5 Top National Parks To Visit In Colombia

by John Pitta

Five main regions make up Colombia: Coastal/Marine, High Mountain, Savannah/Desert, Páramo, and Jungle/Forest. Each are unique to one another, featuring a wide variety of landscapes, plants, and animals. Biological diversity is celebrated by nature enthusiasts who come to see such a wide range in one country. See each region at its best while volunteering in Colombia by visiting a National Park in each one. You’ll find five parks, five regions, and five beautiful new worlds.

Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

1. Coastal/Marine Region – Tayrona National Park

Why It’s Cool. Crystal clear caribbean water surrounds Colombia’s northern coast, making it a hot beach spot for tourists and scientists. The bays and lagoons in this park are full of exotic fish living in one of the largest coral reefs in the world. People seek Tayrona for its peace, serenity, and warm weather year round. Plenty of tourist attractions in the park make it a great place for volunteers to easily visit scenic locations unique to the area

Fun Facts. The park covers almost 60 square miles of beaches, lagoons, bays, and mountains, with archeological sites in between. Tayrona is best known for its marine features, including nine different bays ideal for snorkeling, skin diving, SCUBA, and aquatic sports. Lush forests grow along the coastline blanketing mountainsides of the Coastal Andes. Trails weave in between all of these regions, perfect for nature hikes and horseback rides. Volunteers can hike along these trails and get a chance to see the diverse flora, fauna, and archaeological sites. Food and lodging are easy to find, but prices vary depending on the time of year. 

2. High Mountain Region – Los Nevados National Park

Why It’s Cool. Hot springs, lakes, even a waterfall, and mountains can all be found in this park! Thousands of nature enthusiasts come here every year to hike, cycle, camp, cave dive, and climb just about every mountain, glacier, and cliff face around. This region features majestic peaks of the largest mountain chain in South America, the Andes. There is no other match for high mountain views in Colombia. 

Fun Facts. Volcano and geothermal activity is routine in the park, and all five peaks in the area are volcanoes! Melting snow from the peaks provides drinking water for the region and hydrates farmland that grows some of Colombia’s top exports: coffee and tobacco. Forests of tall Andean Wax Palms and Colombian Pines provide a home to many endangered species of birds. Guides are required for travel in the park, tours often include food and lodging. 

3. Savanna/Desert Region – Tuparro National Park

Why It’s Cool. Tuparro is famous for its remote location and is a must-see park off the beaten path where breathtaking sights await those who make the trek. The bottom of the Caño Cristales River in Sierra de la Macarena mountain range turns into a kaleidoscope of color for only a few weeks out of the year. The algae and moss bloom into a rainbow of vibrant reds, pinks, purples, greens, and many other colors. Large rivers carving through the savanna are available for canoeing, kayaking, and boat rides while fishing is also permitted. Volunteers can camp and hike to see the savanna landscape or brush up on local heritage from the indigenous tribes of the region. 

Fun Facts. Tuparro is a national monument and biosphere reserve protecting habitats tucked away in valleys, rivers, and streams. There are also 16 indigenous reserves where local tribes live and farm inside the park, living off the land. A number of archaeological sites are featured in the park, including ruins of a colonial mission and a river boat dock. The savanna climate is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Large predators like pumas and jaguars hunt white tailed deer, while giant otters, turtles, and crocodiles populate the lakes and ponds. Thousands of birds protected by the reserve fill the sky. Hotels, tour guides, campgrounds, and other facilities are available.

4. Páramo – Iguaque National Park

Why It’s Cool. The park’s climate is colder than any other region besides the high mountains. Iguaque lake was considered a holy site by an ancient indigenous tribe and believed to be the true source of all life. True or not, there is no debate over the region’s beauty and mystique. Volunteers will have an opportunity to check out some amazing natural sights and see what remains of an ancient civilization. 

Fun Facts. The park is best known for its preserved archeological sites. Volunteers can visit the ruins of an ancient house built by the Muisca as well as an entire archeological zone covered with their rock paintings. Well kept nature trails, some lined with information tablets, lead hikers to Iguaque Lake as well as eight others. Each trail runs through forests of oak, pine, and indigenous flowers teeming with wild birds and mammals. Food, hotels, camping, and restaurants are available in the park’s Carrizal sector.

Amacayacu National Park

Amacayacu National Park

5. Jungle/Forest – Amacayacu National Park 

Why It’s Cool. Well it’s the Amazon, enough said. Not only is it the largest rainforest, but it is also home to the most biodiverse region per square mile on Earth. Amacayacu is a gateway to a little bit of everything Amazon. Volunteers who visit Amacayacu are encouraged to participate in cultural activities of the local indigenous tribes, where native arts and crafts can be purchased to take home. The natural beauty of the jungle features exotic wildlife, flowers, and plants found nowhere else on Earth! 

Fun Facts. The number of visitors has increased since the park has incorporated easier access and more accommodations. However, it does not overflow with tourists and is still considered a natural hidden treasure. Ecotourism guides lead the way to just about anywhere seasonally available. Pink freshwater dolphins can be seen swimming in the Tarapoto Lakes area, a manatee might graze on water vegetation during a river tour, or sweet smells of jungle flowers fill the air on an eco tour through the thick jungle. Activities like these, among many others, along with food and lodging are available to the public. The recommended time of year to visit is from July to September.