You are here:
When you think of Colombia, what comes to mind? Hot-weather, Shakira, coffee, the infamous Escobar… Obviously when talking about a country that’s more than 5 times the size of Britain, there’s bound to be a lot of other stuff. And sure enough, there is, and for me one of the most striking things about Colombia is its nature.
Colombia is a true Garden of Eden - an Eldorado for hikers, mountain climbers, volcanologists, divers, bird-watchers, frog-watchers (they do exist)… Colombia rules when it comes to watching fauna and flora in real-life.
Fact: Colombia is the most diverse country in the world for its various terrestrial eco-systems, and also the richest for amphibians and birds (1,800 species).
There are geographic and topographic reasons for this lushness: the Andes crossing the country from North to South, the heat and rain provided by its position near the Equator, the Pacific on the East and the Atlantic in the North. All this contributes to create a maelstrom of mountains, plains, rainforests and deserts where flora and fauna grow in dramatic proportions. Colombia is also an ideal stop for birds migrating from North to South and vice versa.
More controversial is the fact that guerilla groups have made it risky to visit many parts of Colombia over the years. It has also made mining companies refrain from coming and encouraged farmers to start devastating the landscape on a scale of what we’ve previously seen in Brazil or Indonesia. Colombia is still a much unexplored country and outside of a few hot spots, mass tourism has yet to arrive.
With such a vast land and so little time to visit it all, where do you go? Here are some of my top nature destinations in Colombia.
Park El Cocuy: a mountaineers’ paradise, the majestic Park El Cocuy and its snowy peaks and glaciers is the wildest experience of a Páramo, the eco-system that characterizes the Colombian Andes.
PNN La Macarena and Caño Cristales: once the refuge of various guerillas groups, the park, and especially the 7-colour river of Caño Cristales, is now available for all public.
Punta Gallinas in La Guajira: the most northern point of the South American continent, this inhospitable desert has breathtaking sand dunes falling into the Caribbean Sea.
The Cerros de Mavecure: the oldest rocks of South America; go completely off the beaten tracks and climb the rocks uprising from the jungle below.
Puerto Nariño in the Amazon: a sustainable village built in the middle of the Colombian rainforest and one of the best places to watch pink river dolphins.
I could have mentioned bird-watching in Minca, diving with hammerhead sharks in Malpelo or kayaking with humpback whales on the Pacific Coast but I don’t want to make a never-ending list. What I want is to share with you that Colombia should be top of the list for anyone looking for the pinnacle in nature holidays.
The secret has started to get out but so the pleasure has not been spoilt yet. Colombia has it all, a condensed of South America’s continent with a Caribbean twist. So next time you think of Colombia, think nature.