Colombia is bursting with nature. As the second most biodiverse country in the world, Colombia is in proud possession of the most bird species and amphibians on earth, the smallest spider ever, the tallest palms in the world and more orchids than you can imagine. Colombia has 59 national parks, which together cover about 12% of its area. Among these national parks, some are very popular, such as Valle de Cocora and Tayrona, but there is much more beauty to see in this beautiful country. What natural parks can you find in Colombia? And where exactly? Are they all open to visit? And where can you find information about these areas? Love to hike and looking for places not yet overrun by tourists? Discover the impressive nature in Colombia!
The National System of Protected Areas
Colombia has the Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, or National System of Protected Areas. This system captures all protected natural areas, both areas open to the public, private lands and parks in the community. The system ensures the conservation of fauna, flora, biodiversity, landscapes, culture and history in the protected national parks.
The 59 national parks in Colombia
The first national park was opened in 1960, namely the Parque Nacional Natural Cueva de los Guácharos. This park numbered only 9,000 hectares and was opened with the aim of preserving a complex of caves that were once the habitat of the fat bird (guácharo). With a size of nearly 3 million hectares, is Parque Nacional Natural Serranía de Chiribiquete, in the departments of Caquetá and Guviare, is the largest national park in Colombia. The smallest protected area is Santuario de Flora Isla de La Corota, in Nariño near the village of La Cocha, with a size of only 12 hectares of land. In the Amazon region you will find 10 national parks. Currently, some 15 areas are under review for designation as national parks.
The list below shows the national parks that are open to the public. Click on the green icons on the map to go to the national park page with specific information.
Discover nature in Colombia: which national parks are open to the public?
Of the 59 national parks, 27 are open to the public. Whether the parks that are closed are actually closed is questionable. For example, Parque Nacional Sumapaz is listed as closed, but it can be visited (and thus is listed as open on the map below). Many of the closed parks you may be able to visit, but due to a total lack of infrastructure, it is often simply not possible or very difficult.
Some parks are in an area too dangerous to visit. Check this in advance. For example, Parque Nacional Natural El Tuparro is not easy to reach. Call the park in advance to ask for more information, arrange for a possible guide, or visit the park with a tour company. Remember that your parks located in red area often better organized, by air or simply cannot visit.
Where can you find more information about Colombia’s national parks?
The National System of Protected Areas has a website where you can find all the parks. Each green icon above on the map has a link to information specific to that park. However, this information is only available in Spanish. You can run the text through Google Translate, of course, but it’s also helpful to know what to look for.
Step 1: open the link to the park you want to go to
For convenience, I take Parque Nacional Natural el Cocuy as an example. If you open the link you will see many beautiful pictures, with information in Spanish underneath.
Step 2: How is this information contained?
- Comprehensive information about the park, including flora and fauna, which populations live there, and information on how to get there, costs and opening hours. Not every park has such extensive information.
- Here you can find useful information at a glance.
- Estado del parque. Green: the park is open to the public. Orange: the park is open, but there are restrictions. Red: the park is closed (or inaccessible).
- Extensión. Size in acres.
- Altura. The height at which the park is located. This is useful to know, especially if, as in the case of Cocuy, it is at altitudes of 4000 a 5000 meters. Then you know that park may not be a good idea if you are not used to the altitude or trained enough to handle it.
- Temperatura. Everyone gets this one: temperature. Also useful to know so you can prepare properly as far as clothing is concerned.
Step 3: the information you need for a visit
The most important things to know are how to get there, what there is to do, whether it must be with a guide or can be done alone, what the entrance fees and opening hours are, and how to contact a guide or a visitor center. Not every park has this information. Note: Colombia is known for giving very poor information on anything, both online and offline. So whether all this information is entirely accurate remains to be seen, but at least it’s something to take a step closer to nature.
- Información y reservas. For information, phone numbers, and how to make reservations.
- Valor de ingresos. The entrance fee.
- Servicios ecoturísticos. Information on food, restaurants, lodging, camping, etc,
- Actividades ecoturísticas. What you can do there, what hikes there are, bird watching, etc.
- Cómo llegar. How to get there.
And there is more nature in Colombia!
Want to list all the national parks in Colombia, including those that are closed? Then click here. More national parks will undoubtedly be added in the coming years, and some natural areas will also disappear due to human activity. Thus, the national parks Santuario de fauna y flora Arauca and Parque nacional natural Manaure are no more. And will the famous wax palms in Cocora also ever disappear. In addition, there are many other natural parks and hiking areas that are not included in the system. Parque Chicaque for example, south of Bogotá. How about Embalse del Peñol, Laguna de Guatavita and Cañon Chicamocha? And many areas outside villages in the mountains, where you can do fantastic hiking. In any case, Colombia is by no means short of nature.
The scene of a spectacular movie
Colombia’s national parks are the scene of the fantastic documentary Magia Salvaje. Impressively, you will get to know an unprecedented flora and fauna, and marvel at the great biodiversity. The film may still be available on Netflix, under the name Colombia: Wild Magic. If not, you can also find the documentary on YouTube (Spanish without subtitles). Highly recommended!
Nature in Colombia is stunningly beautiful. Do you love hiking and want to see more than the most popular national parks? Then find your park here and go on an adventure!