Conquering the Andes Mountains in Colombia

View of mountain range in Colombia
Photo © Andrew Dier.

Colombia is a great place to conquer the longest continental mountain range in the world, the famed Andes Mountains. Extending from Chile and Argentina northward to Colombia and Venezuela, the Andes split into three chains at the Colombia-Ecuador border.

The highest mountains in Colombia are within about 40 kilometers of the palm-lined beaches of the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. This is the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain chain independent of the Andes, which comprises the world’s highest coastal mountains.

  • Ciudad Perdida: Take the famed multiday jungle hike to archeological site Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), high in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
  • Sierra Nevada del Cocuy: Dramatic snowcapped mountains, valleys filled with armies of frailejón plants, and crystalline mountain lakes await at the stunning Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. You can spend two or three days day-hiking through the Parque Nacional Natural Cocuy, or the more adventurous can organize a six-day tour.
  • Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados: Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, in the Cordillera Central, offers hikers of all abilities the opportunity to explore misty cloud forests and get glimpses of snow-covered volcanoes. Take a day tour to the park from Manizales, a one- or three-day trek toward Laguna del Otún from Pereira, or a challenging multi-day trek from Salento to the Nevado del Tolima. Keep your eyes peeled for the iconic Andean condor.
  • Parque Nacional Natural Puracé: In Parque Nacional Natural Puracé, ambitious hikers can get up at dawn, hike through the tropical forest to the top of Volcán del Puracé, and be back in Popayán for dinner.
  • Parque Municipal Natural Planes de San Rafael and Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá: In the Cordillera Occidental, check out the lesser-visited Parque Municipal Natural Planes de San Rafael, a former cattle ranch that has been converted into a nature reserve. Beyond that, there’s Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá, where you can see the Pacific Ocean beyond the carpet of green of the Chocó rainforest.
  • Parque Natural Chicaque and Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza: Within minutes of busy Bogotá are various mountain adventures fit for day trips. Parque Natural Chicaque is a private park south of the city. Start your hike in the cold cloud forest, and within minutes the climate and natural surroundings have morphed into tropical hot country. PNN Chingaza is a serene national park of páramos and mountain lakes, and is the source of water for eight million thirsty Bogotanos.

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