What to do around Honda, Colombia?

Placed in the department of Tolima, Honda is known as the “City of Peace” or “City of Bridges”. The colonial architecture is an indelible imprint of its past. It is said that a casual stroll through its colonial streets evokes the old Cartagena or Andalusia in Spain.

Honda is a natural paradise and historical heritage of Colombia. It was considered in the past as the first port of Nueva Granada (old Colombia), and currently it still retains a large number of bridges and buildings of the colonial era.

It keeps a past full of legends and glory, its development is growing in the tourism industry. In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to Honda.

Discovering Honda

The municipality of Honda is located 3 hours and 30 minutes from the city of Bogota.

The town of Honda was founded on August 24, 1539 under the name of Villa de San Bartolomé de Honda by Francisco Nuñez Pedroza. Honda is located in the north of the department of Tolima and borders the departments of Cundinamarca and Caldas.

Placed in the banks of the Magdalena River, Honda is part of the Network Colombian Heritage Towns. There you can walk the colonial neighborhoods which are full of history.

A Place in History

Honda has great importance in the history of Colombia such as the arrival of the first steamboat to the port of Caracolí in 1854, being considered the first river port of the country in the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. Also the construction of the Navarro Bridge that was inaugurated in 1899.

The architecture and other data represent the economic, social and cultural importance that the town of Honda had.

A Very Hot Place

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Honda is between 24 ºC (75 ºF) and 35 ºC (95º F), which indicates that it is a town with high temperatures as well as humid. For this reason, we recommend you to wear clothes according to the temperature, sun protection elements and keep hydrated.

Gastronomy and Culture around Fish and the Magdalena River

Due to its proximity to the river, dishes based on fishing such as Viudo de pescado, Sancocho de pescado (fish stew), and other typical dishes such as Tamal tolimense, Sancocho de Gallina, Lechona and the traditional raspado (frozen juice). There are also other typical dishes such as Tamal tolimense, Sancocho de Gallina, Lechona and the traditional raspado (frozen juice).

The cultural carnival and popular pageant of the Subienda is a celebration that takes place during the first semester of each year to celebrate the massive arrival of fish to this port on the Magdalena River.

During the festivity you can enjoy handicraft samples, horseback riding, cultural presentations, sports competitions, nautical promenade, the traditional parade of the candidates and their troupes, their boards with the popular verbena and presentation of musical groups.

In turn, the national pageant of the Magdalena River is held in October and also commemorates the fishing season.

How to get to Honda

To get to Honda you must take a 4-hours road trip from the west of Bogotá city for 180 km, during your journey you will pass through different thermal floors and you will be able to marvel at the beautiful landscapes; when you cross the majestic Magdalena River you will know that you have arrived at your destination.

Where to stay in Honda

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

El Virrey Hotel Boutique, Hotel Boutique Posada Las Trampas, Casa Celeste Honda, Waka Hotel Rural and Hotel Calle Real Honda.

Honda Attractions and Activities

Among its cultural centers are:

  • The Magdalena River Museum.
  • The Alfonso López Pumarejo House Museum and Cultural Agency.
  • The Banco de la República Library

Great Colombian personalities have been born in Honda, such as: former President Alfonso López Pumarejo, bullfighter Pepe Cacéres, writer José María Samper, former Mayor of Bogotá Alfonso Palacio Rudas, politician Jaime Pava Navarro, General Abraham Varón Valencia, among others.

Historical tour

The streets of Honda have many stories so you will love walking in the historic center of the town, especially the Calle de las Trampas, this was a colonial sector where it is considered that the Viceroys of Spain lived.

You will also be able to visit the municipal market square, called the ‘Parthenon’ of Tolima for its republican architecture with Greco-Roman influence; there you will be able to have lunch, shop for handicrafts, clothes, fruits or vegetables.

Calle De Las Trampas, in the Colonial zone.

It has a sinuous and zigzag topography, with a stone floor evoking the Andalusian constructions. This was the sector par excellence of a wealthy “elite”. The typical two-story houses were distributed, starting from the main door on the street, in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, windows overhanging the street, corridor sill, stairs and bedrooms on the second floor.

Although some had a balcony with a corridor facing the courtyard instead of the lot, the latter was rare in the central part of the Villa where the houses were built without leaving space between them, forming a kind of wall along the streets.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary

It dates from the middle of the XVII century, and it was a work financed with the tolls on the Magdalena River and the contributions of the neighbors. On October 7, 1989 its temple was consecrated Cathedral of the Diocese of Líbano-Honda. Its patron saint’s day is August 24.

Market Square

This building is similar to the Greek Parthenon and was used by the Franciscan convent of San Bartolomé. With the earthquake in 1805 it was destroyed and was provisionally taken over as military barracks and later converted into the market square by the English engineer Henry Valsint, taking 18 years to finish (1917-1935).

It has 148 columns (76 external and 72 internal) being the external ones of Doric capital and Ionic base while the internal ones 36 are smooth and 36 similar to the external ones, 108 doors, several arches, it is of green and white color and because of its shape it was called the Parthenon of Tolima.

In 1996 it was declared a cultural asset of national interest. Inside it is a little messy and sometimes even dirty but despite that it is still interesting culturally, historically and architecturally.

Rapids or Honda Falls

This natural wonder is a geological fault, which divides in two the navigation of the Magdalena River. This natural phenomenon allows the famous “subienda” to occur every year: the rapids prevent the thousands of fish that each year fulfill their natural cycle in the waters of the Magdalena from rising easily.

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Walking on the bridges of Honda

Honda is known for its variety of bridges, among which there are 3 that you can not miss: Navarro, Alfonso López and Luis Ignacio Andrade.

Alfonso López Bridge

This one in particular owes its name to the former liberal president Alfonso López Pumarejo, who was born there in 1886. The bridge is over the Gualí River, very close to the market square.

Luis Ignacio Andrade Bridge

It is located over the Magdalena River, and connects with Puerto Bogotá, Cundinamarca. It is important for land transportation, so it is usual to see tractor-trailers crossing it.

Navarro Bridge

More than 100 years old, it is the oldest bridge in South America. It was declared a National Monument in 1994 by Decree 936, thanks to its technical and aesthetic merits and the relevance that this important engineering work has had for the National history. Built between 1894 and 1898, it joins the departments of Tolima and Cundinamarca.

This bridge has a particular history. It was bought in New York from the same company that built the one in the city of San Francisco. The government gave it in concession for its exploitation for 99 years by charging tolls according to the type of cargo to be passed. That did not last long because the Thousand Days War came and changed all the conditions.

The bridge has an iron and steel structure of the type called Cantilever cornice, with a length of 167.65 mts, 5.20 mtZ wide and a height of 18.30 mts over the river.

You will find the Navarro Bridge 200 meters from the historic center of the town.

Visiting Museums in Honda

Magdalena River Museum

The museum tells the history of the river, in your tour you will learn about the animals that inhabit and inhabited the river; the articles used by the fishermen, besides learning about the fishing culture of the inhabitants of the town.

It is a colonial construction of the XVIII century, where “La bodega El Retiro or Puerto de El Retiro” worked, which provided its services to the merchants of the town in the Upper Magdalena, docked and sailed brigantines, steamboats, champagne, canoes, canoes, canoes.

At the end of the XIX century it was the headquarters of the Gendarmerie Barracks, then it was the library and municipal archives, and nowadays it houses the River Museum.

Alfonso Pumarejo House Museum

Faithful witness of the passage of several generations, today it is the scene of a remembered Colombian colonial era.

This building is representative of the classic Andalusian colonial architecture, whose construction dates back to the XVII century. It has a single floor, with a clay tile roof, a four-sided roof and a central patio, built in adobe, with a load-bearing wall system, exposed gutters and downspouts, and colorful columns of fine wood.

Birdwatching is also another activity you can do in Honda. Visit our entry about the birding routes in Tolima to know more.

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

  • Colombia Travel
  • Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
  • Tolima Government Website
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.

Visit the Mana Dulce Reserve, 50 years Conserving a Humid Enclave in the Tropical Dry Forest

The Tropical dry forest represents 22% of the forests in South America. In Colombia, the tropical dry forest was originally distributed in the regions of the Caribbean plain and the inter-Andean valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers between 0 and 1000 m of altitude. Today it only remains 8% of its original extension.

The Inter Andean Valleys Dry Forest of Colombia

Inter Andean Tropical Dry Forest from ana Dulce Reserve

In the region of the inter-Andean valleys, the tropical dry forest is distributed in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, and Antioquia, covering approximately 1’650.000 hectares.

The dry forests of the inter-Andean valleys have similar vegetation to the dry forest of the Caribbean plain, suggesting that in a remote past these regions were connected, constituting a corridor to the dry coastal areas of Ecuador and Peru.

There are several woody plant species restricted to the dry forests of inter-Andean valleys. There are also some bird species restricted to this habitat. For the arid zones and tropical dry forest of the inter-Andean valleys of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers the following birds are registered as endemic: Red-legged Tinamou (Crypturellus erythropus), Chestnut-winged Chachalaca (Ortalis garrula), and Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna), which are associated with the tropical dry forest.

Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve

The Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve is located in the Inter-Andean valley of the Magdalena River, in the department of Cundinamarca. Its distinct avifauna of tropical dry, deciduous forest, only about 3 hours away from Bogota, immediately caught our interest. Its dry climate is appealing and it is the total opposite to the lush and wet forests of Amazonia.

Fifty years ago, Mr. Helio Mendoza saw in the relics of the tropical dry forest of the Alto Magdalena an opportunity to reconnect with nature. He first bought 20 hectares, where he built a colonial house for his family.

Little by little, he completed about 90 hectares full of trees from the tropical dry forest, an almost extinct ecosystem in the country.

Mana Dulce Reserve House

In 2002 the family managed to convert this land into a civil society natural reserve where today an ecotourism project is being carried out. In this place, there are natural caves with bats, viewpoints, trails opened by animals, and a water source in the middle of the tropical dry forest, hence the name of the reserve.

There are trails decorated with native trees such as ceibas and palms more than 150 years old and 30 meters high; a natural spring with 200 years of life; an old stone bridge, which is said to be the third natural stone bridge built in Colombia; the Chimbilacera cave, four meters high and 20 meters deep, where 19 species of bats live; and the viewpoint “Mirador del Indio Malachí”, which offers a panoramic view of the dry forest of the Alto Magdalena.

Birding at Mana Dulce Nature Reserve

As you may have guessed, the avifauna of Mana Dulce Reserve is intriguingly similar to the drier forests of the Caribbean CoastAlthough species diversity is smaller in dry forests than in humid forests, it is a highly interesting ecosystem.

It might not appear at first glance, but this ecosystem is equally threatened by habitat destruction (clearing for cattle pasture, frequent fires) as most other forest types in Latin America. 

We hopped on public transport in Bogota and settled for a 4 days stay. Accommodation is available within the property of the private reserve. Get more information via Facebook. Three meals were included in the modest price.  

The two main birding areas are several easy Loop-tails through the forest of the property, starting just next to the farm, and along the access road to the reserve. There are accessible trails outside the reserve that can be explored. They have much of the same species as the trails within Mana Dulce Reserve. 

A Colombian endemic confined to dry forests of the Magdalena valley: Velvet-fronted Euphonia – Euphonia concinna.

Birding early hours is key, as it gets very hot after 10 o’clockOne of the star attractions is easily seen: The endemic Velvet-fronted EuphoniaIt frequently visits and even nests right next to the main building. 

Colombian Chachalacas (endemic), are easily located by their loud calls. Apical Flycatcher (yes, another endemic) can be found at several sites close to the building. Another main targets are Pheasant Cuckoo which likes to sing at night. Listen for its simple plaintive song here.

Barred Puffbird, Dwarf CuckooRed-billed Scythebill, Greenish ElaeniaCinereous Becard, Lance-tailed Manakin, White-eared Conebill are among the many quality birds to be looked for. 

White-fringed Antwren – Formicivora grisea

White-fringed Antwren, Barred-, Black-crowned AntshrikeJet– and White-bellied Antbirds represent the Thamnophilds.  The drab Tyrannids, Southern Beardless-, Mouse-colored TyrannuletPearly-vented Tody-TyrantPale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant & Euler’s Flycatcher blend perfectly in the barren surrounding. 

Rufous-tailed JacamarRufous-capped Warbler & Orange-crowned Oriole for sure, add some color! 

There are several more common & and widespread species like Whooping MotmotRufous-browed PeppershrikeScrub GreenletBlack-chested Jay & Black-faced Grassquit to keep one entertained. 

White-bellied Antbird – Myrmeciza longipes
Pale-eyed Pygmy-tyrant – Atalotriccus pilaris
Fuscous Flycatcher – Cnemotriccus fuscatus

This reserve is not often visited by tour groups and even individual birders. But its easy access, quality birding, and tranquility make it a prime destination for those who wish to visit a reserve of the well-established birding routes in Colombia. 

  • Tropical Dry Forest of Colombia. Biological Resources Research Institute Alexander von Humboldt.
  • The Tropical Dry Forest in Colombia (Bs-T). Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Biodiversity Inventory Program. Group of Explorations and Environmental Monitoring GEMA. 1998.
  • Semana Rural On-line Journal
About the authors

Sara Colmenares 

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

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. Jérôme has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.

#1 Colombia Mid-Magdalena Valley Birding Hotspot: Rio Claro Reserve

The Mid-Magdalena Valley is a biogeographical area of very high interest. Not only does it mark a species limit border for mainly Central American species, but it is also itself an endemic region, too! Its avifauna can be observed, maybe easiest, at the well-established Rio Claro Reserve. Easily accessed from both Bogotá and Medellín, this reserve merits multiple-day visits from birders. 

If I need to convince you more there are some beautiful bathing spots along the Rio Claro and the scenery of the Canyon is very picturesque. But you won’t be the only person finding that: Be aware that the reserve gets very crowded on weekends and national holidaysAvoid those periods for birding. Take my word! 

Early mornings are a must in Rio Claro

And birding starts right away from the entrance on an unpaved road leading to the main accommodations & restaurants within the reserve. Early mornings are a must, as the forests get very quiet in the afternoon. 

I stayed in the last accommodation coming from the entrance, which is the quietest and the top story rooms allow a view into the higher trees often yielding good species. I recommend this to all visiting birders. They are only a 5 minutes’ walk away from the restaurant (through a Magdalena Antbird territory) and a short walk from the Oilbird Cave away. 

Morning hours found me birding along the above-mentioned entrance road. Dusky-faced Tanagers are among the first songsters. Little Tinamou whistles its beautiful tremolo song from the lush roadside forest. Both Citron-throated & Yellow-throated Toucans croak, respectively yelp from high exposed perches. Pacific AntwrenChestnut-backed & White-bellied Antbird join the activity.  

Anywhere along the road can be good for mixed flocks. The very localized, endemic Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant accompanies them. On my first two days, I had only brief, unsatisfying views of a couple of these birds, but I had another ace upon my sleeve for this one I found a Cecropia with fruits and this was frequented by several White-mantled Barbets, a Colombian endemic, Orange-fronted Oriolesand several Tanager species.

Close to the Mulata Creek, I heard the song of Grey-cheeked NunletIt took me only a few minutes to locate this small Puffbird. Not too shabby a start. Activity dwindled a bit after that, but common species like Colombian ChachalacaCrimson-crested Woodpecker, Blue-crowned Manakin, Band-backed Wren & Buff-rumped Warblers kept me entertained. 

A highly refreshing and much-needed dip into beautiful Rio Claro & the following siesta was as much appreciated as needed. 

The Oilbirds leaving the Cave at dusk were the roundup of a highly rewarding day. But the best has yet come… 

The Mulata Creek Trail

The following 2 days I spent on the totally quiet (visitor wise) Mulata Creek Trail. This trail leads to a secluded Finca away from the main visitor area. The first couple hundred meters go through cleared areas. I found Yellow-olive Flycatcher and One-colored Becard

A little further along the same trail, I found one of my main quarries, the Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant. A pair was frequently vocalizing, allowing me to do some video grabs, and sound recordings you can check by clicking here.

Where the trail crosses the Creek, I located more Magdalena Bicolored AntbirdsThe trail now climbs steeply and reaches more fertile birding grounds. I first heard, soon saw a group of the endemic Sooty Ant-Tanager, another species easily recognized by its interesting voice.

A lek of Golden-headed Manakins was active, too. Black-crowned AntshrikeDusky AntbirdSlate-headed Tody-Flycatcher and Trilling Gnatwren, followed. 

Where the trail reaches its highest point, you have a beautiful vista over the area. I took a little break from my birding/sound recording session, taking it all in.

The break was not for long, though… A pair of Red-rumped Woodpecker allowed a close approach. But this Woodpecker only ranked 2nd as I located a pair of the endemic Beautiful Woodpecker calling from low down in the Valley. After a little bit of playback, the birds landed in a Cecropia tree right in front of me, allowing me to record its rarely recorded voice, as the very few recordings on XenoCanto demonstrates

Steady going, more birds showed. White-mantled Barbets displayed right above my head and an obliging Red-billed Scythebill was supporting the cast. 

Slowly making my way back to the main road, I realized that a couple of days more in this reserve would be needed in order to find many of the more difficult species of the area! There such goodies as Yellow-headed Manakin lurking out there somewhere 

But I had to keep this for next time, just including a little night birding on my last night, scoring with Spectacled Owl. 


About the authors

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. Jérôme has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.


The Most Spectacular Rivers and Waterfalls of Colombia

The water resource abounds in the Colombia rivers and waterfalls. For starters, it has two coasts that are bathed by the Pacific ocean and the Caribbean sea. On top of this, Colombia is among the privileged countries to have the páramo ecosystem, where rivers are born.

Rivers flow through the diverse landforms of the country regulating the life of those who inhabit the river banks and occasionally, when encountering a cliff, they form beautiful waterfalls.

Colombia’s aquatic wealth allows for many activities related to water tourism such as diving, surfing, rafting, kayaking, sportfishing, whale watching, diving in coral reefs.

At the same time, it provides a rich landscape for other nature tourism activities such as hiking, photography and safaris.

In this post, we will talk about the main rivers and waterfalls in Colombia.

Due to the abundant rainfall and the topography, Colombia is blessed with many rivers: it has 1,200 permanent rivers, taking into account only the ones with basins over 100 km2!

Basins of Colombia

According to the place where the basins’ waters flow into, there are 5 drainage basins in the country: Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoco, Amazon and Catatumbo.

Fluvial Stars of Colombia

Also, there are 8 “fluvial stars” (geographic zones, mostly in mountain massifs, where several rivers are born due to ice melting): Colombian Massif, Caramanta Hill, Santurbán Páramo, Sumapaz Páramo, Guachaneque Páramo, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Nudo de Paramillo and Nudo de Huaca.

Colombian Rivers

As in any other region, rivers play a vital role in the life around them. Riverside communities subsist thanks to the water and fish the river provides them, and also plant and animal life depend on these water bodies. Read on to know the most important rivers in Colombia!

Magdalena river

Río Grande de la Magdalena is the most important waterway and the longest river in Colombia. It is born in the Colombian Massif and runs from south to north until flowing into the Caribbean sea.

It is 1,558 km long, however only 1,290 km are navigable. The Magdalena basin is over 250,000 km2 and receives water from 500 tributaries, among which the Cauca river is the main one.

Importance of the Magdalena River

It was the protagonist of the settling in America. Caribbean canoes and European caravels entered through its mouth in search of agricultural and mining supplies, as well as places to settle and proclaim dominance.

The river connected the interior of the Andean territory with the Caribbean Sea and, since the 19th century, it became the commercial axis of the Colombian territory.

Today, the Magdalena has vast livestock and agriculture extensions in its valleys and it is a place for hydrocarbons and minerals extraction. It boasts natural beauty and continues to be key in the country’s development.

Cauca river

The Cauca river is the main tributary of the Magdalena river. Also born in the Colombian Massif, it is 1,350 km long and flows between the Central and the Western Andes ranges by 7 Colombian departments: Cauca,  Valle,  Risaralda,  Caldas,  Antioquia,  Sucre and Bolivar, where it meets the Magdalena.

Its navigable area is about 620 km; anyway, it is the second longest river in Colombia. Along the river, productive activities such as sugar cane, cacao, corn, rice and coffee growing, farming, mining and hydroelectric activities are developed, which support the regional economy.

Atrato river

This mighty river, over 700 km long with 500 km navigable, is the main communication path in Choco and has a basin of 35,000 km2, which is rich in gold and wood, being a very fertile region.

It originates in Cerro Plateado, in the Western cordillera and flows northward through a humid valley into the Gulf of Urabá in the Caribbean Sea. Riosuio, Murri, Arquia and Truando are its most renowned tributaries.

The city of Quibdo in Choco, is the main port of the Atrato river.

Amazon river

Born in the Peruvian Andes, the Amazon river traverses 6,788 kilometers (4,211 miles) before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Its 7 million km2 (2 million square miles) basin is the largest in the world and is covered by the largest tropical rainforest on the planet: the Amazon rainforest.

Out of the 6,788 km, 116 km (72 mi) belong to Colombian territory, from the mouth of the Atacuari river to the confluence of the San Antonio gorge.

Puerto Nariño

 If you fly to Leticia, the capital of the Colombian Amazon department, you can get to sail the river up to Puerto Nariño. Your breath will be taken away by the life surrounding the Amazon: ants, tigers, pumas, tapirs, monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, snakes, all kinds of birds and fish.

Several indigenous groups inhabit and preserve the ecosystem that is being harmed by uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources.

The Amazon river and its basin are a paradise of life and history in the South American continent. Visiting its greatness is something that every human being should do once in their lifetime.

Caquetá river

Páramo de las Papas, in the Colombian Massif, is the source of the Caquetá river, which is 2,200 km long, but only 1,200 km traverse Colombian territory.

It flows to the east through the southern part of Colombia, where it meets the Amazon river, before reaching Brazil and adopting the name ‘Japura’. It has a great basin of nearly 200,000 km2 and its main tributaries are Apaporis, Caguan and Orteguaza rivers.

Putumayo river

Being a main tributary of the Amazon river, the Putumayo river serves as a border with Peru and Ecuador. Its source is Nudo de los Pastos, from where it runs about 2,000 km eastwards, through Colombian territory mostly.

Since 1,650 km are navigable, the Putumayo river is used as a transportation path. Among the productive activities carried out in its basin, cattle farming and rubber trade stand out.

Orinoco river

The Orinoco river originates in Venezuela, in Sierra Parima, and flows through 2,900 km, of which over 1,900 are navigable. This makes it one of the longest rivers in South America.

The Orinoco basin, of over 750,000 km2, is one of the greatest in America! The river drains into the Atlantic Ocean, on Venezuelan ground, with about 50 mouths.

Although most of it is in Venezuela, the Orinoco has several Colombian tributaries, among which are Arauca, Meta, Vichada and Guaviare rivers.

It houses an immense biodiversity, including the unique Orinoco crocodile.

Meta river

In the Colombian LLanos Orientales, or Eastern Plains, the Meta river is the most important. Its length is 1,000 km and is navigable for the most part.

The stunning Sumapaz Páramo, in the Eastern Cordillera, is the place where the Humea, Guayuriba and Guatiquia rivers get together to originate the Meta river.

It runs towards the northeast of Colombia until its mouth at the Orinoco river. Also, it is useful for commerce in the region. Cravo Sur, Casanare, Cusiana, Upia and Manacacias are some of its tributary rivers.

Guaviare river

1,350 km in length make the Guaviare river the longest in the Orinoco region in Colombia. Its basin has an area of over 160,000 km2 and small vessels can navigate through 620 km.

It originates from the junction of the Ariari and Guayabero rivers, which come from the Eastern Cordillera, and then flows into the Orinoco river.

The plains and the jungle are delimited by the Guaviare river, whose main tributary is the Inirida river, a 1,300 km long river with black waters that bathe the Guainia department.

San Juan river

In the Pacific drainage basin, the San Juan river basin is the most important one, with 15,000 km2.

The river originates in the department of Antioquia, in the Cerro de Caramanta, and runs 380 km through Risaralda, Choco and Valle del Cauca before flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

Colombian Waterfalls

We know the rivers themselves might not be that appealing to all tourists. However, the waterfalls that originate from them are! Here are 5 waterfalls you should visit in Colombia.

La Chorrera

The highest tiered waterfall in Colombia and the 6th highest in South America, with a 590 mt fall, is called La Chorrera and is located in the municipality of Choachí, Cundinamarca. This is about 1 hour from Bogota by road, at 2,500 MASL approximately.

To get there, you can take a bus to Choachi for COP$8,000 and get off at La Victoria, where you will see a banner of the adventure park La Chorrera.

There you will find locals that offer to take you to the entrance for COP$25,000 (if more than 5 people, each one will pay COP$5,000), but that is not all. From the point where the car leaves you to the actual entrance, there is a steep path you walk in about 10 minutes.

The facilities are simple but cozy, in the ticket office you can buy different packages that can include extreme activities such as the zip line, rappel, Tibetan bridge or an Indiana Jones-like bridge.


Hiking to La Chorrera waterfall is a must, evidently. The round trip takes 3 to 4 hours, depending on your rhythm.

It is an amazing hike, a bit demanding by the way, in which you will witness an ancient royal road that connected Villavicencio with Bogota, a cloud forest ecosystem with high trees and several bird species, a smaller waterfall of 55 m called El Chiflon, a cave with hanging stone formations called Cueva de los Monos and finally, after several ups and downs, the majestic La Chorrera appears in the landscape.

The sight from the viewpoint rock is amazing and the water splashes on your face. However, take into account there is a dry season, from late November to March, more or less, so you might get disappointed if you visit and don’t find the mighty waters running down the mountain.

You can still go hiking and enjoy the other activities in the park anyway.Salto de Bordones

In the department of Huila, the Purace National Natural Park hosts this marvelous  400 meter waterfall, ranked as the highest uninterrupted fall of Colombia.

Salto de Bordones originates from the Bordones river, in the border of Isnos and Saladoblanco municipalities. Its name is due to the bordones (Spanish for staffs) used by former settlers to cross the river from one shore to the other.

You can walk down a road to the base of the waterfall in the village Alto Medianias, to enjoy the view and the water splashing. There is a namesake hotel where you can spend the night.

Salto de Mortiño

A nearby waterfall you can also visit is Salto de Mortiño, located in the municipality of Isnos too. Born in the Colombian Massif, La Chorrera gorge forms this Salto, with a 170 m fall. The landscape is amazing: a huge cliff, topped with green, which emanates pure water.

El Duende

Huila is so rich that it has another touristic waterfall between Bordones and Mortiño: El Duende. Although it is smaller, you will be amazed when you get to see the 22 meter cascade surrounded by lush vegetation and hanging nests from the Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela).

Salto del Tequendama

Some Muisca tales say that the Salto del Tequendama was created by divine action to drain the water that once flooded the Bogota savanna. Who knows?

This famous waterfall is located in the municipality of Soacha, Cundinamarca, about 30 km southeast of Bogotá. Its 157 meter fall, fed by the Bogotá river, is known to have been traversed by Gonzalo Jiménez the Quesada (founder of the capital), José Celestino Mutis during his Botanical Expedition and even the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt.

The other attraction of the place is the spooky abandoned hotel that lies on the roadside, opened in 1928 and now turned into a museum.

Salto del Tequendama has had bad times, since its flow has decreased over the years and the pollution of the river has caused unpleasant odors in the area.

However, tourists keep visiting this waterfall, perhaps because they are interested in the stories of indigenous mythology, the many suicides that happened in the past century right there or perhaps because they just want to appreciate the natural beauty of this place.

Fin del Mundo Waterfalls

In the Amazonian department of Putumayo, of pristine jungles and biologic wealth, the Fin del Mundo waterfalls impress everyone who travels to the region.

This land of humid tropical climate is home to 12 indigenous communities and many natural treasures, such as this fall of 75 meters that flows between the mountains that separate Mocoa from Villagarzon towns.

To get there, you must cross a wooden suspension bridge over the Mocoa river that leads to the Huaca family house, owners of the territory.

There you hear a 20 minute talk about the history of the community tourism system of the area and you can rent horses and rubber boots.

The road amid the jungle goes up and down, but the highest point is only at 800 MASL. After one hour hiking, a natural pool announces the proximity of the waterfall.

The pozo negro is 8.5 meters deep and you can bathe in it. Then, a natural stone bridge helps you cross over the Dantayaco gorge, after passing by the Almorzadero cascade.

The 4 km journey ends where the mountain ends, this is the end of the world: the water has no alternative but to fall from 75 meters into the void. The peace you feel on the edge of the mountain is indescribable and the violence that once afflicted these lands is gone.

Salto del Indio

13 kilometers south, Salto del Indio receives adventurous tourists that want to dive into the cold water pool that is formed after falling for 35 meters. The indigenous settlements around give the waterfall its name.

Now, 27 km north of Fin del Mundo, you will find the stunning Mandiyaco canyon, whose rock formations have animal and human shapes with mythological background.

These were just some of the most representative rivers and waterfalls you find in Colombia. If we were to talk about all of them, we would probably have to publish an entire book. Anyway, we hope this post has left you eager to visit the gorgeous rivers and waterfalls of Colombia!

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.