Natural Parks in Colombia: Part I Uncover Colombia
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Chingaza Natural Park

NATURAL PARKS TO VISIT IN COLOMBIA

June 19, 2024, 9:42 am

From the high-altitude plains of the Andes, through lush tropical rainforests and down to the secluded beaches of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, Colombia is naturally blessed with a wealth of habitats and unrivalled biodiversity. Here we have a list of some of the most beautiful natural parks to visit in Colombia:

Tayrona National Natural Park

Named after one of the principal indigenous groups in this area (the Tayrona Indians), Parque Tayrona, is perhaps the most famous and recognized natural park in Colombia due to its amazing location right on the Caribbean Coast and in the midst of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The park provides both the chance to relax on spectacular beaches as well as take part in some serious hiking adventures. Some of the most well-known beaches in Parque Tayrona are la Piscina (a small, calm beach with crystalline waters and hardly any waves) and Cabo de San Juan (a larger beach with more waves and turquoise waters). If you are staying the night in the park, you'll find hammocks and tents for rent in Cabo de San Juan as well as a small restaurant. If you enjoy hiking, one especially popular hike is the hike to Ciudad Perdida (the LostCity)—also becoming known as the Colombian Machu Picchu. If you choose to do this hike, make sure you are registered with an authorized group and plan to hike for several days!

Los Nevados National Natural Park

Los Nevados National Natural Park is located in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes. Established in 1973, PNN Los Nevados offers stunning mountain scenery, volcanoes, lakes, thermal springs and hiking routes to suit various levels of ability. The imperious 5,389 metre (17,400 ft) snowcapped Nevado del Ruiz is an active volcano which dominates the national park. Its name, Nevado, means "snow-capped" but the effects of recent climate change mean only the final 500 metres are currently covered in snow. Ongoing snowmelt has resulted in Nevado del Ruiz becoming a relatively easy and non-technical peak to summit. In fact there is a road that takes you up to 4,800 metres for spectacular views of the area. With a special permit and suitable equipment it is possible to climb to the top. The park's northern sector is easily accessible from the city of Manizales and the best months to visit are December to February. Visitors have a chance to catch a glimpse of rare wildlife such as the Spectacled Bear and the Andean Condor. Parque Nacional Los Nevados is sometimes off-limits to travellers due to sporadic volcanic activity. Contact a tour operator nearer the time of your visit to check for updates.

Chicaque Natural Park

Chicaque Natural Park lies within the Colombian department of Cundinamarca and is only a short 30-minute drive outside of Bogota. If you do not have access to a car, Chicaque can also be reached via public transportation. For details on how to use public transportation, check out the transportation section of the official Chicaque website.

That being said, Chicaque Natural Park is unique in that it contains part of the Andean cloud forest, of which only 4% is left. To better explore and get acquainted with the unique ecosystem of the Andean cloud forest, Chicaque Natural Park offers you a wide variety of activities including: horseback riding, bird watching, hiking, zip lining, and canopy observations. If you are interested in spending more than just a day in Chicaque, you can also stay overnight in the park by bringing your own camping materials or by renting a room in the onsite hostel, a cabin that lends a bit more privacy, or a tree house—yes, you can actually spend the night in a tree house!

Chingaza National Natural Park

Another natural park close to Bogota and well worth a visit is Chingaza National Natural Park. Chingaza National Natural Park is within an hour's drive of Bogota and spans over two Colombian departments, Cundinamarca and Meta, and lies within the Orinoco River basin, providing 80% of the potable water utilized in Bogota. Part of a rich páramo environment, Chingaza National Natural Park offers you the chance to see some rare, but exceptionally beautiful animals such as the spectacled bear, the Andean condor, the páramo tapir, and the puma, as well as the chance to explore ancient and sacred Muisca land and sites, including a few majestic lakes. Additionally, the park is said to hold over 2,000 plant species, many unique to the area!

Keep in mind, Chingaza National Natural Park is best explored through guided hikes and treks or via car. If you are physically challenged or not up for hiking through the park, you can observe some of the parks beauty via a guided path that takes about 40 minutes to complete. If you enjoy hiking and are physically prepared, you can take part in different treks that cover different areas of the park and vary in difficulty and distance. However, it is important to note that there are only a limited number of people permitted into the park each day, so you will need to contact the park ahead of time to reserve a spot and ensure your place.

Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park

The status of National Natural Park was designated to Serania de La Macarena in 1971 and the protected area encompasses 622,000 hectares. The park is the ecologically unique convergence point for the flora and fauna of the Amazon, Orinoco and Andes geographic ecosystems. This national natural park is still not that well known outside of Colombia, and its remoteness means very few people venture into it. The La Macarena National and Ecological Reserve Park remains one of nature's strongholds, so very few travellers make the effort to see the natural wonder waiting within. The incomparable Caño Cristales River is celebrated as "The River of Five Colours" or "Colombia's Liquid Rainbow", and is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in the world due to its striking array of colourful blooming algae. The riverbed and boulders are covered with Macarenia clavigera moss and algae, which for much of the year appear as dull green and brown water plants. The water level regulates the amount of sunlight reaching the plants, so there is a short period between the dry and rainy seasons where the sunlight and water's translucence is just right. The mosses bloom in deep reds and glowing pink and are offset by patches of yellowy-green sand and blue water. The best time to visit is late July through early December and especially in August to appreciate the variety of colours. Though remote, the spectacle has attracted a few adventurous travel agencies who have started to offer ecotours from the town of La Macarena. There are also a host of awe-inspiring waterfalls in the area as well as amazing hikes and geological sites to explore.

Amacayacu National Natural Park

Another incredible park to visit is the Amacayacu in the Colombian Amazon. If you've always dreamed of exploring the Amazon or are looking for an outdoor adventure in nature, Amacayacu National Natural Park is the perfect destination for you. Here, you will have the chance to come face to face with some of the world's most incredible plants and animals (pink dolphins, anacondas, marmosets, tapirs, and jaguars, among others) while also observing the lifestyle and traditions of Amazonian Indian tribes who live in the area. In Amacayacu National Natural Park, you can organize tours on foot or in canoes throughout the area as well as rent a space in the lodging area of the park.

While there are MANY more natural and national parks in Colombia, we hope you've gotten a taste for the variety and diversity of activities you can do, sights you can see, and places you can visit with the descriptions of these three parks.

Happy travels!

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Nidia Penagos
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nidia Penagos

Nidia started Uncover Colombia after feeling the tug to promote her native country through a positive perspective. What better way to do that than showing visitors the beauty and diversity of her homeland? She was well-aware Colombia didn’t have the best reputation and she wanted to change that. So in 2012, with the help of her Colombian husband and close group of friends, she laid the foundation to build a Colombian tour operator that offers unique adventures, safe experiences and utilises local knowledge on each and every tour. 

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