Brief Guide to Discover the 5 Deserts of Colombia

Colombia has 5 deserts throughout its territory, which have very different characteristics due to their location. Besides, the deserts present in Colombia are arid and dry during most of the year, generating amazing landscapes, experiences that will leave you happy with your visit.

In this guide you will learn everything to enjoy exploring the deserts you can find in Colombia to the fullest.

La Guajira Desert

Located in the north of the country, in the department of Guajira. It is one of the most striking deserts thanks to the combination of the magical environment of the desert and the Caribbean Sea. The desert is divided into 3 sub-regions:

  • Alta Guajira: where its enormous dunes, cliffs, its enigmatic rock formations and its beaches of romantic and quiet atmosphere stand out; besides you can visit the Macuira National Natural Park.
  • Media Guajira: in this sub-region what stands out the most is the red sand that contrasts with the blue Caribbean sea. It is also very close to the Flamingo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in the Boca de Camarones area and the Musichi Natural Reserve.
  • Baja Guajira: it is characterized for being the most humid area of the desert, located very close to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is the birthplace of several sources of fresh water, such as the Ranchería River.

In your tour in this desert you will be able to know the wisdom of the Wayú, one of the most important indigenous communities in the country.

How to get to La Guajira Desert

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado International Airport (BOG) Bogotá to Almirante Padilla International Airport (RCH) at Riohacha city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1,5- hours ride to Uribia. Once at Uribia you should take an extra 2-hours ride to Desierto de la Guajira.

Where to stay in La Guajira Desert

La Guajira desert does not currently offer accommodation for travelers. Therefore we recommend you to stay at Cabo de la Vela or at Riohacha:

If you want to know more about activities you can do near the Guajira Desert check out our blog Travel Guide to Los Flamencos Fauna & Flora Sanctuary in Colombia, Travel Guide to Macuira: The Cloud Forest Oasis in La Guajira Desert.

La Candelaria Desert (between Raquira and Villa de Leyva towns)

It is located in the department of Boyacá, 7 km from the municipality of Ráquira and 32 km from the municipality of Villa de Leyva; also known under the name of “the desert of souls”, because it is away from all noise and offers an atmosphere of tranquility.

One of the most important characteristics is that its winds are very cold, since it is located in an area of moorland; however it has the geological conditions to be considered as a desert even has areas of fertile land where there is abundant vegetation making a wonderful contrast.

In this area of the department of Boyacá important archaeological findings have been made, so it is possible to find valuable cave paintings during your tour.

 How to get to La Candelaria Desert

 To get to the sanctuary you must take a 3.5 -hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Ráquira, total distance of 183 km.

When you are in Ráquira you must take a 10-minutes road trip of 7 km to Desierto de La Candelaria.

Where to stay in La Candelaria Desert

 Due to the proximity of the desert to the town of Ráquira we recommend you to stay there:

  • Casona 1865
  • Between Rocks and Crystals
  • Mirkeland Cabana Balcony
  • Duir House – Vintage House
  • Gran Sirius Hotel

If you want to know more about activities you can do near the Candelaria Desert check out our blogs Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia, The Paleontologist’s Perfect Fossil Trip in Villa de Leyva and The Muisca Legend of the Origin of Life at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

La Tatacoa Desert

This beautiful desert is located in the department of Huila near the municipality of Villa Vieja, being one of the most visited natural attractions in Colombia. It is also known as “The Valley of Sorrows” named this way thanks to the conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada.

In addition the Tatacoa desert is a place of great importance for astronomy lovers because it has an ideal geographical location thanks to its low light pollution which facilitates the observation in detail of the stars and other phenomena of the universe such as meteor showers. Find out more about stargazing in our blog best places for stargazing in Colombia.

If you want to stay until night you can easily observe the stars and take beautiful pictures or if you want you can go to the astronomical observatory that the desert has.

By the way, the desert has 2 colors in different sectors; ocher in the Cuzco sector and gray in the Los Hoyos sector. When you are doing your tour in the Cuzco sector you will be able to reach an oasis in the middle of the desert where you will be able to take a refreshing bath.

How to get to La Tatacoa Desert

Take a 40-minutes flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá City to Benito Salas Airport (NVA) at Neiva city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1-hour ride to Villa Vieja Town. At Villa Vieja take an extra 20- minutes boat ride to Desierto de la Tatacoa.

Where to stay in La Tatacoa Desert

Inside the desert there is a hotel where you can stay if you prefer instead of going to Villa Vieja: Bethel Bio Luxury Hotel.

La Tatacoita Desert in Nemocón.

Very close to the capital of the country, Bogota, is the Tatacoita desert, also known as “Checua”, which has a great geographic variety that you will discover when you get there.

The desert has gullies, sinkholes, estoraques and a canyon; in addition the colors that are presented in the strata mark the labyrinths present in the desert.

It is possible to make the tour of this desert in a couple of hours since its extension is small and reaches a maximum altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level. We recommend that you do the tour in the morning hours so you can see the change in color of the rocks when they come in contact with the sun’s rays.

How to get to La Tatacoita Desert

To get to the sanctuary you must take a 1 -hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Nemocón, total distance of 59 km.

When you are in Nemocón you must take a 35-minutes road trip of 11 km to Desierto de La Tatacoita.

 Where to stay in La Tatacoita Desert

 Due to the proximity of Bogotá to the town of Nemocón we recommend you to stay in Bogotá.

Occidente Desert, Santa Fe de Antioquia

Located in the department of Antioquia very close to the municipality of Santa Fe de Antioquia, being the most extensive arid area of the department.

It is possible that if you make the desert tour at midday you can experience temperatures above 35º C (95 ºF), also its heights are between 430 to 1300 meters above sea level.

How to get to Occidente Desert

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to José María Córdoba International Airport (MDE) at Rio Negro city.

Once at in Rio Negro you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride (56 Km) to Santa Fe de Antioquia. Antioquia. When you are in Santa Fe de Antioquia you must take a 10-minutes road trip of 11 km to Desierto de Occidente.

Where to stay in Occidente Desert

Due to the proximity of the desert to the municipality of Santa Fe de Antioquia we recommend you to stay there:

Know more about activities that you can do near the Occidente Desert visit our blog about Tourism in Santa fe de Antioquia.

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

  • Colombia Travel.
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

The Muisca Legend of the Origin of Life at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The lagoon where mankind supposedly originated, the ancient Muisca trails and a variety of ecosystems are some of the magical attractions to be discovered at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, a sacred place for the Muisca culture. The information below will be very useful for your visit to Iguaque in the Colombian Andes.

Laguna de Iguaque, Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora Iguaque, department of Boyacá, Colombia. © Creative Commons

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

This sanctuary is located on the eastern mountain range between the departments of Boyacá and Santander, in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Sáchica, Chíquiza, Villa de Leyva and Arcabuco, covering an area of 67.5 km².

Community Interaction with Iguaque

The communities on the periphery of the Sanctuary are mostly made up of farming families dedicated to cattle ranching and agriculture.

In other cases, the main socioeconomic activity is tourism, as in the case of Villa de Leyva. Know more about Villa de Leyva in our entries The Paleontologist’s Perfect Fossil Trip in Villa de Leyva, Colombia and Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

In the rural population, especially in Chíquiza, there is a deep rootedness for the Muisca Culture, indigenous people that inhabited the Cundi-boyacense highlands. The same is their rootedness for the natural environment that the Sanctuary offers, and they continue to venerate the Iguaque Lagoon, as a sacred natural element of their Muisca Culture.

Ecosystems You Can Know in Iguaque

The sanctuary has four different ecosystems: Páramo and subpáramo, Paramo wetlands, High Andean forest and Andean forest.

Paramo, Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

Páramo and subpáramo

The lower limit of the páramo ecosystem is 3200 meters above sea level until it reaches 3800 masl. It is important to note that the structure of the páramo and subpáramo is very similar, mainly composed by grasslands, and the presence of Frailejones (Espeletia sp.).

Paramo wetlands

In the sanctuary you will see the following types of wetlands: lagoons, wet drains, and wet plains. These bodies provide water to the communities near the sanctuary.

High Andean forest

The Sanctuary has an anomaly that means that the differences between paramo and high Andean forest can only be clarified thanks to the plant species of each ecosystem, since there are points in the Sanctuary where they can have the same altitude.

Andean forest

In the northern sector of the Sanctuary, it is possible to appreciate this ecosystem, located at the lowest point of the Sanctuary, the average altitude ranges from 2,400 to 3,000 meters above sea level.

The Muisca Legend

As per Muisca tradition humanity originated in Iguaque lake. Here Bachué (Goddess) emerged from the lake with a child in her arms. The child grew up and became her husband and together they populated the Earth. At the end of their mission they decided to become snakes and returned to the sacred lake.

How to get to Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Bogotá – Villa de Leyva

To get to the sanctuary you must take a 3.5 -hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Villa de Leyva, total distance of 190 km.

When you are in Villa de Leyva you must take a 30-minute road trip of 10 km to the Casa de Piedra sector to make a 3 km ascent on foot to access the sanctuary.

What to do in Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary


Bachué Trail to the Sacred Lagoon of Iguaque

The Sanctuary has the trail to the Iguaque Lagoon, the average time is estimated to be 6 to 7 hours of walking, the approximate distance is 8.2 km (round trip). The initial altitude is 2.800 meters above sea level and when arriving to Iguaque Lagoon the final altitude is 3.650 meters above sea level. Note that this is a medium-high intensity trail.

The time to start the hike is from 8am – 10am at the Carrizal Administrative Center; it continues through the Furachiogua Visitor Center, 700 meters above.

Birdwatching and Wildlife

Black Inca. Arango, C. 2016. Wiki Aves de Colombia. (C. Arango, Editor). Universidad Icesi. Cali, Colombia.

There are 173 species of birds and 19 species of hummingbirds. The largest bird in the Andean forests is the Andean guan (Penelope montagnii) and you can see it in the sanctuary’s facilities. Theres is another bird, the Black Inca (Coeligena prunellei) a hummingbird which is endemic species of the humid montane forests in the departments of Santander, Cundinamarca and Boyacá.

Other representative birds include Moustached brushfinch (Atlapetes albofrenatus) and the Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus flavigula), both endemic to the eastern cordillera of the Andes. Additionally, the Rufous wren (Cinnycerthia unirufa), Golden-fronted whitestart (Myioborus ornatus), Tawny-breasted tinamou (Nothocercus julius) and Lined quail-dove (Zentrygon linearis), which are near endemics species.

The largest and most charismatic mammals are the Andean white-tailed deer or Paramo deer (Odocoileus goudotii) and the Little red brocket or Soche deer (Mazama rufina). Recently, Tigrillo or Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) and the Tayra (Eira barbara) have been recorded in camera traps.

In addition to them, Iguaque has 3 species of snakes that are in conservation programs: Atractus crassicaudatus, Chironius montícola and Mastigodryas boddaerti.

Scientific Tourism and Environmental Education

The exuberant nature of the protected area and its conservation status make it a suitable place for scientific research. In addition, environmental education activities can be carried out. In order to carry out scientific research activities, a permit is required.

Where to Stay in Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The sanctuary does not offer lodging services for visitors; there is only a camping area. Our recommendation for you is to stay in Villa de Leyva, 15 kilometers from the entrance to the sanctuary.

The hotels we recommend are: Selina Villa de Leyva, Santa Maria de Leiva Hotel boutique and La Casona de la Villa.

Best time to visit Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The sanctuary can be visited all year round. The dry season occurs twice a year at the beginning of September until the end of March, and the average temperature is of 13º C (55º F).

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permit and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 13,000
  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permit and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 55,000
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

Currently the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is CLOSED to the public due to infrastructure adjustments to their ecotourism services.

Before visiting Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Consider:

  • In order for you to enter Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary you must buy an accident and rescue insurance policy, with either of the following companies: COLASISTENCIA, AVIA SEGUROS and SEGUROS MÉDICOS INTERNACIONALES.
  • The hours for visitors to walk the trail to the Iguaque Lagoon are from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. After that time, entry is not allowed.
  • Departure time from the protected area is at 5:00 pm.
  • You can make a reservation to enter the sanctuary by sending an email to 24 hours before the visit indicating the number of people and the date you wish to enter.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to enter the sanctuary is 50.
  • You should wear warm, waterproof clothing to protect you from the cold and rain, use sunscreen, a hat or balaclava, gloves, hiking boots or marsh boots.
  • The entry of pets or domestic animals is prohibited.
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Use of binoculars to watch animals’ behavior is recommended.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

  • Colparques
  • Parques Nacionales
About the authors

Luisa Martin

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


2-days Trip Hanging around Minca in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

In our entry Minca Ultimate Travel Guide, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta we tell you all about this wonderful destination in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Two weeks ago (mid May 2021) I made a quick visit with my friends and here I will tell you how my experience was hanging around Minca.

To get to Minca initially I took a 1-hour flight from the city of Bogota at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to the Simón Bolívar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport I took a cab to Mamatoco, 17 km away (30 minutes). Once in Mamatoco I found there are 3 possibilities to get to Minca: bus, cab or motorcycle.

Getting to Minca

In my case I took the alternative of motorcycle, the fastest option. After 30 minutes and a distance of 16 kilometers I arrived at the village of Minca.

To get to the Costeño River Hostel the motorcycle had to travel on a dirt road for 10 minutes. There is an alternative to reach the hostel walking just 10 minutes walk, but you must cross the river Minca.

It is worth mentioning that the hostel is Gay Friendly. The atmosphere in its facilities and the management of the staff is very friendly with the guests. The hostel has private and shared rooms, in my case I took one that had a view of the river from the bathroom. There is not need for hot water since the warm environment keeps the water warm and suitable for bathing.

Costeño River has a space that has 2 terraces in the form of meshes where you can appreciate the mountains of the Sierra de Minca, besides being able to easily appreciate species such as Iguanas, Squirrels and Geckos.

The lodge administrators, in support of the inhabitants of Minca, offer the tours that can be done, supporting the ecotourism in Minca.

Hanging around Minca

Hanging around Minca can be done on foot, but if you have little time you can do them on a motorcycle with a local guide. In my case I did the tour on a motorcycle, since I only had two days to visit all the places.

Pozo azul

Pozo azul is located a 45 minutes to walk from the center of the Minca with a medium intensity, the road reaches the entrance of the well 100 meters away from the contact with the water.

When you reach the entrance of the well you will find a bridge that is currently closed for maintenance, when you reach the well there is a waterfall of no more than 2 meters.

It is possible to appreciate different species of butterflies along with several coffee crops, the water is very cold in the well because the entrance of sunlight is scarce.

Pozo Azul, Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Finca La Victoria (Farm)

Finca La Victoria has its origin in 1892 as an association of 5 investors among them an English couple that after their admiration to Queen Victoria wanted to call it that way. The farm has 1223 hectares, 217 hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of arabica coffee, 300 hectares of pasture land.

Also the facilities of the farm is the craft brewery La Nevada, which is in operation since 2015; has 4 beers in its portfolio: black coca leaf-based (Happy Coca), golden (Happy Nebbi), red (Happy Tucan) and a coffee-based (Happy Colibri).

Happy Colibri is in the top 10 worldwide among the best craft beers and is only available between the months of December and March.

When you arrive at La Victoria Farm you can take a tour of the entire coffee production process from the cultivation to the packaging of the final product. At the end of the tour you can enjoy a delicious freshly ground coffee or a refreshing beer while you marvel at the view and tranquility that the farm has to offer. The entrance fee to the farm is COP 15,000 for the tour, if you do not wish to take the tour you can enter and consume any of the products offered.

Mirador Los Pinos

This viewpoint is located 11 km from Minca, about 30 minutes by car or motorcycle or 3 hours walking; it must be said that the intensity is high, as it is the highest part of today’s tour; from this point it is possible to see Minca, Santa Marta and the swamp.

View from Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Sierra Minca Hostel

Sierra Minca Hostel is a beautiful hostel located in the middle of the sierra where in addition to the lodging they offer tours to travelers who wish to take a picture in the famous Mano de Dios which has a panoramic view of the entire mountain, it also has a mesh terrace where 15 people can be accommodated and hanging beds where you can lie down and feel like you are sleeping among the clouds.

The entrance fee to the hostel is COP 15,000 for unlimited time.

Marinka Waterfalls

Marinka Waterfalls are two falls of crystalline waters that at the end give rise to the Marinka Lagoon. Marinka in indigenous language means “Regenerate Body”, due to its beauty and tranquility.

To get to the Arimaca House-Farm, where is the access to the waterfalls, it is necessary to make a detour from the main road 500 m. There is a payment of COP 10,000 per person.

The distance is 3.3 km from the village, if you decide to walk, it is an hour’s walk with a medium intensity.

Waterfall in Marinka, Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Waterfall El Oido del Mundo

The origin of the name has 2 versions:

1. The indigenous people of the highlands said that at this point it was possible to hear what the mother earth, Pacha mama, wanted to tell men.

2. A foreigner after knowing it indicated that the rocks were shaped like ears and from there began to share this location as the “El Oido del Mundo”.

To get there is a 20 minutes walk from the town with a low difficulty.

The recommendations to enjoy these places is to wear a bathing suit, comfortable clothes and change at the end of the tour, insect repellent, sunscreen and plenty of water. At the end of the tour reach the center of Minca to taste the delicious pistachio ice cream at IL GELATO NEVADO, this artisan ice cream shop is the only one in town.

View from Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Cerro Kennedy

The next day I made the trip to Cerro Kennedy by motorcycle. Cerro Kennedy is the highest point of Minca, it is 3100 meters above sea level, below you can see the cloud forest, and the temperature ranges between 8º to 18º C. At this point there is a military post so it is safe to reach it.

Cerro Kennedy is located 26 km from Minca and there are 2 ways to get to this point:

1. Cerro Kennedy by walking

You can arrive walking, it will be 2 days with a high demand. At the end of the second day you will rest for a few hours, since you will start walking again at 4 in the morning to reach the summit before sunrise. From there you will be able to marvel at the bed of clouds covering the Sierra.

Also, from there you have a wonderful view of the peaks of the Simón Bolívar and Colón snow-capped mountains, Santa Marta and part of the Tayrona National Natural Park.

2. Cerro Kennedy by motorcycle or car

You leave the center of Minca at 3 am, as the road is unpaved and it is a difficult journey due to the fact that the road is not paved. The last part of the trip must be done on foot to reach the top.

At the end of the tour to Cerro de Kennedy and back to the hostel I decided to walk around the village, where I tasted Arabic food and some delicious French muffins in a small French bakery in town.

Final remarks

It is important to note that all the excursions I did in Minca were by motorcycle. The guides give you a protective helmet during the tours. The road is partially paved and belongs to the Cincinati trail, after the crossing at the El Campano store. The rest of the road is unpaved and very muddy.

During the rainy season, the guides told me that the difficulty of mobility increases, and recommended that those who walk the trail should wear rubber boots.

Finally, I returned to Mamatoco by bus. The trip lasted more than an hour, once there I continued my trip along the Magdalena department.

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

About the authors

Luisa Martin

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

Did you Know that the Oilbirds have their own National Park in Colombia?

The Southern part of the department of Huila holds the oldest and one of the best-preserved protected areas in Colombia-. It is an amazing place where various endangered species are still preserved and protected, such as the Oilbird. We are talking about the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park (Oilbirds Cave).

The Oilbirds, or Guácharos

For reference, Oilbirds (Steatornis caripensis) are birds that spend all day in the depths of the caves and go out at night to hunt food, usually insects, fruits, and aromatic plants.

Same as bats, Oilbirds also use a quite precise natural echo localization system. Hence, they make a series of short and squealing sounds that serve as waves that are used for their localization.

According to the American Bird Conservancy about the Oilbird:

“it is named for the young birds, which are so fat that indigenous people and early settlers once collected and rendered them down to oil for lighting and cooking”.

The Oilbird, Steatornis caripensis, or Guácharo in Spanish. ©BirdsColombia

Discovering the Cueva de Los Guácharos Natural National Park

Cueva de Los Guácharos NNP was named after the Oilbird, which is called Guácharo in Spanish.

The Cueva de Los Guácharos NNP was created in 1960 and belongs to the “Biósfera Cinturón Andino”, Andean Belt Reserve declared by UNESCO in 1979.

Find out more about Colombian Biosphere Reserves in our entry Next Travel Ideas? Visit the Biosphere Reserves of Colombia.

It totals an area of 90 square kilometers and is located at the western flank of the Cordillera Oriental, between the departments of Huila and Caquetá. Also, the Cave of the Guácharos is very close to the Magdalena River.

Lastly, Cueva de Los Guácharos is considered part of “Andean Amazonian” transition ecosystems, having a great role as a water regulator, among other ecosystem services. Due to its unique characteristics, it is a nest and transitory refugee stop for a large number of migratory birds.


Cueva de Los Guácharos Park is between 1200 meters and 3800 meters above sea level and its temperatures vary between 19 °C and 26 °C, with very humid climatic characteristics.

How to get to the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

From Bogotá

Take a 1.5-hour flight from Bogotá to El Contador Airport (PTX) at Pitalito city. From Pitalito, take a 1-hour ride to Palestina, and an additional 1-hour car ride to La Mesura.

Once at Mesura, look for Cedar where the National Natural Parks access point to Cueva de Los Guácharos is located.

At this point, you can choose to take an 8.5 km hike (3.5 to 5 hours long) or take the transport service available to the accommodation area.

Bear in mind that Satena (Colombian national public airline) is the only one flying to Pitalito Saturdays and Mondays.

What to do in the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

Cueva de Los Guácharos National Natural Park has community-based ecotourism operators that provide lodging services in cabins and shared bathrooms for up to 50 people, a camping area for up to 24 people, restaurant service, horse rental, and guiding.

You must know that it is not possible to access or hanging around the park without the accompaniment of a local guide.

Hiking and Trekking

Within the area of the park, there are many canyons and labyrinths. The Cueva de Los Guácharos has caves formed by the chemical and mechanical action of the Sauza River and its tributaries.

Hiking is the most exciting activity in Cueva de Los Guácharos Park. You can hike only until the glacier edge along 4 trails:

  • Black Oak Trail with a 4-hour round trip (3.9 km) and high difficulty.
  • Giant’s Way Trail with a 2-hour round trip (2.7 km) and medium difficulty.
  • Rain of Crystals Trail with a 2-hour round trip (1.7 km) and medium difficulty
  • Waterfall of colors Trail with a 5-hour round trip (3.1 km) and high difficulty.

This activity allows you to admire the 2 caves of Oilbirds, the caves of calcareous formations, and the 2 natural bridges over the Rio Suaza. Also, the Cristales waterfalls, and the Lindosa waterfall.

Cueva de los Guacharos National Park. ©David Páez, Parques Nacionales Archives

Wildlife observation

Along the trails, you may spot the wonders of Cueva de Los Guácharos, among which stand out native species such as the Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistopheles), the cougar (Puma concolor), the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), and the mountain tapir, also known as the Andean tapir or woolly tapir (Tapirus pinchaque).

Regarding flora, you will be able to appreciate almost extinct species in their natural state such as black oak (endemic), white oak, copper, black cedar, cumin, hayuelo pine, and the Colombian pine.

Birdwatching, and the Oilbirds Caves

Cueva de Los Guácharos is a permanent habitat for more than 300 species of birds including the Oilbird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), and the Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata colombiana).

The Oilbird, Steatornis caripensis., or Guacharo in Spanish. ©BirdsColombia

Do not forget that depending on the season different migratory birds that inhabit this territory may be observed.

Where to stay in the Cueva de Los Guácharos National park

The park has a Visitor Center called Andakí. The community-based ecotourism operator, Fundación Cerca Viva, provides lodging for 50 people in multiple accommodations (cabins), distributed in 5 bedrooms with bathrooms.

Additionally, the park also offers a VIP cabin with accommodation for 8 people and a private bathroom.

There is also a classroom for environmental education activities.

Best time to visit Cueva de Los Guácharos

The dry season (December to late February) is climate-wise the most preferable choice, however, it is also a peak season for national tourists so be prepared.

Worth noting is that usually between March and April Oilbirds’ offspring begin to hatch, which is considered a very attractive natural phenomenon.

Entrance fees

The entrance fee to Cueva de Los Guácharos varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 15,000
  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 51,500
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider when visiting the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

  • Book reservation in advance with an authorized ecotourism operator.
  • Wear suitable clothing for cold and humid weather.
  • Take reusable water bottles along.
  • Keep away from making any marks on trees, stones, or infrastructure available.
  • Noises or sounds that disturb the environment are not allowed.
  • Return ALL garbage and dispose of it at the waste disposal sites.
  • Admission of children under 5 years old, pregnant women, people with heart or respiratory conditions is not recommended.
  • Tours inside the park must be taken with registered and authorized guides.
  • Avoid taking night walks on the trails.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, littering, pets, horses alcoholic drinks and drugs, making bonfires, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

  • National Parks Website
  • Local guides
About the authors

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

What to Know Before Visiting Puracé National Natural Park

The name “Puracé” comes from the ancient local dialect “Quechua”, and stands for “mountain of fire”. This name was assigned to the Puracé National Natural Park. This park is located in the Andean Region of Colombia, southeast of the city of Popayán. Its main attraction is the Puracé volcano, one of Colombia’s most active volcanoes.

Discovering Puracé National Natural Park

Puracé National Natural Park is located in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes. In the southwest of the department of Huila and nearby the archaeological park of San Agustin.

Its area of 830 km2 is shared between the departments of Cauca and Huila. Inside the park is the Puracé Volcano, which is one of the most active volcanoes in Colombia.

Moreover, the volcanic chain of the Coconucos, known as Serranía de Los Coconucos, also originates in Puracé and it’s comprised of 12 volcanoes; the most notable being the so-called Sugar Loaf (5,000 m), the Purace (4,780 m) that is the only active one, and the Coconuco (4,600 m).

Thus, the place is full of more than 50 lagoons and because of its volcanic nature, hundreds of “Sulphur” springs, which can be visited along the natural reserve.

Purace is also well known because 4 of the most important rivers in Colombia are born there: Magdalena, Cauca, Patia, and Caquetá.

The park has a great abundance of ecosystems, including paramo, super-paramo, snow, and rainforest. Endangered plant species such as the Colombian pine, oak, and wax palm are part of the protected area.

How to get to The Puracé National Natural Park

Bogotá – Popayan Route

Take a 1.5-hour flight from Bogotá to Guillermo León Valencia Airport (PPN) at Popayan city. From Popayan, take an approximately 5,5-hour ride to Puracé. Once at Puracé you should take an extra 40-minute car ride to the administrative center of Pilimbalá.

At Pilimbalá, first register at the National Natural Park checkpoint to access Puracé National Natural Park. At Pilimbalá you can enjoy some food at local restaurants, thermal pools, and the beautiful fauna and flora.

Bogota – Cali Route

Take a 1-hour flight from Bogotá to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Cali city. From Cali, take an approximately 1,5-hour ride to Puracé (233 km). Once at Puracé you should take an extra 40 minutes car ride to the administrative center of Pilimbalá.

The trip continues the same from this point, as in the previous alternative.

Andean Condor

What to do in the Puracé National Natural Park

This is a place impregnated by the indigenous tradition of the region. There, everything is intimately linked to the creator gods, mother nature, and life.

Hiking and Trekking

Hiking is the most exciting activity to do at Puracé National Natural Park. You can hike through 5 trails:

Puracé volcano crater trail

The day starts at 4:30 a.m. with hot drinks and energy bars. The hike is approximately 2 hours long. The crater is 4,673 meters above sea level, and the trail is considered of medium difficulty. During the hike, you will be able to appreciate small glacier lagoons and snow-covered volcanic ash deposits.

Coconucos crater trail

Covering a distance of approximately 6 km over the volcanic chain, this trail allows visiting 6 extinct craters of ancient volcanoes and dry lagoons with volcanic ash. The hike is 6 hours long.

The Buey (Ox) Lagoon

After hiking for 20 minutes you will have the opportunity to see a spectacular lagoon with dimensions the size of an old volcanic crater. There you can have contact with orchids, birds; this area is full of native species such as bears, deers, and rabbits.

Whitestone trail

Take a 20-minute walk to Pilimbalá, a beautiful viewpoint to check the marvelous Andean Condor (the world´s largest flying bird). You may have to wait a few minutes to be able to observe the flight of this beautiful bird.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Observation

Observing a great variety of wildlife is possible on each of these trails. If lucky, you could come across mammals such as bears, otters, deers, pumas, and the paramo tapir. Regarding flora, the Colombian pine (Podocarpus oleifolius), oak, (Quercus humboldtii), wax palm (Ceroxylon spp) and tree fern (Cyathea spp) are abundant.

Note that this area is home to more than 200 species of orchids, a natural wonder not be found in any other part of the world.

Purace is also one of the places you can observe the Andean Condor in Colombia. It is a recommended and also complementary destination if you are on a birdwatching tour in Valle del Cauca or Narino.

Hot Springs – Lakes and Volcanoes in Puracé-Coconuco

Visit the Puracé Volcano and the Laguna Andulvio (San Rafael)

The imposing volcano is linked to the Andulvio lagoon. This couple (volcano and lagoon) are children of the Puraceños. The lagoon means the place where the nymph of the waters lives, goddess of the locals.

San Antonio Waterfall

Near the town of Puracé the dark Vinagre River rushes, after having traveled from the slopes of the Puracé Volcano, through rocky and canyoned areas forming a beautiful waterfall. It is so-called because, according to indigenous legend, Saint Anthony appears there during Holy Week. It is also believed that when visiting the waterfall, singles can make a wish to find the partner of their dreams and the wish will be granted.

The condor of the Andes

Known as the “lord and master of the heights or messenger of the sun”, a symbol of freedom and purity. In the indigenous reserve of Puracé, for more than twelve (12) years the repopulation of the species has been advancing. You can make sightings along the majestic canyon of the San Francisco River, commonly known as the refuge of the condor of the Andes.

The Ox Lagoon

Located in the southeast of the municipality of Puracé, ancestral territory of the Kokonuko Yanacona people. It is immense, in the summer season it is seen in the blue sky, surrounded by places and abundant native vegetation; it is called the Ox because the older ancestors say they have seen an ox in the lagoon.

For the indigenous people, the lagoon is the woman of the Pan de Azular volcano, mother of the Kokonukos Yanaconas tribes, who today live in the Paletara Valley. There, the majestic and virtuous Cauca River also begins to make its way, which runs its first kilometers through a peaceful landscape of paramo.

The Green Lagoon (Laguna Verde)

Located to the north in the indigenous reservation of Paletara. A charming place colored by the presence and influence of green algae, the greenish-yellow of the mosses and lichens with the shade of blue water, and accompanied by streams of sulfur water, offering a polychrome landscape of rapture.

Thermal baths of Casa Quinta

Thermal water loosening, located in the indigenous reservation of Paletara. With 22 degrees Celsius, this place is an ideal scenario for recreation, rest, but above all to meet with the spirit of life and appreciate the goodness that nature offers us.


Consisting of three beautiful lagoons, located north of the Andulvio Lagoon. There you can see the Torrent Duck.

Candelaria waterfall

Located in the village of Santa Leticia, Bella Vista, the waterfall is formed by the precipitation of the Candelaria River, giving rise to a fantastic fall of more than 100 meters high. In this place, the Pijaos and Augustinians worshipped the Sun God and the Moon God.

Where to stay in The Puracé National Natural Park

In the Puracé sector, it is possible to find different hotels for individual accommodation. Suggested choices are:

In the facilities of Natural National Parks, it is possible to find cabins for groups of no more than 7 people.

Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 5,500
  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 11,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 27,500
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Puracé National Natural Park

  • Book your reservation in advance with authorized ecotourism operators.
  • Wear suitable clothing for cold weather, rubber BOOTS, waterproof
  • Take reusable bottles along to store water;
  • Pets are forbidden to enter the protected area.
  • Limestone formations in the caves are not to be touched;
  • Keep away from making any marks on trees, stones, or infrastructure available.
  • Noises or sounds that disturb the environment are not allowed.
  • Return ALL garbage you generate during the tour with you and dispose of it at the waste disposal sites.
  • Admission of children under 5 years old, pregnant women, people with heart or respiratory conditions is not recommended.
  • To make any of the tours inside the park you must do with an authorized and certified guide.
  • Avoid taking night walks on the trails.
  • Do not bring firearms or sharp edges into park facilities.

Some prohibitions:

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, littering, pets, horses, alcoholic drinks and drugs, making bonfires, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

  • Colombia Natural Parks System Website.
About the authors

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

What to Know When Hiking Santa Isabel and Tolima Snow-capped Mountains

Discover the Natural Wonders of the Snow-capped Volcanoes of Santa Isabel and Tolima, both famous destinations for hiking in Colombia. Find here useful information for your hiking trip to these two beautiful mountains in the Central Andes of Colombia.

The Andean Mountain Range

A large part of Colombia belongs to the so-called Andean highlands, consisting of the three Andean ranges which spread across a vast part of the territory.

Los Nevados National Natural Park is in the middle of one of these ranges, in what is known as the “Cordillera Central” or Central Andes (the middle range), splitting its territory through 4 departments named Tolima, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío.

At Los Nevados National Natural Park you will enjoy 6 volcanoes: Ruiz, Tolima, Santa Isabel, Cisne, Quindío and Paramillo de Santa Rosa.

Snow-capped Santa Isabel volcano

Santa Isabel volcano, also known as Poleka Kasue which translates “maiden of the mountain or princess of the snows”, was named after the ancient tribes of the area.

The Santa Isabel volcano is between the provinces of Risaralda, Tolima and Caldas, and sits in-between the other two snow-capped volcanoes: Ruiz and Tolima.

Santa Isabel is the lowest glaciated mountain in Colombia and one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.

It consists of three main peaks:

  • The Northern one at 4,964 meters above sea level,
  • The Central one at 4,934 meters and
  • The Southern peak at over 5,100 meters above sea level.

Hiking to the summit of Santa Isabel

Considering its moderate altitude it is not necessary to have experience in climbing snowy mountains. But it is important to take a day or two on a farm nearby the hiking trail to the summit to get used to the lack of oxygen and the weather.

For a better experience, 2 days of travel is highly recommended.

Day 1: Bogotá-Manizales-Base camp (Santa Rosa de Cabal)

Take a 40-minute flight from Bogota to La Nubia (MZL) airport in the city of Manizales. From Manizales, you must take a 1-hour road trip (bus trip) to Santa Rosa de Cabal where you will stay on a local farm.

Taking the earliest 06:00 am flight is deemed very convenient and will allow you to reach your destination at approx. 10:00.

Enjoy some typical breakfast, take a rest and immediately after begin your journey to the entrance of Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Arrival at Los Nevados National Natural Park

Upon arrival, expect a quick “things to care about” chat with officials from the National Park.

Please note that the entrance fee for non-resident foreigners is COP 64.500 (approx. 18 USD), and it includes a tour guide and medical insurance.

Otún Lagoon

The first stop, “Otún” Lagoon, located about 4,000 meters above sea level, will help you get an idea of the terrain and the conditions.

To get to Otún Lagoon first take a 3.5-kilometer hike to the base point where you will have a rest and some delicious lunch.

Lake Otún, Parque Nacional los Nevados, Colombia. © Creative Commons

In the afternoon, the journey will resume heading to Otún Lagoon viewpoint for about 1 extra hour. Once there enjoy the view.

The return trip will commence before sunset all the way back to the farm.

Day 2: Base camp- Summit of Santa Isabel snow-capped volcano

The day starts at crazy early 1:30 a.m with some hot drinks and energy bars. A -transport will take you in 1 hour to the mountain rise at 4100 meters above sea level where your journey will begin.

The trail from this point leads to the glacier known as Las Conejeras (4700 meters above sea level) with a walking time of 3 hours.

During the hike be sure to enjoy the large variety of plants, including, the famous Frailejones, Spanish for “Big Monks”. These are some of the most important paramo plants and essential for the preservation of this type of ecosystem.

Moreover, lagoons and a beautiful panoramic view of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano are also worth enjoying.

From Las Conejeras onward mountain-climbing equipment will be used to reach the top of the snow-capped volcano of Santa Isabel. This 2-hour hike across snowy trails allows everyone to appreciate an unforgettable 4964 m above sea level panoramic view.

1 hour at the peak is more than enough to appreciate the view and get some well-deserved rest. After that, head down to the base camp.

Snow-capped Tolima (Dulima) volcano

The Tolima Volcano is also known as Dulima which means “Emerged from the snows”, was named after the ancient local tribes inhabiting the area.

The natives considered that the spirit of the brave priestess and leader “cacica Dulima or Ibanasca” inhabits this snow-capped volcano.

Nevado del Tolima from the Ukuku Lodge.

The Tolima volcano is located in the province of Tolima, in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes.

The Tolima snow-capped volcano is an attraction for those who wish to go beyond their limits due to its height (5,220 meters) and harsh climatic conditions. It has a glacier cap with an area of 2.8 km2 and a volume of 69 million cubic meters of ice.

Thus, those who wish to climb this snow-capped volcano must be experienced.

The Tolima Volcano is an important tourist attraction as a site for mountaineering and ice climbing, as well as for its thermal springs.

Hiking to the summit of Tolima

To visit the snow-capped volcano Tolima there are two routes, one of 4 days and the other of 3 days.

Option 1 (4 days)

Day 1: Bogotá-Armenia-Salento

Take a 1-hour flight from Bogota to El Eden International Airport (AXM) in the city of Armenia. From Armenia, you must travel by land to Salento for approximately 1 hour.

Once in Salento you can enjoy the rest of the day and visit famous sightseeing spots and the handicraft market of the town.

Day 2: Salento- Refuge

After breakfast in Salento, it is necessary to take a 30-minute “jeep” ride to the famous Cocora Valley. Next, start your hiking journey with an initial 4.5-kilometer hike crossing 6 rustic bridges.

The first stop is at 3100 meters above sea level refugee, from where it is possible to have lunch.

During this part, one can enjoy the flora and fauna of the Colombian Andean forests. Watch out especially for Andean tapirs, spectacled bears, pumas, sloths, Yellow-eared parrots, blue toucans, Andean guans, and Andean condors, among others.

The second 9 km hike starts after lunch through the middle of the unique ecosystem in the Andes mountain range: “the páramo”. The páramo is the ecosystem of the regions above the continuous forest line, yet below the permanent snowline.

Enjoy the large variety of plants, including, the famous Frailejones “Spanish for Big Monks”.  One of the most important paramos plants, essential for the preservation of this type of ecosystem and considered an endemic species.

This hike ends at 3700 meters above sea level refugee site, where camp will be set up, and dinner and hot drinks served. Rest is highly recommended.

Day 3: Refuge- Base Camp

Revitalize yourself, enjoy breakfast, drink your coffee and get ready for a 9km mountain top hike, starting at the valley of the snow-capped mountain.

One hour away from the Refuge camp, you will first come across the beautiful Laguna del Encanto, 4,000 meters above sea-level wetland that gives rise to the Totare River that is on the way towards the Base where camping will be set up.

This 4,350 meters above sea level Base Camp is hit strongly by snowy winds that favor the view of the three additional beautiful snowy volcanoes, to wit: Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado Santa Isabel, and paramillo del Quindio.

At the Base Camp, additional preparation talk and rehearsal on the use of necessary mountain equipment will be given by the guides, in preparation for the next day’s hike to the top.

Please note that the entrance fee to Los Nevados Park is for non-resident foreigners is worth COP 64.500 (approx.18 USD), and includes guide and medical insurance.

Day 4: Base camp- Summit of Tolima snow-capped volcano

The final day starts at 1:30 a.m. with some hot drinks and energy bars.

Bear in mind to reach the top of the snow-capped volcano you must cross 3 different zones during a 9 kilometers hike:

  • Arenales/morrenas  (4,350 m-4,750 m): it has a steep slope and most of the way the terrain is sandy, its duration is 1 hour of walking.
  • Rock zone/old Glacier (4,750 m-4,950 m): a 1-hour walk through rocks once covered by ice and now uncovered by the melted glacier. Note that the use of personal protection equipment (helmet, harness, and rope) is important for safety.
  • Glacier/top (4,950 m-5,220 m): the last part of the scaling takes about 1.5 hours., temperature significantly drops, and difficulty in breathing might be experienced.

At the top, it’s good to relax, recover, enjoy the scenery before returning to the Base Camp for lunch.

The last part of the return trip down the mountain is riding a donkey back which helps speed up the journey.

Nevado del Tolima from the Combeyma Canyon at night

Option 2 (3 days)

Day 1: Bogotá-Ibagué

Take 45 minutes flight from Bogota to Perales Airport (IBE) in the city of Ibagué where you can spend your afternoon and night going around the city.

Day 2: Ibagué-Base Camp

Early in the morning, a Jeep will take you to El Silencio at 2550 meters above sea level. From there, take a 1-hour hike to the thermal springs El Rancho and enjoy breakfast.

Next, you will face the steep hiking of Las Raices, known for its humidity and very dense flora.

The most representative flora visible on this route apart from the Espeletia hartwegiana, so-called Big Monks (frailejones) are the following species:

  • The Loricaria colombiana, endemic plant of Colombia in the pussy’s-toes tribe within the sunflower family.
  • The Polylepis sericea, another endemic of highlands.
  • St. John’s wort of the genus Hypericum
  • And the paramo rosemary of the genus Diplostephium.

Continue through the sector of Lajas until reaching Tierra de Gigantes. It is worth noting this is the last stop to refill drinking water.

Reaching 3700 meters above sea level you will come across La Cueva where you can enjoy a rest and have lunch.

The last part before reaching the 4,200 meters above sea level Base Camp is a moderately inclined hike of 2 hours. There you can camp and rest until the early hours of the morning.

Day 3: Base camp- Summit of Tolima snow-capped volcano

The day starts at 1:30 a.m. with some hot drinks and energy bars. Walkthrough las Latas until you glimpse the first snow-covered areas.

From this point on, it is necessary to use the personal protective elements (hull, harness, and rope) to make the last ascent to the top of the snowfall for approximately 45 minutes.

Lastly, go back down to the camp and get some well-deserved rest.

By taking these hikes you support sustainable tourism

During any of the hiking options you can support the following ventures:

  • Energy bars @boli. bar. co, an enterprise of natural, tasty, and nutritious snacks, free of excess sugar.
  • El Chalet del Cisne, eco-hotel has a panoramic view of the snow-capped peaks of Ruiz and Santa Isabel.
  • The restaurants that you will find at each of the obligatory stops, each of the dishes served there are prepared by the inhabitants of the area.

Recommendations before hiking the snow-capped volcanoes of Santa Isabel and Tolima

  • Enter only the authorized trails by Parques Nacionales, which are well kept, safe, and have guide services.
  • Bring along convenient clothing since temperatures can significantly drop.
  • Carry a suitcase of at least 30 liters, with a waterproof jacket and waist straps.
  • Bring along basic protective elements such as cap, neck protector, flashlight, sunscreen, UV filter glasses, gloves, and boots with a high or medium cane.
  • The entry and use of single-use plastics is prohibited by Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales.
  • Carry enough snacks for the tour and make sure to store wraps in the available suitcase.
  • Do not litter and help preserve the ecosystem
  • Liquor or any toxic, psychoactive, or hallucinogenic substances are not allowed within the premises of the Parque Nacionales.

About the authors

Luisa Martin

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

Discover the gateway to the Colombian Amazon, the city of Mitú on the banks of the Vaupes River

Mitú, the capital of the department of Vaupés, located between 50 to 120 minutes by plane from Bogotá, is the ideal destination to immerse yourself in the depths of the jungle, where birds, nature, and ancestral culture allow you to leave aside the daily routine of modern life.

This is a unique destination, where the distance and the little communication with the rest of the country, has made it possible to maintain a large part of the culture and nature of the region.

The Ethnic Richness of Mitu

About 70% of the territory has been declared as an indigenous reserve, and for this reason, visitors and access must have the permission of the indigenous leaders.

Mitú has a population that is mostly part of ancestral indigenous tribes such as the Tukano, Guananos, Yurutíes, Cubeos, Piratapuyos, Desanos, and many others. There are 26 communities in total, and about 29 dialects, which represents the amazing ethnic richness in this region of Colombia.

The Vaupes River is the connector of these communities. People move in boats and canoes transporting local people, agricultural products, merchandise, and tourists.

Get to know Mitú

It is a simple and small city, located on the banks of the Vaupés River, surrounded by freshwater streams and the thick Amazon jungle.

When you arrive in the city, you can stroll through the main square Parque Santander, where you will find the Governor’s Office, the María Inmaculada Cathedral and the monument to the “Guio”, which pays homage to the origin of the indigenous peoples who live there. Guio means anaconda.

In this square, it is common to find food, handicrafts, and the typical gastronomic offer of the region.

The Fabio Alberto Leon Bentley Airport is the main gateway for travelers arriving to discover the territory. The Satena airline is the only one with flights to Mitu from Bogota or Villavicencio.

Satena airline offers flight to Mitu from Bogota and Villavicencio.

Places to Enjoy in Mitu

The trip to Mitú is ideal if you like bird watching. In Vaupes you will find more than 570 bird species, which offer a unique spectacle. Local guides specialized in the subject will give you all the information about the birds that you can find in the city.

Find more information about birding in Vaupes in our entry Vaupes, a Must to Visit Birding Destination in the Colombian Amazon.

Birdwatching at the Colombian Amazon, Mitú, Vaupés

It is also possible to walk along special trails outside the city center to enjoy a wide variety of species, not only birds but also flora and different types of animals, always accompanied by local guides.

To visit these places, you will have to access the territory of the communities, and you can only do so if you have permission from the leader of the community and if you are accompanied by a local guide.

The Malecon

The Malecon has a pedestrian walkway that runs one kilometer along the Vaupes River. It has small squares and kiosks adorned with gardens of local vegetation, where many birds arrive.

The Food Market and Port

This is a very rustic square, located next to the river where you can find typical food of the region prepared by the hands of indigenous women in wood and charcoal stoves. Here you can enjoy traditional dishes for very cheap prices.

Food Maloka, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

There are about 15 food stalls where you can find “borugo en caldo”, “lapa”, fish, cassava, manioc, among other foods provided by the jungle. The natives take advantage of the permitted hunting seasons to obtain the animals to eat.

Lapa soup, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Around this place, indigenous gather to offer many kinds of products. Every Friday, people from different communities arrive in the place, bringing their products to sell in the market. It is possible to find cassava flour, casabe, pichuna grapes, quinapira, copoazu, fish, and reptiles that are used as food.

Hiking and River Trips in Vaupes

There are trails for hiking and river trips that will take you to the indigenous communities, open to tourists with their ancestral vision of the birds and other animals of the region.

Hiking Routes Around Mitu

The ecological walks established around the city have as a special destination different high hills, or tepuis, from where we suggest you to observe the jungle that expands from and towards the river.

Mituseño Urania

Five kilometers from the city you can visit the Mituseño Urania community. It is a small village with two important sacred places: the chair of the god Cubay and the hill of Urania.

The Odocabeba (Urania) Hill, is a rocky outcrop 200 meters high, where you will observe the jungle, and share the day with the Cubeo indigenous people, owner of this beautiful viewpoint of the jungle.

You will also visit the territory of the Cubeo’s god Cubay, and a rock traditionally called the “Silla de Cubay” from where, according to legend, the deity observes the jungle.

Once you reach the top, you will find a jungle landscape crossed by the waters of the Vaupes river that carries small boats with goods and tourists in the middle of the jungle.

Ceima Cachivera

6 kilometers from Mitú is the Ceima Cachivera community. This community opened to visitors following the motivation of its captain Sergio Gutierrez, which is a professional tourist guide formed at SENA, the national institute of learning.

Sergio cordially welcomes visitors who want to get to know the treasures of the jungle. After an introduction about the characteristics of the territory and the community, he leads the expeditions that last an average of two hours.

There are different stops during the hike, the first one is the raudal of Cachivera Tucunare, a waterfall. Then you will continue towards a series of caves and rocky formations, sacred for the Cubeos, such as the Tiger Cave or the Toad Cave, where the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock is usually observed.

Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

Finally, there is Cerro Flecha, a hill with a spectacular 360 view of the jungle. It is also a sacred place for the Cubeos, since this hill was the place from which its god Cubay prayed over the region.

Trekking Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

Cerro Guacamayas

Cerro Guacamayas is another jungle viewpoint. To reach its summit you must take a path through swamps and through the Chagras, or small spaces for the sustenance of the indigenous communities, where they plant and establish a series of relationships with the land.

As the trail is rough, you should bring along food and drinks, swamp boots, long-sleeved shirts, and insect repellent. The entire route is flat until you reach the hill, a gigantic rock that encloses an ecosystem in which characteristics shrubs and vegetation grow.

Inselberg, Cerro Guacamaya, Mitú, Vaupés

You may climb up the rock with the help of a harness, or if you feel confident, you can reach it by your own. Once you reach the top you will find the entire Amazon rainforest at your feet.

Amazon forest – Cerro Guacamaya – Mitú, Vaupés

Once you descend from the viewpoint, you will reach the Caño Sangre, a natural “jacuzzi” of terracotta color, fruit of the vegetation that grows at the bottom of the pipe.

Mitú, Vaupés

River Trips

Before continue, I must tell you that for the indigenous people, the Vaupes River is sacred. For them, under the waters of the river resides the world of the gods. It is a place where the ancestral cycle of the anaconda takes place.

Vaupés River, Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

The anaconda gives identity to the community, and plays a central role in their mythology and genesis of their people. We recommend you to watch the documentary El Sendero de la Anaconda to better understand the sacred relationship that the indigenous people established with the river. It is available on Netflix.

Cachivera Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

You can visit several streams and pipes that connect with the Vaupes River. Among them, one of the closest is the Raudal Tatu Chachivera, a ravine feared for its strength.

It is important to be accompanied by a local guide who knows very well how to overcome these ravines. Generally, the indigenous people of the Trubon community are in charge of guiding you through this part of the Vaupes River.

Another place, very close to Mitu, is the Cucura bathing place, where the huge stones form natural pools.

Learning about different cultures

The most interesting thing about Mitú is that it is possible to share with some communities their traditions, observe their costumes and learn about their customs. You will be received in a Maloca, in the famous festivities of Yuruparí, where you will be invited along with the children to participate in a traditional dance.

Jerico Community

Here you can interact with the culture and tradition of the Tatuyo people. This community is located two hours from Mitu. There you will be welcomed by the wise man of this community called Agustin Munoz.

The main attraction is the colorful Maloca of the community. There you will enjoy an opiparous banquet prepared in the traditional way with typical foods such as cassava, fish muquiado, fish with caruru, and copoazu and azai juices. Everyone can help themselves to the food they want.

Traditional food served in handmade dishes, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Afterwards there will be a protection ritual, where with a reddish powder called carayuru, the women will paint your face with a set of lines on your forehead and cheeks.

Protection Ritual, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Mambe is also offered to the attendees. It is a powder obtained by toasting, grinding, and sifting the coca leaf, which is mixed with ashes from a cecropia tree. Don Agustin will explain to you the benefits of consuming this preparation.

Beware that the Mambe is a stimulant that should only be chewed, so don’t eat it!


The handicrafts of Vaupes are beautiful. The indigenous people capture their culture and tradition in these unique handicrafts. You can find clay pots polished with river stones, plates, blue clay vessels with traditional engravings, trays, and baskets handwoven with vegetable fibers, vases, etc. All worked in fibers such as cumare or guarumo, clay and wood.

Indigenous jewerly from Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

These handicrafts greatly represent the Colombian Amazon and are a source of pride for the inhabitants of Vaupes.

Handicrafts of Vaupes

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

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

  • Colombia Travel
  • SINCHI – Institute of Scientific Reseach of the Amazon.
  • Satena
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.

Hiking Destination Near Bogotá: Chicaque Natural Park

Chicaque Natural Park is a natural reserve located only 30 minutes from Bogotá, Colombia. It is a must-see hiking destination near Bogota that can be easily visited in one day. You can also spend several days in Chicaque if you have time.

The park has a magnificent area of well-preserved cloud forest of the eastern Andes. It offers an incomparable landscape, perfect for hikers and nature lovers.


Chicaque Park – Landscape from the Viewpoint

Hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, camping, and some adventure sports, are some of the activities you can enjoy there.

It is a perfect place to visit with kids or family. The park has several lodging options. You can stay at the hotel, or cabins, or the tree houses. It also offer services of glamping, two camping areas, and restaurant service.

Hiking in Chicaque Park

In Chicaque you will find more than 20 kilometers of ecological trails of different levels of difficulty. These 20 km distribute in 7 trails. Below I will tell you about each trail.

The Eagle’s Peak Trail

The Eagle’s Peak is a natural viewpoint. I has an elevation of 2,290 meters above sea level, on the edge of the Andean Eastern Cordillera.

It is a formation created by a series of rocky detachments of the Peña. From there, you will have an incredible panoramic view of the Tequendama region and the Peñas Blancas mountain range.

You are able to see the towns Santandercito, Mesitas, Anapoima, La Mesa, and Tena. On clear days you can also see the snow-capped mountains of Tolima, Santa Isabel and Ruiz, in the Central Cordillera.

There are high concentrations of carbon in the soils and rocks, for this reason, the rocks are black. Around the peak, air currents formed by the strong temperature changes attracts large birds such as vultures and eagles.

  • Level of physical demand: Medium
  • Length of the route: Varies according to the chosen path.
  • Travel time: Varies according to the chosen path.

El Roquedal Trail

The Roquedal trail is an extension of the trail to the Eagle’s Peak.

Roquedal trail goes through a rocky area with vegetation and formations similar to the Eagle Peak trail. On this trail, you will find vegetation plenty of orchid species and Gaques (Clusia multiflora).

Gaque (Clusia multiflora)

The Gaques are trees with thick, oval leaves that produce a yellow resin. These trees attract different birds species, due to their attractive and nutritious flowers and fruits.

Sparkling violetear at Chicaque Park

You can find birds such as: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae), Glossy flowerpiercer (Diglossa lafresnayii), Black Flowerpiercer (Diglossa humeralis), Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea), White-sided Flowerpicker (Diglossa albilatera), Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan (Andigena laminirostris), among others.

  • Level of physical demand: Strong
  • Length from Eagle’s Peak: 667 meters (667 yards)
  • Approximate travel time: 25 minutes.

Butterflies trail (Mariposas)

It begins near the Eagle’s Peak, just below La Granja. It runs through the south-western part of Chicaque Park. This trail is notorious for its steep slopes and lush vegetation.

On the trail it is possible to see the beautiful butterflies known as “Alas de Cristal” (Crystal Wings).

  • Level of physical demand: Strong
  • Length of the route: 1.6 kms.
  • Approximate travel time: 1 hour
  • Attention: This is the longest route to the Refugio.

Matoño Lagoon Trail

The Matoño Lagoon honors the founder of Chicaque “Manuel Antonio Escobar Lozano”. It is a small body of water fed by spring waters that flow from the lower part of the Eagle’s Peak.

For more than 40 years the lagoon suffered from severe degradation. In 2012, Chicaque acquired the property next to the lagoon. Since then, the natural reserve started the lagoon’s restoration.

Today the lagoon has recovered part of its water mirror, and is visited by birds, and inhabited by small frogs and crabs.

Some wax palm trees grow around the lagoon. Manuel Lozano, the precursor of conservation in Chicaque, planted them more than 120 years ago.

The trail has steep and rocky sections that can be slippery in rainy seasons, so it can be very demanding.

  • Level of physical demand: Medium/High
  • Aproximate travel time: From the refuge 2.5 hours, from the eagle’s peak 1.5 hours.

Colombian Oak Forest Trail

This is perhaps one of the last oak forests near Bogotá. It is a population of oaks of the species Quercus humboldtii, the colombian oak. This tree is endemic to Colombia and is critically endangered due to habitat loss and timber extraction.

Colombian Oak – Quercus humboldtii

The strength of the oak wood makes it a very desirable tree, it was used in the construction of railroads. These trees can live up to 300 years and can reach up to 30 meters in height.

It is an important tree in the Andean forests. It allows the location of epiphytic plants such as orchids and bromeliads, as well as lichens.

Its flowers are visited by bees (Apis mellifera) and its acorns are food for many mammals of the Andean forest.

Species such as the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the red-tailed squirrel (Sciurus granatensis), the mountain paca (Agouti taczanowskii), the Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), and the pacarana (Dinomys branickii) benefit from it.

Zip-line and Canopy

In the Bosque de Robles trail you will find a zip line activity on an incredible 340-meter-long zip line where you will reach speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour.

You can also enjoy a canopy activity on a 25-meter (82-foot) tree platform. You can climb it on a rope or a ladder. Once at the top, you will enjoy a extraordinary view.

  • Level of physical demand: Moderate
  • Length of the route: Approximately 2.5 kms.
  • Approximate travel time: 1 hour, starting from the Refuge.

Waterfall Trail

On the trail that leads to the waterfall, you will see two ravines: Chicaque and Velez. This trail has traces past water streams.

This trail was designed to highlight the importance and value of water, which is becoming scarcer every day. This becomes evident when you reach the waterfall.

This waterfall has a drop of approximately 70 meters high, but its flow is very reduced. This is due to a eucalyptus forest that inhabits the upper part of the mountain, outside the park’s boundaries.

Negative Effect of Introduced Species

Eucalyptus trees are foreign species that were irresponsibly introduced into the mountains of the eastern cordillera. They are a living example of the negative effect of introducing foreign species to native ecosystems.

Eucalyptus trees are plants that consume a lot of water, drying the soils and excluding the development of native species of the Andean cloud forests, which are highly dependent on humidity and water.

This is reflected not only in the loss of habitat for native plants, but also for the local fauna, which have to move to other places, since the eucalyptus does not provide shelter or food, as does a Colombian oak or a Gaque.

The stone walls of the waterfall have a high concentration of iron, which gives it a reddish color that contrasts with the intense green of the mosses.

For environmental and safety reasons, visitors are not allowed to bathe in the waterfall.

  • Level of physical demand: Hard
  • Length of the route: 3.5 kms
  • Approximate travel time: 2 hours, starting from the Refugio.

The Colonial Trail

Before colonization, this was a pre-Columbian trail used by the Muisca and Panches Indians. It was used to link the savannah of Bogotá (the land of the Minga) with the Magdalena valley. Later, the Spaniards widened the trail to allow the passage of horses and mules.

The road is built entirely of stone steps. These steps are polished by the passage of dozens of generations over hundreds of years. The colonial trail retains a centuries-old air and is now part of the cloud forest. To walk along it is to return to a distant and peaceful past.

This trail is fragmented into two parts and connects the upper part of Chicaque with the lower part. It begins near the entrance of the park where the steps of the main viewpoint end, and ends near La Playa creek, just 500 meters from the Refuge. It is the shortest route between the entrance and the refuge.

  • Level of physical demand: Downhill, medium. Climbing, high.
  • Length of the route: 1.5 kms.
  • Approximate travel time: 40 minutes.

Where is it located?

It is located on kilometer 8 of the La Mesa – Soacha highway. Then you have to take the road Cascajal – Parque Chicaque until kilometer 3.

Once there, you will find the parking lot, a restaurant and the park’s ticket office. After a short walk from the entrance, you will find with a spectacular viewpoint.

Sometimes the viewpoint gets cloudy, and you get the feeling of being above the clouds.

Recommedations Before Visiting Chicaque Park

  • We recommend wearing shoes with grippy soles and ankle protection.
  • Bring raincoat, hat, suscreen and insect repelent.
  • There is an electric jeep service that takes you from the refuge to the exit. Or, if you prefer, you can return on horseback.
  • If you suffer from cardiac or respiratory deficiencies, it is preferable that you do not go on long rides.
  • Note that the Park is not responsible for any type of injury or accident you may suffer.
  • The money paid for any service taken in the Park is not refundable.


The entrance fee to the park is around 10USD. Lodging has other rates, depending on where you want to stay: hotel, cabins, house tree, glamping or camping.

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

  • Chicaque Park’s website.
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.