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Andean wax palms in Colombia
Birding Expeditions
Land-Based Expeditions

Colombia

Andean wax palms in Colombia

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Colombia

Boasting rainforests, dizzying snow-capped peaks and smoldering volcanoes of the Andes, lush cloud forests, beautiful coastlines and nearly 2,000 bird species (the most recorded anywhere in the world). International Expeditions’ new Colombia tour was creatively crafted to offer a comprehensive survey of spectacular environments and wildlife, along with a taste of exquisite colonial architecture, regional delicacies, and modern history. When you travel to Colombia with IE, you’ll find the people warm and welcoming and the natural wonders fascinating. Friendly locals are everywhere and many natural areas remain verdant and untouched.

Astounding Biodiversity

Although perhaps known best for its vibrant culture and famed coffee, Colombia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Covering just 0.8% of the Earth, Colombia accounts for 10% of the world’s known endemic species and the greatest variety of bird species. That bird species list is still growing, with six new species of birds being discovered in the 21st century! Colombia is ranked third in South American in terms of endemic bird species, with a total of 70.

Expertly Guided Colombia Tours

Highlighting IE's Colombia tours are guided explorations of the country’s premier natural areas led by Expedition Leaders Greg Homel and Ivan Hoyos. Greg Homel is an ornithologist, award-winning international nature photojournalist, documentary film producer and lecturer. His skills as a naturalist and photographer and expertise in Colombia are unmatched and essential when exploring a country such as Colombia, where strong leadership ensures enhanced experience and enjoyment. Ivan Hoyos is a world-class and well-traveled naturalist with family ties to Colombia. He is a pioneer in natural travel in neighboring Panama and a favorite of IE guests. His first-hand experience in Colombia in combination with his skills as a naturalist and leader make him the perfect man to escort you through the wonders of Colombia.

Optional Pre-Trip Extensions

Villa de Leyva Extension

Daily Itinerary

Colombia Itinerary

  • Day
    1

    Arrive Bogota

    Fly independently to Bogota, Colombia. Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your home for two nights, Hotel Estelar Parque de la 93. Consider taking one of our optional extensions to enhance your experience in Colombia.

  • Day
    2

    Bogota

    Bogotá is the capital and largest city in Colombia. A melting pot of people from around the country, it is diverse and multicultural, with a blend of modern and colonial architecture. The predominant colors in Bogotá are the green of the city’s many parks and the eastern mountains overlooking the sanctuaries of Monserrate and Guadalupe, and the rich red of its many brick buildings. Explore La Candelaria neighborhood to admire the many colonial and Republican-era buildings. This neighborhood is home to hundreds of art galleries, museums, theaters and universities. Pay a visit to the gold museum which houses an important collection of pre-Hispanic objects before seeing the priceless works of art at Museo Botero. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    3

    Bogota / Leticia

    Fly to Leticia, a town considered part of Peru until a 1922 treaty ceded it to Colombia. Spend the afternoon exploring the Peruvian side of the Amazon River by boat. Overnight Waira Suites. (B,L,D)

    Pink Dolphin ©Greg R. Homel - Natural Elements Productions
  • Day
    4

    Leticica / Puerto Nariño

    Visit Camilo Torres indigenous community for birding along the banks of the Amazon, watching for hoatzin, curassow, mountain paujil, grey-winged trumpeter and some of the area’s three macaw species. Board boats heading into the Colombian Amazon and the town of Puerto Nariño. Tonight, our naturalist guide takes us into the rainforest looking for nocturnal creatures. Spend the next two nights of your Colombia tour at Hotel Lomas del Paiyu. (B,L,D) 

  • Day
    5

    Puerto Nariño: Amazon & Lago Tarapoto

    Delve deep into the Colombian Amazon as we explore the region called “Amazonian Trapezium.” Our naturalist-guided excursions take in one of the region’s diverse habitats, Lago Tarapoto. This region is home to 468 bird species, 150 aquatic and land mammal species, 12 species of primates and Colombia’s largest number of reptiles. Most notably, the region is home to charapa, the world’s largest freshwater turtle. Along the way, watch the waters for Amazon River dolphin, manatee and tucuxi — three of Colombia’s four species of freshwater mammals call these waters home. Meet members of the Ticuna tribe, whose communities have inhabited the Amazon riverbanks since 2930 B.C. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    6

    Puerto Nariño / Leticia / Pereira

    Travel down river by boat to Leticia where you'll enjoy lunch before an afternoon flight to Pereira. Spend tonight at Hotel Movich Pereira. (B,L,D)

    Lineated Woodpecker ©Greg R. Homel - Natural Elements Productions
  • Day
    7

    Otún Quimbaya / Manizales

    Venture to Otún Quimbaya, the ideal location for observing birdlife such as Cauca guan, Monte toro and carriquí, along with howler monkeys, mountain tapir and guatín — though these mammals can be difficult to spot. Enjoy a picnic breakfast, surrounded by lush slopes where your naturalists point out ficus, yarumo, bromeliad, orchid and other flora native to the cloud forest. Drive to this afternoon to Hotel Termales el Otoño, your home for three nights, in the lush hills surrounding Manizales. Before or after dinner, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s hot springs, which are fed by underground volcanic activity. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    8

    Manizales: Los Nevados Area

    Spend a full day exploring the paramo and other high-altitude vegetation of the Los Nevados area. Located in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes, the landscapes of Los Nevados are dominated by the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. In addition to Nevado del Ruiz, seven other volcanoes are located in the area. This entire region was shaped by glacial activity, leaving U-shaped valleys and moraines behind. The area's hydrographic networks supply water to over 2,000,000 coffee-growers in the region and to most of the rice and cotton crops in the Tolima Department. Los Nevados is home to 1,250 species of vascular plants, 200 bryophytes, 300 lichens and 180 macroscopic fungi. On the lower slopes and in the valleys, you find the distinctive Andean wax palms along with rich birdlife. During your nature hikes, watch for blue-crowned motmot, yellow-eared parrot, Fuertes's parrot, rufous-fronted parakeet, Andean condor, brown-banded antpitta and ruddy duck. The bearded helmetcrest hummingbird is endemic to the region. A variety of mammals also call the area home, including mountain tapir, spectacled bear, Northern pudú, oncilla, cougar and white-eared opossum. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Manizales: Rio Blanco Reserve and Hacienda Venecia Coffee Plantation

    A "must see” for any birding enthusiast, today our Colombia tour takes in the varying altitudes of Rio Blanco Reserve. A wide variety of flora and fauna can be found in the park. Three endemic bird species are found here: brown-banded antpitta, bicolored antpitta and rufous-fronted parakeet. The area also boasts a number of other sought-after species. Our naturalist will be on the look-out for tyrannine woodcreeper, golden-faced redstart, dusky piha, black-billed and buff-breasted mountain-tanagers, grass-green and white-capped tanager, chestnut-naped antpitta, rusty-faced parrot and powerful woodpecker. Lucky and observant groups may even spot the hard to see ocellated, blackish and Spillman’s tapaculos, black-billed peppershrike, plushcap, mountain cacique and golden-plumed parakeet. The reserve boasts well-maintained feeders that attract various species of hummingbirds, including tourmaline sunangel, buff-tailed coronet, speckled hummingbird, bronzy and collared Inca, mountain velvetbreast, white-bellied woodstar and long-tailed sylph. Plus, an ingeniously installed antpitta feeder attracts two endemic antpitta and two species of brush-finch. Spend your afternoon touring Hacienda Venecia and learning about the coffee process from bean to cup. (B,L,D)

    Colombian Coffee
  • Day
    10

    Pereira / Bogota / Cartagena

    Fly via connecting flights to Cartagena. Long known as one of the loveliest old Spanish colonial towns in Latin America, Cartagena has never looked better or had more to offer. Spend your afternoon on a guided walking tour of the charming streets of Cartagena’s Old Town, including the city walls. Your home for two nights is the elegant and historic Ananda Boutique Hotel. (B,L)

    Cartegena, Colombia
  • Day
    11

    Cartagena

    On a private morning excursion, board small boats with local guides to explore the rich coastal life of the mangroves swamps of La Boquilla, just outside Cartagena, an important nesting and migratory spot for many birds. Local guides point out the many species as we make our way through the channels and canals of Cienega de la Virgen (Swamp of the Virgin). Water species such as kingfishers, white herons, common lauras, pink spatulas and pelicans are found in this fascinating ecosystem. After a wonderful lunch of local specialties, enjoy touring this atmospheric city, including the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas and la Popa, the town’s highest point. Tonight, say goodbye to your Colombia tour friends during a festive farewell dinner is in a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    12

    Depart Cartagena

    Transfer to the airport for your independent flights home, arriving the same day. (B, Meals Aloft)

Optional Post-Trip Extensions

Medellin Extension

Things to Know

What is included in the price of this Colombia tour?

The price of your trip includes the following.

Accommodations, excursions, meals and transportation as listed in the itinerary
Services of a private IE Expedition Leader as well as local guides in each destination
Arrival and departure transfers between the group hotel and airport no matter what day or time
One soft drink or local beer per person per included lunch and dinner
Bottled water on excursions, group transfers, at included lunches and dinners and in rooms daily
All park and entrance fees
All gratuities to group service staff except your IE Expedition Leader

What is the activity level for this trip to Colombia?

A trip to Colombia requires good health and mobility. While we have time scheduled for rest and recuperation, your itinerary in Colombia has a moderate to active pace, involving wildlife activities and transportation from place to place to ensure that you have maximized opportunity to interact with the wildlife and local culture.

You’ll enjoy a variety of activities on your trip.  Walking in the Amazon and in the Andes (Coffee Region) is always over uneven ground and requires guests to navigate roots, rocks, and other walking hazards.  All forest/wildlife excursions will involve walking and standing for up to three hours. Your excursions in the Andes are over hills and creaks so walking up and down is required. Los Nevados is done mostly by vehicle, as you climb thousands of feet into the Andes. Some walking will be done in the park to look for birds and other animals.  Walking here is moderate and short but the air is thin.  You do not have to partake in the walks to enjoy the magnificent scenery and beauty of this park. Exploration of the mangroves outside of Cartagena is done by boat.  The boats are not covered and do not have seat backs but the ride is not long (about 2 hours) and the water is calm.  This excursion is also done early in the morning for the best birding and to beat the heat of the day.  Visiting the fort requires guests to walk up an incline for about 20 minutes but, as always, we take our time and plan this excursion to be during a cooler hour of the day.  In all cases, Cartagena will be the hottest point of your trip. It is hot and sticky at any time of day although less in the early morning and late afternoon.

Travel in Colombia is by road, air and boat. The main highways are excellent but once you get into the small towns and parks the roads deteriorate rapidly, requiring slow driving and navigation of deeply pot-holed and bumpy roads. You will travel by motorcoach, mini-coach, and/or minivan, depending on the number of guests and terrain you will be crossing.  Air travel in Colombia is abundant and while flights can be delayed or cancelled like anywhere else, it is quite reliable and comfortable.  The boat to and from the Amazon is covered and comfortable but there is no WC onboard.  Boat transfers are around four hours.

While driving through the Andes, we will reach altitudes of over 12,000 feet.  We do not remain at these altitudes for long but guests with breathing problems may need to evaluate their participation if they feel this will be a problem for them.  Bottled oxygen is not provided at any point during this trip.  It is not kept at hotels or in the vehicles.

What is the weather like in Colombia?

Colombia’s location near the equator means weather varies more by altitude than it does by season.  The country also experiences rainy and dry seasons.  In general, April and May are the heaviest rain but no matter what the season, rain can fall at any time. Colombia is a mountainous country and you’ll be staying at some elevations significantly above sea level.  Weather here tends to be cool to cold (especially when cloudy and at night) but on the Caribbean coast days are much hotter and more humid.

Is this trip to Colombia a "birding" trip?

This is not a birding-only trip. Our expedition is designed to provide opportunities to view as many types of wildlife as possible, from amphibians and reptiles to mammals and insects.  However, birds are ubiquitous and prolific, as well as beautiful and interesting, in the places you will be visiting.  Other animals, especially mammals are shy and many are nocturnal.  As such, they are not easy to encounter. Birds are a highlight of this trip. All excursions involving wildlife will have a heavy focus on birds, while still trying to view other animals.

Do you offer optional extensions to this Colombia trip?

We do offer optional extensions to other wonderful places in the region to enhance and complete your experience, should you choose to do so. Information on these extensions is listed on the webpage for this program and feel free to contact our office for more info.

Are you able to customize a trip to Colombia to feature destinations and activities of my choice?

Colombia is a developing destination for visitors.  We are able to customize and offer itineraries to some areas of the country, in coordination with our local partners.  Depending on the areas and types of travel you would like to do, we may be able to craft a personalized itinerary for you to enjoy.  Please contact our Custom Department and discuss Colombia with a specialist.

Accommodations

Hotel Estelar Parque de la 93

Hotel Estelar Parque de la 93

This 4-star hotel is located in the Chico sector, next to 93 Park, the commercial and leisure hub of Bogota, with many restaurants, clubs, and shops. The hotel is also close to Del Chico Park and Museo del Chico Mercedes Sierra de Perez. The hotel has a full-service spa, an indoor pool, and a sauna. Dining options include a restaurant and a coffee shop/café, as well as Restaurant 11th Dock, one of the best in the city and a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The 109 guestrooms include minibar, safe, hair dryer and free Wi-Fi. Enjoy incredible views of the city from the roof-top bar!

Waira Suites

Waira Suites

The 47-room Waira Suites is located in the center of Leticia, gateway to the Colombian Amazon. Standard rooms have en suite facilities and AC. Hot water is not always available. Rooms have TV with cable and the hotel has an excellent restaurant.

Hotel Lomas del Paiyu

Hotel Lomas del Paiyu

Hotel Lomas del Paiyu is located in the town of Puerto Nariño, Amazonas, also known as the Green Township, surrounded by lush vegetation and with a typical architecture of the region. The hotel has 22 rooms with private bathrooms and comfortable beds. This property does not have AC or hot water but does have fans.

Hotel Movich

Hotel Movich Pereira

Situated in the heart of Pereira, Movich Hotel has a full-service spa, an outdoor pool, and a sauna. Wireless and wired high-speed internet access is complimentary in public areas. Additional amenities include a rooftop terrace, a fitness center, and multilingual staff. The 202 air-conditioned guestrooms include minibars and safes. Complimentary wireless and wired high-speed Internet access is provided. 32-inch plasma TVs are equipped with premium cable channels. All accommodations provide desks, complimentary newspapers, and phones. Bathrooms offer bathtubs or showers, hair dryers, and slippers.

Hotel Termales de Otono

Hotel Termales el Otoño

Hotel Termales el Otoño in is just 25 minutes from Manizales but completely a world apart. A peaceful hillside setting offers commanding views of the mountains and valleys and access to the naturally heated thermal pools of the area. The traditional décor and style give the property a vibrant Colombian character. Free Wi-Fi, minibar, and television are a few of the room amenities, along with private WC with hot water and shower. 

NH Collection Royal SmartSuites - Baranquilla

Hotel NH Royal Collection Barranquilla Smartsuites

The 118-room Hotel NH Royal Collection Barranquilla Smartsuites enjoys an exceptional location in Barranquilla, overlooking the Magdalena River, in the heart of stylish Alto Prado. Superior rooms feature AC, safe, hair dryer, mini-bar, Free Wi-Fi and cable TV. The hotel has a modern restaurant and bar, small outdoor roof-top swimming pool and spa.

Ananda Boutique Hotel

Ananda Boutique Hotel

Ananda is a newly renovated colonial house, located at the heart of the historic center of Cartagena. Just a few blocks away you will discover the Cathedral, Santo Domingo's Square, and the Inquisition Palace.  Authentic and inspiring elements will delight guests...the antique cistern, the original water tank exposed in the open-sky patio, or the traditional colonial terrace where you could appreciate this amazing city. The hotel’s 23 rooms feature Egyptian cotton sheets, minibar, safe, LCD TV, AC and Wi-Fi, along with one of the most privileged locations in the historic old town.

Hotel Posada de San Antoinio

Posada de San Antonio is a renovated colonial home on the plaza mayor, comprised of three adjoining houses, featuring a restaurant, spa and a pool.  16 rooms feature free Wi-Fi, en suite facilities, hot water, mini bar, cable TV and phone. 

Park 10 Hotel

A 5-star hotel, Park 10 Hotel features 2 restaurants, spa, gym, pool and 55 rooms, located in the heart of Medellin. Standard rooms feature LCD TV, free Wi-Fi, electronic safe, AC and hair dryer.

Field Leaders

Colombia Guide Greg Homel

Greg Homel

Expedition Leader

Leading your Colombia tour is Greg Homel, an ornithologist, award-winning international nature photojournalist, documentary film producer and lecturer. He lives and works from his home within the Los Padres National Forest, home of the California Condor). and from his second home at Río Lagartos, surrounded by the Ría Lagartos National Park and Biosphere Reserve at the north tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.   A birder-naturalist since childhood, Greg founded Natural Elements Productions in 1986 and began leading birding tours shortly thereafter. Now he travels the globe on a full-time basis in search of rare and little-known birds and other wildlife. Greg shares his enthusiasm through excursions for small groups worldwide, and with a wider audience through state-of-the-art digital lectures, television and wide variety of publications and video productions.

Since 1990, Greg has guided, educated, and inspired travelers in over 80 countries throughout the world. His travels on all seven continents, from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic, have allowed him to see more than half of the planet's roughly 9,800 bird species in their natural habitats. In fact, Greg was the first to film documentation of the lekking display of Peru’s critically endangered marvelous spatuletail

His early work appeared regularly in books and magazines, including Wildbird Magazine, The Audubon Society Field Guides to Eastern Birds and The Audubon Society Field Guides to Western Birds, Time, Birder's World, Tucson Lifestyle, and Texas Monthly. Since the "digital revolution," Greg has moved into television, video production, and lecturing aboard expedition ships with the hope of "giving a voice to his truest love, which is the natural world and its inhabitants, especially birds!"

Ivan Hoyos

Ivan Hoyos

Expedition Leader

Search for the definition of a worldly citizen and you’ll find Ivan. Born and raised in Panama, Ivan attended high school in New York City, college in Europe and went to graduate school in Seattle Washington. Ivan eagerly returned to his native Panama and began his work in the field of nature tourism, where he quickly became one of Panama's most recognized naturalist guides. He leads tours throughout the whole country and has also led several expeditions in the Darien region of Panama. Accompanying his passion for Panama's natural beauty is an addiction to travel, which has taken him around the globe to 60 countries in 6 continents. Some of his most memorable experiences have been trekking for gorillas in Uganda’s cloud forests, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro and navigating into the heart of Borneo in search of orangutans. Ivan is half Colombian and visits his family there every year.  He knows the country, the wildlife and the culture well.  His worldly experience, skills as a naturalist, first-hand knowledge of Colombia's culture and wildlife, and his wonderful personality make him the perfect leader for our Colombia tour.  Ivan’s eclectic bag of interests and hobbies include urban planning, architecture, eating tropical fruits and learning of their origins, photography and mountain biking. More recently, he has participated in several environmental movements through local watchdog groups and community organizations. Ivan is an extremely enthusiastic, charismatic and well-traveled naturalist who specializes in natural history and wildlife.

A Note About Field Staff

This is just a selection of the Expedition Leaders and Naturalists who may lead your ecotour.  A particular departure may be escorted by any one of them.  If you would like to find out which leaders are scheduled to lead each departure, please contact our office.

Wildlife

Sloth

Pink River Dolphin

Squirrel Monkey

Amazon Kingfisher

From: $7,298 per person
Duration
12 Days, 11 Nights
Guest Capacity
18 Guests
Trip Type
Expedition Destinations

Trip Highlights

  • Survey premier natural areas in four of Colombia's wildlife hotspots for the greatest diversity of wildlife sightings.
  • Stroll the avenues of modern Bogota & colonial Cartagena.
  • Sample Colombia's famed coffee during three days in the Coffee Region, where you also explore pristine parks.
  • Enjoy the expert leadership of a naturalist IE Expedition Leader in addition to local guides in each location
  • Sample regional dishes with our specially designed menus.
  • Tour a working coffee hacienda.
  • Optional extensions to colonial Villa de Leyva & modern Medellin allow you to expand your experience in Colombia