The Wonders of Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in Southwest Colombia

At the foot of the Galeras Volcano is the Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, its cliffs are excellent for the practice of extreme sports, mountaineering, paragliding and mountain biking.

Part of the sanctuary is located in a High Volcanic Threat Zone (Zona de Amenaza Volcánica Alta – ZAVA), as it is part of a volcanic complex.

The richness of the Galeras Sanctuary is reflected in the great variety of flora and fauna species in the páramo, high Andean forest, and Andean forest ecosystems. It also has lagoons and different water sources that supply the local aqueducts.

Have you ever dreamt to come close to the most active crater volcano in South America? in Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary you can do it and discover much more!

Discovering Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

This sanctuary is located in southwestern part of Colombia, in the department of Nariño, and covers an area of 76.15 km².

The Sanctuary’s Role as a Water Supplier

In the Galeras Volcano Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, there is a hydrographic star that gives rise to about 125 streams, several rivers and four lagoons: Negra, Verde, Telpis and Mejía, and numerous ponds such as La Blanca, Sumatambo and La Trucha, which benefit the community of the seven municipalities that surround the park.

The 40 villages surrounding the sanctuary, local communities carry out different productive activities and depend on the water provided by the sanctuary. For this reason, they are committed to the sanctuary’s conservation and work together with National Parks to maintain it.

Moreover, because the sanctuary is located between Nariño’s two main watersheds: the Guáitara and Juanambú, protecting the páramo is vital for sanctuary officials.

Natural Attractions

Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is located at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level. The main ecosystems of the Sanctuary are cloud forest and paramo. The variety of topography and the diverse climatic conditions have allowed the development of a great diversity of flora.

The High Andean forest is located between 3,000 and 3,200 meters above sea, it is covered by endemic species such as the Encenillo (Weinmannia tomentosa). Then, the sub-paramo is found between 3,200 and 3,500 meters above sea level, where shrub and bush vegetation predominates, giving rise to mixed and colorful vegetation.

Finally, the paramo is found between 3,500 (3,600) and 4,100 meters above sea level, with a predominance of frailejones, and among them the endemic one Espeletia pycnophylla.

Galeras FFS as an Important Bird Area

The Galeras FFS is an Important Bird Area (IBA/AICA) recognized by BirdLife International, since Globally threatened species and Restricted-range species are present in the area.

The conservation actions carried out in the area correspond to those carried out by the Special Administrative Unit of the National Natural Parks System – UAESPNN.

Conservation responses – actions for key biodiversity include the environmental guide service and the ECOANDINO project, in which 800 families from the park’s surrounding villages participate.

The Galeras Volcano

Galeras Volcano. Picture by Ingeominas

With a height of 4276 meters above sea level, this majestic active volcano is 9 kilometers far from the city of San Juan de Pasto, and has allowed the city to develop at its feet for more than four hundred years.

It is considered one of the most active volcanoes in Colombia, and has more than three active craters in its internal cone, being one of the most important volcanoes in southern Colombia.

The native Quillacingas indigenous people called it Urcunina, which means “Mountain of Fire”, but its current name was given by the colonizers, who found its shape similar to large ships called galleys.

Pasto and Galeras Volcano 1869

This volcano is part of the Andes Mountain Range, located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, and its famous eruptions have thrilled locals and strangers alike. Its base is 20 kilometers in diameter and at the top there is a crater about 80 meters deep.

How to get to Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Flight Bogotá – Pasto

Take a 1,5-hours flight from Bogotá to Antonio Nariño Airport (PSO) at Pasto city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1,5-hours ride to San Felipe Sector. Once in San Felipe you must hike for 2 hours at medium-high intensity to the Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary entrance.

Land routes

From Pasto, there is a surrounding road that connects the seven municipalities that have jurisdiction in the protected area linking Pasto with the towns of Nariño, La Florida, Sandoná, Consacá and Yacuanquer.

Telpis Sector

This is the only sector enabled for ecotourism; you leave from Pasto to the municipality of Yacuanquer (25 kilometers to the south), from here you can access through the San José, El Rosario and San Felipe trails (for about 5 kilometers) to the site where the hike begins to access the hut in the Telpis sector, with an approximate duration of 2.5 hours on foot.

Urcunina sector

This sector is closed to the public due to volcanic activity.

What to do in Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary


Galeras Volcano

In this attraction you can enjoy the natural beauty that covers the Galeras Volcano, and from its small summits, a fabulous panoramic view of the so-called surprise city San Juan de Pasto.

Access routes: From the road of the ring road, which takes us to the repeater tower, and from there it takes approximately two hours on foot. Its access routes are from the road of the ring road, approximately 23 kilometers.

Telpis Trail

With 1.3 km, 2½ hours one way, and medium difficulty, the trail shows the importance of the high Andean forest and paramo. During the hike you will be able to observe wildlife typical of these ecosystems.

The main attraction is the excellent panoramic view of the high mountains, at 3600 meters above sea level, and volcanoes such as Chiles, Cumbal and Cotopaxi, the latter in the Republic of Ecuador. There are also wetlands and the beautiful lagoon of Telpis.

Lagoons at Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. Pictures by Parques Nacionales

Laguna Negra Trail

There is also a trail to Laguna Negra, located south of Galeras Volcano between the municipalities of Pasto and Tangua, at an altitude of approximately 3,450 meters above seal level.

To reach this place, take a 30-minute hike from Pasto through Filadelfia, until you reach the crossing to enter the lagoon, at approximately 9 km away from Pasto city’s exit.

Foso del Duende Waterfall

Also, in the San Felipe trail where the route to the sanctuary’s cabin begins, it is possible to make a small detour from the main road to visit the Foso del Duende, which is a small waterfall.

It is a small waterfall where legend has it that a goblin appears before nightfall and dances until he gets tired and goes into the well to swim, but ends up turning into a giant trout and getting lost in the waters of the Telpis River.

Birdwatching an Wildlife Tours

Constant monitoring has led to the conclusion that there are 166 species of birds, 36 families and 117 genera. Thraupidae is the family with the highest number of species (30), including Tangara heinei, Urothraupis stolzmanni, Butraupis montana; followed by the Trochilidae family (hummingbirds) with 22 species, including Eriocnemis mosquera, Eriocnemis derbyi, Chalcostigma herrani, Ensifera ensifera, Rhamphomicron microrhychum; and the Tyrannidae family with 15 species such as Mecocerculus leucophrys, Mecocerculus minor, Ochtoeca frontalis; and the Emberizidae family with 13 species such as Atlapetes pallidinucha, Phrygilus unicolor, among others.

Regarding to other animal grouos, The Galeras FFS is a perfect place to observe the Galeras rain frog and the Harlequin toad of Nariño, especially in the Telpis Lagoon.

You can also observe the typical fauna of paramos and high Andean forest such as deer, wolves, squirrels, rabbits, porcupines, some rodents, among others. The wolf (Lycalopex culpeus) is currently threatened, so it is important to protect the sanctuary and avoid illegal hunting.

As you walk through the sanctuary’s trails, you can see a large number of butterflies. There are 88 recorded species.

Scientific Tourism and Environmental Education

The exuberant nature of the protected area and its conservation status make it a suitable place for scientific research. In addition, as in all parks open to ecotourism, environmental education activities are carried out here by educational institutions or officials who introduce visitors to the park, its conservation objectives, services, and ecotourism activities.


The scenic beauties of the Sanctuary are the perfect place for this activity, although if the photos or videos have commercial or publication purposes, a permit must be requested from the National Natural Parks.

Where to stay in Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Currently , the sanctuary does not offer lodging for travelers, the registration shelter only offers information service.

At Telpis sector, it is possible to find lodging in rural houses that offer lodging services. In any case, one day is more than enough to cover the complete protected area so travelers can start their journey from Pasto city.

Best time to visit Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The sanctuary can be visited all year round, but since it is a cold climate it can rain almost every month. July to September are the months with the least amount of rain and a temperature is around 15º C (59 ºF).

Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Entrance fees

  • The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:
  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permits and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 5,500
  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permits and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 5,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 10,500
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

Bear in Mind…

  • The Telpis sector is the only one enabled for ecotourism, the rest of the sanctuary is inaccessible because it is under high volcanic threat.
  • Guided assistance is mandatory.
  • The Telpis sector is only open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 m.
  • The entry of pets or domestic animals is prohibited.
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Use of binoculars to watch animals’ behavior is recommended.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

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

If you want to know more about natural destination in Colombia, contact us in our Plan Your Trip page!

  • Colparques
  • Parques nacionales
  • BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Santuario de Fauna y Flora Galeras. Downloaded from on 06/07/2021.
  • Portal Servicio Geológico Colombiano
  • Kahuari Travel
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.


Top 11 Best Thermal Destinations and Hot Springs in Colombia

Sometimes traveling can be stressful. There are so many plans you have to make and some activities may be physically demanding. But if you visit Colombia, there is no need to worry.

Thanks to its several volcanoes, Colombia boasts beautiful hot springs for tourists to relax after long, exhausting days of exploring the amazing nature destinations in the country.

Below are the hot springs in Colombia that you should visit.

Main hot springs around Colombia

Santa Rosa de Cabal Hot Springs

Santa Rosa de Cabal is a town part of the Coffee Cultural Landscape known for two things: its chorizos santarrosanos and its hot springs. 1 hour from Pereira and 1.5 hours from Manizales, you can have the best wellness experience in the country.

Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal are the most recognized hot springs in Colombia since they are tasteless and odorless! You may be awe-struck to see the 95-meter high waterfall with 5 streams of cold water and enjoy the pools with therapeutic thermal waters.

This place has stunning landscapes full of life where tourists can experience rest, relaxation and fun in a mountainous natural environment – also suitable for birdwatching.

Those looking for soothing stress can be well-served at the spa, which offers a facial and body ritual for every taste. Also, those who love hiking can join the .

In this tour you will know the thermal water springs, the spectacular natural waterfall of thermal and cold water, a natural Turkish bath and different species of flora and fauna unique in the world.

There are different accommodation options for you to spend the night in the spa resort.

San Vicente Hot Springs 

Also in Santa Rosa de Cabal, San Vicente Thermal Reserve exists for more rustic travelers. ‘The most natural hot springs in Colombia’ is what these are known for.

Enjoy different thermal pools amidst the mountains of the Coffee Region, fed by geysers and algae, the Turkish bath and the unique thermal river surrounded by lush vegetation and singing birds.

You can visit the San Vicente Spa to have sand and mud therapy along with relaxing massages. Hosts have access to restricted hot springs and pools, for a more private wellness experience.

Whether you stay at the hotel or not, you cannot miss hiking along the ecological trails to discover the riverbanks of the Campoalegrito river, some cold water cascades, wooden bridges and much more.

Paipa Hot Springs

Paipa is a pretty town in Boyacá, about 1 hour from its capital Tunja and almost 2 hours from the famous colonial city of Villa de Leyva. Apart from the Sochagota lake, Paipa boasts several hot springs that attract hundreds of national and international tourists.

There are various resorts offering thermal baths, spas and aquatic sports, of which Parque Termal de Paipa stands out.

Pozo Azul is the source of the several thermal pools of the resort, with an average temperature of 75°C. Mineral salts, mud and algae are the components of the hot springs with medicinal powers, used in all kinds of treatments.

Parque Termal de Paipa offers its visitors a complete well-being circuit including a hydrotherapy center, massage therapy, spa and an aquatic park for the family. Your cravings will be catered at the park’s restaurant and cafe.

Termales del Ruiz Hot Springs

En route to Nevado del Ruiz, in Los Nevados National Natural Park’s buffer zone, Termales del Ruiz Hotel excels as one of the best spa resorts in Colombia. A luxurious hotel at 3,500 meters above sa level in the middle of a natural environment welcomes visitors looking for a relaxing stay in the Coffee Region.

The resort was built in 1937 and has hot springs at 39°C, which help you treat pain, respiratory and skin conditions and other types of health issues.

You can either have an amazing day trip if you are visiting Manizales and enjoy other activities such as ecologic hiking trails and birdwatching or spend one night in a comfortable room overviewing the forest.

Approximately 197 bird species get to the Caldas department, including the shining sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis), the Greybreasted Mountain Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca), the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (Chalcostigma herrani), the Buff-winged Starfronlet (Coeligena lutetiae), the Blackthighed Puffleg (Eriocnemis derbyi), and the Golden-fronted Whitestart (Myioborus ornatus).

Hacienda Termales la Quinta

La Quinta is located 25 kilometers from Villamaría, Caldas on the road to Nevado Santa Isabel. The main house has 6 rooms with their respective bathrooms and maximum capacity up to 16 people.

A comfortable social area, heated with a tube coil, through which the thermal water also passes, making this area warmer. Also from its corridors and social area, we can observe the waterfall “Las Nereidas” with a spectacular beauty.

As it is such an old house for riders, with stairs to access some of its rooms and because its arrival is on foot or on horseback, it is not advisable for people with some physical disability, children under 7 years old and adults over 70 years old.

The logistic team will be in charge of mounting the luggage on mules and guiding them on a horse ride through the horseshoe paths to the main house.

Popayán Hot Springs

The Pacific region in Colombia offers great hot springs too. Near the capital of Cauca, Popayán -‘the white city’, you can find the Coconuco hot springs. From Popayan, a 1-hour drive will take you to Agua Tibia and Agua Hirviendo thermals, which are popular destinations for day trips.

Termales Agua Tibia is a private spa resort that offers accommodation (whether an apartment or a camping zone), a thermal lake with option to have canoe rides and practice sport fishing, 6 non-sulfur hot spring pools with crystal clear waters ranging from 27°C to 40°C, and a medicinal mud Jacuzzi.

For a more fun experience, there is even a 53-meter long slide with thermal waters, a 300- meter zip line and a playground for children.

Termales Agua Hirviendo belongs to the Kokonuko indigenous reserve, an important native community in the region.

The entrance to the spa resort is just COP$10,000 for adults and COP$7,000 for children up to 8 years old. You can taste typical dishes at the restaurant and spend one night in one of the cabins, having more time to connect with nature in this harmonious place deemed as sacred.

Jurubirá Hot Springs

The Colombian Pacific coastal department of Choco is a remote nature destination, recently gaining prestige among travelers interested in nature tourism and ecotourism.

Jurubira is the second most populated village of Nuqui, one of the places where you get to see humpback whales up close. Apart from the jungle-fringed beach, the hot springs are a renowned tourist spot in Jurubira.

The tourism is managed by the Jagua indigenous community, which provides tourists a cultural insight of the region. Bathing in a hot spring in the middle of a rainforest is something everyone should experience.

Las Termales de Rivera, Huila

A more luxurious offer exists in the department of Huila, in the warm municipality of Rivera, 30 km from Neiva.

Las Termales de Rivera spa resort is a great option for a relaxation experience in connection with nature. Its waters spring from the ground at a temperature of 70ºC and descend through the waterfalls until they reach the thermal pool at 50ºC.

There is another pool with heated water and a 10-meter slide that ends in a lukewarm pool. Of course there is no complete experience without regional delicacies offered at the restaurant and the option to spend the night in a comfortable room.

Hot Springs near Bogotá

There are different destinations to head to if you feel like having a relaxed day in hot springs near Colombia’s capital.

Termales Santa Mónica, Choachí

On the foothills of the Eastern cordillera, just one hour east of Bogotá, this spa resort offers thermal waters that provide its pools, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath rooms with medicinal powers.

Termales Santa Monica is 10 minutes from the village of Choachi, formerly inhabited by Muisca peoples, which is surrounded by marvelous nature destinations such as La Chorrera waterfall -the highest in the country- and the Cruz Verde paramo.

You can have a quite relaxing day trip to this place where you can enjoy the Fuente de Piedra Spa, a resting space surrounded by native vegetation that offers massages and therapies with essential oils for your peace of mind, and the hot springs that help you stimulate your blood circulation, relax your muscles, detox your skin and relieve bone and muscle pains. Not bad!

Have a typical Colombian lunch at the restaurant and if you don’t want to rush back to Bogota, you can stay at the 3-building hotel with 48 rooms that have a view of the mountain or the resort. There is a bar where you can have a drink while dancing.

Chocontá and Machetá Hot Springs

The village of Macheta is located over 80 km from the north of Bogotá. There you can find spa resorts such as Los Volcanes and Nápoles.

Termales Los Volcanes is a sustainability committed resort that offers 4 thermal pools, a steam bath, a spa, accommodation and restaurant, all in a peaceful and natural environment.

Termales Nápoles is perfect for family recreational and ecotourism plans. It is in a paramo ecosystem that surrounds the Valle de Tenza region, so you can find many flora and fauna species. Its hot spring allows visitors to have a medicinal therapy and the lodge offers a calm stay.

Gachetá and Guasca Hot Springs

Other towns near Bogotá are Guasca and Gacheta, 54 and 100 kilometers from the city respectively, belonging to El Guavio province. In this zone you can find natural hot springs for reinvigorating your body and mind.

About the author

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

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.