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Beaches & mountains: beautiful national parks in Colombia

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When you think of Colombia, you may not conjure up images of a country brimming with unexplored national parks, each with their own distinct landscapes and biodiversity. With a whopping one-sixth of the nation’s landmass covered by protected areas of land (77,220 sq. miles), the country has 59 national parks and protected areas. Largely untouched by travellers; the unparalleled variety, from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the tropical jungles of the Amazon Basin and the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean coast, makes this country a haven for adventurers! We’ve rounded up some of our favourites, highlighting the best national parks in Colombia.

Amacayacu National Natural Park

Colombia’s position as a megadiverse country is cemented by the high number of both endemic and cosmopolitan species which can be found within its borders. As the second most biodiverse country on the planet, it’s a haven for wildlife and many of the national parks within the country offer great opportunities to catch a glimpse of the elusive animals and striking plant life which reside there. 

If it’s wildlife you’re after, then the Amacayacu National Natural Park located deep in the Amazon Rainforest is a must-visit! Covering an area of approximately 293,000 hectares (724,000 acres), travellers have the opportunity to experience incredible biodiversity through guided wildlife tours, hikes, boat trips and other ecotourism activities! From animals such as pumas, jaguars, and several species of monkeys, both the canopy floor and treetops are alive with sounds and sights.

Colombia, Amazon Basin, Mocagua

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

Situated in the north-eastern reaches of Colombia, the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Natural Park stands as a testament to the majesty and resilience of the Andean mountains. Containing 15 peaks of 5,000m of taller, with Ritacuba Blanco standing at 5,330m hiding atop its final summit, it’s the best national park in Columbia for intrepid hikers. The most famous hike, ‘the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy trek’, is a gruelling six-day hike described as world-class for those for complete it, this region of extreme beauty is filled with waterfalls, clear blue glacier-fed lakes, and incredible views. It’s a must-visit national park in Colombia!

Colombia, Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park

Tayrona National Park

Encompassing the quintessentially varied landscape of Colombia; sandy beaches, dense jungle, and the second highest coastal mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We recommend spending your day here lounging on one of the many beaches including the well-known Cabo San Juan. Sometimes referred to as the ‘mirrored beach’, Cabo San Juan is made up of two beaches that back onto one another, meaning there is plenty of space to catch some sun. Many beaches in Tayrona National Park don’t allow visitors to swim as there are strong currents along the park’s coastline, however, Cabo San Juan and the aptly named La Piscina Beach do allow swimming. La Piscina is protected from the currents due to the natural barrier created by a large semi-circle of rocks midway out to sea, and the still waters also make for a great place to snorkel.

Tayrona National park in Colombia

Islas del Rosario

Made up of 27 islands and located just 100km off the coast of Cartagena, this archipelago is a natural paradise! This tranquil oasis was declared a national park to protect the beautiful coral reef which surrounds the islands. This vibrant coral reef makes the Rosario Islands the ideal destination for snorkelling, with brightly coloured fish darting from rock to rock and the occasional inquisitive turtle gliding through the shallows. If you want to explore the deeper waters surrounding the islands then it’s also possible to go diving, and there are options to complete your PADI certification here if you have never dived before. 

We recommend organising a trip to the Laguna Encantada, a secluded lagoon hidden away in the mangroves and only accessible by canoe. This lagoon is particularly special due to the presence of bioluminescent plankton, and at night-time any movement in the water causes an almost electric blue glow to appear, lighting up the pool and creating a thoroughly magical atmosphere! 

Whether exploring its colourful underwater ecosystems, lounging on secluded beaches fringed by swaying palm trees, or indulging in fresh seafood delicacies, Islas del Rosario invites travellers to unwind and immerse themselves in the idyllic charm of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Sea turtle at Isla del Rosario, Colombia

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

This isolated mountain range rises abruptly from the coastal plains, reaching heights of over 5,700m (18,700ft) above sea level, it’s considered one of the world’s highest coastal mountain ranges and is often referred to as the “Heart of the World” by the indigenous peoples who inhabit the region. The mountain range is inhabited by several indigenous communities, including the Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuaco, and Kankuamo peoples. These indigenous groups have lived in the region for thousands of years and consider the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to be a sacred and spiritually significant place. 

For travellers visiting the national park, support conservation efforts in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by participating in eco-friendly tours and activities that promote sustainable tourism practices. This includes supporting local indigenous communities, practicing responsible wildlife viewing, and minimising environmental impact while exploring the region.

Sierra Nevada del Santa Marta, one of the best national parks in Colombia

Make it happen

If you’ve been inspired to explore the best national parks in Colombia, whether it’s the pristine waters of the Rosario Islands or the mountaintops of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, then get in touch with our local experts and get ready to start your next adventure! 

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