The 7 Most Beautiful Places to Go Stargazing in Colombia


In Colombia, you can experience the unique and rare emotion of stargazing. The whole country offers the conditions to make astronomical tourism throughout the year, from the Andes to the Caribbean Sea.

Before telling you which are the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty, I will promptly mention some topics of special attention.

The Light Pollution Menace

Sadly, almost a third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way when they look at the sky at night.

There are many sources of light on Earth that emit light particles into the atmosphere, causing the skies to become hazy.

Today there is more awareness of this phenomenon, and more people are mobilizing to promote the use of cleaner light installations.

Light Pollution Map, Colombia – Powered by https://lighttrends.lightpollutionmap.info/

Effects of excessive light

According to the NGO Globe at Night, the light-dark cycle, when interrupted, affects ecological dynamics, and is a serious threat to nocturnal wildlife in particular.

Light pollution can also lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. In addition, health effects are not only due to over-illumination or excessive exposure to light over time.These are also produced by inadequate spectral composition of light (e.g., excessive blue light from cellphones).

With regard to energy waste, over-illumination can be a waste of energy, especially at night. Therefore, it generates increases in costs and carbon footprint.

Light pollution Hong Kong ©Science Magazine

What to do?

Nevertheless, the NGO Globe at Night explains that light pollution can easily be reduced by doing simple things like:

  • protecting the lights properly so that the light does not go up,
  • only using light when and where it is needed,
  • use only the amount needed,
  • install low energy bulbs, and
  • choose bulbs with spectral power distributions appropriate to the task at hand.

Astrotourism is also a way to protect the night sky from increasing light pollution. It works through the recognition and protection of areas that still have low or no light pollution.

Astrotourism or Stargazing

Let’s start with some basic tips.

Basic Tips for an Amazing Stargazing Night

Before going out for stargazing consider the following points:

1.Weather

Try to find the most accurate information about wind speed, wind pressure, cloud forecast, and temperature. Atmospheric pressure is also something important to check. The higher the pressure, the clearer the conditions.

2. Transparency

Dust or moisture ruin the fun of the stargazes since they make the skies hazy. Try to find the best season, which in Colombia, means avoiding the rainy season. But also, going to the driest regions and the higher places.

3. “Seeing”

The later you go out, the better sight.  I found an interesting paper in Science Magazine you can read later. It talks about a light pollution tracking tool ideated by a physicist. With this tool you can check whether the night sky is getting brighter. It is called the Radiance Light Trends Website.

4. High Spot

It can be a mountain or a building. This will help avoid light pollution effects.

5. The Moon

The Gibbous or crescent phase of the moon is best for stargazing. A brilliant moon will overshadow the stars and planets.

6. Prepare for the night

  • Dress appropriately for the weather
  • Let your eyes relax and enter into dark adaptation
  • Avoid devices with white light, astronomers recommend using devices with the red light option.
  • Bug spray, needless to explain, but worth recalling, especially in Colombia, where it is always summery.

Best Stargazing Spots in Colombia

Any place without light pollution is a good place to see the stars. Colombia has many places that offer beautiful starred and cleaned skies, far from the contamination of the cities. However, not all the places offer the appropiate tourism facilities.

Here I will list the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty.

Tatacoa Desert

Night at the Tatacoa Desert ©Bernardo Solano

The most recommended destination for astrotourism is the Tatacoa Desert in Huila. This is the only destination in Colombia with a Starlight Certificate, nominated in 2019. 

Besides its intrinsic desertic beauty, it makes you feel like observing the stars from mars, or the moon. The ochre and grayish tones of its landscapes contrast with the clear sky.

The desert has very low light contamination, and it has three different astronomic observatories, with telescopes, which are open to the public offering educational activities and nocturnal expeditions.

The epicenter of astronomical tourism in this region is the municipality of Villavieja, in Huila, where the Tatacoa Astronomical Observatory is located. In this place, visitors can participate in talks about astronomy and see the stars through the astronomical telescope.

Additionally, in the month of August you can witness the ‘Rain of the Perseids’, a beautiful stellar spectacle in which you can see up to 200 stars per hour.

Where to stay: Yararaka Hotel Boutique

Villa de Leyva

Night at Villa de Leyva – Facetas Boyacá

Also a good place for astrotourism is this beautiful town in Boyacá. Every year Villa de Leyva is the meeting point for the amateur astronomers. They gather for their annual meeting, the Astronomy Festival, which is the most important amateur event in Latin America.

Villa de Leyva features a high elevation and a dry environment, which also facilitates the observation.

It also has a very good infrastructure to receive tourists.

Where to stay: La Posada de San Antonio Hotel

Barichara

Casa del Presidente – Barichara

This town is located in Santander. It is also a destination with very good infrastructure and also it offers ideal conditions to watch the sky, because of its dry environment.

Where to stay: Casa del Presidente.

Cabo de la Vela

Full Moon at Cabo de la vela

La Guajira is a magical place in Colombia. It is another desertic area, but placed in the Caribbean region. Cabo de la Vela, in the northern territory of Guajira, also offers a very good infrastructure for tourism, and also clean and dark skies.

Here you will hear the sea waves and learn more about the mysteries of the universe from the Wayúu community.

In Cabo de la Vela, the desert landscape merges with the sea, and the night skies are filled with shooting stars and constellations, thanks to the absence of artificial lighting from nearby towns.

In addition, if you love nature, take a visit to the Flamingo Sanctuary or a tour of the Taroa Dunes are good extras.

Where to stay: Ranchería Utta.

Lagos de Menegua

Astrotourism in Lagos de Menegua ©Lagos de Menegua

The Lagos de Menegua Bioreserve is one of the few privileged places that still have black skies. Its privileged location allows simultaneous observation of the northern and southern hemispheres.

The reserve has a calendar of astronomical events with free registration. It also offers this activity exclusively for companies and specific groups.

Between the months of December and March, the probability of 100% clear skies increases, making the best time to visit.

Where to stay: Lagos de Menegua.

Cocuy National Natural Park, Boyacá

The Milky Way observed at El Cocuy NNP ©Rodrigo Bernal Díaz

After 9 pm, on a very clear night at 4,444 meters above sea level, on the shores of La Laguna Grande in the Sierra in El Cocuy Natural Park (Colombia), the Milky Way rises behind the mountain. The cold can get to your bones, but the view is wonderful.

Rodrigo Bernal Diaz

This national natural park, located in the center-east of the country, on the border between the departments of Boyacá and Arauca, is another of Colombia’s tourist sites where people can experience an unforgettable night looking at the stars. Of course, if you don’t mind to camp.

In fact, the U’wa Indians of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy created the Astronomical Observatory on the ancestral Camino de Mal Paso. In this place tourists can marvel at the spectacular clear nights and see the stars, and, at the same time, interact with the U’wa community.

Where to stay: Camping zone.

Suesca and Tominé near to Bogotá

Niddo – Suesca

Near to Bogotá are the town of Suesca and the Tominé reservoir. All this region has a very good tourism infrastructure and also, they have altitude, with more than 2500 meter above sea level.

Altitude is fundamental because there are fewer atmosphere layers above you, so you are nearer to the sky.

Where to stay: Glamping* Niddo

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

*Find more information about Glamping in Colombia in the post The 32 Most Beautiful Glampings in Colombia You Should Know, at Pelecanus website.

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 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.

Piedemonte Llanero: Birdwatching, Wellness and Horseback Experiences

The piedmont plains (also known as Piedemonte llanero) is one of the most interesting regions to visit in Colombia. The Piedemonte llanero is a geographic strip that limits the Andean mountain ranges and the Llanos Orientales. It covers a wide range of biomes along the eastern edge of the eastern mountain range of Colombia.

It comprises an ecological transition zone between the mountain forests and the highland savannas. For that reason, the soils are very fertile in this area. Soil fertility is important in ecological and agricultural aspects. Paradoxically, this ecosystem is threatened by soils being heavily exploited for crops and livestock.

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

Piedemonte Llanero Route

If you want to know the factories of “Pan de Arroz” (rice bread, yes!), the “a la llanera” steakhouses, take a bath in hot springs, ride in one of the best horse stables in Colombia, watch incredible birds and rest in serene places, this is the route for you!

Location

The piedmont plains include part of the departments of Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Meta and Caquetá.

The “piedemonte llanero” of the Meta department is located between the municipalities of Restrepo, Cumaral and Barranca de Upía to the east of Villavicencio.

Piedemonte Llanero Route – Google Maps

Weather

The piedemonte llanero has two periods of rainfall that reach their maximum in April and September. It has an average annual temperature of 26 °C. It is a region with high relative humidity, ~ 80%, so you must be careful with pieces of equipments such as cameras, microphones, phones, etc.

Also, if you leave your room for more than a week without ventilation, you will probably find a fungus film covering everything when you are back. Be careful with this, and always ask for extra clean bed clothes and well-ventilated rooms. The fungus can create allergies or even settle in your ears.

What to do in the Piedemonte Llanero Route

The starting point is the city of Villavicencio, taking the bridge Mi Llanura over the river Guatiquía, in the Troncal del llano road.

Visit Bioparque Los Ocarros

The first point of this route is the Bioparque Los Ocarros. This park is a sanctuary of fauna and flora of the Eastern Plains. It has an extension of 5.7 hectares which are divided into seven sectors around a central lake.

The bio park recreates the natural environment of almost 600 animals that live there. There are mammals, reptiles, and birds. There is also an aquarium with more than 50 species of freshwater fish, the largest in the country.

Additionally, you will find a butterfly farm, a large collection of turtles, and a serpentarium with species such as rattlesnakes, boas, anacondas and rainbow boas. It is an excellent place for children, and to visit as a family plan.

Ocarro – Priodontes maximus picture Bioparque Los Ocarros Website

Birdwatching, horse riding, and organic products at Restrepo

Then, continuing the route, you will find the municipality of Restrepo. Restrepo is known as the salt capital of the department of Meta, because of the artisanal exploitation of salt.

Salt was first exploited by the Guayupe indigenous community. You can visit the Upin Salt Mines, and the salt water springs. There you can observe the process of watering, collecting and transforming this precious mineral.

Restrepo is also known as the “Green Municipality” of Meta because of its natural wealth and landscapes. Also, it is the “World Capital of Rice Bread” (Pan de Arroz).

Pan de Arroz – Rice Bread ©https://www.noticiasdelmeta.com.co/aprenda-a-elaborar-pan-de-arroz-gratis/

At Restrepo you can visit the hills of the Caney Alto tourist corridor and watch the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, visit the Rancho Camaná Natural Reserve for birdwatching, visit the La Cosmopolitana farm which offers 100% organic products, as well as Campo Ecológico Gramalote for horseback riding.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus, male at Altos del Caney, Restrepo, Meta

At Campo Ecológico Gramalote there are three routes to ride in natural settings and live the experience of the Llanos. These rides can last between one and two and a half hours.

The participants receive basic lessons in a barouche, are attended by the guides of the field, and have the possibility, at the end of the tour, to attend an equestrian show.

Horse riding at Campo Ecológico Gramalote, Restrepo, Meta

Work of the Llanos, Dairy, and Mamona at Cumaral

On the way to Cumaral, at km 21, you can enjoy one of the best factories of dairy products in the region: Lácteos La Catira. There you can learn how to make cheese, and also try the best yogurts and cheese bread you can imagine.

Continuing the route you will find the municipality of Cumaral, a typical llanero town where you can experience the work of the llanos, visit the Manga de Coleo, and enjoy the meat “a la llanera”, popularly known as “Mamona”, a typical dish of the eastern plains.

“Mamona”, is meat from a calf less than 9 months old. This meat has a tender texture that is very pleasant for the palate. Its preparation is relatively simple, the meat is marinated with beer, salt and other seasonings.

Once it is ready, it is threaded into large wooden sticks, which are placed around a fire to guarantee its uniform cooking. The meat is accompanied with yucca, potato and plantain, and with beer or the popular Refajo (Colombian soda with barley beer).

Mamona picture by Cumaral City Hall

The World Meeting of Vaquería (Cowboys) is held in Cumaral. It takes place in the “Manga de Coleo” Hernán Braidy Braidy. Coleo is the main sport of the Llanero man. It is made up of a trilogy of rider, horse, and bull. The rider’s objective is to knock down the bull by pulling its tail.

This sport is practiced in a track called Manga de Coleo. Many animal lovers are against this tradition. But it is part of the daily tasks of a cowboy in the Llanos when he has to handle the cattle in the great plains.

When leaving Cumaral, you take the road that leads to the Cundinamarca municipalities of Paratebueno and Maya, on the route to reach the municipality of Barranca de Upía in Meta. In Barranca de Upía you can try famous dishes such as: “carne a la perra”, “sancocho”, “carne asada”, “muchacho relleno”, “carne de marisca”, among others.

Also, in Barranca de Upia you can visit the Cerro Mirador, the Guaicaramo Hot Springs, and Aguas Calientes. There are natural water pools which, according to the locals, help to improve different illnesses due to the minerals they carry.

The water heats up on the surface due to a geological rift in the foothills of the Eastern mountain range, between the municipalities of Villavicencio and Barranca de Upía. This natural phenomenon has become a tourist destination known as Termales de Aguas Calientes, a private nature reserve located 102 kilometers from Villavicencio.

There you can enjoy Turkish baths made of wood that collect the steam from the high temperatures. Also, you will find cold springs, hot springs, a hot pool, a mud therapy area and a waterfall. All these attractions are natural formations. You will also be able to know how small oil springs emerge from the ground and water streams.

Where to Stay when you Visit the Piedemonte Llanero

During the entire trip there is a permanent offer of hotels, including a five-star hotel. I will recommend three places that offer completely different but equally fulfilling experiences.

Hacienda Las Mercedes

This is a private accommodation, with a swimming pool and access to the Campo Ecológico Gramalote. It is a Spanish style house with a central patio and ample rooms with private bathrooms.

There you can relax, take walks around the hacienda, go horseback riding, enjoy the pool, and be in an environment just for you and your family or friends.

Hacienda Las Mercedes

Ecolodge Cosmogénesis

The Ecolodge Cosmogenesis is an agro-eco-touristic, therapeutic, and formative center that will provide you with moments of harmony with nature and will contribute to your optimal spiritual, mental, and physical state.

This is a place that has for you an exquisite healing energy and that will provide you with everything you need to live a unique stay.

Ecolodge Cosmogénesis

Rancho Camaná Nature Reserve

Camaná means Carlos, Martha, and Nathalia. Since 1993 they have transformed a livestock area into a small civil society nature reserve.

Rancho Camaná offers lodging services, all under strict sustainability protocols. It is the number one place in the region, and one of the most recognized in the country, for its commitment to the environment through conservation, education, and waste treatment.

Rancho Camaná Nature Reserve

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours or want to visit the Piedemonte llanero route in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References

  • Briceño Vanegas G. Evolución de la integridad estructural de ecosistemas lóticos del piedemonte llanero frente a la intervención antrópica. Acta biol. Colomb. 2015; 20(2):133-144. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15446/abc.v20n2.42307
  • http://www.turismometa.gov.co/
  • http://www.cumaral-meta.gov.co/

About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. 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.