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From Andean Peaks to Caribbean Shores: Explore the Diverse Landscape of Colombia


| 7 mins read

For those planning to explore South America and still deciding which country to tick off first, we have a suggestion for you- Colombia. From the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the lush Amazon Rainforest to the natural pools of Guadalupe and the "otherworldly" terrain of the Tatacoa Desert, the country amazes you at every turn of your journey, making it especially a popular destination among nature lovers! 

To make the most of your trip, here are the five unique Colombian destinations that will not only expose you to the natural gifts of nature but also give you a profound glimpse of the life and culture of its natives. 

Trek the Andes Range in Los Nevados National Park

One of the most popular tours, trekking in the Los Nevados National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, typically renowned as the meeting place of the earth and the sky! Here, the Andes do not just form a backdrop but have created a world of their own. The Los Nevados National Park has it all: snow-peaked volcanoes, glacial lakes, towering peaks like Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia's highest and most active volcanos), Nevado del Tolima, and Nevado de Santa Isabel and cloud forests. You can easily explore it all on foot, with guided trekking tours ranging from day hikes to multiple-day expeditions, allowing you to touch the soul of the Andes. 

Nevado del Ruiz volcano

What adds more beauty to the visit is the park's surrounding areas, which provide rich cultural experiences. The coffee-growing town of Salento allows you to engage in traditional coffee production firsthand and learn about the secret ingredients that make Colombian coffee world-famous. Additionally, in Salento, you can explore the lively Calle Real, a hub for artisan shops and cafés, try local delicacies and try the game of Tejo, a local pastime involving clay disks and gunpowder.

Marvel at the Sight of Tatacoa Desert

An often-overlooked masterpiece of natural art, the Tatacoa Desert is a vast tract of eroded tropical dry forest that appears as a desert due to its related appearance and hot conditions. The plain is outflowing with geological formations of ochre-like canyons and ravines shining brightly under the relentless sun. Because of its hot weather conditions, the best time to explore the site is during the cooler hours of early morning or late afternoon, after the sun's intensity lessens. Moreover, to cover a larger area, ride your way on a bicycle and do not miss to check out El Cuzco (or the red desert) of the valley. Since the town of Villavieja is the gateway to the desert, spending some time in this small town is also a great experience. The town is home to the Paleontological Museum, where you can understand the past of the region and see the impressive collection of fossils found in the area. 

Tatacoa Desert

Do you know Tatacoa Desert is one of the premier stargazing locations in the country? Beyond its natural formations, the desert is a haven for those interested in astronomy. Interestingly, there is an astronomical observatory that educates visitors about the cosmos. Fortunately, the absence of light pollution makes the Milky Way often visible to the naked eye.

Try Adventure Activities in the Amazon Rainforest (from Leticia)

Unarguably, the beauty of the Amazon Rainforest is beyond the comprehension of any who have not witnessed it firsthand. Spread around nine countries in South America, it is the most vibrant and crucial ecosystem on planet Earth. Hence, getting to experience even a bit of it is sure to uplift your spirits! Starting from Leticia, the gateway to the Colombian Amazon, you can indulge in a range of activities. Enjoy journeying deep into the rainforest on a guided boat tour, kayaking along smaller tributaries and birdwatching. For those with a daring zest, try tree climbing to get a different angle of the forest life. Whatever you do, be assured of spotting different species of birds and animals, and if you are fortunate, even the pink river dolphins and jaguars. For a more immersive experience, visit the indigenous communities, an interaction that will be both humbling and enlightening. 

People leaving the village of Leticia by boat over the Amazon river

What more? If you have time, explore the town of Leticia, a melting point of diverse culture due to its location on the tri-border between Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. The town centre boasts houses of Spanish and Portuguese influence, and the market is flooded with tropical fruits and handcrafted indigenous artifacts. Other attractions to explore on your visit are Isla de los Micos, an island inhabited by squirrel monkeys who eagerly interact with visitors, and the serene Lake Tarapoto, known as a spotting point for pink dolphins. 

Have a Refreshing Time at the Natural Jacuzzis of Las Gachas

An attraction still untouched by mainstream tourism, Los Jacuzzis are a series of small, naturally formed pools carved into the bedrock of a shallow river. Although not a typical hot spring, the bright sun warms up the water during the day, giving a hot spring-like experience. Moreover, the rich presence of iron in the river soil gives the water a crimson hue texture amidst the surrounding greenery, offering a delightful blend of natural colours. Some even believe that the constantly flowing water has healing properties. Early morning visits are preferred due to the sheer joy of hiking the Colombian countryside and the favourable temperature of the waters. Moreover, after taking a dip, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the beautiful town of Guadalupe, popular for its colonial charm. 

Natural Jacuzzis of Las Gachas

Witness the Rich Wildlife in the Eastern Savannah of Los Llanos

In contrast to the mountainous and forest landscape, Los Llanos is a vast tropical grassland stretching across eastern Colombia and Venezuela. The region is filled with palm trees, river streams and an abundance of wildlife, including capybaras, anacondas, jaguars, and hundreds of species of birds. For wildlife enthusiasts, the open landscape of the place offers easy and wide wildlife viewing opportunities. However, it is the seasonal spectacle that makes the place more attractive. During the rainy season, the savannah transforms into a watery paradise, attracting wildlife to come out in the open. The place is also home to one of the most significant populations of the endangered Orinoco crocodile, the majestic jabiru stork and the scarlet ibis.

With an expert naturalist by your side, you can be assured of seeing the best of the land and catching the sight of photogenic wildlife. Interestingly, apart from the night walks, horseback riding is also a popular way to traverse the terrain, echoing the traditions of the Colombian llaneros (cowboys), who have herded cattle on these plains for generations. 

Caiman in Los Llanos

Do you know Colombia is home to the famous "liquid rainbow?" Going further than Las Llanos, you can see Colombia's stunning natural wonder of Caño Cristales River, also known as the River of Five Colors or the Liquid Rainbow. Due to the interplay of the rocks, sand, and a particular plant called Macarenia clavigera found in the water, the water dazzles with hues of red, yellow, green, blue, and black, serving a perfect sight for nature and photography enthusiasts. 

Colombia is indeed a tapestry of vivid landscapes and profound cultural experiences. Journeying through Colombia feels like a celebration of nature's creativity, where you can admire forests, lakes, deserts, and other geological wonders. Moreover, with around 55 national parks and the world's highest coastal mountain range of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia is also the largest flower producer. Thus, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the Liquid Rainbow is more than an attraction; it is the metaphor for the country itself- a land that has all the colours in one!