Serrania De La Macarena National Park

Serrania de La Macarena National Park is about 2,385 square miles (6,175 km2), still largely unexplored but believed from initial studies to be one of the richest biological reserves in the world, with numbers of species found nowhere else. The Serrania itself, laced with spectacular waterfalls, rises in stunning scenic beauty, a huge outcrop of Ordovician–Cambrian sandstone 350–400 million years old, predating the Andes and covering 2,026 square miles (5,250 km2) of a transition zone between Andean, Orinoco, and Amazonia habitats. Its isolated height, over 8,200 feet (2,500 m), has created its own microclimates, with rich primate diversity, unique floral ecosystems, and over 450 bird species. A park entry is 12.5 miles (20 km) south of Vista Hermosa, with information on access and guides—also directions to adjacent Tinigua and Cordillera de Los Picachos National Parks—but check with Bogota office on safety before going. Simple lodging and food are available at nearby Mesetas and San Juan de Arama on the park’s northern end, both reachable by bus from Bogota—but getting around the park is for hardy hikers and campers.


Los Llanos, much of it privately owned, is made up of vast open savannahs punctuated with small islands of woodlands and large numbers of wildlife. The llanos are divided between Venezuela (67 percent) and Colombia (33 percent)—similar in both countries, much more easily visited in Venezuela.

Humid forests of the Pacific slopes are known as the “tanager coast” for their large mixed flocks of these multicolored birds—but in addition, especially at La Planada Nature Reserve between Pasto and Tumaco, are many other species, among one of the continent’s highest concentrations of native birds, plus, in the forest preserve, huge diversity and numbers of orchids. A visitor center has trail maps, simple cabin accommodations—Tel: La Planada, Apartado Aéreo 1562, (+57) (27) 7533-95/96/97; Pasto, Tel: (+57) (27) 723-0761.

Other notable reserves include spectacular Chiribiquete, largest park in Colombia, with 5,000 square miles (13,000 km2), accessible mainly by helicopter; Puinawai, several days by boat; and Farallones de Cali and Orquideas, presently within guerilla-controlled areas. All these may some day open to ecotourism, and they are among the most spectacular in the world.

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