Best 3 Sunflower Fields That You Can Actually Visit in Colombia

The Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, the common sunflower) is worldwide known for its beauty and Vincent van Gogh paintings. The blooming of this beautiful flowers everywhere attracts many people to the so-called sunflower tourism.

Although they are treated as weeds, they fulfill an important function: their ability to grow in all types of environments and their resistance to drought allows them to invade degraded sites, where they detain the soil. Also, because they produce a lot of nectar, they attract numerous pollinators, such as bees. 

Origin of Sunflowers

Indigenous domestication

Sunflowers were domesticated by Mesoamerican Indian tribes, and are traditionally associated with pre-Columbian Mexican cultures. They were cultivated more for their usefulness than for their beauty.

However, the sunflower was used as a symbol representing the sun deity, primarily by the Aztecs and Otomies in Mexico and the Incas in Peru.

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro entered Peru, where he found a gigantic sunflower that the indigenous people of the Inca empire worshipped as a sacred image of the sun god. Then, gold figures of this flower, as well as seeds, were taken to Europe at the beginning of the 16th century.

Crops and Sunflower Tourism

Nowadays, their cultivation for oil extraction has been widespread in Spain since about 1980, thanks to subsidies from the European Economic Community. The same happens in the United Stated.

However, this is not the only appeal of sunflowers; the beauty of their fields attracts millions of tourists around the world.

Today there are sunflower fields on every continent, but the sunflower fields in Spain and Italy are the most famous for their unparalleled beauty.

The most beautiful sunflower fields in Spain are those found in the regions of La Bureba in Burgos, Cardejón in Soria, Carmona in Seville and Antequera in Malaga.

On the other hand, the most famous sunflower field in Italy is in the Tuscany region.

Sunflower Movement

Every day, sunflowers move towards the sun, following it on its east-west route. At night they move in the opposite direction, as if waiting for the sun to rise the next morning.

But one day they stop doing so, since when they reach maturity they stop their dance, do not turn again and remain oriented indefinitely towards the east until they die.

This movement, called heliotropism, is regulated by the circadian rhythm of the plants, and favors their growth.

And the truth is, it is not the flower that turns, it is the uneven growth of its stems that causes the turning. And when they stop growing, they stop turning.

That they stop is not entirely sad, since when they reach maturity, the plant is ready to be pollinated. The flowers release additional heat, which makes them more attractive to pollinating insects.

Find out more in the Science Report Circadian regulation of sunflower heliotropism, floral orientation, and pollinator visits: Sun-tracking when young, east-facing when mature, warmer sunflowers attract more pollinators.

Sunflower Tourism in Colombia

Research on sunflower cultivation in Colombia has been carried out since the late 1950s. But it was not until 1985 that the first sunflower field was planted for commercial production. The first crops were planted in Valle del Cauca, Tolima and Cesar.

In general, sunflower grows well in Colombia, from sea level to 2600 meter above sea level, so much so that today there are crops in Bogota. However, it was not until 2020 that some fields began to be used for tourism.

Today, there are several destinations where you can visit sunflower fields in Colombia, bu today I am goiong to talk about the most suitable for visit: San Martin, in the department of Meta, in the eastern plains of Colombia, Montes de Maria in the department of Bolivar, in the Colombian Caribbean region, and Valledupar in the department of Cesar, also part of the Caribbean region.

Sunflower Tourism in San Martin, Meta

Sunflower Tourism in San Martin de Los Llanos, Meta, Colombia CC @campodegirasolessm

The municipality of San Martin de los Llanos is located one hour from Villavicencio, capital of Meta. The annual sowing of sunflowers in a private plot of land in San Martín de los Llanos is the place that delights the visitor’s eyes with a minefield of this plant.

For more than five years, between the months of October and November, the sunflower crop blooms, and every year tourists are treated to the experience of walking among a crop of large and impressive sunflowers.

The tour starts at 10:00 in the morning or at 3:00 in the afternoon, from the municipality of San Martin with the indications of the authorized guides.

To get there you have to cross a 3-kilometer dirt road from San Martin; since it is private land, it is not permitted to indicate the exact location of the place.

Sunflower Tourism in Montes de María (or Serranía de San Jacinto), Bolívar

Sunflowers in San Jacinto, Bolivar, Colombia. Pic. by @yulart__

Between the departments of Bolívar and Sucre, in the Colombian Caribbean, is located the sub-region of Montes de María, a vast territory of agricultural and livestock tradition whose geographical location consolidated it as a corridor that connects a large part of the country with the Caribbean region and some of its main ports.

The Montes de María (also known as Serranía de San Jacinto) length does not exceed 110 km and its altitudes are less than 1,200 meters above sea level.

Montes de María, a Post-conflict Destination

The Montes de María area suffered from conflict for years, being a zone of FARC-EP guerrilla activity and paramilitary groups including the AUC. A particularly difficult period was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For years, this territory was forgotten, but now it is reappearing to conquer Colombians and foreigners with its beauty. In addition to the handicrafts, bagpipes and natural landscapes, there is a sunflower field, which has become another tourist attraction.

Tourism, entrepreneurship and sustainability

In the Sibar farm there is fish farming, chicken breeding and now, beekeeping that began to be generated thanks to the planting of these sunflowers.

It is an eco-efficient farm, where nothing is thrown away. The chicken feces (chicken manure) are used as fertilizer for the sunflowers. The flour from the sunflowers is fed to fish and chickens.

Bee Keeping Crops: The company AgroFrance sold the sunflower seeds to the farm owners

Sibar Farm and its Sunflower Fields

The idea arose as a result of the pandemic. Originally, it was a soy-based poultry feed manufacturing company. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, they came up with the idea of using sunflower meal as raw material for concentrate plants for cattle, sheep, swine, fish and poultry feed.

The company AgroFrance sold the sunflower seeds to the farm owners, and gave them technical assistance for planting, which is how the three-hectare sunflower field was born.

This sunflower variety produces grains with high protein, vitamin and fiber content, which have different uses for human consumption. These characteristics make this field even more special for tourists.

The field is located on the Sibar farm, on the outskirts of the municipality of San Jacinto, and very close to the Troncal de Occidente highway in the Montes de María.

Entering to contemplate the 180 thousand sunflowers has no cost. The only recommendation of the owner Alfredo Villadiego is that the visit is made with all the biosecurity protocols and without making noise because they can scare the bees!

Sunflower Tourism in Valledupar, Cesar

Sunflower Fields in Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia CC Publimetro.co

The cultivation of sunflower in the department of Cesar arose thanks to the union of several farmers. As in Bolivar, AgroFrance International distributed the seed to the local agricultural farmers.

The crops are located on the road that leads to the village of El Jabo, five minutes from Valledupar, at Finca La Esmeralda, and there are other fields distributed in the village of Los Venados, and in the municipality of Urumita in La Guajira.

Sunflower as an Alternative Crop

Sunflower cultivation in Cesar has become a planting alternative due to the scarce markets for rice, corn, cotton, sorghum, and other products, and it is a plant that does not require abundant water. Farmers in the area hope to harvest the grain to take it to agribusiness as oil or flour.

Bee sanctuary, therapeutic and tourist attractiveness

The harmonious and constant buzzing of bees accompanies this yellow feast, making it a sanctuary for bees. Thousands of bees arrive in swarms from the mountains to give life to the crops and help the pollination of this plant.

Some countries such as Germany, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, France and Greece must implant bee hives, artificially, due to the scarcity of this insect in these countries.

One of the owners of the crops has witnessed how hundreds of people come to appreciate these flowers, and for the landscape impact of 200 thousand sunflower plants framed under the silhouette of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which for some resembles Swiss landscapes.

The fields have even been visited by several people with health problems to enjoy the beauty of the crop. In this way, they are contributing to the community.

Important Precautions When Visiting a Sunflower Field

  • You should wear appropriate footwear for the tour and the mud.
  • Avoid wearing strong perfumes before visiting, as they attract bees.
  • In addition, it is recommended not to run inside the field and it is forbidden to cut the sunflowers.

Remember, these places are especially for those who wish to enjoy nature.

If you want to know more about nature and agro-tourism destinations in Colombia do not hesitate in contact us or visit our Plan your trip page.

References
About the authors

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.

Best places to see Anteaters in Colombia

The terror of ants and termites also lives in Colombia. They are creatures with a docile character and poses no threat to man. On a tailored wildlife holiday with SULA, you have a good chance to see anteaters in Colombia, such as the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and the Tamandua, or lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla). They can often be found in savannas, and open grasslands, where the termites upon which they feed are abundant.

The Anteaters

The South American anteater is an animal that has a tongue similar to that of a long worm, which is why it is classified in the suborder Vermilingua, which literally means “worm tongue”. The anteaters are predators specialized in eating insects, especially ants and termites.

Anteaters are distant cousin of sloths and armadillos, and contrary to what you may think, they have nothing to do with aardvarks, numbats, echidnas, pangolins, and some spiders, which are also called anteaters.

Anteaters are endangered species, rice crops, African palm plantations, and livestock are the main causes of displacement of the anteater from its natural habitat. Forced displacement affects their diet and their reproduction rates decrease; in addition, anteaters may be run over by vehicles or face other problems with humans.

Ecotourism is a source of income to promote their study and conservation.

Anteaters Species

There are four species of anteaters still alive: the silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) and the southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla).

Silky anteater – Cyclopes didactylus © Tinka Plese – Rojano, C., Miranda, L., Ávila, R. (Editores). 2014. Manual de Rehabilitación de Hormigueros de Colombia. Fundación Cunaguaro, Geopark
Colombia S.A.S. El Yopal, Casanare. 155 p
Anteaters in Colombia, in this picture the Giant anteater –Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Southern tamandua – Tamandua tetradactyla © M.Tello Rojano, C., Miranda, L., Ávila, R. (Editores). 2014. Manual de Rehabilitación de Hormigueros de Colombia. Fundación Cunaguaro, Geopark Colombia S.A.S. El Yopal, Casanare. 155 p

The difference between them lies mainly in the habitat in which they live, which includes tropical dry forests, rainforests, grasslands and savannas, although not in the Andean mountainous regions. The giant anteater lives in savannas. And that is where they can be found in Colombia.

As for the two anteaters of the genus Tamandua, and the silky anteater, they are much smaller than the giant anteater, their fur is yellowish, and they live in trees.

The Wold Anteater Day is celebrated on 29 November every year, reminding the importance of their conservation.

Where do Anteaters Live

Originally, these animals were exclusive to South America, but once the isthmus of Panama was formed about three million years ago, anteaters expanded their range to Central America.

Thus, giant anteaters can be found as far as Central America, while silky anteaters and northern tamanduas reach as far as Mexico. Southern tamanduas extend as far south as Uruguay.

There are several names for anteaters in south America, and they depend on the species. The giant anteater is called ant bear, “oso hormiguero” in Spanish, the silky anteater is also known as pygmy anteater, and for the tamanduas there are names such as tamanduá, guazú, yautare, kuarevachú, Oso Bandera, and Oso Palmero.

Where You Can Find the Anteater

Anteaters are widely distributed in South America and can be found in the following countries:

  • Argentina (Provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Misiones and Salta)
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Peru
  • Paraguay
  • Venezuela

7 Facts about Anteaters you cannot miss

  1. Anteaters can swallow a total of 35,000 ants and/or termites per day.
  2. The anteater tongue flicks 150 times per minute, and has thousands of tiny hooks and large amounts of saliva to eat ants or termites from trees and mounds.
  3. The anteater’s stomach is similar to a bird’s gizzard, using small amounts of sand and dirt to digest insects.
  4. Unlike other mammals, Anteaters don’t have teeth.
  5. Anteaters have a disgusting smell to defend themselves from their biggest predators, Puma and Jaguar, they also have long arched claws on their strong legs that may cause fatal injuries.
  6. Female gestation is of approximately 190 days. After birth, offspring are carried at the female’s back for 2 years, camouflaging themselves in the mother’s fur.
  7. They are one of the most ecological animals on the planet. Despite the large number of ants they consume, anteaters are very careful when eating and do not destroy the habitat of ants and/or termites.

Myths and Legends around the Anteaters

The anteater is perceived as a strange looking animal although it is viewed sympathetically and fortunately without culinary objectives. Its rarity and vulnerability, being so specialized in its feeding, promote it as a symbol of conservation, and also as a great attraction for nature tourism.

The anteater appears in several South American legends and stories, both indigenous and Creole. One of the most attractive is the one compiled by the writer Graciela Repún, which comes from the Kaingangá Indians of the jungle of Misiones (Argentina).

It seems that after the great flood, Kadjurukré, their creator god, worked at night to model with mud the animals of the jungle and when he was trying to finish the anteater, in a hurry because the sun was rising, he took a stick and put it in his mouth as a tongue because he did not have enough time to put teeth. And so he sent it to eat ants….

Where to See Anteaters in Colombia

The geographical distribution anteaters in Colombia is extensive. However, despite the wide distribution of anteaters in Colombia, the best place to watch them is in the Eastern Plains of Colombia.

There are several places to go in a Safari where it is possible to find these animals hanging around the savannas or the riparian forests. The best time to see the anteater is dry season between December and late March.

Here in SULA we offer a Safari that goes through Casanare an Meta departments, in the eastern plains of Colombia, where anteaters and other species present in this region can be spotted.

Casanare

Safari in Casanare

The conservation, education and research work of the Yopal-based environmental organization Fundación Cunaguaro includes anteaters. That includes monitoring the absurd number of road killings of these creatures – 400 giant anteaters a year and at least 1,500 tamanduas.

The foundation promotes ecotourism on large private estates, from where you can go out in search of the anteaters in Colombia.

El Encanto de Guanapalo

It is a group of cattle ranches which covers 9,000 hectares of inundable savannah and acts as a strategic wildlife corridor. El Encanto de Guanapalo Natural Reserve is conformed by 3 haciendas with a total area of 90 square kilometers, you can have a typical experience of the eastern plains, along with the conservation of the flora and fauna of the sector.

Wild horses and termite mounds at Casanare’s savannas.

Corocora Camp

Corocora Camp, Casanare, Colombia

Corocora Camp, the first luxury safari camp in Colombia. It is located two and a half hours from the Yopal airport by 4×4 vehicle. There you will find five large beige canvas tents, identical to those of the high-flying African safaris.

La Palmita Reserve

The municipality of Trinidad hosts La Palmita nature reserve, which has a research center that is responsible for acquiring knowledge of the biological and social diversity of the Orinoquia region for its conservation.

Meta

Find out more information about Meta anteaters destinations in our entry #1 Llanos Experience near to Bogotá: The Llanero Dawn Route in Meta.

Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua Hotel & Bioreserve

Mururito Nature Reserve

@Colombiafrank at Mururito

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines shot prior to arrival.
  • Do not forget that mosquito repellent is highly recommended.
  • Bring rubber boots, a raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you.
  • It’s never too much to carry a personal medicine kit.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
About the authors

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.

Luisa Martin

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

#1 Llanos Experience near to Bogotá: The Llanero Dawn Route in Meta

Also called the Meta River Tourist Route, the Ruta del Amanecer Llanero, or Llanero Dawn Route, is one of the four special destinations the Meta department has to offer to its visitors.

Here I will tell you everything you can do in the Amanecer Llanero Route in Meta, just a 20-minute flight from Bogotá.

Llanero Dawn Route (Amanecer Llanero)

If you want to know the path that leads to the Sun, this will be your route! You will see the Sun reflected on the waters of the Meta River, which sustains the fishermen, or warming up the sandy beaches of Cabuyaro, and finally you will see it set from the Manacacías River boardwalk.

And of course, you will see the Sun rising: before six o’clock in the morning you will witness an orange and red disc inflaming the sky. You will then know that you are on the Llanero Dawn route (Amanecer Llanero Route).

Location

The Amanecer Llanero route includes the municipalities of Cabuyaro, Puerto López and Puerto Gaitán in the department of Meta, in the Llanos Orientales (eastern plains) of Colombia.

Amanecer Llanero Route or Llanero Dawn Route

Weather

On this route, you will find an equatorial climate. It is usually (very) hot, humid and rainy all year round. The average annual temperature is 19°C, reaching maximums of up to 35°C depending on the season.

On the other hand, the average annual rainfall is 1216 mm, and it is also very humid, with an average relative humidity of 83%.

What to do in the Llanero Dawn Route

The route begins in Villavicencio, in the piedmont plains, on the road that leads to the municipality of Puerto López. Before crossing the bridge over the Ocoa River and leaving the urban area, it is recommended to stop at the Chorillano sector and enjoy the famous chorizos, empanadas, and fast food that have made the city famous.

Tiuma Park

Tiuma park is a theme park and hotel located in Villavicencio at Km 15 via Puerto López. It is focused on a nature and adventure theme and has spectacular scenery.

There you can do activities such as canopy at 120 feet, horseback riding, attend shows of Vaqueria and the culture of the plains, rappelling, herding cattle and Llanero work, and ecological walks, all under the supervision of trained personnel.

Additionally, this place offers glamping type accommodation, being one of the pioneers in offering Glamping in Villavicencio. These accommodations have air conditioning, Jacuzzi and a private bathroom. They also have a view of the lake, where you can observe animals of the region, the Llanero sunset and sunrise, and the unique landscape of the savannah plains.

Puerto López – Obelisk

86 km after leaving Villavicencio you will arrive at the municipality of Puerto López located on the banks of the Meta River. In Puerto López, you can visit the Monument to the Canoero, which honors the fishermen of the region.

Creative Commons Licence – Ph. Mateo Luna De Mateo Luna – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Obelisk is known as the belly button of Colombia for being the point that demarcates the geographical center of the Colombian territory. When arriving in Puerto López, you can see Alto de Menegua, where the obelisk stands. The obelisk is 30 meters tall, and there you can observe the sun in all its splendor at noon.

There you will find the Mirador Matapalo Tower, 50 meters high, from where you will have the most spectacular view of the Llanos Orientales of Colombia, just in the geographic center of the country.

Cabuyaro

Cabuyaro is a town with fabulous landscapes and whose main attraction is the majestic Meta River. Throughout the town, you can find beautiful Morichales typical of the savannah landscape surrounded by great beauty. The “morichales” constitute a very common and representative ecosystem of the Orinoco region, and are mainly formed by individuals of the moriche palm (Mauritia flexuosa).

Cabuyaro Beach

In Cabuyaro, the natives have designed a peculiar way to travel the Meta River in boats and canoes, and they also offer fishing instruction.

Likewise, this territory has a great variety of festivities that make it one of the best vacation destinations. There are, for example, the Regional Harp Festival and the Plains Sunset Beauty Contest, held in November; and the Beach and River Festival, in February.

Ostrich Park (Parque Avestruz)

Parque Avestruz is located 1.5 km from the Obelisk and only 4 minutes away, on the road to Puerto Gaitán in the Colombian plains.

There you will have a guided tour to interact with the ostriches and learn from them. You will be able to touch and feed the ostriches. Also, you will be able to take pictures and videos of these exotic birds that can reach up to 3 meters high.

COLOMBIAFRANK at the Ostrich Park in Meta
COLOMBIAFRANK Feeding Ostriches at the Ostrich Park in Meta

The park offers exotic ostrich meat in hamburgers and grilled, as well as dishes prepared with ostrich eggs. You can also find products such as ostrich skin for the manufacture of luxury items including cowboy boots, handbags, wallets, briefcases, belts, clothing, furniture, and car accessories. Ostrich oil, which is supposed to have countless health and skincare benefits.

Shoes made with ostrich skin at the Ostrich Park in Meta
Ostrich Oil at the Ostrich Park in Meta

You will also find ostrich feathers, crafts, leather goods, and ostrich eggshells formerly used as cooking bowls or canteens.

Earrings made with ostrich feathers at the Ostrich Park in Meta

Hotel & Bioreserva Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is located 17 kilometers ahead of Puerto López, department of Meta, on the road to Puerto Gaitán.

Morichal at Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is a natural reserve to enjoy the beauty of the rolling savannas of the eastern plains. It is an ideal place to enjoy a safari with your family. There you will be able to do bird, reptile, fish, and primate watching. Its main attractions are the Macaw Lake, the sunsets that can be seen from the El Morichal viewpoint, and also the sunrises.

Kayak Trips at Lagos de Menegua

There is no excuse to stay only at the pool because you can go on bike or horse rides, kayak trips, or walks through the preserved forest. There are also the ponds where thousands of mojarras and cachamas are farmed, as well as the Lake of Silence, where you can fish for pavon fish and yamu fish, among others.

Mojarras at Lagos de Menegua
Fishing Mojarras at Lagos de Menegua

Finca Hotel Mururito Nature Reserve

Mururito is a 2000-hectare nature reserve in the Orinoco, with a high-quality hotel farm at its heart and several guided activities and safaris. To get to the farm you need 4×4 transport. However, you can also arrive by charter flight, or enter via the Manacacías River.

Exploring the Savannah on horseback at Mururito Nature Reserve

There you can take daytime and nighttime walks in the forest or in the savannah. You can go out by bike or on horseback to discover the farthest places in the reserve, its pastures, its marshes and its lagoons. You can also learn the work of a cowboy, and participate in the activities of the farm.

Walks in the forest at Mururito Nature Reserve
In the photo two forest foxes (Cerdocyon thous), one of the species that has been increasing its population thanks to conservation in Mururito.

On the other hand, you can take a bath in the waters of Caño Tigre or in the Manacacías River. Also, in the lagoons or in the river you can fish piranhas and other fish.

Manacacías River at Mururito Nature Reserve
COLOMBIAFRANK enjoying his trip along the Manacacías River in Mururito

Mururito is also considered one of the hotspots for bird watching in the department of Meta. Birds from the Amazon and the Orinoco region have been recorded there.

Golden-headed Manakin – Ceratopipra erythrocephala
Swallow-winged Puffbird – Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Puerto Gaitán

Leaving the Obelisk in Alto de Menegua you continue the route 112 km through the plain leading to the municipality of Puerto Gaitán. The beaches of the rivers Manacacías, Yucao, and Meta are an alternative for rest and recreation. In the mouths of the Manacacías river, you can appreciate the Pink Dolphins, here known as “Toninas” (Inia geoffrensis).

Manacacías River at Puerto Gaitán, Meta

Ethno-tourism project

This project will allow you to participate in the life of the local indigenous people, learn about the customs of the Piapoco community, and integrate yourself into the ancestral ritual of the Dance of the Anaconda. Likewise, you can be guided by the community through ecological trails in their reserve.

Visiting the Piapoco’s territory in Meta

Where to Stay when you Visit the Llanero Dawn Route

If you are a nature lover and you like to be away from civilization, Lagos de Menegua and Mururito are the best options to stay when you visit the Llanero Dawn Route.

Hotel & Bioreserva Lagos de Menegua
Mururito Nature Reserve

The easiest place to visit is Lagos de Menegua because the entrance is on the main road that leads to Puerto Gaitán. On the other hand, to get to Mururito you need to go into the plain on an unmarked and uncovered road. You can only get to Mururito by direct indication, but not on your own.

If you want to know more about Lagos de Menegua and Mururito, visit our entry Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia. Also, if you are looking for the best safaris in Colombia please visit our entry Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit the Llanero Dawn Route (Ruta del Amanecer Llanero) in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

#1 Birding Hotspot in Meta: Bosque Bavaria. Only 5 min. from Villavicencio!

The Bosque Bavaria in Villavicencio is one of the main hotspots for bird watching in Colombia and the first hotspot in the department of Meta. It is considered a place of ornithological interest due to the high concentration of bird species in a relatively small area. In this place more than 350 bird species have been registered.

In this place is located the Proaves Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus) Bird Nature Reserve which, together with the forests of the former Bavaria beer company headquarters, preserves the forest in the piedmont plains of Los Llanos sheltering bird species in a gradient between 200 and 1100 meters above sea level.

Guatiquía River Canyon (IBA)

Bosque Bavaria Hotspot is part of the Important Bird Area (IBA) Guatiquía River Canyon. The Guatiquía River Canyon is located on the eastern slope of the Eastern mountain range of Colombia, in the Llanos piedmont. Guatiquía IBA is part of the department of Meta and covers an area of 450 square kilometers.

The Guatiquía River Canyon goes up from the Bavaria bridge in Villavicencio, at 400 meters above sea level, to the Chingaza paramo, at 3,000 meters above sea level. It crosses towns such as Montfort, San Francisco, El Calvario, Santa Teresa, Candelaria and San Juanito.

Guatiquía River and Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot

The fairly wide altitudinal gradient of the IBA Guatiquía River Canyon favors the presence of fauna and flora belonging to different thermal floors. Globally threatened species, restricted-range species and biome-restricted species are found in this area.

Among them, it is worth mentioning the Band-tailed Guan (Penelope argyrotis), Blue-throated Starfrontlet (Coeligena helianthea), Crimson-rumped Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus), Brown-breasted Parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera), Cundinamarca Antpitta (Grallaria kaestneri), Andean Siskin (Spinus spinescens), Ochre-breasted Brush-finch (Atlapetes semirufus), Pale-naped Brush-finch (Atlapetes pallidinucha) and Moustached Brush-finch (Atlapetes albofrenatus).

It is possible to do a bird watching daytrip from the paramo to the lower part of the piedmont, you just need a good guide and a 4×4 truck.

Bosque Bavaria Location

The Bavaria forest is located five minutes from the city of Villavicencio, Meta, in the vicinity of the old Bavaria brewery warehouse. You can find it on the left side of the road that leads to the municipality of Restrepo, shortly before crossing the bridge over the Guatiquía River.

Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot at 5 minutes from Villavicencio

The forest is part of a transitional piedmont forest fragment between the mountainous part and the adjacent plains. Bosque Bavaria is a tropical humid forest formed by slightly altered primary and secondary forests.

It is located at an altitude ranging between 467 and 651 meters above sea level and is the boundary between the bird species present in the low areas of the Orinoco and the species typical of the mountainous forests of the Eastern Mountain Range.

Bosque Bavaria Weather

Bosque Bavaria has an average annual temperature of 27°C and an average annual rainfall of 3,663 mm (IGAC, 1996). Besides, the first period of rain occurs between April and May and the second between September and November; 62% of the total rain falls during these five months. Also, September and October are the rainiest months while January and February are the driest.

Birding in Bosque Bavaria, Meta

The tour is made along an unpaved road that connects several farms with the city. During the tour, you can observe the canyon of the Guatiquía River from the observation balconies offered by the steep forest slopes that surround the road.

Double-toothed Kite – Harpagus bidentatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Among with the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus), there are other interesting birds such as the Gilded Barbet (Capito auratus), Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata), Amazonian Motmot (Momotus momota), White-chested Puffbird (Malacoptila fusca), Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala), White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus), Sooty-capped Hermit (Phaethornis augusti), Moustached Antwren (Myrmotherula ignota), Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), Dwarf Cuckoo (Coccycua pumila), Green Manakin (Cryptopipo holochlora), and Striolated Manakin (Machaeropterus striolatus).

Unfortunate picture of the Striolated Manakin – Machaeropterus striolatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Besides birds, you can also find mammals such as the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), along with other animals such as turtles, and amphibians, butterflies, etc.

Butterfly Watching in Bosque Bavaria

The list of butterflies that live in Bosque Bavaria is composed of about 470 species. This region is the best sampled in butterflies in the entire Eastern Cordillera and has a high potential for butterfly watching tours.

Here are some of the butterfly species you can find in Bosque Bavaria:

Fig. 1. Morpho telemachus iphiclus . Fig. 2. Morpho achilles patroclus . Fig. 3. Morpho achilles phokylides . Fig. 4. Morpho marcus intermedia . Fig. 5. Morpho menelaus occidentalis . Fig. 6. Antirrhaea philoctetes philaretes (Salazar et al. 2017).
Fig. 15. Parides anchises nielseni . Fig. 16. Coenophlebia archidona . Fig. 17. Pterourus zagreus f. bacchus . Fig. 18. Eueides tales cognata . Fig. 19. Methona confusa confusa . Fig. 20. Hamadryas chloe chloe . Fig. 21. Brevianta ematheon . Fig. 22. Semomesia croesus lacrimosa . Fig. 23. Cyrenia martia ssp. . Fig. 24. Callicore lyca bella . (Plates G. Nielsen) (Salazar et al. 2017).

Where to Stay near Bosque Bavaria Hotspot

There are several option to stay near Bosque Bavaria, either you stay at Villavicencio or in a nearby town called Restrepo.

However, for birders and nature lovers, I recommend Rancho Camaná Natural Reserve as the nearest place to stay when you visit Bosque Bavaria. Besides, from Rancho Camaná you can also visit other birding spots as Camino Monfortiano, Caney Alto, and Upin Salt Mines along the piedmont plains.

Recommendations

  • Wear boots, a raincoat, and a mosquito protection.
  • Disinfect shoes with hypochlorite or Clorox to prevent the dispersion of the chytrid fungus (one of the main causes of death of amphibians in the world).

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Bosque Bavaria or Guatiquía Canyon in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

The Ultimate Llanos Orientales of Colombia Bucket List

Over the last few years, Los Llanos Orientales has become a top favorite nature destination in Colombia. Travelers have fallen hard for the incredible landscapes, the safari experiences, the culture, and food.

With 16-17 million ha in the country, there is a long list of things you want to see and do. So I put together a bucket list with some of the most remarkable Colombian Llanos travel experiences and destinations.

From Caño Cristales in La Macarena to rafting in the Güéjar River Canyon, bird watching in Restrepo, aero-safari in Altagracia, horse riding and cowboy experience in El Encanto de Guanapalo, cocoa experience in Arauca, sport fishing in the Bita river in Vichada, glamping in the Corocora Camp to boating along the Manacacias River chasing dolphins in Meta— The Llanos Orientales is full of incredible adventures!

Here’s our ultimate Colombian Llanos Orientales travel bucket list!

Meta

Meta is one of the top bird watching destinations in Colombia. The multiple ecosystems you can find in Meta offer some of the most varied bird species checklists from the paramo to vast plains with echoes of the Amazon forest and parts of the Guiana Shield.

It also offers more than 47 festivals and cultural events throughout the year. The International Folkloric and Tourist Festival of El Llano is one of the most important and has the Cuadrillas de San Martín horse exhibition, which is Cultural Heritage of Colombia.

Another highlight for Meta is the Caño Cristales river, along with wonderful natural landscapes and adventure destinations. In Meta, you will have incredible gastronomic, cultural, wellness, nature and adventure experiences just a 20-minute flight from Bogotá. It is a great destination for those who have little time, or for those who travel with their families.

Top Experiences in Meta

La Macarena Mountain Range (Sierra de la Macarena): Caño Cristales Route

Caño Cristales – Creative Commons Wiki

Piedemonte Llanero Route: Birdwatching, Wellness and Horseback Experiences

Undulated Savanna – Mururito Nature Reserve

Llanero Dawn Route (Amanecer Llanero): Safari and dolphins

Manacacías River

Llanero Spell Route (Embrujo Llanero): Rafting at Rio Guejar Canyon

Travesía Aventura, Rio Guejar

More Bucket List Experiences in Meta

  • Birdwatching at UNAMAS Nature Reserve: Amazon jungle transition Orinoquia-Amazon
  • World Cowboy Meeting
  • 51st International Joropo Tournament.
  • Los Ocarros Biopark
  • Lomalinda Regional Natural Park
  • Guaicaramo Hot Springs (Barranca de Upía)
  • Ostrich Park
  • Las Malocas Park
  • Obelisk of Puerto Lopez

Casanare

Casanare is one of the top safari destinations in Colombia. The multiple nature reserves in the flooded plains of Casanare offer some of the best wildlife viewings in northern South America, especially during April and December.

Another highlight of Casanare is the cowboy’s rich culture. Discover the Cowboy culture in the Ranchón del Llanerazo, a museum that invites you to live the life of the Llanero man. There you will know the “Cantos de Trabajo del Llano”, which is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world.

Top Experiences in Casanare

Aerosafari in the Colombian Plains

Aero safari – Altagracia Nature Reserve

Colombian Cowboy Experience

Cowboy Experience – Hato Los Deseos

Safari at Nature Reserves and Hatos

Safari in truck – Hato Matepalma

More Bucket List Experiences in Casanare

  • Birdwatching at La Primavera
  • Visit Corocora Camp for Luxury Glamping
  • Wildlife Photography tours
  • Gastronomy
  • Horseback Riding Expedition
  • Culture & Traditions
  • Conservation Experiences

Vichada

Vichada is the biggest department of the Colombian Llanos and is blessed with an incredible richness of water. It is the place where the Orinoco River forms its natural border between Colombia and Venezuela. From the spectacular El Tuparro national park to the mighty network of rivers, lagoons and canals and abundant wildlife – it’s the perfect destination for anglers and nature lovers.

To get to Vichada, you need an air connection since there is no direct road in good condition. You will find the airport of Puerto Carreño its capital, and also other airfields in other places in the department. You can also get there by boat, through the rivers that run on its territory: Orinoco, Meta and Vichada.

Top Experiences in Vichada

Tuparro Natural National Park

The Eighth Wonder of the World Tuparro Natural Park Colombiaamazinglandscapes / CC BY-SA

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas © FishIn Colombia

Sportfishing at Bita and Tomo Rivers

Fishing in Puerto Carreño © FishIn Colombia

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Pink river dolphin at Meta, Bita, and Orinoco Rivers

Bita River © FishIn Colombia

More Bucket List Experiences in Vichada

  • Hills of Casuarito
  • Orinoco and Bita Rivers beaches
  • Streams of Tuparro
  • Azul and El Pañuelo lagoons.
  • Peinillas Canal
  • Mesetas Canal
  • Rancho Barú and Rancho Wisi
  • Tomo, Tuparrito, and Tuparro rivers
  • Pedro Camejo Island
  • Guahibos and Cuibas Tribes
  • Maipures Indigenous Cemetery
  • El Unuma Indigenous Reserve
  • Gaviotas Center
  • Marandúa Project
  • Trekking

Arauca

Arauca is a diamond in the rough for nature and adventure tourism in Colombia. Its poor development is related to the presence of illegal armed groups. Here oil and livestock play an important role in the national economy.

In 2018, this area of Colombia was supported as a Tourism, Peace and Reconciliation zone with Creata Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, and USAID collaboration. However, despite the efforts, it is still a conflict zone in the country.

Its attraction lies in the richness of its landscapes. Its territory is divided into a mountainous part, an alluvial plain of the Orinoco, and the foothills of the plains with vegetation of savanna and tropical forest. Thus, the contrasts between mountains and plains offer you exotic landscapes and a great diversity of flora and fauna.

Top Experiences in Arauca

“Cotizas” of Arauca – handmade shoes and handicrafts

©Creata

Arauca Birding

©Creata

Cacao Experience

©Creata

Llanero Experience and Vaquería Songs

©Creata

La Barcaza: Boat trip on the Arauca River

©Creata

More Bucket List Experiences in Arauca

  • Cravo Norte
  • José Antonio Páez International Bridge
  • Las Toninas Aquapark
  • Arauca River
  • Los Morichales Park
  • El Alcaraván Experimental Farm
  • Rondon Port
  • Saravena
  • Tame

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit the Llanos Orientales, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References

  • www.mincit.gov.co
  • SITUR Meta
  • http://www.vichada.gov.co
  • Fundación Omacha

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.[/vc_column_text]

 

Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

Going on safari in Colombia? You would have never imagined it. However, it is possible to go on a safari in Colombia and it is an incredible experience that you should live once in your lifetime. You will not see lions, zebras or giraffes at least not native, but native wildlife will impress you quite as much. 

There are a few places where you can have a real safari experience in Colombia. You will find about them in this post. 

Safari in the Orinoquia 

Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), also known as common anaconda or common water boa.

Los LLanos  

East of the Andes mountain range, vast savannas cover the ground with green from Colombia’s Orinoco region to Venezuelan territory.

In Colombia, Los Llanos Orientales (the Eastern Plains) comprehend the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Vichada and Meta; however, they extend in some parts to Caquetá, Guainia and Guaviare.

Representing almost a third of the Colombian territory, they are highly uninhabited and most of the population lives in Villavicencio, the largest city of the region.

Los Llanos in Colombia are not a massive tourist destination, even though they boast an unparalleled natural beauty. The importance of the region lies in its aptitude for extensive livestock production and agriculture, besides oil extraction. 

The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Casanare, Colombia.

Usually the first city to visit is Villavicencio, which is 3 hours by road -or 1-hour flight- away from Bogota. However, for going on safari, your best option will be Yopal.

Flights from Bogota take 1 hour and the trip by road takes about 7 hours. The weather in the region is warm and there are only two seasons: rain and dry season. 

Next, you will find about the two departments of Los Llanos with the greatest potential for going on safari: Casanare and Meta. 

Casanare 

 

Casanare is on the eastern part of Colombia and is over 44,000 km2, which corresponds to 4% of the national territory. Most of Casanare has flood plains and marshlands, which are an important biodiversity reservoir, due to its level of fauna and flora species.

Here you can find 3 reserves for going on safari in Colombia. 

Hato La Aurora

4 hours northeast of Yopal in a 4×4, the capital of Casanare department, Hato La Aurora offers the best safari experience in Colombia. 42,000 capybaras, 2,500 deer, 350 bird species and more wildlife. This is the presentation card of La Aurora, located in the town Hato Corozal.

The llanero Armando Barragan built his ranch of 16,000 hectares on the riverbanks of the Ariporo river, then he turned it into a Civil Society Natural Reserve. The reserve has an eco-lodge called Juan Solito that offers accommodation in rooms, cabins or hammocks.

All include 3 meals and the option of hiking. Sustainability principles are well adopted here, since they promote the conservation of the environment having a low-impact service that goes hand in hand with the local community, to offer tourists the experience of connecting with the culture and nature.  

Aerosafari in Colombia

At Juan Solito, you can do guided hikes, go fishing or horseback riding. However, the main attraction is, of course, the Safari Llanero.

Going on safari in La Aurora means witnessing capybaras, white-tailed deer, spectacled caimans, wild horses, cattle, iguanas, anacondas, birds such as the Orinoco goose, herons, the Double-striped Thick-knee, the Jabiru, owls, varieties of Ibis, including the Scarlet Ibis, and much more.

Jabirú

Jaguars and cougars also inhabit the reserve, but they are difficult to spot. You can also observe how the llaneros tradition of herding cattle while singing folklore songs to the rhythm of guitars, harps and maracas. The safari day ends with a breathtaking sunset of yellow, orange and pink hues. 

El Encanto de Guanapalo 

El Encanto de Guanapalo is a bit closer to Yopal, 110 km east. It has around 9,000 hectares of reserve consisting of 3 ranchs —Hato Mata de Palma, Hato Altamira and Hato Montana. 

Sunset Pic Nic

Whether you choose touring the area on horseback or by tractor or 4×4, this 5-hour experience lets you photograph mammals such as capybaras, deer, spectacled caimans, wild horses, giant anteaters, southern tamanduas, scarlet ibis, iguanas, ducks, howler monkeys, owls, armadillos, red-footed tortoise, foxes, wild pigs, pumas, hundreds of bird species and, of course, cattle.

This is a great llanero experience that you can book with us here.

Altagracia 

Reservas de Altagracia is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), located in Trinidad – Casanare, suitable for a safari experience in Colombia.

From here, you can get to the Buenaventura and Lagunazo lagoon natural reserves, Yatea canyon and other Civil Society Natural Reserves, where you can observe deer herds, otters, howler monkeys and giant anteaters.

The Orinoco goose (Neochen jubata)

Also, it hosts about 142 bird species, including 31% of the world population of Orinoco goose and 1% of the hemispherical population of Large-billed tern and Buff-breasted sandpiper. This is also a perfect place to enjoy the sunrise and sunset landscapes. 

Meta 

 

Meta is one of the departments in central Colombia with an extension of 85,000 km2. Because of its fertile soil, it is a major agricultural producer, providing Bogota with 48% of its food demand.

Its economy also depends on hydrocarbons exploitation and extensive livestock production. 80% of its territory is plains, but it has highlands such as Paramo de Sumapaz and Sierra de la Macarena. You can have a safari experience in Meta. 

Lagos de Menegua 

Lagos de Menegua is a hotel and Civil Society Natural Reserve located in the municipality of Puerto Lopez, Meta, about 3 hours from Bogota.

The hotel can accommodate up to 100 people in 24 rooms and has a ‘slow food’ restaurant which uses local ingredients, a pool, a game room and a garden where you can sow your own plant!  

As for the natural reserve, it is 1,000 hectares and is home to over 800 animal species, including mammals, fish, reptiles and birds. 

Lagos de Menegua Hotel & Bioreserve

On a safari around the place, you can see capybaras, cougars, caimans, lizards and yamú fish. You will get to know every corner of the property, including Lago del Silencio and other lakes, while riding a jeep through highlands and forests.

A safari along the Meta river is also offered, this is in Puerto Gaitan, where the Manacacias and Yucao rivers flow into the Meta river and create a fauna sanctuary that hosts monkeys, turtles, otters, reptiles and river dolphins.

Lagos de Menegua has worked with Cormacarena to return more than 200 animals to their natural habitat ensuring their safety. You can also go horseback riding, hiking, fishing and birdwatching. 

Mururito Natural Reserve 

In another municipality of Meta, Puerto Gaitan -actually 1.5 hours from there, lies Finca Hotel Mururito Reserva Natural, a biodiversity reservoir of 2,000 hectares for wildlife conservation and ecotourism, along the Manacacias river.

Mururito Nature Reserve

Forests, canyons, lagoons, savannas, estuaries and highlands shape the natural reserve. At Mururito, you can see many species from the Llanos including the giant anteater, giant otter, ocelot, cougar, jaguarundi, South American tapir, giant armadillo, collared peccary, white-tailed deer, red brocket, lowland paca, red squirrel among others. It is a truly safari experience

Birds and butterflies are attracted by the orchids and fruit trees garden. You can engage in many activities such as horse rides, hikes through the primary forest, fishing at the lakes, bike tours, learning about beehives, participating in the farm routine and enjoying the gorgeous llanero sunsets. 

Safari in the Amazon 

 

The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, shared by Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname, and Bolivia.

The Amazon region in Colombia, south of the country is over 470,000 km2 and has both plains and highlands. This region keeps a great biodiversity and cultural richness, since several indigenous communities preserve ancient traditions that cherish mother nature. 

When you travel to the Colombian Amazon, you usually get to the capital Leticia, located on the Colombian border with Brazil and Peru, which allows an enriching cultural exchange.

Monkey Island Amazon – Squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus)

From there, you can embark on the adventurous Amazon safari experience, which is different from any other safari. You won’t be riding a jeep or a horse, but in a boat or by foot, exploring the lush jungle that surrounds the mighty Amazon river.

You will feel lucky to see so many monkeys, caimans, anacondas, birds and, perhaps, the river pink dolphins, who were believed to be a young indigenous warrior, whom a god decided to turn into an animal, since he envied the man’s skills.

Attractions you should visit are the Monkey Island, the Amacayacu National Natural Park and the town of Puerto Nariño. 

Safari in Antioquia 

 

Hacienda Napoles  

Believe it or not, you can go on safari in Antioquia, home of the spring city Medellin and pretty villages such as Jardin and Jerico. This is possible in Hacienda Napoles Theme Park, a 1,600 hectare park which was formerly owned by the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.

After the disarticulation of the Cartel de Medellin, the premises were acquired by the Colombian state, turned into a tourism attraction and are currently managed by a private entity and a non-profit organization. 

During the time this pair of tigers have spent in the park they have had five young. Photo by Juan Antonio Sánchez. El Colombiano.

With some of the animals brought to the country in the late 70s, a fauna sanctuary was created and now works as a reserve for their preservation.

On the safari, you can see ostriches, zebras, zonkeys, blackbucks, crocodiles, a monkey island, meerkats, capybaras, hippopotamus, elephants and felines such as lions, tigers and jaguars.

The safari can be paired with the water attractions, the butterfly farm, a journey to the past in the Jurassic park, the bird, African and memorial museum. 

Colombia is blessed with incredible wildlife and no tourists can visit the country without going on safari. Whether it is in Los Llanos, the Amazon or the Napoles theme park, there is a wildlife tour for every adventurous traveler. 

About the author

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.