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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.