National Parks in Colombia - Our Favourite to Visit | Uncover Colombia


April 19, 2024, 4:05 pm

If wide-open spaces, amazing wildlife, rich culture and varied landscapes are what you're looking for, Colombia might be the perfect destination for you! With its 60 protected areas, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and is home to some incredible endemic animals and plants; paradisiac beaches, breath-taking mountains, deserts, and exotic jungles, Colombia has it all.

Keep reading and you’ll learn about some mind-blowing Colombia’s Natural parks you should add to your bucket list!

Tayrona National Park 

Named after one of the principal indigenous groups in this area the Tayrona Indians, Tayrona National Park, is perhaps the most famous and recognized natural park in Colombia. It’s located right on the Caribbean Coast at 34 km (21miles) of Santa Marta and in the midst of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. Which gives you both the chance to relax on spectacular beaches as well as take part in some serious hiking adventures and see incredible animals.

Some of the most paradisiac 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. You can also go snorkelling and scuba diving in the bays of Concha, Bonito Gordo or Gayraca and Neguanje. And if you feel adventurous, spend the night in the park! You'll find hammocks and tents for rent in Cabo de San Juan but also a small restaurant.

Prefer to go hiking? Have a look at The lost City (Ciudad Perdida)—also known as the Colombian Machu Picchu. If you choose to do it, make sure you are registered with an authorized group and plan to hike for several days. Trust us, it is not an easy trek.

Amacayacu National Natural Park

If you've always dreamed of exploring the Amazon  or are looking for a once in a lifetime outdoor adventure, 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 Colombia’s Wildlife like pink dolphins, anacondas, marmosets, tapirs, and jaguars, amongst others. But also observing and taking part in the lifestyle and traditions of Amazonian Indian tribes who live in the area.

There’s plenty of things you can do in Amacayacu National Natural Park to make your trip memorable. Take a trip in canoes along the river, visit the Fundación Maikuchiga and learn about primates, trail in the jungle, spend the night in a hammock, join a Handcraft workshop taught by indigenous people etc.

Have a look here for more information about what you should bring, the different activities etc.

Los Nevados National Natural Park

If you are looking for snow-capped mountains, hiking, and unique animals like spectacled bears, Los Nevados could be the perfect national park for you to explore in Colombia. This remarkable park spans four Colombian departments: Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío, and Tolima, and offers a panoramic view that will be hard to find elsewhere.

Within the park, there are five snow-covered peaks: Quindío, Santa Isabel, El Cisne, El Ruiz, and Tolima, all towering close to or more than 4,800 metres above sea level. These peaks are part of the highest sector of the Colombian Andes mountain range, and the El Ruiz peak is still classified as an active volcano. In the park, you can observe a variety of ecosystems, including tundra ecosystems, where you might catch a glance of animals such as the snow parakeet and páramo (tundra) hummingbird. You can also take guided hikes throughout the park, participate in fishing at Otún Lake, enjoy hot springs, and observe the Gualí Waterfall. If you plan to visit Los Nevados, make sure you take the necessary precautions for this type of climate and terrain!

For information about volcanic activity and entrance fees, have a look here.

Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park

The National Natural Park of Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo is far from the snow and cold you'll experience in Los Nevados. It’s just a short boat ride away from the historic city of Cartagena and is the only underwater national park in Colombia. The park is composed of four islands and various coral reef ecosystems as well as bog, dry forests, rocky coasts, coastal lagoons, mangrove, and sea prairie ecosystems.

This park offers you the perfect tropical location for eco-tourism. You will observe Caribbean corals, fish, and invertebrate species in their natural habitat through snorkelling, scuba diving, and other water activities. According to ProColombia "There are 197 species of molluscs, 170 of crustaceans, 132 of coelenterates, 35 echinoderm, 215 fish, and 31 birds that inhabit the park”. To observe the species not living underwater, you can go on guided walks as well as independent kayaking trips. If you're just looking for a beautiful spot in the Caribbean region to soak up nature, eat delicious local food and relax while you gaze into the Caribbean Sea, that's also an option.

It’s a very easy park to explore, as you can get transportation from Cartagena, Isla Barú, and even Tolú. You'll be charged an entrance fee to the park on top of your transportation fee, but it's all worth it. This tropical park should be a destination for anyone travelling along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

For information on prices and reservations for overnight stays, check out the government website.

Gorgona National Natural Park

Gorgona National Natural Park is located on an island off the Pacific Coast of Colombia in the department of Cauca. This very unique park has only been receiving "willing" visitors since 1983, and even so, due to its location, not many people actually choose to make the journey to this Galapagos-like island. Before 1983, the island served as a sort of maximum-security prison - some say it was the Colombian version of Alcatraz. Not to worry, though, nowadays, anyone can visit this beautiful island. Gorgona is home to "147 species of birds, over 100 insect species, [and] more than 500 species of marine fauna." It hosts the largest reef system in the Colombian Pacific and is purported to be one of the best-preserved reef systems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

In addition to the incredible reef systems, Gorgona also hosts a unique very humid tropical rain forest ecosystem where you can find endemic species such as the Blue Anole and the Red-Legged Honeycreeper. It really is the perfect destination for any nature enthusiast to explore an exclusive set of flora and fauna, still virgin to many eyes.

For information about entrance fees and different regulations, have a look here.

Iguaque Natural Park

Iguaque Natural Park is located about 3 hours outside Colombia’s largest city,Bogota in the department of Boyaca in the Arcabuco anticline, a mountain range running between the towns of Villa de Leyva and Arcabuco. This natural park is the perfect place if you enjoy some serious hiking. There are over 500 meters of hiking trails that will lead you to many of the eight lagoons spread out across the park.

One of the most famous and most important lagoons is Iguaque Lagoon, also known as Lake Iguaque. This lagoon, in particular, is a sacred place for the Muisca Indians who believe this lake to be the birthplace of humanity. As you hike through these sacred areas, you will also have the chance to observe wildlife such as two different types of opossums, wild guinea pigs, ocelots, the emerald toucanet and the lemurine owl monkey, among others.
Visiting Parque Natural Iguaque is a nice day trip from Villa de Leyva, a charming colonial town located only about 30 minutes away; however, this natural park also offers comfortable lodging for those of you who would like to spend more than a day exploring the area. Even so, if you are only spending the day, it is advisable that you arrive early and leave before dark, as night-time temperatures in certain areas of the park can drop low enough to cause hypothermia.

Salamanca Natural Park

Located on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia between the city of Barranquilla (the capital of the department of Atlántico) and the municipality of Ciénaga, located in the department of Magdalena. Salamanca Natural Park is a group of small islands composed of immense mangrove forests, beautiful beaches, and diverse swamps.

While you can observe parts of the park from the road, you can also take a closer look at the majestic flora and fauna within the park by making a stop there. The easiest way to reach the official entrance of Salamanca Natural Park is to catch a taxi from Barranquilla's airport to Los Cocos, the administrative center of the park. From there, you can coordinate activities such as tours of the beaches, bird watching, and even canoe trips through the mangrove forests. Some especially unique animals you may see during your time in Parque Natural Salamanca include the crab-eating raccoon, manatees, anteaters, the sapphire-bellied hummingbird, the brown caiman, the American alligator, and the hawks billed sea turtle, among others.

As this park is located between Barranquilla and Santa Marta, it could be an easy day trip from either place, even though it may be easier to reach from Barranquilla.

If you can't wait to start exploring Colombia’s natural treasures, have a look at our Colombia's Nature and Wildlife Expedition

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Nidia Penagos

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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