a lot and you can only arrive in a 4WD car. To get to Cerro de Tatamá at 5 a.m. it is necessary to sleep at Pueblo Rico town, but the road makes you have to leave at 3 am to reach the top at dawn. As a second option, you can stay at the Montezuma Lodge, a rural family project dedicated to nature tourism, placed at the base of the hill, 1350 m above sea level. Know more about this birding spot in Risaralda in our post The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination.

White-tailed Hillstar – Urochroa bougueri

Tatamá National Natural Park is located in the western mountain range, between the departments of Choco, Valle Del Cauca and Risaralda. The geographical location, the presence of a virgin paramo, and the excellent conservation status, make the Tatamá Park a protected area where many endemic species and species of the biogeographic Chocó can be found.

Gold-ringed Tanager – Bangsia aureocincta ENDEMIC

The Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) is the target of this route. It is an endemic and also endangered tanager of the Pacific slope in the department of Risaralda. It is local and rare in subtropical rainforests.

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer – Diglossa gloriosissima ENDEMIC

Among the highlights, you can find the Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Diglossa glorisissima), Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti), Grass-green tanager (Chlorornis riefferii), Orange-breasted fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda), the Crested ant tanager (Habia cristata), Parker’s Antbird (Cercomacroides parkeri), Choco Tapaculo (Scytalopus chocoensis), and the Golden-bellied Warbler (Choco Warbler) (Myiothlypis chrysogaster).

Scaled Fruiteater – Ampelioides tschudii

3. Apia

Apia is a municipality located 1 hour and 15 minutes from the city of Pereira. It is characterized by its very special record of birds. The easiest bird to observe on this route is the endemic and vulnerable (VU) Yellow-headed Manakin (Chloropipo flavicapilla).

Barred Parakeet – Bolborhynchus lineola

This town has been the epicenter of many activities around birds, including the “Apia Tierra de Aves” Bird Festival. This festival has awakened in the people of the region the interest and respect for birds, as well as their protection and the conservation of their habitats.

Moustached Puffbird – Malacoptila mystacalis

From the town’s central square, you will have the opportunity to meet the most striking birds of this region, since all the candy stands have a bird painted on their walls.

Among the birds you can see, there are the endemic Turquoise Dacnis (Dacnis hartlaubi) (VU), the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) (VU), the Chestnut Wood Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus) (NT) and the Yellow-headed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes flaviceps) (EN).

Purplish-mantled Tanager – Iridosornis porphyrocephalus

4. Mistrató: Costa Rica y El Sutú

Mistrató is a town located one hour and a half from Pereira, on the road that leads to the Mampay trail. This municipality is characterized by a high concentration of endemic species (17). The emblematic bird of this route is the Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) (VU), a species endemic to Colombia, and also local, found in the Western Cordillera and north of the Central Andes.

Black-and-gold Tanager – Bangsia melanochlamys

There are two routes for birding in Mistrató, one on the Costa Rica road and the other called the Sutú.

Club-winged Manakin – Machaeropterus deliciosus

Other birds that you can find on this route are the Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii), Sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma), Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), Toucan barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus), Club-winged manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus), Glistening-green tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis), Barred hawk (Morphnarchus princeps) and the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima), among others.

Ornate Hawk Eagle – Spizaetus ornatus. Ph. Arnulfo Sanchez

Reserva El Sutú

This is a growing destination where you can photograph some of the birds of the region. So far, with the help of feeders and drinkers, you can observe up to 3 species of birds, among them, the Black-and-gold Tanager.

5. Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia

Pueblo Rico is a municipality located on the eastern side of the western mountain range, in the northwest of Risaralda, 97 kilometers from Pereira, in Colombia. The municipality of Santa Cecilia is located 32 km northwest of the municipality of Pueblo Rico. It is a region with the presence of indigenous and Afro groups.

Santa Cecilia is a town situated on the border between the departments of Risaralda and Chocó. This town connects the road that leads from the heart of the Coffee Axis to the depths of the Choco rainforests.

Pacific Antwren – Myrmotherula pacifica

Due to its location on the Pacific slope, the area is directly influenced by the intertropical confluence zone, which translates into high precipitation, and high relative humidity, with an average temperature of 28° C, and precipitation exceeding 4000 mm. Most of the region is pristine, with areas of very humid tropical forests. Many endemic species are found here.

Baudo Oropendola – Psarocolius cassini at Santa Cecilia, Risaralda, Colombia

Among the birds you can see there are the Pacific Antwren (Myrmotherula pacifica), the endemic Baudo Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini), the Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni), the Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia flavirostris), the Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata), Dusky-faced Tanager (Mitrospingus cassinii), and many others.

6. Santa Rosa de Cabal – Cortaderal

Santa Rosa de Cabal is a municipality 15 km northeast of Pereira, and the entrance to the National Natural Park Los Nevados from Risaralda. It is the capital of chorizo, a Colombian type of pork sausage. It is also part of the territory declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011: the Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape.

Fuerte’s Parrot or Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

The observation site is in Cortaderal on the road that leads to the Otún lagoon, two and a half hours from Santa Rosa de Cabal. In this place, you will be able to observe the Fuerte’s Parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi). The Fuerte’s Parrot is a rare and local species of the temperate forests of the Central Andes. In the early 2000s, this species was thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered! The protection of its natural habitats is mandatory to avoid its extinction.

Mountain Avocetbill – Opisthoprora euryptera

In this site you will also be able to observe the Andean Pygmy-owl (Glaicidium jardinii), the Hooded mountain tanager (Buthraupis montana), the Speckle-faced Parrot (Pionus tumultuosus), the Grey-breasted mountain toucan (Andigena hypoglauca), the Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum), also the Sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) and a jewel such as the Mountain Avocetbill (Opisthoprora euryptera), and other species of the Central Andes.

Grey-breasted mountain toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

7. Belén de Umbría Lek Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Belén de Umbria is only an hour and a half from the city of Pereira. From there you take the route to the Santa Emilia village. This is one of the ideal places in Risaralda to observe the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), preferably in the afternoon.

Andean cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus

Where to Stay When you go to Visit Birding Spots in Risaralda

There are many options in the city of Pereira, but I recommend the Hotel Sazagua for a luxury experience. Also, if you prefer a more authentic experience, since you are in the coffee region, I recommend Finca del Café Hotel which includes experiences with the coffee culture.

“Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary offers its own accomodation. For more information about it visit our entry Ecotourism at Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Finally, for more distant places, such as Apia, Montezuma, Mistrató and Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia you can stay at the hotels of each town. Generally, these are very basic accommodations, but comfortable enough for your stay and rest.

If you want to know more about your trip for birdwatching, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Indeed, Risaralda is a very rainy department, especially towards the western region. Thus, I recommend you, above all, to 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, or want to visit Risaralda for bird watching, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


  • Risaralda Bird Festival
  • Mistrató Neblina Birds – Risaralda Local Guide Arnulfo Sanchez

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.