Andean wax palms in Colombia

Wild Colombia

Nature & Wildlife
Land-Based Expeditions
Andean wax palms in Colombia

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Wild Colombia

On this Colombian adventure, discover incredible biodiversity and pristine habitats in the company of an Expedition Leader and English-speaking local guides. You’ll search for rare endemic species in the high-Andes birding hotspots of Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados and Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, as well as the sub-tropical and sub-Andean forests of the famed El Dorado Nature Reserve. You’ll also enjoy tours of cosmopolitan Bogota, vibrant Medellin, and charming Cartagena, and meet with friendly locals as you visit coffee plantations, browse colorful markets, and stroll through historic city centers.

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.

Daily Itinerary

Wild Colombia

  • Day
    1

    Arrive Bogotá

    Board your independent flight to Colombia. Arrive in Bogotá this evening and transfer to B.O.G. Hotel for overnight.

  • Day
    2

    Bogotá

    Rise early for a walking tour of La Candelaria and Plaza de Bolivar, the city’s historic center, filled with beautiful colonial architecture. Then visit the Gold Museum, which houses an extraordinary collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. After this, take a cable car ride to the summit of Cerro Monserrate for a tour of the Church of our Fallen Lord, an iconic symbol of Bogotá. Enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant that offers panoramic views over the city. Enjoy an afternoon of birding at the Hummingbird Observatory in La Calera. In the evening, return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

    Bogota
  • Day
    3

    Bogotá / Pereira / Manizales

    After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for our flight to Pereira, then depart overland for Manizales, part of the Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis, Eje Cafetero. After a traditional Colombian lunch, tour one of the many coffee plantations to learn about this important cultural and economic commodity—from cultivation to roasting to tasting. Check in to the Hotel Termales del Ruiz, nestled high in the mountains of Nevados del Ruiz Park, for an afternoon at leisure to stroll the grounds, observe the hummingbird feeders, or take a dip in the natural thermal-spring pool. (B,L,D)  

  • Day
    4

    Manizales

    Spend the morning birding around the hotel and nearby Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. High-Andean specialties and endemics found here include Andean condors; black-chested buzzard-eagles; gray-breasted mountain toucans; rufous-fronted parakeets, buffy and rainbow-bearded helmetcrests; tawny antpittas; golden-breasted and black-thighed pufflegs; crested cotingas; sapphire-winged hummingbirds; shining sunbeams; buff-winged starfontlets; and various mountain tanagers. Return to the hotel for lunch. Spend the afternoon searching for birds in the hotel’s extensive gardens and along the old road to Manizales. (B,L,D)  

  • Day
    5

    Manizales / Jardin

    Depart before dawn for your drive to the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, located just above Manizales. Considered to be one of the top birding sites in the world, the area boasts over 330 species within a 15-square-mile radius. Here, it is possible to see up to five species of antpitta—slate-crowned, chestnut-naped, bicolored, brown-banded, and chestnut-crowned—along with rare masked saltators, ocellated tapaculos, and beautiful buff-breasted mountain tanagers. After lunch in the reserve, depart overland for Jardin. Arrive at the delightful Casa Passiflora Hotel Boutique, our base for two nights, in time for dinner. (B,L,D)  

    Chestnut-crowned antpitta
  • Day
    6

    Jardin

    Go birding at Ventanas Peak, searching for such species as rufous antpitta, slaty brush-finch, tourmaline sunangel, masked flowerpiercer, collared Inca, masked trogon, and yellow-eared parrot. Return to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon, visit an Andean cock-of-the-rock lek where we hope to find displaying males. Other birds that have been seen here include golden tanager, black-winged saltator, and Colombian chachalaca. (B,L,D) 

  • Day
    7

    Jardin / Medellin

    Go birding at Ventanas Peak, searching for such species as rufous antpitta, slaty brush-finch, tourmaline sunangel, masked flowerpiercer, collared Inca, masked trogon, and yellow-eared parrot. Return to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon, visit an Andean cock-of-the-rock lek where we hope to find displaying males. Other birds that have been seen here include golden tanager, black-winged saltator, and Colombian chachalaca. (B,L,D) 

  • Day
    8

    Medellin / Santa Marta / El Dorado Reserve

    This transfer to the airport for our flight to Santa Marta. Upon arrival, depart overland for the El Dorado Reserve, which protects one of the most fragile and important zones in Colombia, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to a large number of unique plant and animal species. Check in to the El Dorado Lodge for lunch. Spend the afternoon exploring around the lodge. In the late evening, you may choose to join an optional birding excursion to search for nocturnal species. (B,L,D)  

  • Day
    9

    El Dorado Reserve

    Head into the hills to Cuchilla de San Lorenzo to look for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s astonishing 21 endemic species, including Santa Marta antwren, Santa Marta parakeet, Santa Marta sabrewing, Santa Marta mountain-tanager, and yellow-crowned whitestart. There will also be time to observe some endemic plant life and wax palms unique to this Andean forest. Return to the lodge for lunch. An afternoon exploring around the lodge may reveal white-tipped quetzal, Santa Marta foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta tapaculo, and streaked spinetail. (B,L,D) 

  • Day
    10

    El Dorado Reserve / Cartagena

    This morning, depart overland for a lovely drive along the coast to Cartagena, with stops for wildlife viewing, a mangrove walk, and lunch along the way. Check in to Tcherassi Hotel & Spa for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)  

    Cartagena
  • Day
    11

    Cartagena

    Today you will tour the architectural highlights of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Convent of La Popa, and San Felipe’s Fort. After lunch at a local restaurant, browse the colorful handicraft stores of Las Bovedas, where local artisans display their wares, stroll along the gorgeous white-sand beach, or simply wander the maze of cobbled streets and pretty plazas in the colonial center. Return to the hotel for a special farewell dinner and overnight. (B,L,D) 

  • Day
    12

    Cartagena / Home

    Transfer to the airport for your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day. (B)

Things to Know

What is included in the price of this Colombia tour?

The price of your trip includes the following.

• Accommodations on group dates
• Intra-tour airfare
• Excursions, activities, and meals as listed in the itinerary
• Services of experienced English-speaking guides
• Arrival and departure transfers between the group hotel and airport regardless of day or time
• Selected beverages included with lunch and dinner
• Potable water
• Medical expense coverage and emergency evacuation insurance

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.

Accommodations

B.O.G. Hotel

B.O.G. Hotel

A glittering jewel in Bogotá’s fashionable North district, the sumptuous interiors of B.O.G. Hotel are inspired by Colombia's greatest natural treasuresgold and emeralds. This decadent destination bursts with exuberance and creative cuisine, drawing international creative cognoscenti to enjoy open air drinks or taste the treasures of Colombia's gastronomic heritage, using traditional ingredients to create fusion dishes that blend international flavors with long-standing, local recipes. In the Lounge Bar, an expert barman mixes a similarly inventive range of cocktails. After a day discovering the vibrant surroundings, the rooftop's heated swimming pool offers a welcome respite, with panoramic city and mountain views. The spacious rooms in B.O.G. Hotel feature a private bathroom, LCD satellite TV, seating area and mini-bar. B.O.G. Hotel has a 24-hour front desk, room service, a spa center, and a business center.

Hotel Termales del Ruiz

Hotel Termales El Ruiz

Termales Del Ruiz is a modern hotel siturated just minutes away from Nevado del Ruiz and Parque Natural Privado Volcan Cerro Bravo. All rooms feature mountain views, a tub, shower, and complimentary toiletries. Take a dip in the outdoor pool or the natural hotsprings, or search for birds in the lush gardens. Free Wi-Fi is available in public areas.

Movich Hotel Las Lomas

Movich Hotel Las Lomas

This majestic hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens, an exclusive pool area, two restaurants, gym, spa, wet areas, hairdresser, bicycle rental, free WiFi. The contemporary suites at Hotel Las Lomas have tasteful neutral décor with soft carpets. All offer air conditioning and a mini-bar, while some have comfortable seating areas. Free Wi-Fi is available.

El Dorado Lodge

El Dorado Lodge

Located in the heart of the El Dorado Bird Preserve, El Dorado Lodge is one of Colombia’s most beautifully designed eco-lodges nestled in the hills of the Sierra Nevada de Marta. The Lodge features 10 comfortable rooms with amazing views of the mountains and the Caribbean Sea on clear days. Also available are 5 Kogihabs, traditional round huts with panoramic views, located within a short walk (10-15 minutes) from the main lodge via forest trains perfect for bird watching. Guests can enjoy the forest trails, towers, terraces, restaurant/bar and visit the eco-shop for gifts and souvenirs. Due to its remote location, Internet access is available when possible (due to power outages) and rooms are cool given the lodges high altitude.

Tcherassi Hotel & Spa

Tcherassi Hotel & Spa

Located in downtown Cartagena, Tcherassi Hotel & Spa is close to all the important attractions. This beautiful restored colonial building offers a relaxed and elegant experience thanks to a harmonious combination of fashion, architecture, and nature. Public spaces include vertical gardens, water mirrors, two restaurants, and a terrace with a swimming pool. The air-conditioned rooms feature a modern bathroom, flat-screen TV, minibar, in-room safe, and free WiFi.

Field Leaders

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.

From: $5,990 per person
Duration
12 Days, 11 Nights
Guest Capacity
14 Guests
Trip Type
Land

Trip Highlights

  • Look for over 300 species of birds found in Manizales, Colombia’s mountainous coffee-growing region.
  • Tour Medellin, this City of Eternal Spring is one of South America’s most modern and affluent cities.
  • Search for Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s astonishing 21 endemic species, including Santa Marta bush-tyrant, Santa Marta parakeet, Santa Marta sabrewing, and black-cheeked mountain-tanager.
  • Enjoy the expert leadership of a naturalist IE Expedition Leader in addition to local guides in each location.
  • Explore charming Cartagena to discover elegant colonial architecture, white-sand beaches, world-class cuisine, and a vibrant night-life.
  • View the artifacts of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures at Bogotá’s Gold Museum.