14 Unique Monkeys you Cannot Miss in Colombia

Colombia is one of the countries with the largest diversity of monkeys. It is ranked as the sixth country in the world, and the third in the region after Brazil and Peru. Such diversity is associated to Colombia’s geographic location and topography.

Colombian primate species, aka Colombian monkeys,  are a good example of Neotropical monkeys, since we have representatives of the three families recognized for the American continent: Cebidae, Pithecidae and Atelidae. The department with the largest number of species is Cauca, since it includes Andean, Chocó and Amazonian Piedemont areas, each of these regions usually has some particular species.

Below you will know and discover some of the most unique monkeys that you can find in Colombia.

Discovering the endemic monkeys of Colombia

Brumback’s night monkey – Aotus brumbacki

Brumback’s Night Monkey – Aotus brumbacki

Where to find it: Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Cundinamarca, Meta, Vichada

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Habitat: inhabits at low altitudes in Colombian Eastern Plains, usually in dense forest, fragmented forest, gallery forest and riparian forest.

It is also found in a small part of Apure State, Venezuela. Its western range extends from the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera between the Arauca River to the north and the Guaviare River to the south.

They are nocturnal animals, being mainly active on full moon nights. During the day they take refuge mainly in tree hollows to rest. They are monogamous and congregate in groups of 3 to 5 individuals.

Hernández-Camacho’s night monkey – Aotus jorgehernandezi

Where to find it:  Habitat: Quindio and Risaralda, it is possible that it occurs in Tatamá Natural National Park.

Conservation status: Data deficient.

Habitat: dense forest, fragmented forest, gallery and riparian forest and secondary or transitional vegetation.

It is a nocturnal species, first described in 2007 by Thomas Defler and Marta Bueno, two of the most important primatologists of Colombia.

This monkey has a gray neck and a white spot over each eye, separated by a black band. The skin on the chest, belly, lower arms and lower wrists is thick and black.

Gray-handed night monkey – Aotus griseimembra

Where to find it:  Sinú River, including the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Magdalena River, Cauca River and Sao Jorge River valleys. It can be found in the border with Venezuela near to Maracaibo.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Habitat: tropical dry forest. It is arboreal and nocturnal.

This little monkey eats fruits, flowers, leaves, nectar, and insects. A curious fact of this monkey is that it is monogamous, and communicates visually. Also, male and female are identical. The Gray-handed night monkey is an important dispersor of seeds and are also potential pollinators for trees, and it is used by scientists as a model because it is resistant to VIH-1.

The hair on the back of the hands and feet is the color of light coffee with darker hair tips, a key distinguishing feature from other A. lemurinus subspecies.

Varied white-fronted capuchin – Cebus versicolor

Where to find it:  Middle and high Magdalena Valley.

Habitat: Lowland moist forest and palm swamps in the Río Magdalena Valley of northern Colombia

Conservation status: Endangered.

It was classified as a subspecies of the white-fronted capuchin (C. albifrons) but genetic analysis revealed it to be a separate species.

Santa Marta white-fronted capuchin – Cebus malitiousus

Where to find it:  Magdalena

Conservation status: Endangered

Habitat: The habitat where this species can be seen is in Mosaic of crops with natural spaces Gallery and riparian forest.

This primate is a medium-sized monkey, is characterized by a color that is rather dark brown over almost the entire body with yellowish shoulders.

It is omnivorous, feeding mainly on fruits, invertebrates, other plant parts and sometimes small vertebrates.

Colombian black-handed titi – Cheracebus medemi

Where to find it:  Putumayo and Caquetá.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Habitat: Inhabits tropical rainforest in southern Colombia, and this is one of the species most affected by climate change. They live in family groups and are monogamous.

The Colombian black-handed titi is territorial, and vocalizes loudly when couples from other groups enter their own territory.

Their diet consists mainly of fruits. To a lesser degree they also eat other parts of plants and insects.

Ornate titi – Plecturocebus ornatus

Where to find it:  Caquetá.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: This species can be seen in the following habitats: Dense forest, fragmented forest Secondary or transitional vegetation Mosaic of crops, pastures and natural spaces Gallery and riparian forest.

It is a miniature monkey with a graceful red beard, discovered in the Colombian jungle. Its fur is grayish-brown, it does not have a white band on its forehead and is the size of an average domestic cat.

They have one offspring per year and, when the offspring arrive, the parents usually force the eldest of the offspring to leave the group, to concentrate their attention on the newborn. Family groups of this species stay together in groups of up to four individuals.

Caqueta Tití – Plecturocebus caquetensis

The Caquetá Titi Monkey (Plecturocebus caquetensis) (Illustration: Stephen D. Nash)

Where to find it:  Caquetá.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: It usually inhabits the humid forests between the Caquetá and Orteguaza rivers, in the northwestern Amazon, southern Colombia.

Its body measures between 35 cm in length and its tail 61 cm, weighs between 800 and 1400 g. Their body fur is abundant and reddish on the neck; the end of the tail is black with white tips.

They are monogamous and form small groups of 3 to 6 and preferably 4 individuals.

White-footed tamarin – Saguinus leucopus 

Where to find it:  Confined to restricted forest patches in the Magdalena River valley towards the center and north of Colombia, particularly in the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar and Tolima; between 0 to 1600 m.a.s.l.

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Habitat: This primate is found in dry tropical, humid tropical, very humid tropical and very humid premontane forest (under the Holdridge scheme). This species uses different types of habitat: primary forest and secondary forest with several years of regeneration, preferably using primary forest.

The White-footed tamarin is very similar in appearance to the cotton-top tamarin, from which it is separated by the Atrato. Its average weight is 440 grams. These primates are diurnal and arboreal, active and agile. They move constantly and quickly between trees, and can jump up to four meters between them.

The back is pale silvery brown, or yellowish white variegated with brown. The face is almost naked with some thin white hairs. The forehead is whitish, as well as the area from the crown of the head to the ears.

Groups range in size from 2 to 15 individuals.

Cotton-top tamarin – Saguinus oedipus

Cotton-top tamarin – Saguinus oedipus

Where to find it: Atlántico, Bolivar, Sucre, Córdoba, Antioquia.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: Found only in the northern region of Colombia in tropical dry forests.

Squirrel-sized, they also have white chests and bellies, while their backs and tails are covered with long black and brown fur. They have claw-like nails, which are essential for jumping from one tree to another.

They feed through the middle layer of the canopy in search of the fruits and insects that make up much of their diet. The Cotton-top tamarin form social family groups that include breeding parents, their adult offspring and even unrelated adults that have migrated into the group.

Interesting Endemic subspecies

Colombian woolly monkey – Lagothrix lagothricha lugens

Where to find it:  Amazonia and Orinoquia Regions.

Conservation status: Critically endangered

Habitat: it can be found in dense forest, fragmented forest and open forest.

It is a large species among the New World monkeys. The body length ranges between 45 and 55 cm, the tail is longer than the body and measures between 60 and 65 cm; the average weight is between 7 to 10 kg, larger males can have a muscular body, with well-developed arms and tails. They are obligate frugivores, completing their diet with immature leaves, their main function in the forest is the dispersion of seeds.

They usually live in groups of 20 to 24 individuals, for their rest periods they look for tall trees to sleep 25 to 30 meters high.

Hernández-Camacho’s Black-mantled Tamarin – Leontocebus nigricollis hernandezi

Where to find it: Amazonas, Caquetá, Cauca, Cauca, Huila, Meta, Nariño, Putumayo

Conservation status: Least concern

Habitat: Found in a wide variety of habitats: secondary vegetation, isolated patches of forest, seasonally flooded forest and inland non-flooded forest up to an altitude of approximately 500 meters above sea level.

Head-body length ranges from 175 to 270 mm, while its tail reaches 250 to 383 mm; it weighs between 338 and 436 g. Females are slightly heavier than females. Females are slightly heavier than males. Their diet is based on insects and fruits.

Colombian squirrel monkey – Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena

Where to find it:  Amazonia and Upper Orinoco

Conservation status: Least concern

Habitat: It is one of the best known monkeys in Colombia due to its wide distribution, its adaptability to highly disturbed or urban environments.

The body with the head reaches 25 to 37 cm in length in the male and up to 34 cm in the female; the tail is 38 to 45 cm long in the male and up to 43 cm in the female; it weighs between 550 and 1,200 gr.

Their diet is based on insects and ripe fruits, so they spend most of the day moving among the branches in search of food, they are social and arboreal animals, and rarely travel on the ground. Females give birth to 1 or 2 young after a gestation period, which lasts between 150 to 170 days.

Varied Capuchin – Cebus versicolor cesarea

Where to find it:  Cesar, Magdalena, Bolivar, Santander, Boyacá, Caldas, and Cundinamarca.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: it inhabits mosaics of crops with natural spaces, gallery and riparian forest, and dense forest. It is an arboreal and diurnal animal, however, they come down to the ground more often than most New World monkeys.

They feed on many types of food including fruits, plant material, invertebrates and in some cases small vertebrates. They are medium-sized animals weighing between 1.5Kg and 4Kg, with an average adult length between 33.5cm and 45.3cm (excluding the tail), with the male being about 27% larger than the female.

What Can be Done to Conserve Primates in Colombia?

Half of Colombia’s primates are at some level of threat to their survival and little effort is being invested to protect them. This situation is serious, considering the decisions that need to be made for the future of primates, which are an extremely important part of Colombia’s forest ecosystems.

The Atlas of primate biodiversity published by the Humboldt Institute tells us that the loss of the distribution area of endemic primates is a recurrent pattern in the country, some of them have lost between 8 and 68% of their potential and natural distribution.

Avoiding the destruction of forests and minimizing hunting are the main actions that can help their conservation. It is also important to monitor populations and carry out forest restoration projects, generate biological corridors and protect habitat in the most important areas for their populations.

Recently, researchers from the University of Caldas confirmed the presence of a nocturnal monkey in the department of Nariño, which could be a new species. Also in the south of Meta there is a species of marmoset that has a similar appearance to Plecterocebus caquetensis… This means that perhaps in Colombia there are still monkey species to be discovered!.

Nature tourism is also a help since it serves as a tool for the education of human populations around the habitats of these species, which they begin to learn about and care for. Learn about Conocer para Conservar initiative in the Primatology Association of Colombia website.

If you want to see monkeys in Colombia, contact us and we will help you plan the best trip!

  • http://www.humboldt.org.co/
  • https://www.asoprimatologicacolombiana.org/
  • https://www.itis.gov/
About the authors

Sara Colmenares

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

Luisa Martin

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

Best Nature Spots Around the 18 Heritage Towns of Colombia

The Heritage Towns of Colombia are part of the Cultural Heritage of our country. Although this is their main and greatest attraction, you should know that each of them has beautiful natural attractions that are also part of our natural heritage.

That is why in this blog we will tell you what activities in nature you can do when you visit each of the Heritage Towns of Colombia.

If you want to know more about the heritage towns and their cultural attractions read our post Complete Guide to the 17 Heritage Towns of Colombia.


Throughout the Colombian territory you will have the opportunity to explore 18 magical towns, where you will be able to learn about the extensive history, culture and architecture of the country.

18 opportunities to connect with people from different regions to marvel at unique landscapes, walk along cobblestone roads in historic towns and discover churches built hundreds of years ago. They’re the perfect place to experience new cultures and destinations hand in hand with the most biodiverse country in the world.

Heritage Towns in the Caribbean Corridor of Colombia

1. Santa Cruz de Mompox – Bolivar

Mompox is one of the most important trading points in the whole country. This heritage town has a high religious and historical tourism.

It is located in Isla Margarita and has the protection of the imposing waters of the Magdalena River. It is believed that it was once the settlement of the Malibu indigenous tribe.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Mompox:

  1. During your visit you should not miss the beautiful churches found in the town, as well as The Museum of Religious Art.
  2. Mompox has The Museum of Religious Art, where you will be able to appreciate various religious relics made of silver and gold are exhibited in the museum.
  3. One hour away by boat you will enjoy the Ciénaga de Pijiño, where you will be able to see the local flora and fauna.

Our recommendations for hotels in Mompox: Hotel Nieto Mompox Riverfront, La Gloria Hotel by BespokeColombia and Café Mompox – Colonial House.

2. Ciénaga – Magdalena

It is located very close to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, in this town has earned the title of “The capital of magical realism”, as it was the place that inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Ciénaga:

  1.  You can walk through each of the streets of the town and use your imagination to transport you through each of the scenes of Gabo’s book and let yourself be carried away by the magic of literature and the beautiful buildings.
  2. Bird watching in Salamanca Island Park.
  3. Nueva Venecia, it is a place of floating houses and you can only move with the help of a spear and go through the few “aquatic streets”.
  4. The Volcano hot springs, is considered a sacred place for both the inhabitants of the sector and the surrounding indigenous communities; it is located 15 minutes by car and is the only hot springs on the Caribbean coast and reach a temperature of 43° Celsius (109° Fahrenheit).

Our recommendations for hotels in Cienaga: Casa D’Remedios La Bella Hotel Boutique and Hotel Bellavista Cienaga.

Heritage Towns in the Golfo de Morrosquillo and Sabana Corridor of Colombia

3. Santa Cruz de Lorica – Cordoba

One of the most striking features of this town is the architecture of the historic center, it has a republican and Arabic style.

It is also known as the spell of Sinu, due to the Lebanese and Syrian immigrants, who contributed to the cultural development, without leaving aside that it is also called “the city of Bocachico” due to the local fish of the town.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Lórica:

  • Afife Matuk, is one of the most characteristic houses of the town for its Syrian-Lebanese style, its columns take you to travel hundreds of kilometers forgetting that you are in Colombia.
  • Lorica Church, the strong Arab influence of the town has made the main church has a very different style to many others in the country.
  • Market of Lorica, is located on the river which makes you have a unique experience in gastronomic and cultural issues, there besides buying the things you need you can also taste delicious local food.
  • Visit Blanca Beach and the rural banks of the Sinú River.

Our recommendations for hotels in Lorica: Hotel Boutique Beteska and Hotel Hausen.

Heritage Towns in the Northwest Region of Colombia

4. La Playa de Belén – Norte de Santander

This beautiful town is nationally recognized for two factors, the white facades of its houses as well as the Unique Natural Area Los Estoraques, a strange but beautiful landscape of giant rock formations.

Nature Activities and attractions in Playa de Belen:

  1. The estoraques is the main attraction of this town, where you can appreciate gigantic rock formations of geological origin, which create caves and labyrinths.
  2. If you wish to have a beautiful view of the town and the estoraques, the Mirador Los Muertos offers you an unforgettable view, where you can wait for the sunset and fall in love with the tone that the facades take when the sun goes down.
  3. Varagúa Natural Park, is the place where you will be able to learn about the composition of the flora and fauna of the town as well as walk through trails that will make you fall in love with its great diversity.

Our recommendations for hotels in Playa de Belen: Finca Hotel Casa Real, Orquídeas Plaza Hotel and Yaragua.

5. Barichara – Santander

Barichara is considered the most beautiful town in Colombia, it is a charming place for lovers of photography and colonial architecture. Its name, which comes from the Guane dialect, derived from the Chibcha, means “place for rest”.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Barichara

  1. You can enjoy the viewpoints present in the town, such as the Salto del Mico, which is not far from the center of town.
  2. You can also visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, considered one of Baricharás must see.
  3. If hiking is within your hobbies, Barichara’s Lengerke trail, a walk of approximately 2 hours that continues to the towns of Guane and Zapatoca is highly recommended;
  4. Visit the cemetery, it is not a plan that many tourists usually do but the cemetery of Barichara will enchant you with its beautiful architecture.
  5. 10 minutes away by car you will be able to enjoy Moncora Biopark, where you will have a plan to connect with nature and you can do bird watching.

Our recommendations for hotels in Barichara: Hotel Hicasua and Convention Center, Hotel Buenos Aires Barichara, Hospedaje Donde Lorenzo, Hotel Campestre Ataraxia Barichara and Hotel Terra Barichara.

For a more detailed guide to get the most out of Barichara read the following blog Driving from La Guajira to Mompox and Barichara.

6. San Juan de Girón – Santander

This beautiful town is located 9 Km from the capital of the department, Bucaramanga, where you can have the opportunity to appreciate houses and constructions of the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries.

This led to this city being declared a National Monument in 1963.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Girón:

  • Colonial Bridges, Giron has 6 colonial bridges that are still in use today and connect the different areas of the town.
  • El Humedal del Pantano, in this wetland you can have all the information of the flora and fauna of the region.
  • Las Iguanas Waterfall, this beautiful waterfall is made up of stones located in a special way that make it a jewel of the department of Santander, you can visit just 30 minutes from the center of town.

Our hotel recommendations: Macaregua Hotel Boutique and Hotel Las Nieves.

7. Socorro – Santander

It is considered one of the most important historical towns in the independence of the country, and hometown to many of the heroes of rebellion who fought for independence, among which is the heroine Manuela Beltran.

Socorro’s streets still have a colonial republican style where you can still feel the courage of a people that took the first steps for the revolution of the country.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Socorro:

  1. Socorro has the most traditional independence park in the country, since it is known that the Comuneros (a warlike group that rebelled against the Spanish Empire) began to gather here.
  2. The Cathedral Nuestra Señora del Socorro is one of the largest 19th century constructions in the country, an ideal place to take excellent photographs due to its architecture and beauty.
  3. The Suarez River is a natural attraction 30 minutes away from the center of town where you will be able to relax and have contact with the nature of the sector, in addition to water activities such as rafting and canoeing.
  4. Socorro is very close to the municipality of Curuti so you can visit a cave that is located on the border of these two municipalities, you can perform activities of speleology with the support of the guides of the municipality.

Our recommendations for hotels in Socorro: Hospedaje Los Capuchinos, Hotel Villa Del Socorro and La Serrana Hostal Spa.

Heritage Towns in Antioquia – Chocó Corridor of Colombia

8. Santa Fe de Antioquia-Antioquia

It is considered the heritage town with more history of Colombia, as it was considered the center of economic and cultural development of the region.

It was formerly the capital of the department of Antioquia, besides being one of the best preserved towns in Antioquia in its traditional architecture.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Santa Fe de Antioquia

  1. Your tour through the streets of this beautiful town will leave you amazed, thanks to its architecture in large balconies and huge carved wooden doors.
  2. Walking across the Cauca river over the Puente de Occidente will be a plan that you will love, the beautiful structure will amaze you, besides being the scene of beautiful photographs.
  3. Birdwatching

Our recommendations for hotels in Santa Fe de Antioquia: Hotel Arena Santa Fe de Antioquia, Hotel la Ardilla de Santa Fe and Hotel Santa Barbara Colonial.

If you want to have a more detailed guide to make the most of Santa Fe de Antioquia read the following blog 2021 Medellin Colombia Travel Guide from the Experts.

9. Jerico – Antioquia

It is one of the most important religious tourist destinations in the country; Jerico was also the birthplace of the holy mother, Laura Montoya Upegui. It is a beautiful colorful town with 17 temples that adorn the religiosity of its inhabitants.

Nature has also been generous with Jerico, its tutelary hills are a favorite destination for hikers and ecology lovers. And its Main Park, one of the most beautiful in Antioquia, preserves an architecture that evokes the best years of the coffee culture.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Jerico:

  1.  If you want to learn more about the history and religious culture of the town you cannot miss the Archaeological Museum of the Southwest and the House of Culture of Monsignor Pompilio Gallego Arboleda.
  2. One of the most striking attractions of the town is its beautiful Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes Cathedral, which stands out for its orange tones on the roof contrasting with the mountains surrounding the town.
  3. Los Balsos Botanical Garden, a place where you can learn about the fauna of the town and the species that are present there.
  4. The viewpoint of Cristo Redentor is the highest view of the town, after a walk you will have the most beautiful panoramic view of the town.
  5. Hikes in Morro El Salvador, Río Piedras, Chorros de Quebradona.
  6. Visiting Las Playas Spa.
  7. Paragliding, Paramotoring, Hang Gliding, Mountain bike.
  8. Cerro Tusa and Jerico Helicopter Tour.
  9. Ecological tour of the Coffee and Rainbow waterfall in Jericó.
  10. Hike in Las Nubes Natural Park at sunset in Jericó

Our recommendations for hotels in Jerico: Hotel Santa Laura, Hotel Atenas Jericho, El Despertar Hotel, Hotel de Cauca Viejo and Cabañas y Flores.

10. Jardín – Antioquia

Jardin has beautiful colonial architecture, which is surrounded by overwhelming green landscapes. Ecotourism is one of its strong points. It is also a perfect place to see and photograph the “Andean Cock-of-the-Rock”.

The central square of Jardin will fascinate you, you will find that the landscapes that can be appreciated seem to be from a beautiful fantasy book, besides its houses and buildings have remained almost untouched for a century.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Jardin:

  1. To enjoy its colorful streets and beautiful architecture we recommend a tour in a Tuk Tuk, where the drivers can show you around every corner of the town for 2 hours.
  2. Visit the Basilica Menor La Inmaculada Concepción, this beautiful gothic style basilica (named as such by Pope John Paul II himself) will enchant you and when you are inside the beautiful decoration will leave you breathless.
  3. Among the hiking plans Jardin offers them in the outskirts of the town, there you will be able to visit La Cueva del Esplendor, Salto del Angel and have a contact with an Embera indigenous community.
  4. Among the ecological plans you will be able to visit the Jardín de Rocas Natural Reserve, where you can go bird watching and see the habitat of the beautiful Andean Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus).
  5. Birdwatching and visit the Proaves Nature Bird Reserve Yellow-eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis)
  6. Around the town you can visit natural reserves, ravines and caves where you can take speleological tours.

Our recommendations for hotels in Jardin: Hosteria El Paraiso, Hotel Jardin Antioquia, Hotel Kantarrana Urbana Jardin and Hotel Diana Campestre.

Heritage Towns in the Coffee Cultural Landscape (PCC) of Colombia

11. Aguadas – Caldas

This magical heritage town is nationally and internationally recognized for its traditional aguadeño hat made from the iraca palm, besides being the site of the National Colombian Pasillo Festival.

Besides, Aguaduas is known as the “City of Fog” as it is often surrounded by thick fog.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Aguaduas:

  1. The most important tourist attraction of the town is Guayacanes, a place of beautiful trees with colorful leaves, a great place for excellent photographs.
  2. Francisco Giraldo Cultural Center, is a museum that was built in the XVIII century, where you can appreciate relics of the aborigines that once inhabited the area.
  3. Museo Nacional del Sombrero, due to its typical hat the town has a museum where you will learn about the origins and elaboration process from the oldest technique to the evolution it has had until today.
  4. Cerro Tutelar del Pipintá Cerro Monserrate, from an approximate height of 2,270 meters above sea level you can have a spectacular 360 º view, from there on clear days you can see the Nevado del Ruiz, Pácora, La Vereda el Morro, Castile, Marmato.
  5. La Chorrera Waterfall, on the outskirts of Aguaduas 9 km from the center of town you can meet a spectacular waterfall of 50 meters high, there you can take a shower and spend a pleasant moment.
  6. Petroglyphs El Dorado, during a 30 minutes drive you can reach a rural area where you will find caves with pictograms of more than 450 years old, it is a place that you can only visit under the supervision of authorized guides to protect these relics of the ancestors.

Our recommendations for hotels in Aguaduas: Paraiso Tropical and Casa Blanca Hotel.

12. Salamina – Caldas

Built on the top of a hill in the department of Caldas and its strategic construction makes many of its corners a fascinating viewpoint. It is a magical town of the Andean colonization.

As you walk through Salamina you will find houses of wattle and daub, calicanto and wooden balconies laden with flowers of different shapes and colors.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Salamina:

  • You can tour the town and let yourself fall in love with the beautiful houses and buildings of the town as well as the pila that is located in the center of town.
  • Finally in the wax palm forest La Samaria you will have the opportunity to appreciate a beautiful and quiet wax palm forest, it is not usually as visited as Salento, this alternative is more relaxed.

Our recommendations for hotels in Salamina: La Estancia Hotel Boutique, Hospedaje Casa Real and Bonsai Casa Hotel.

If you want more information on how to visit Salamina read this blog (Salamina’s blog).

Heritage Towns in the Central Corridor of Colombia

13. Villa de Leyva – Boyacá

Villa de Leyva is considered one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia; this is due to the beauty of its landscapes, its houses and cobblestone streets.

Throughout the town and its surroundings you will be able to learn a lot about the historical events that occurred in this town, as well as enjoy the gastronomic and cultural offerings it has to offer.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Villa de Leyva

  1. The first place you can enjoy on your visit is the central square, a perfect spot to shoot postcard photos thanks to the architecture of the church and the landscape of the mountains behind it. Moreover you can enjoy a diversity of  local and international cuisine offered;
  2. Villa de Leyva is well known for its museums, so you cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Paleontological museum, without leaving aside the delicious Chocolate Museum.
  3. To get the most out of Villa de Leyva’s off road attractions we recommend that you rent a quad bike and  visit: The terracotta house, Pozos azules and Pozo rojo, La Periquera waterfalls and Parque Arqueológico Monquirá.
  4. The Cave Paintings, located 7 km from the center of town is a place where you will enjoy cave paintings of the Chibchas, an earlier indigenous culture.
  5. The ostrich farm, if you want to enjoy a few hours with these beautiful birds and learn more about their behavior, you can do it 15 minutes away where you will be in a farm where they will explain everything about this bird.
  6. If you are interested in nature tourism you can enjoy Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary; it is located 30 minutes by car from Villa de Leyva. This sanctuary is very special for the inhabitants of the area because it was an important point for the Muisca culture.
  7. Stargazing.
  8. Visit the Desierto de La Candelaria desert.

If you want more information about this sanctuary you can read our blog: The Muisca Legend of the Origin of Life at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Our recommendations for hotels in Villa de Leyva are: Hotel La Posada de San Antonio, Hotel Campanario de la Villa, Hotel Casa Cantabria Campestre, Hotel Casa de los Fundadores, Hotel Abahunza and Hotel Casa Boutique.

If you wish to have a more detailed guide for your visit to Villa de Leyva you can read the following blog: Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

14. Monguí – Boyacá

It is catalogued as one of the most beautiful towns in the department of Boyacá, so you must visit it once in your life. Additionally Mongui has the recognition of being the first municipality in Colombia in the production of handmade balloons.

It is one of the coldest towns in the department so it is recommended that you bring warm clothes for your visit.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Monguí:

  1. Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Monguí, built in the XVIII century, has a beautiful Romanesque style, making it very special. In addition, during the Holy Week season they offer to the locals and visitors beautiful shows of interpretation of the Stations of the Cross.
  2. Colonial Bridge Real Calicanto, is the place that the lovers of photography do not want to lose, it is a small stone bridge that allowed the connection of the distant sidewalks of the town and the center of the same one. Being a construction of the eighteenth century still continues to maintain its design intact.
  3. Páramo de Oceta, a 1 hour walk you will have access to a beautiful paramo, where through trails that can be more than 3 hours you will be able to appreciate the flora and fauna of the paramos as well as the main species of the region.

Our recommendations for hotels in Monguí: Mongui Plaza Hotel, Los Recuerdos de Florito y Leo, Hotel Otti Colonial, Hospedaje Bella Vista Monguí and Bahareque Casa Camping.

15. San Miguel de Guaduas – Cundinamarca

Guaduas was the birthplace of Policarpa Salavarrieta (also known as “La Pola”), one of the most important historical heroines of the nation’s independence.

It is located 115 km from the capital of the country, Bogotá, and is a place that has a large number of houses of wattle and daub, clay tiles and zinc that still maintain the colonial style.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Guaduas:

  1. Piedra Capira Viewpoint, this is a beautiful viewpoint located 20 minutes from the center of Guaduas, where you will find a huge rock with a cross from where you will be able to appreciate a beautiful view of the Magdalena River.
  2. El Salto de Versalles, it is a beautiful waterfall of no more than 40 meters high, is considered one of the most beautiful of Cundinamarca and an ideal place for photography lovers.
  3. Santa Fe Royal Road, is an old cobblestone road that linked Bogota with the municipality of Honda, this road crosses the municipalities of Facatativá, Albán, Villeta and Guaduas.

Our recommendations for hotels in Guaduas: El Portón de Enriqueta, Hotel Paso Realce, Quinta Baroe, La Rosa Nautica Hostel and Hotel Casa Blanca.

16. Honda – Tolima

It is the only town of heritage located in the department of Tolima, its importance lies in its proximity to the Magdalena River and being the way of connection with the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena.

It was considered in the past as the first port of Nueva Granada, currently still retains a large number of bridges and buildings of the colonial era.

Nature Activities and attractions in Honda:

  1. 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.
  2. Among the museum options there are two, the Magdalena River Museum and the Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo House Museum; in them you will learn about the history and importance of this town for the country.
  3. Walk over the Navarro Bridge, considered the oldest bridge still in operation in South America; you will find it 200 meters from the historic center of the town.
  4. Agrotourism and Birdwatching.
  5. Hiking and horse riding.

Our recommendations for hotels in Honda: El Virrey Hotel Boutique, Hotel Boutique Posada Las Trampas, Casa Celeste Honda, Waka Hotel Rural and Hotel Calle Real Honda.

Heritage Towns in the Pacific Corridor of Colombia

17. Guadalajara de Buga – Valle del Cauca

It is a town of great importance for worship and peregrination both nationally and globally, thanks to the Basilica of the Lord of Miracles, one of the most visited places. But Buga is also a point of conservation of flora and fauna.

Activities and attractions in Guadalajara de Buga

  1. Yotoco Forest, which is the largest tropical forest reserve in the department you will be able to appreciate the howler monkeys and Sonso Lagoon is an ideal place for bird lovers.
  2. El Vínculo Regional Natural Park, it is the largest reserve of the tropical dry forest ecosystem in Valle del Cauca, declared a regional natural park in 2006. It has a set of ecological trails with beauty and rich landscape, hundreds of birds, flowers, trees and animals in danger of extinction, typical of dry forest.
  3. Sonso Lagoon, it is located within the wetland complex of the upper Cauca river basin, in the municipality of Buga, between the Guadalajara and Sonso rivers. It is the main wetland in the alluvial plain of the Cauca River and the last redoubt of the lagoon ecosystem within the strategic Tropical Dry Flooded Forest ecosystem.

Our recommendations for hotels in Guadalajara de Buga: Chrisban Hotel Boutique, Hotel El Faro Buga and Hotel Ciudad Señora Buga.

Heritage Towns in the Llanos Corridor of Colombia

18. Pore – Casanare

It is the first town of the eastern plains that enters the list of heritage towns in the country. In the case of Pore, it is considered the first capital of freedom and democracy of the New Granada.

Located 72 km from the capital of the department, Yopal, there you will be able to find relics of great importance such as the prisons built by the Spanish, the cobblestone streets and the mansions that preserve the colonial style.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Pore:

  1. Quebrada la Niata, a few kilometers from the center of town you will find a beautiful creek of crystalline waters where you can take a bath and spend the afternoon without inconvenience.
  2. In ecological tourism, Laguna de Piña Corozo is a magical place that you will find 30 km from the center of town, there you can make migratory and permanent bird watching in the sector.
  3. Zamaricote Natural Reserve, being the only fluvial star of Casanare, from that point are born approximately 64 streams and rivers, enriched with its myth of the enchanted lagoon, ecological walks and descent by rope to the source of the river Pore.
  4. Tour through the historic center of the town, through your tour you can see the deteriorated walls that show signs of the passage of the Spaniards through this town along with the abandoned prisons.

Our recommendation of hotel in Pore: Hotel El Tesoro Del Llano

How many of Colombia’s heritage towns do you know?

No matter the answer now you have a list of magical places to discover, get out of the routine and fall in love with this beautiful country.

About the authors

Sara Colmenares

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

Luisa Martin

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

Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenario

Colombia is a megadiverse country. It is also a country with a difficult history. War has been around for more than 60 years. With the signing of the peace agreement in 2016, Colombia opened up as never before, presenting a rich, unexplored and under-exploited territory. It also was the starting of the post-conflict struggle.

Paradoxically, the conservation of natural habitats in Colombia was facilitated by the war conflict, preventing territories from being invaded by development and deforestation.

Colombia’s Post-conflict Scenarium

Tourism has been one of the sectors that have benefited the most from the peace agreement, especially nature tourism.

One of the economic benefits of the peace agreement in Colombia has been that local communities have an alternative business opportunity in bird watching tourism.

The most remarkable result was the bird-watching expansion to areas, that were formerly unsafe, such as Caquetá and Putumayo.

Western Striolated-Puffbird, Nystalus obamai. Fin del Mundo, Putumayo, Colombia.

However, not everything has been rosy. This time of transition has cost us, especially due to the lack of proper administration and governance in the territories that were liberated from the conflict.

The Environmental Cost of the Post-conflict


Many studies on post-conflict dynamics have concluded that the social, political, and administrative imbalance that remains in the new peace territories leads to environmental degradation, especially through increased deforestation.

Unfortunately, it has been recognized that the main threat to Colombian birds is the loss of habitat caused by deforestation. Deforestation occurs when people begin to use the resources to which they did not have access before.

Carrying Capacity Excedeed

Another aspect is the deterioration of the new sites due to uncontrolled visitation by tourists and visitors, which exceeds the carrying capacity limits of many of these sites.

Deforestation Hotspots in the Colombian Amazon, part 3: Chiribiquete-Macarena ©MAAP

An example of this is the Chiribiquete National Natural Park, which had to be closed to visitors due to vandalism and overcrowding. In addition, the park has also been threatened by deforestation.

Other Conflicts

Likewise, demobilization has not been complete, and there are still some illegal groups that continue with their own agenda.

Finally, it is unfortunate to have to mention that the murder of environmental leaders has also seriously affected the country.

The Boom of Scientific Expeditions

In Colombia, the peace process also allowed scientific explorations to expand in the territory, as it was possible to visit places previously closed due to public safety issues.

Colombia Bio Expeditions

Colombia bio ©Colciencias

After the signing of the peace treaty, the Colombia Bio project, promoted by Colciencias, was launched in the country.

Colombia BIO aimed to carry out 20 expeditions in the period between 2016 and 2018 in order to generate knowledge about biodiversity. The expditions were possible thanks to the end of the conflict.

The expeditions were conducted in continental and marine areas that were:

  • Unexplored areas,
  • In post-conflict territories,
  • Under threat, or
  • Associated with transformed landscapes.

Many of the explored areas shared several of those characteristics. The Colombia Bio expeditions discovered countless new species of fauna and flora in the country.

Thanks to this, and to the great impulse that the Colombian government gave to birdwatching tourism, Colombian ornithologists, as well as bird lovers, now have more and better information about the birds of the most bird-rich country in the world.

2021: 5 Years After the Signing of the Peace Agreement

In 2021 it will be five years since the signing of the peace agreement. Since then, the country has been preparing to become a world-class bird-watching destination.

Today we have improvements such as:

Additionally, today we have a big advance in terms of policy for tourism and nature tourism training.

First Sustainability Policy for Tourism in Colombia

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism launched the first sustainability policy for tourism in Colombia in December 2020. It is called the Sustainable tourism policy “United for Nature”.

This sustainability policy aims to position sustainability as a fundamental pillar for the development of tourism in Colombia through a strategic plan for 2030 called the Roadmap for Sustainable Tourism.

This plan is composed of six strategies, 14 programs, 32 projects and 140 policy actions.

Sustainable Development Goals

The objectives of the plan focus on the following guidelines:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Efficient energy management and investment in renewable and non-conventional energy sources.
  • Responsible management of solid waste.
  • Saving and efficient use of water.
  • Adequate wastewater treatment.
  • Protection of the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems.

First Guide for Nature Tourism in Colombia

They also launched the first guide for nature tourism in Colombia together with ProColombia, and the support of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; the Humboldt Institute; and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

©Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia

The guide is called “Contemplation Comprehension, Conservation: An Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia”.


It will be a tool for the country to take advantage of its potential as an international destination with sustainable and responsible practices.

You can take a look to the Handbook in the website https://guianaturaleza.colombia.travel/en/

The Colombian Birding Trails

At the same time, Since 2015, Audubon, in collaboration with Asociación Calidris, has been working on bird-based ecotourism initiatives in Colombia to support local development and conservation.

Picture from Audubon: “Wayuu indigenous students and teacher Alvaro Jaramillo are bird watching in La Guajira, Colombia this past June. The program teaches locals to become tour guides for travelers interested in spotting birds. Photo: Carlos Villalon”

Audubon has been training many people as specialized bird tour informers in all regions of Colombia, and developing the following birding routes:

However, bilingual and bird-focused guides, as well as specialized birding infrastructure, such as canopy towers or canopy trails, platforms, hides, etc., are still underdeveloped.

Therefore, if you come to Colombia to watch birds, especially on your own, you will have the best guides in local people, as they have a first-hand experience with the local landscape and wildlife, but with low or basic training in bird identification and foreign language skills (i.e. English).

How We are Helping

In Sula we always work with the local community. Whether it is with the accompaniment of a local guide, with local transportation services, with lodging in hotels and lodges developed by local people, among others.

Visiting Usiacurí and Luriza Reserve

We have first-hand knowledge of all our allies, and also help people in their regions to develop and/or improve their products and services.

Organize your trip with us, so that you have the best services, and at the same time help the economic development of the regions you visit.

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.

Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Villa de Leyva is a beautiful colonial town. It is part of the “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages”, located in the province of Ricaurte in the department of Boyacá.

Moreover, the town was founded in 1572 under the name of Villa de Santa María de Leyva and later recognized as a national monument in 1954 because of the beauty of its colonial architecture.


It is located 40 km west of Tunja, capital of the department, and 165 km from Bogota, capital of the country.

This town is very famous for its historical importance and its magnificent square. In fact, the Plaza Mayor of Villa de Leyva is the largest in Colombia and one of the most imposing in South America with its 14 thousand square meters.

The Diversity of Nature in Villa de Leyva

In addition to its colonial architecture, Villa de Leyva is characterized by its varied rural landscapes, and ecosystem ranging from paramo to desert. Also, the town is framed by two branches of the eastern mountain range of the Andes.

Due to its great offer, Villa de Leyva is ideal to encounter history, science, art, culture, and nature. It also has an important value in terms of paleontology, anthropology and archeology.

If you want to know more about the paleontological richness of Villa de Leyva visit our entry The Paleontologist’s Perfect Fossil Trip in Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

Dry areas in the mountains around Villa de Leyva
High Andean Forest Landscape, Iguaque ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives
Paramo, Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

Villa de Leyva Natural Attractions

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

This park belongs to the National Natural Park System, created by Agreement No. 33 of 1977. It is located between the municipalities of Villa de Leyva, Arcabuco, and Chíquiza.

The park has an area of 6,750 hectares, and it is associated with the Pómeca River basin to the north and the Hoya del Río Chíquiza to the south. Additionally, the sanctuary has eight lagoons formed in the cloudy páramo. There you can see deer, weasels, and three species of woodpeckers, among other animals.

Lagoons of Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

The entrance to Iguaque Park is through the road that leads from Villa de Leyva to Arcabuco. The Sanctuary is open to the public for ecotourism and it offers three cabins located in the sectors “Carrizal”, “Chaina” and San Pedro de Iguaque.

Important recommendations

  • To visit the Iguaque Sanctuary, it is necessary to bring adequate clothing for cold weather and moorland.
  • Also to bring garbage bags, a backpack instead of a suitcase, food that provides enough calories and beverages.
  • If you are going to camp, bring complete camping equipment, sleeping bag and sleeping bag.
  • People who suffer from hypertension, hypotension or mountain sickness should be cautious because the hike requires great physical effort.

The Mythic Iguaque Lagoon

Also called San Pedro Lagoon. It belongs to the Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora, has an area of 850 square meters, and is located at an altitude of 3,800 meters above sea level.

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

According to Muisca mythology, the Iguaque Lagoon is the cradle of humanity because the mother of that civilization emerged from its waters. From this lagoon emerged Bachué, mother of the Muiscas.

This is why this place is considered a sanctuary and a mythical place full of legends.

The Hidden Valley (Valle Escondido)

It is located at 2050 meters above sea level in the Salto and La Lavandera trail in the Las Vegas sector. The access to Valle Escondido is by an unpaved road that is in good condition, half an hour from the town center.

Valle Escondido, Villa de Leyva, Colombia ©Luis Cadavid

This beautiful valley is found by turning right by the Hacienda El Cárcamo. Among the attractions offered in addition to the lush landscape is the old Primavera Mill.

Pozo de la Vieja (Well of La Vieja)

It is located in Vereda El Roble, 6 km from the town of Villa de Leyva via Gachantivá through Alto de los Migueles. Its waters come from the Caño River.

Pozo de la Vieja ©Pozo de la Vieja


Factory Caves

This site is located on the road that goes to the municipality of Santa Sofia, approximately 20 kilometers from Villa de Leyva. It is a natural cave formed by a subway river.

It is a place you can visit to practice speleology. This cave is not very humid, so there are few stalactites and bats are their permanent companions.

El Hayal Waterfall

This waterfall is located on the road that goes from the municipality of Santa Sofia to the municipality of Moniquirá, approximately 6 kilometers away from Villa de Leyva.

It is a natural rock formation with a gigantic grotto of approximately 150 meters high. There you will find waterfalls of 25 meters.

Speleology at Hoyo La Romera, Villa de Leyva, Colombia ©EcoTravel Villa de Leyva

The Hole of La Romera

The “Hoyo de La Romera” is located on the road that goes from the municipality of Santa Sofía to Moniquirá.

The hole is of great magnitude, with a drop of approximately 40 meters. There is speculation that this hole may have been used by the indigenous people to go to other towns.

People say that after 12 meters of ascent, there is a small cave. This cave is presumed to be the beginning of a road that leads to the municipality of Monguí (Boyacá), located almost 150 kilometers away.

It is also known as “El Hoyo de Los Infieles”. Legend has it that it was a place of punishment for women who were unfaithful to their husbands. They were thrown from the edge of the hole. It can be said that its original name was “El Hoyo de las Rameras” (The Hookers’ Hole).

The Blue Wells (Pozos Azules)

It is located 3 km from Villa de Leyva to Santa Sofia. You can go by car, horseback, bicycle or walking (30 minutes).

Pozos Azules are artificial wells that have taken this color by the action of salts and minerals in the soil.


You will find beautiful viewpoints from which you can observe the breathtaking scenery of this territory, some of these are:

Colina el Santo Viewpoint

Located at 2,400 meters above sea level, to the northeast of the urban center, a 45-minute walk along a road with little demarcation.

From there, you can see the urban center of Villa de Leyva and the imposing mountains of its surroundings.

Colina del Santo Viewpoint, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Alto de las Cometas

From this viewpoint, you can see the entire urban center immersed in the contrasting landscape of the lowlands and the mountainous area. It is located in the desert area, one kilometer from the village on the road to “Fósil”.

Alto de los Migueles

It is located approximately 5 km from the urban center, taking the road that leaves the cemetery of Villa de Leyva. From this viewpoint, you can see to the east where the landscape changes abruptly.

Cerro de Leyva

On this hill, there is a high Andean forest remnant where you can find foxes, rabbits, beacons, birds, and deer.


Astronomical Observatory

The observatory is an ideal place to observe the sky, the depths of the universe, to enjoy spectacular nights, to recognize constellations, to observe planets, nebulae, galaxies, shooting stars, to follow diverse phenomena and to marvel at mythical stories about the cosmos!

Night at Villa de Leyva – Facetas Boyacá

It has several telescopes and devices for the observation of the celestial vault. You will be able to explore the deep sky and also to observe sunspots and solar flares.

Besides this, there is also a space museum called Kosmos, ideal for visiting with your kids and family. The museum specializes in archeoastronomy, exobiology, history of flight, and space travel.

Finally, the museum also has a collection of meteorites unique in Colombia, and a planetarium ideal for projections.

For more stargazing destinations in Colombia visit our entry The 7 Most Beautiful Places to Go Stargazing in Colombia.

Horseback Riding

Without a doubt, getting to know Villa de Leyva is an adventure that you can make the most of through these horseback tours.

The ride consists of crossing the desert of La Candelaria towards the valley of Villa de Leyva. You will leave from La Candelaria Monastery, in the middle of the desert.

Horseback Riding Villa de Leyva ©envilladeleyva.com

Finally, once you arrive in the town, you will be able to make a walk city tour and visit its main colonial attractions:

  1. The Main Square of the town, considered the largest in Colombia.
  2. The Casa del Cabildo, a historical relic near the main square.
  3. The Casa de Nariño, a museum dedicated to preserving historical material from the colonial era.
  4. The Cloister of San Agustin, the first church of the town.

I hope you liked this brief guide of natural destinations in Villa de Leyva. If you want to know more, or schedule your trip, do not hesitate to contact us.

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.

7 Nature Destinations to Visit with Your Kids in Colombia!

Traveling with kids can be challenging. First of all, you are concerned about their safety. Second, you don’t want them to get bored. Experiences in nature are among the best to ensure fun, learning, and building great and beautiful memories.

Nature offers activities that can strengthen the bonds with your kids, and also provide them with impressions they will carry with them forever.

Colombia has many offers of this type. However in this post I will tell you about the safest and most enjoyable nature experiences in Colombia for your kids (from 4 to 18 y/o)

The Coffee Triangle for Kids

The coffee triangle is a major destination in Colombia, despite its size, there is a great diversity of thermal floors and landscapes. For this reason, three of our recommended destinations are found there.

In addition, this is one of the safest regions in Colombia and with the friendliest people.

1. Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm in Caldas

The department of Caldas is a coffee destination par excellence. There you can go with your kids and learn about the process of coffee production and also about cocoa, i.e. chocolate!


There are farms like Hacienda Venecia, which have different types of accommodations, several experience tours, different walking trails, and a swimming pool!

What to do?

It is a very safe place, and you will be able to take tours on foot, by bicycle, visit the plantations, get to know the most beautiful birds and butterflies of the coffee region, and enjoy with your kids the coffee landscape.

Explore the Surroundings

Caldas has to offer several destinations for birdwatching. In our post 9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas, you will find the main birding destinations in Caldas.

From Hacienda Venecia you can also explore the surroundings, and visiting the city of Manizales and the Eco park Los Yarumos.

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii

You can also visit the Los Nevados NNP to get to know the paramo, one of the most important ecosystems in Colombia. Know more about this park in our entry Best Things to Know Before Visiting Los Nevados National Natural Park.

You can visit Los Nevados Park towards the Brisas sector, where there is a special platform for bird watching. From there it is possible to watch the Buffy Helmetcrest, and endemic hummingbird of Colombia.

On the way down from there you will find the Hotel Termales del Ruiz. The gardens of this hotel offer a  a fun activity that consists of feeding hummingbirds from the palm of your hand.


The sensation of feeling one of these birds landing on your fingers is a beautiful, touching and unique experience that your kids will always remember! If you want to know more about hummingbirds I recommend you to read our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Finally, spend a day in places surrounded by plenty of wildlife and nature such as:

Finca Romelia Colors of Life

2. Botanical Garden, Panaca Park and the Wax Palm in Salento in Quindío

Quindío is a department where you can have a lot of fun with your kids! You can stay in the city of Armenia, where there are many country hotels with swimming pools. I recommend you the Hotel Sazagua.

Quindío Botanical Garden

From your hotel in Armenia, you can make a day visit to the Botanical Garden of Quindío.

This Botanical Garden holds the most complete and beautiful collections of palms, heliconia, and butterflies of Colombia.

Heliconius heliconius at Botanical Garden of Quindio

Panaca Park

Afterward, you can dedicate another day to visit the Panaca Park. If you prefer, you can stay in this park for several days at the Hotel Decameron that is inside it.

Panaca is a park dedicated to country life. There your kids will be able to have interactive experiences with farm animals, attend fun animal shows, go on carriage rides around the farm, and participate in adventure activities such as canopying or crossing tibetan bridges, among others!

The Cocora Valley in Salento

Finally, you can go to Salento and get to know one of the most emblematic landscapes of Colombia: the wax palm fields of Quindío!


Know more about the wax palm in our entries The Unique Wax Palm Forests Landscape Destinations in Colombia and The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

3. Ukumari Park, the Hot Springs in Santa Rosa, and Otún Quimbaya Sanctuary in Risaralda

Leaving Manizales or Armenia, you can continue to the city of Pereira, and visit one of the most beautiful and oldest zoos in Colombia, the Ukumari bio park.

There your kids will be able to meet the most representative animals of the Colombian Andean forests, such as the Jaguarundi, the Chachalaca, the Black Spider Monkey, the Tapir and the Andean Spectacled Bear.

Ukumari Park ©Ukumari Website

Afterward, you have two options: visit the Santa Rosa de Cabal hot springs or go to the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Hot springs in Santa Rosa de Cabal

The Thermal Eco park has a spa where you will live a plan full of rest and fun with all your family. There are a 95-meter-high waterfall and five cold water streams that bathe the mountain, forming a dreamlike landscape.


In addition, you will be able to enjoy the Thermal Expedition. This expedition will be fantastic for the kids to know how the thermal waters are born. You will walk in the middle of the mountains of the Coffee Cultural Landscape, through the central Colombian mountain range.

There you will discover the water births, where it emerges from the earth at high temperatures. You will also see a spectacular waterfall of cold water and you will get to know different species of fauna and flora unique in the world. It is an experience full of adrenaline and fun.

Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The other option is the Otún Sanctuary. This is a more remote place, but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe. This park protects a sample of the sub-Andean jungle, one of the richest in Colombia.

Red Howler Monkey – Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

It is a perfect place to get in full contact with nature, and to walk a lot. You can also observe the native flora and fauna.

4. The Eastern Plains for Kids: Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is a hotel-reserve in the heart of the eastern plains of Colombia. It is also a very safe place and has a spectacular landscape. It is home to more than 800 species of mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds, including the traditional chigüiros (or capyvaras), yamus, pumas, crocodiles and lizards of the eastern plains.

Lagos de Menegua Hotel & Bioreserve

What to do?

There you can go on hiking routes, safari, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, spend an afternoon at the pool, and more, all in one place!

Kids fishing mojarras in Lagos de Menegua

At night you can go to see the stars, this is a unique experience since light pollution is very low in this region.

The Lagos de Menegua Bioreserve is one of the few privileged places that still have black skies. It is frequented by astronomers and amateurs from all over the world, for observation and photography of constellations, the Solar System and the Milky Way.

Astrotourism in Lagos de Menegua ©Lagos de Menegua

Its privileged location allows the simultaneous observation of the northern and southern hemispheres – a great experience for the whole family!

Explore the Surroundings

Additionally, from Lagos de Menegua you can go to the city of Puerto Gaitan and there embark on an aquatic safari along the Meta, Manacacias, and Yucao rivers.

You don’t need much luck to be able to see monkeys, turtles, otters, reptiles, and especially the Toninas, the river dolphins. An unforgettable trip for the whole family!

Ostrich Park, Puerto López, Meta

There are two more places that you can visit from Lagos de Menegua: the Obelisk, which is the geographical center of Colombia, and the Ostrich Park, where you will know everything about these birds.

5. San Cipriano Nature Reserve in the Pacific

This is a destination little known by foreigners, but worth visiting with your whole family.

San Cipriano is a natural reserve located in the Colombian Pacific, in the department of Valle del Cauca. This place has one of the purest and cleanest crystalline rivers in Colombia. It is a perfect place to swim and float on tires (tubing) while the slow current drags you through the dense subtropical jungle.

San Cipriano Nature Reserve
Cristaline Waters of San Cipriano

The huge reserve also has numerous hiking trails, which you can walk through day and night.

The “Brujitas”

One of the most exciting parts of the trip is the entrance to the reserve. You will enter in some small carts, called Brujita, which is attached to a train track, and moved by a motorcycle. It is a 30-minute ride where you will feel like you are being engulfed by the rainforest tropical jungle.

Brujitas transportation of San Cipriano

What to do?

Spend a day in San Cipriano bathing in the rivers and natural lagoons, walking, and admiring the fauna and flora of this region. There are plenty of animals to see there as toucans, sloths, turtles, and many special birds. You can also stay in the town of San Cipriano, but the hotels offer very basic services.

Tubing along the River of San Cipriano

I recommend you to stay in Cali, or in a closer hotel called Hotel la Huerta. From there, you can go and return on the same day to San Cipriano, and there you will have all the comfort for you and your family.

La Huerta Hotel

This hotel has a swimming pool, a small nature reserve and a vegetable plantation. The hotel manages a farm to table meal plan. There, your kids will learn the processes of organic agriculture, from sowing to eating.

La Huerta Hotel

They can also walk among the plantations, observe birds in the forest and surroundings, or simply relax in the pool.

Another advantage of La Huerta Hotel is its proximity to other nice places you can visit with your kids, such as the Yotoco Reserve, where you will meet the howler monkeys; or the Calima Lake Nautical Club, where you can practice water sports such as sailing.

Calima Lake from La Huerta Hotel

6. The Chicamocha Canyon in Santander

The Chicamocha National Park is another recommended destination if you travel with kids.

You will visit one of the largest and most impressive canyons in South America, while having a lot of fun. Know more about the Chicamocha Canyon in our entry The Chicamocha Canyon, the 1st Largest Canyon in Colombia.

Chicamocha Canyon

What to do?

There you can enjoy extreme activities such as driving buggies, zip line, paragliding, swinging, and rappeling or canyoning. There are also other activities such as interaction with farm animals, virtual reality experiences and 4D movies.

The park also has an aqua park with large pools and slides. Perfect to ensure fun!

It is a place very close to the city of Bucaramanga, only one hour from Bogotá by plane.

7. Bio-park Guátika and Chicaque Park – Near to Bogotá

If you are in Bogotá, there are many places you can visit with your kids. However, I recommend two places that they might love.

Chicaque Park

First, Chicaque. It is about an hour from downtown Bogotá. This park is a very recommended place for visiting with your kids and meet the high Andean cloud forest of Colombia.

Chicaque Park, landscape from the viewpoint!

The park has seven thematic trails where you can visit waterfalls, discover butterflies and birds, oaks, and breathtaking views.

There you can also do the zip line and canopy activities, horseback riding, bird watching, and even spend the night at the park’s hotel.

Sleeping in a tree house!

In Chicaque you will find something unique, the possibility of sleeping in the treetops. At this moment, it has two rooms called Nests, with accommodation for 4 to 6 people.

This is a dream experience, as well as unforgettable for the kids, because who didn’t want to sleep in a tree house?

Tree House at Chicaque Park

Guátika Park

On the other hand, there is the Guátika biopark, Only three hours from Bogotá, this zoo has everything for family fun.

Guátika is a place that houses, in the best possible way, animals that for various reasons can no longer be in their natural habitat.

Guátika Hotel Boutique @Booking.com

More than 500 animals are kept there, diverse species of domestic, exotic and wild fauna, in beautiful open and naturalized spaces.

Guátika Park

There, your kids will understand the value of rescuing wildlife and why it is not good to take animals out of their natural environment.

Guátika Park

They will also be able to enjoy adventure activities such as climbing, buggy tours, zip-lining and horseback riding.

You can stay at the biopark hotel, which has beautiful country architecture and the best view of the Sugamuxi Valley. 

Guátika Park


  • Santa Marta – Minca
  • Medellín – Guatapé
  • Cali and the Cali Zoo

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

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.

Zoos in Colombia and COVID-19 Crisis: Your Visit Can Help Them

Zoos in Colombia are very important, especially for animals that were victim of illegal trafficking.

The colombian zoos function as sanctuaries and shelters, since animals they receive mainly arrive through confiscations made by the environmental authorities.

In parallel, zoos in Colombia have been important by their education, research and conservation programs. These programs had an effect on reducing illegal trafficking, raised awareness of environmental problems and helped by recovering populations of some endangered animals.

Animals are Property of the Colombian State

According to the National Code of Natural Resources, animals are property of the State. Then, the slaughter of animals in zoos is not allowed by the State, or in any other condition.

Colombian law regulates zoos by decree 1608 of 1978. In the Article 180 it is defined a zoo as:

A zoo is understood to be a set of facilities, whether publicly or privately owned, where individuals of wild fauna are kept in confinement or semi-confinement for exhibition and educational purposes and where biological research on the species in captivity is carried out. These activities are carried out without commercial purposes, although fees are charged to the public for admission to the zoo.

Decree 1608 of 1978. Chapter II. Zoos. Article 180.

History of Zoos in Colombia

Tha Barranquilla zoo opened in 1953, and it was the first in country. Then came the Matecaña Zoo in Pereira in 1959, and the Santafé Zoo in Medellín in 1960. The Society of Public Improvements of the each city was the pioneer in opening these zoos.

People with private collections were the main donors of the first animals in these parks.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, zoos in Washington, New York, Chapultépec de México, Lisbon, Zurich, Miami, among others, helped to expand their collections.

Also, the zoos of Cali, in Valle del Cauca, and Santacruz, in Cundinamarca, were founded during that time.

In 1978 the Colombian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (ACOPAZOA) was founded by the directors of some of these zoos.

Read our entry Can Zoos be Considered as Fair Ecotourism Destinations? to know more about.

Modern Zoos in Colombia

Recently, in the last decade (2010 – Today), zoos in Colombia are making profound readjustments, despite several difficulties, mainly economic. The zoos that already existed are making structural changes. The main improvement has been to make the spaces more and more similar to natural ecosystems and maintain animals in semi-captivity.

Additionally, there is a greater focus on education and conservation programs. At the end of the 1990s, many Colombian zoos created environmental education departments. In them, several generations of children and youth have been trained as environmental educators.

Eagle rescued at La Reserva Biopark in Cota, Bogotá, Colombia

Those changes in Colombian zoos led to the more frequent use of the term “biopark” instead of “zoo”.

Examples of these bioparks are: Bioparque La Reserva in Cota, Cundinamarca, created in 2005, Bioparque Ukumarí, inaugurated in 2015 in Pereira, or Bioparque Los Ocarros and Tiuma Park in Villavicencio.

Where do Colombian Zoo Animals come from?

Native Fauna

Confiscations are the main source of animals in Colombian zoos, so most of the animals are native. Zoos also obtain animals through exchanges between zoos, voluntary donations, and births.

Animal rescued at La Reserva Biopark in Cota, Bogotá, Colombia

Exotic Fauna

Exotic animals present in zoos are mainly obtained from circuses, or from seizures. They also come from donations from foreign zoos, and their progeny.

A famous confiscation was to the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. He had elephants, rhinos, camels, and hippopotamuses at his famous Hacienda Nápoles.

Nowadays you can go on safari to Hacienda Napoles, for more information about safaris in Colombia visit our post Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

Many conservation programs in different zoos in the country have breeding programs to maintain populations or individuals of endangered species such as the Andean condor, some marmosets, the endangered Blue-billed Curassow, among others. They also have them to maintain the collection.

Zoos in Colombia are Shelters

It is of vital importance to keep in mind that Colombia’s zoos are places of refuge where wild animals arrive from the illegal traffic of fauna. In general, many of these animals cannot be reintegrated into the wild, and in the zoo, they receive a good quality of life.

Black spider monkey was rescued after being abused in a circus ©The Guardian. 2019

On the other hand, environmental education programs in zoos have helped thousands of people understand the problem of illegal trafficking of species and combat it in different ways.

Thus, there are conservation programs in the zoos that aim to rehabilitate confiscated individuals, reproduce them, and release their offspring into their natural habitats.

Despite this, many people still believe that zoos buy animals from hunters and that a dying animal can be easily replaced.

The Future of Zoos in Colombia

There is still a long way to go before all zoos in Colombia become protected areas in natural environments, where animals live in semi-captivity.

In our entry Can Zoos be Considered as Fair Ecotourism Destinations? you will find the Colombian zoos affiliated with WAZA.

Zoos strive to develop adoption programs or memberships through social networks. They also campaign to receive support from individuals and private institutions. Unfortunately, the support of the State is very little to maintain these places.

COVID-19 Crisis for Zoos in Colombia

Many zoos in Colombia do not live in quarantine, they try to survive it.

The nearly 20,000 animals that live in Colombia’s 23 zoos, have not been spared the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

These months of quarantine have put many Colombian zoos in check. There is great uncertainty about their future because maintaining a zoo costs a lot of money, for example, about $50,000 a month just to feed a set of tigers.

The majority of zoos have received money during the quarantine from donations, and many survive with bank loans, but it is not enough. In contrast, State aid has been very short.

Your Visit Can Help

Many zoos in Colombia have as their main income the public entrance fees.

On June 21st the Cali Zoo was the first to receive visitors again in Colombia, with a gradual and controlled reopening.

During October and November, Zoos like Oceanario in the Rosario Islands, and Ukumarí Biopark in Pereira opened to the public. And so, many others are trying to comply with all biosecurity protocols to open up to the public.

I know that for a wildlife tourist, visiting a zoo doesn’t sound very exciting. But the pandemic has given us another perspective.

Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) at La Reserva Biopark in Cota, Bogotá, Colombia

By visiting a zoo, you will have a taste of the local wildlife. You will also know the main local environmental problems, and you can even help, if you want.

When to Visit

You can visit zoos all year round, as long as they are open. You can make that first day of your arrival, or the day of your departure, a good time to hang out, since many zoos are located near the cities, where your hotel and airport are easy to reach.

With your visit, you will also help to keep these animals that cannot be released into the wild.

If you come to Colombia, do not hesitate to visit one of our zoos and bioparks. We know that for many it is not their moral pleasure to visit animals in captivity, but as long as we have no other way to keep these animals victims of trafficking and abuse, it is good to take a look around, maybe it will change your perspective.


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

The Unique Wax Palm Forests Landscape Destinations in Colombia

Come to Colombia to meet the outstanding Wax Palm! As we mentioned in a past entry, the Wax Palm, Ceroxylon quindiuense (Karsten) Wendl, is an endangered endemic species of Colombia. It is also the national tree and the star of one of the most beautiful and emblematic landscapes of the Colombian Andes.

Tourism is one of the most promising conservation strategies for this species. On the other hand, rural communities prefer it over agriculture, livestock, and mining.

Today there are all-terrain trucks that travel through areas such as Toche. There are even bicycle tours that take you to remote farms so you can enjoy the spectacular landscapes of the cloud forest with wax palms while descending to Toche or Salento.

Where to see Wax Palm Forests in Colombia

Salento and Valle de Cocora

The municipality of Salento is the cradle of the national tree, the Wax Palm, and has a great variety of tourist attractions. Salento is the oldest municipality of Quindío and the oldest among the three main departments that make part of the Coffee Triangle (Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío). It is a beautiful town, interesting for its typical crafts and its streets full of color and history.

Bolívar Square – Salento, Quindío

Walking around the town will help you get to know the architecture typical of the Antioquian colonization, in which mud and adobe houses predominate, with colorful gates made of wood, and windows and balconies full of flowers.

The best days to visit Salento are during the week, since there are fewer visitors. You will find a varied offer of accommodation among luxury hotels, hostels, camping areas, and glamping.

What to do in Salento

Among its most important attractions are:

  • The Cocora Valley
  • The National Natural Park Los Nevados
  • The Traditional Architecture of the Colonization
  • The Bolivar Square
  • The Royal Street
  • The Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen
  • The Ecoparque El Mirador and Alto de la Cruz
  • The Artisan’s Village
  • The Bridge of the Explanation “El Amparo”
  • A Coffee Tour
  • The Agro-ecological Park “The Promised Land”

COVID-19 update: most of the restaurants, stores, and tourist sites in Salento have already opened their doors again. However, the increase in cases of coronavirus has caused the Mayor’s Office to consider regulating the entry of visitors.

Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley)

The Cocora Valley is located within the Coffee Cultural Landscape, a territory declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.

The Cocora Valley – Quindío

Thousands of tourists travel every year to the Cocora Valley, in the coffee region of Colombia, to admire its impressive palms.

What to do in Cocora Valley

Here you can enjoy the sighting of one of the most beautiful landscapes of Colombia while having a delicious cup of coffee at the Mirador Aires de Cocora. In this place, you can enjoy not only coffee but also delicacies such as passion fruit, cakes, desserts, and sweets to brighten up the afternoon in the company of your family or friends.

Besides drinking coffee, you can go on a guided horseback ride through the valley and take pictures of the monumental landscapes. Quindío and the Cocora Valley are unique places in the world that deserve to be known, preserved, and admired by all.

Guided horseback ride through the Cocora Valley

But even in this region, the wax palms are scarce. The fact that much of the surrounding forest has been cut down to make way for cattle grazing is part of the reason for their scarcity and, in turn, their threat.

So, if you want to know a real wax palm forest and see the landscape that amazed both explorers, travelers and naturalists, as Mutis and Humboldt, from the eighteenth century to today, I recommend the following destinations below.

Where to stay in Salento

Toche: A Post-Conflict Destination

86% of the wax palm forests are found in Toche, being the largest wax palm forest in Colombia and the world, with around 600.000 individuals!

86% of the wax palm forests are found in Toche, Tolima

Toche is a small village hidden between mountains and fog. It is no longer one of the areas of Tolima most affected by the armed conflict. The armed conflict took this region out of the hands of deforestation, and that is why there are very well-preserved high Andean forests.

Today it is a beautiful example of the community’s effort to position this place as a tourist destination of choice.

How to Arrive to Toche

Toche can be reached from Salento, Quindío, by an open road that crosses a moorland area, and gives you the most spectacular views of the cloud forest with wax palms that you can’t even imagine.

You can also arrive from Tolima, from the municipality of Cajamarca. From there you will have to go up to Toche on a very difficult road. It is only possible to go by off-road transport, to make sure you don’t get stuck on the way. This road is also very difficult due to the constant landslides on the mountain slopes.

Cerro Machín Volcano. In the background the urban area of the municipality of Cajamarca. ©Colombian Geological Service

What to do in Toche

In Toche you have to visit the Cerro Machín Volcano. This is an active volcano, one of the most dangerous in the world. You can walk to its top, while you find hot springs and clouds of gases released to the surface through mini-craters. You can also walk over the main crater of the volcano, which looks like a swampy area, where you can also observe birds and a forest with wax palms around it.

In Toche, you can also take ecological walks, visit and enjoy hot springs, and do bird watching, especially the yellow-eared parrot.

Where to stay in Toche

Another Wax Palm Destinations

There are other regions in Colombia where you can find wax palm forests. These are mainly in Caldas, Quindío, Tolima, and Valle del Cauca. However, here I will tell you the most appropriate ones to visit.

You can even find wax palms in cities like Bogota, or Armenia, at the Quindío Botanical Garden. To know more read our entry The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

San Félix – Caldas

In San Felix is the Samaria Forest, a forest of wax palms. San Felix is a village located at 2,823 meters above sea level in the north of the department of Caldas, 25 km from its municipal capital Salamina and 96.3 km from the capital of Caldas Manizales. Its climate is cold, with an average temperature of 14°C and the temperatures in the early summer go up to 0°C.

La Samaria Forest at San Félix, Salamina, Caldas. ©La Patria Newspaper

It is called “The Paradise of the North”, a name that is due to its landscapes of unparalleled beauty. It has a natural forest of wax palms to which you will arrive by jeep. There you will be received by the peasant community, hard-working, humble, simple, and committed to the region. You will enjoy typical dishes and a guided walk-through path surrounded by wax palms.

The jeep is the car par excellence to move around the Colombian coffee axis.

Tourism is very important as an economic alternative for the cultivation of Hass avocados in this region. This crop is devastating hectares of forest and destroying the habitat of the wax palm in this region.

Where to stay in San Félix

Jardín – Antioquia

The Yellow-Eared Parrot Reserve was established by Proaves Foundation in order to guarantee the survival and promote conservation actions aimed at the populations of Yellow-Eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) and Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense), in the areas of Jardín (Antioquia) and Riosucio (Caldas) in Colombia.

Jardín, Antioquia

The Reserve is located in the village of Ventanas, one hour from the town of Jardin (Antioquia), on the road that connects this municipality with Riosucio, Caldas. It has an extension of 188 hectares and presents altitudes ranging from 1,900 to 2,600 meters above sea level. It is classified by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as an AZE site.

Yellow-eared Parrot

This place is the only wax palm sanctuary established in Colombia, but its main goal is to protect the endangered Yellow-eared parrot, a species that nests in the trunks of the wax palm.

According to María José Sanín, a botanist at the CES University in Medellín, the problem is that the palms must be dead since that population of palms is old and is dying massively, which is good for parrots and birders, but terrible for the palms.

What to do in the Reserve

In the Reserve, you can go hiking and bird watching. There are also hummingbird watering places, where the Inca Collared comes.

Where to stay in Jardín

You can find another landscape destination in our entry Top 18 Natural Breathtaking Landscapes in Colombia.

If you want to schedule your visit to know the national tree of Colombia, do not hesitate to contact us, and plan your trip with us!


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.

Next Travel Ideas? Visit the Biosphere Reserves of Colombia

Did you know that Colombia has as many as 5 biosphere reserves? Biosphere Reserves are terrestrial and marine ecosystems protected by the Countries and by the World Network of Biospheres, whose main function is the conservation of the planet’s biodiversity and sustainable use.

The Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognized within the framework of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Man and Biosphere Program (MAB).

The Biosphere Reserves form a Global Network in which each country participates on a voluntary basis. Additionally, UNESCO has defined operational guidelines for Biosphere Reserves as a way to ensure better international cooperation. This also takes into account national laws, which play an important role in the status of a biosphere reserve.

But What are Exactly the Biosphere Reserves?

The biosphere reserves are the central instrument of the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which was established in 1976 to promote sustainable regional development.

Biosphere reserves are extensive and representative areas of natural and cultural landscape, which must be safeguarded in the long term.

Moreover, biosphere reserves must achieve the three fundamental objectives of conservation, development, and logistics as follows:

  • From conservation, the reserve must ensure the genetic heritage and the refuge of natural and cultural landscapes. In turn, it must safeguard ecosystem services (i.e. clean water, clean air, food, recreation).
  • From development, it aims to apply sustainable ecological and socioeconomic techniques in all economic sectors.
  • From logistics, it must facilitate multidisciplinary research and educational activities.

They represent a reservoir of genetic resources and ecosystems and are also areas of sustainable land use, spaces for education, research, and recreation. The biosphere reserves are like “laboratories” where the flora and fauna found in this area are subjects of natural and scientific interest. Additionally, the integrated management of land, water, and biodiversity is studied at these reserves.

The Biosphere Reserves of Colombia

Colombia’s location towards the north of South American region is naturally surrounded by open water from two sides, from the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It also counts with important ecosystems such as the Biogeographic Chocó, the Andean Mountain range, the Eastern plains of Orinoquía, and the Amazon jungle, among the biggest ones.

This privileged biogeographic position of Colombia provides an ideal habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna to flourish, and that is why it has 5 biosphere reserves that protect important and unique ecosystems existing in the Colombian territory.

Colombia’s Biosphere Reserves Map modified from Google Maps

Needless to say, these reserves surely deserve a visit. Check out this list of the 5 biosphere reserves of Colombia:

The Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 1979


The Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve is located in the Colombian massif in the south of the Andes. The Andean belt includes three national parks: La Cueva de los Guacharos Natural National Park, Puracé Natural National Park, and Nevado del Huila Natural National Park.


Cueva de los Guacharos Natural National Park

Cueva de los Guácharos NNP was the first area in Colombia to be declared a national park in 1960.

The Cueva de los Guácharos park protects the Andean forest and paramos, from 1200 to 3800 masl. What stands out most is the protection of the extensive and almost extinct areas of Andean oak (Quercus humboldtii Bonpl., Fagaceae) and the endemic oak Colombobalanus excelsa Lozano, Fagaceae, a new species of oak described in the park in 1979.

Cueva de los Guácharos ©Parques Nacionales Archive

The park owes its name to the guácharo bird (Steatornis caripensis, order Caprimulgiformes, family Steatornithidae). This is a frugivorous, nocturnal bird that lives in caves and hollows. Its name is onomatopoeic, it is derived from the Quechua huach and means to scream or cry, because of its characteristic song. Something very interesting about these birds is that, like bats, they are guided by a system of echolocation.

Puracé Natural National Park

Puracé National Natural Park is a volcanic zone and protects high mountain ecosystems, as well as nationally threatened species such as the Colombian pine (Podocarpus oleifolius), the oak (Quercus humboldtii), the wax palm (Ceroxylon spp), and the tree fern (Cyathea spp), and animals such as the Andean Condor.

Andean Condor

Its name, in the Quechua language, means “mountain of fire”. The main rivers of Colombia are born there: Magdalena, Cauca, Patía and Caquetá and also 30 calm and clear lagoons, ideal for contemplation.

Within its marvelous landscape, the Coconucos volcanic chain rises, also known as the Serrania de los Coconucos, composed of 11 volcanoes. Of these, the most outstanding are the Sugar Loaf (5,000 meters / 16,404 feet above sea level), the Puracé (4,780 meters / 15,682 feet  above sea level) that is the only active one, and the Coconuco (4,600 meters / 15,091 feet above sea level).

Nevado del Huila Natural National Park

This snow-capped mountain has the largest glacier in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes and is the second largest glacier in the country, after Cocuy.

Huila snow-capped mountain ©Parques Nacionales Archive

The park shelters a volcanic area with paramo, subpáramo, and Andean forest vegetation. It also overlaps with indigenous reserves in the departments of Tolima and Cauca. This park is closed to tourists.

Tourist Activities

  • Birdwatching (take a look on our trip Upper Magdalena Birdwatching Tour).
  • Trekking.
  • Botanic and scientific tours.
  • Community-based tourism.
  • Cultural Heritage Observation.

El Tuparro Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 1979


El Tuparro Biosphere Reserve is located in the eastern part of Colombia in the region of Orinoco in the Vichada department. The reserve is surrounded by the Tomo River to the north and the Caño Maipurés to the south. It is one of the few places in the world where the Amazon pink dolphin lives.

The Eighth Wonder of the World: Tuparro Natural Park ©CommonsWikimedia


The park has numerous trails for bird watching and hiking. In the year 1800, standing in front of the imposing torrent that the natives called Quituna, in awe, the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” what is known today as the Raudal de Maypures, one of the main attractions of the protected area.

Tourist Activities

  • Birdwatching.
  • Trekking.
  • Note: It is prohibited to visit the park for sportfishing. Don’t be fooled by unscrupulous offers.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 1979

The mountainous system called the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is conceived as the ‘Ancestral Territory’ of the original peoples Iku (Arhuaco), Kággaba (Kogui), Wiwa and Kankuamo.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve is a pyramidal territory, isolated from the Andes, and considered the highest coastal mountain in the world. It is located to only 42 kilometers from the sea, and it rises abruptly from the coasts of the Caribbean Sea until reaching a height of 5,775 meters (18,946 feet) in its snowy peaks Bolívar and Columbus.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta


To the north it is bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the plains of the Guajira peninsula; to the southeast it is framed by the courses of the Ranchería and Cesar rivers, and to the west, it borders the great alluvial plain of the Magdalena river and the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.


For the variety of ecosystems, thermal floors next to the sea, its singular beauty and cultural richness constitute it a unique territory. Its main attraction is a sacred site for the four indigenous peoples of the Sierra, this is the Teyuna Archaeological Park “Lost City”.

Tourist Activities

  • Hiking and Trekking at Teyuna Archaeological Park “Lost City”. For more tourist information about Tayrona Park and “Lost City treks” check our entries Best Time to Visit Tayrona Park to Avoid Crowds and Bad Weather and Travel Guide to The Lost City Trek – Ciudad Perdida – in Colombia.  
  • Birdwatching in Minca and surrounds. If you are looking for birdwatching tourist information in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta visit our post: Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
  • Note: Natural National Parks of Colombia and the four indigenous groups of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Kogui, Arhuaco, Wiwa, and Kakuamo remind us that in the high parts of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, including the lagoons, the páramos and the snow-capped mountains, tourism activities are NOT allowed due to the fragility of these ecosystems and the cultural importance. Entering these sectors constitutes an environmental infraction, according to the provisions of Decree 622 of 1977 – included in Decree 1076 of 2015

Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 2000

The Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, together with the Salamanca Island Parkway – VIPIS, constitute the Nucleus Zones of the UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Wetland of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Deltaic Complex.

Both recognitions highlights the importance for conservation of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta at a national and international level. Know more about Ramsar Areas of Colombia in our entry Wetland Destinations in Colombia: Ramsar Areas of Colombia.

Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta seen from Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta


This Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve is located in the Caribbean region of Colombia, in the Department of Magdalena. It covers the municipalities of Ciénaga, Pueblo Viejo, Sitio Nuevo, Remolino, Salamina, El Piñón, Cerro de San Antonio, Concordia, Pivijay, El Retén, and Aracataca.


The Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is formed by progressive accumulations of sediments from the Magdalena River. In turn, it is made up of mangrove ecosystems, swamps, rivers, canals, and marshy areas. It is part of a water complex of more than 100 swamps that present different levels of sedimentation and salinity.

Tourist Activities

  • Birdwatching.
  • Community-based tourism.
  • Note: It is not recommended to camp, nor to spend the night nearby because of the mosquitoes. There is also no place to stay. It is recommended to visit during the day, and stay in Barranquilla or Santa Marta.

Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 2000

The Seaflower Biosphere Reserve has become one of the most representative icons of marine protection in Colombia.

Conserving this set of ecosystems in the San Andres Archipelago is important for food security. Its economic valuation, because of the environmental services it provides, is estimated at more than $267 billion a year.

Seaflower Meaningful Diving – Natural Wealth Award


This reserve is located in the department of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago.


Seaflower is the largest Biosphere Reserve in the world with 180,000 square kilometers. It has all the marine and coastal ecosystems representative of the tropical zone: coral reefs, mangroves, reef lagoons, sea grasses, wetlands, beaches, open sea, and tropical dry forest.

Seaflower Facts

  • 78% of the Colombian coral areas are in Seaflower.
  • It has the third-largest barrier reef in the world.
  • It has 57 species of coral, of which 90% are on the Red List of threatened species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UICN).
  • Also, Seaflower has 407 species of fish, of the 600 estimated to exist in the Caribbean, and is home to 157 species of birds, of which 55% are threatened.
  • Its white beaches, attractive for tourism, owe their beauty to the calcareous contributions of coral.
  • It is estimated that its waters annually produce about 156 tons of lobster and 182 tons of fish through traditional fishing.

Old Providence McBean Lagoon National Natural Park

The Old Providence McBean Lagoon National Natural Park is the only nationally protected area in the Oceanic Caribbean of Colombia. It was declared a protected area in 1995, and became part of the “Seaflower” Biosphere Reserve in 2000.

Old Providence McBean Lagoon is formed by a small hill known as Iron Wood Hill, and the McBean Mangrove. In its marine portion, the Barrier Reef stands out, protecting the coasts of Providence Island, which is the second largest in the Caribbean with 32 km in length, after Belize.

This great coral reef, together with the reef lagoon that forms in front of the McBean mangrove, gives the sea a spectacular range of colors that go from deep blue to a translucent aquamarine green. It is thanks to this unique coloring that the Sea of Providence is known as “The Sea of Seven Colors”.

Tourist Activities

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


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

The Top Post-Covid-19 Destinations for Conservation Lovers in Colombia

Colombia bets on four new post-Covid-19 nature tourism routes! MinComercio, Colombia Productiva, and the Natural Wealth Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the support of the UNWTO, EAN University, and Ruta N, created the Colombia Riqueza Natural Prize, an award for the transformation in nature tourism.  

In order for us to continue being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the government of Colombia will continue to focus on identifying initiatives that promote the natural wealth of the country. The main goals are:

  1. Highlighting Colombia’s biodiversity.
  2. Reactivate the nature tourism sector.
  3. Helping local communities in different regions of Colombia.

This is key to boosting nature tourism in the phase of economic recovery that followed the Covid-19 crisis. And, also, to keep showing and promoting the best of Colombia. 

The prize was looking for the transformation of Nature Tourism in the face of the contingency of the COVID-19. The idea was to encourage the reactivation of the nature tourism sector and support environmental conservation and local communities economies.

“This award will not only serve to strengthen our plans to revitalize nature tourism, but it also highlights the importance of being one of the most megadiverse countries on the planet and the second most biodiverse”

– said the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, José Manuel Restrepo.
San Andrés & Providencia

A Prize for a Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery

According to Martha Aponte, USAID’s deputy director in Colombia, nature tourism can contribute to the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity as well as to economic development.

For this to happen, it is indispensable to discourage tourism that threatens the health of our ecosystems. Nature tourism should be seen as a tool to improve the well-being of local communities, conserve resources, and educate visitors.

The post-Covid-19 economic recovery phase will support the identification of initiatives that protect natural resources and, at the same time, promote nature tourism in Colombia under the current situation.

In this regard, Camilo Fernández de Soto, President of Colombia Productiva, explained that in Colombia nature tourism needs to:

  • Implement more efficient processes,
  • Improve the quality of its offer,
  • Accelerate the digital transformation,
  • Implement digital marketing strategies, and
  • Adopt sustainability as the fundamental part of the experiences.

The award seeks to support the work of nature tourism into overcome its main issues in order to continue attracting more local and international travelers, especially in the context of post-Covid-19 economic recovery. 

The winners will receive up to USD 50,000 to make their projects a reality in different regions of the country.

The Applications

During one month 1,185 projects applied to this prize. All of them coming from the 32 departments of the country.

54% were submitted by legal entities, while 46% were submitted by individuals. Most of the initiatives were submitted by micro and small businesses, foundations, and NGOs.

Proposals were also received from indigenous organizations, collective territories, peasant associations, community councils, and even large companies. Additionally, 84% of the proposals had not received any pre-award funding.

The Judges

The jury was composed of Brigitte Baptiste, rector of EAN University; Camilo Fernández de Soto, president of Colombia Productiva; Gilberto Salcedo, vice-president of Tourism for ProColombia; Natalia Bayona, director of Innovation and Transformation for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Ricardo Sánchez, director of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; Ximena García, advisor to USAID’s environmental office; and Agostinho João de Almeida, director of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Finalists

From the total number of projects, 15 finalists were selected and evaluated by the high-level jury.

In addition to the resources funded by USAID’s Natural Wealth Program, the winning initiatives will receive specialized accompaniment from EAN University and Ruta N to execute their projects.

Also, the 15 finalists will receive scholarships from the World Tourism Organization and EAN University in tourism management.

The Top 4 Winning Initiatives

Among the 15 finalists, only four projects won the prize. All these projects are aimed at the conservation and sustainability of Colombian ecosystems. All of them highlight the country’s biodiversity, and focus on addressing the economic impact of Covid-19 on the nature tourism sector, which has been one of the most affected by the pandemic.

The winning projects highlight Colombia’s unique biodiversity:

  • Caribbean Region: ‘Seaflower Meaningful Diving’ (in San Andres Island).
  • Andean – Chocó Forest Region: ‘Establishing the first birding route for visually impaired people in South America’ (in Valle del Cauca).
  • Orinoquia Region: ‘Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar watching destination (in Casanare).
  • Orinoquia – Amazon Region: ‘Reactivation of nature and cultural immersion tourism in the Matavén jungle’ (in Vichada).

All projects have one year for their development and implementation.

San Andres & Providencia Coral Reef Diving Destination

An experience that will use augmented reality and learning for you to enjoy diving the coral reefs of San Andres Island, and helping its conservation.

Seaflower Meaningful Diving, Diving With a Purpose

This is a project focused on promoting collaboration between islanders, fishermen, and tourists to finance education, conservation, restoration, and management projects of coral reefs in the San Andrés Archipelago.

This project proposes the implementation of e-courses, complemented with gamification and augmented reality, allowing people to start their diving experience and preparation from home. Also, experiencing from home how is the activity of nursing corals.

At the destination, travelers will be able to obtain three rewards:

  • The Green Fins certificate, as responsible and environmentally friendly diving operators
  • The Reef Check Trainers, for participation in coral monitoring, and/or
  • The Reef Repair Trainers, for participation in coral reef restoration.
Coral gardening, Coral reef restoration, Reef Giving, Responsible consumerism. Picture by coralesdepaz.org

Inclusive Bird Watching Destination

A captivating experience that will allow visually impaired people to enjoy the wonders of the San Antonio Cloud Forest and its hundreds of bird species, in one of the most biodiverse areas of South America: the Valle del Cauca.

First Birding Route for People with Visual Disabilities in South America

This is a project carried out in order to find a new way of approaching, recognizing, and linking with nature for the population with visual disabilities.

This contributes to the enjoyment and identification of the species of most representative birds of the Andean region of Colombia, in the AICA/IBA San Antonio Fog Forest – Km. 18, in Cali. Know more about San Antonio Forest in our entry Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18.

The initiative transforms birdwatching tourism in Colombia into an inclusive activity and fosters new market niches. In addition, it takes into account the creation of a special sound guide for the visually impaired population and the training of tourist guides in the region.

Oiga Mire Lea Festival – Birding activity with visually impaired people at San Antonio Cloud Forest with Juan Pablo Culasso and CVC ©Sonidos Invisibles

Jaguar Sighting in Colombia

An experience that allows you to walk the jaguar route and get to Hato La Aurora to visit the first destination for safe jaguar watching in colombia. 

First Jaguar Sighting Route in Colombia Post-Covid-19 Destination

Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar sighting destination in Colombia: Hato La Aurora, in Casanare. This project’s aim is to strengthen this jaguar sighting destination as a strategy for the conservation of big cats and flooded savannas, and coexistence with sustainable productive activities.

The project includes the creation of a guide to good practices for cat watching, the training of guides from the region, and the creation of trails and a portfolio of services associated with nature tourism.

Jaguar ©skeeze at Pixabay 

Nature and Immersion Tourism in Vichada

Connect with the indigenous traditions of the Piaroa people in one of the most beautiful jungle areas of Colombia!

Matavén Forest and Piaroa Indigenous People

This project seeks to strengthen nature and immersion tourism products with indigenous communities, as the Piaroa indigenous communities from La Urbana and Pueblo Nuevo, of the Great Matavén Reserve, in Vichada. Its aim is to motivate an economic reactivation and conservation of the region’s biodiversity.

Piapoco Culture at Matavén ©Mauricio Romero Mendoza at Flickr

We are all very happy for the winners. We hope to have wonderful products by 2022 that offer you the best nature destinations in Colombia. Destinations that support our biodiversity, that are inclusive, that use innovative technological tools, and of course, that help the economic reactivation of nature tourism in Colombia.

Stay tuned!


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!


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


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.


  • 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.