The Most Beautiful National Parks in Colombia

Visit Colombia and witness the unique rock formations and colors of Cano Cristales
Visit Colombia and witness the unique rock formations and colors of Cano Cristales | ©  Tom Till / Alamy Stock Photo

As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Colombia is home to 51 national parks, varying from coral reefs, deserts, Amazon rainforest, páramos, the Andes mountain ranges and indigenous protected lands. These are among the best to be explored.

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Serranía de la Macarena

This 6,200sqkm (2,400sqmi) national park is unique to Colombia – this isolated mountain range in the Meta Department is where the unique flora and fauna of the Amazon Rainforest, the East Llanos and the Andes Mountain range meet. The ecosystems of the rainforest, the dry forest and the shrubland savannas all come together at this point.

This combination of ecosystems makes for a biodiverse environment and is home to a large number of endangered and unique species: over 2,000 species of plants, 550 species of birds, 100 reptiles, 1,200 insects, anteaters, jaguars, cougars, deer and eight species of monkey inhabit this unique environment. The most famous part of this National Park is Caño Cristales, or “Liquid Rainbow” – a 100km (62mi) stretch of river that is a beautiful combination of yellow, green, red, blue and black.

The Cano Cristales, also known as the “Liquid Rainbow” in Colombia, South America

Chiribiquete National Park

This national park is located in the isolated Amazon region of Colombia and is Colombia’s largest national park with an area of 27,800sqkm (10,700sqmi). The mountains provide the perfect habitat for a large number of different species – home to a large variety of birds, including the endangered Chiribiquete emerald hummingbird.

The national park is designed to preserve and protect Colombia’s indigenous natives and to study their past: the table mountains are home to over 600,000 traces of early petroglyphs, pictographs and 20,000 whole art pieces.

The Pinturas Rupestres in Cerro Azul at the top of the Chiribiquete range in Guaviare, Colombia

Old Providence McBean Lagoon

Providencia is one of two Colombian Caribbean Islands located northwest of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. This island is surrounded by the Caribbean coral reef – the third largest reef in the world – with the largest part is located just off the north-eastern shores of the island and covers a maritime area of 9.95sqkm (3.84sqmi). This reef is protected due to its national park status and only small, certified boats are allowed within the area for diving purposes.

Within the park’s boundaries are a collection of four islands: Crab Caye, and the Three Brothers Caye. This park is sometimes referred to as the “sea of seven colors” and the area is home to over 74 species of birds, mangrove forests and a large marine animal population.

The Old Providence McBean Lagoon in the Caribbean Sea, just off Colombia

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

This national park is located in the Andes mountain range and encompasses 16 mountains, the highest of which are the following: Cóncavo (5,200m/17,000ft); Ritacuba Blanco (5,410m/17,750ft) which has a glacier that can be tackled by experienced climbers and is accessed via nearby town of El Cocuy; Ritacuba Negro (5,300m/17,400ft) and Sirara (5,200m/17,000ft).

This national park is sacred and protects the indigenous U’wa tribe – it’s a national human and natural heritage site designed to protect culture, history and the environment. The main activities in this area are farming, hunting, fishing and climbing.

Hikers climbing at Pulpito del Diablo at Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in Colombia

Tayrona National Park

This 30sqkm (12sqmi) of maritime area and 150sqkm (58sqkm) of land is home to one of Colombia’s most famous national parks. Located 21mi (34km) from Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, this park is often referred to as having one of the best beaches in the world and is sacred to Colombia’s indigenous tribes. This biodiverse area is located next to the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which creates a tropical climate with cool breezes from the mountains.

The park is home to 108 species of mammals – including 70 species of bat, 300 birds, 31 reptile species, 110 corals, 401 sea and river fish species and over 770 plant species. This park is unique in the fact it combines natural rainforest and beautiful beaches – with the coastal areas being ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

A beach lagoon in the heart of the Tayrona National Park in Colombia

Chingaza National Natural Park

Chingaza National Park is located 60km (37mi) north-east of Bogotá and envelops the towns of La Calera, Guasca, Fómeque and San Juanito. It is one of Colombia’s biggest natural reserves and páramos, covering 76,600ha (189,000ac). Páramo ecosystems are usually found on mountains above the tree line and the main purpose of this ecosystem is to bring water from the sky to the earth.

This national park serves the purpose of protecting and conserving the páramo ecosystem which in return provides up to 80 percent of Bogotá’s drinking water. This national park and ecosystem is home to over 2,000 species of endangered and native plants, such as frailejon and moss: these plants can be hundreds of years old with a growing rate of one centimeter – less than half an inch – each year. Chingaza has over 40 lakes and streams running through it, as well as glacial lakes located in the municipality of Guasca. People visit the park to discover this unique ecosystem, explore the mainly untouched lands and enjoy the nature and fresh air.

A lake inside a mountain range in a paramo in Colombia

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