12 Best Nature Experiences in Colombia

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12 Best Nature Experiences in Colombia

Colombia’s incredible biodiversity and varied landscapes offer countless hours of exploration for those seeking nature and wildlife. From the beaches to the desert, the mountains to the jungle, there are animals and archaeological sites, cloud forests and constellations to see. With two coastlines – the Atlantic and Caribbean – plus the Andes Mountains and a section of the Amazon River, Colombia overflows with natural abundance. It’s home to more than 1,800 species of birds, more than 450 mammal species and incredibly diverse marine life. If it’s nature you’re after, Colombia offers it in spades.
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1. Cloud Forest, Chicaque Natural Park
Take a dreamy walk through a cloud forest at Chicaque Natural Park, just 40 minutes outside Bogota. Enchantment begins the minute you walk through the gates – you’re immediately faced with thick fog and low-lying clouds, masking the lush foliage. The clouds are created by cold Andean alpine air mixing with warmer condensation, resulting in a magical ambience. Zipline through the jungle canopy, hike, go horseback riding or enjoy the fantastic birdwatching.
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2. El Totumo, Colombia’s Mud Volcano
Climb inside a volcano at El Totumo! Less than an hour’s drive from Cartagena, this mud volcano stands just 50 feet tall. Climb a wooden staircase on the side of the volcano, then descend into the silky mud that fills the once active volcano. The mud is said to have amazing healing benefits. Wash off in a clear lagoon nearby.
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3. Tayrona National Park
On the Caribbean shoreline of Colombia, find Tayrona National Park, an easy drive from Barranquilla and Cartagena. Nature lovers are in heaven here, amidst white-sand beaches, crystalline lagoons, palm trees and pristine jungle forests. Hike to El Pueblito, the ancient ruins of the Tayrona civilization, then, if you’re up for it, spend the night in the park in a romantic hammock for just a few dollars.
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4. Tatacoa Desert
Marvel at the night sky in the Tatacoa Desert, south of Bogota. With no light pollution to speak off, the constellations are brilliantly clear. By day, explore the desert and its ancient fossils, take a dip in an actual swimming pool in the midst of the desert, then head to the observatory to stargaze with a local astronomer.
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5. La Cueva del Esplendor
Consider a day trip from Medellin (perhaps even an overnight) to The Cave of Splendor. Adventurous types will want to try the excellent rappelling here, but you can also just enjoy the scenery as you descend into the cave and see the beautiful waterfall plunging from the cave entrance. Granted, it takes a little extra effort to get here, but we think it’s worth it. You’ll hike or horseback ride through the Jardin mountains, making it a very well-rounded day.
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6. The Caño Cristales
Wildlife fans and birdwatchers love the Caño Cristales, between the Andes and the Amazon within the Serrania de la Macarena National Park. There are rivers and waterfalls for days, most of which exude vibrant colors due to the aquatic plant life below the surface of the water. A huge variety of plant, animal and bird life can be found within the park.
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7. The Rosario Islands
Tack on two or three days for a short trip to the Rosario Islands, off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. You’ll arrive by boat, then get ready to simply relax. There’s an oceanarium on the islands if you’d like to learn more about the marine life in the surrounding waters. In addition to swimming, surfing and hiking, you can take scuba diving lessons or go snorkeling just offshore along the brilliantly colored coral reefs.
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8. The Cocora Valley
Colombia’s national tree – the wax palm – dominates the endless landscape of the Cocora Valley. Hiking is a huge draw here, with trails that reflect the rolling, mountainous terrain ranging in duration from one to six hours, depending on your chosen route. The five-hour valley loop trail allows for wildlife views at a higher altitude and the chance to see beautiful mountain waterfalls and 150-foot-tall wax palms. Halfway between Medellin and Bogota, the Cocora Valley is a great jumping-off point for exploration of the Andes Mountains.
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9. El Peñon de Guatape
Once worshiped by the Tahamies Indians, this ten-million-ton rock is a popular attraction with nature-loving tourists in Colombia. Climb the 650-foot-tall rock in Guatape via a jaw-dropping staircase. The first people to climb the rock was a group of friends in 1954, when they wedged boards as footholds into a crack in the rock. Today, a 649-step staircase leads to the top, where you can see for miles over a variety of lakes and islands. There is a three-story lookout tower at the summit, as well as a few religious relics.
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10. Salento and the Coffee Triangle
Horseback ride for hours, play the local game of tejo, sip renowned coffee or simply sit back and enjoy the views in tiny, enchanting Solento in the heart of the country’s coffee triangle (comprising the Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio regions). Admire the colorful buildings lining the Calle Real and learn all about coffee, all in a quiet local setting that brings you closer to authentic Colombia.
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11. Leticia
Heart of the Colombian Amazon, Leticia is accessible only by air. From here, set off on your rain forest adventures – the lush jungle being in stark opposition to the chaos of the town of Leticia itself. Even in the city, though, you’ll see hints of the rain forest, as tropical birds fuller about – each evening, thousands of parakeets descend on Santander Park. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the town with a one-hour boat trip into the virgin rain forest, where jungle hikes and night safaris will unveil sloths, caimans, alligators, toucans, boas, armadillos and more.
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11. San Agustin
Combining natural and archaeological wonders, San Agustin is home to dozens of ancient statues that dot the green hills fronting the Andes Mountains. It’s a three-day affair to visit San Agustin, which you’ll access via horseback, by bus or on foot. Your first stop will be El Tablon, where four statues guard tombs and are a sacrifice to the gods. You’ll continue on to El Purutal la Pelota, with its colorful statues, and La Chaquira, with its anthropomorphic statues, ending at the main archaeological park. While you’re here, spend your other one or two days visiting other archaeological sites, a local sugar cane factory and the Salto Mortino and Salto Bordones waterfalls.

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