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Colombia is home to 51 national parks, which vary from coral reefs, deserts, Amazon rainforest, páramos, the Andes mountain ranges and indigenous protected lands. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world which means there is a lot of sacred land and many endangered species that need to be protected. These are among the best to be explored.
This 6,200 square kilometer (2,4000 square mile) 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 “the river of five colours”: a 100 kilometer (62 mile) stretch of river that is a beautiful combination of yellow, green, red, blue and black.
This national park is located in the isolated Amazon region of Colombia and is Colombia’s largest national park with an area of 27,800 square kilometers (10,700 square miles). The table mountains provide the perfect habitat for a large number of different species; the park is 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.
Providencia is one of two Colombian Caribbean Islands located north-west of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. This island is surrounded by the Caribbean coral reef – the third largest reef in the world: the largest part is located just off the north-eastern shores of the island and covers a maritime area of 9.95 square kilometers (3.84 square miles). 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 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.
This national park is located in the Andes mountain range and encompasses 16 snow capped mountains, the highest of which are the following: Cóncavo (5,200 meters/17,000 feet); Ritacuba Blanco (5,410 meters/17,750 feet) which has a glacier that can be tackled by experienced climbers and is accessed via nearby town of El Cocuy; Ritacuba Negro (5,300 meters/17,400 feet) and Sirara (5,200 meters/17,000 feet). This national park is sacred and protects the indigenous U’wa (Tunebos) tribe; it is 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.
This 30 square kilometer (12 square miles) of maritime area and 150 square kilometer (58 square miles) of land is home to one of Colombia’s most famous national parks. Located 34 kilometers (21 miles) 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 snorkelling.
Chingaza National Park is located 60 kilometers (37 miles) 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 76,600 hectares (189,000 acres). Páramo ecosystems are usually found on mountains above the tree line but below the snow 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 to enjoy nature and the fresh air.