Los Nevados National Park is one of the most popular parks in Colombia and a must-visit spot for good reason (If you don’t believe us just take a look at the photographs below!) Located in the central Colombian Andes, the park covers over 225 sq mi and features high mountain landscapes, waterfalls, hot springs – a perfect cure for sore muscles – waterfalls, rainforests, jungles, and high-altitude lakes. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike and easily accessible compared to other parks in Colombia.
If you’re ready for a weekend of adventure, beautiful landscapes and a visit to the fastest evolving place on the planet, read on for a guide to Los Nevados National Park!
About the Park
Los Nevados National Park is dominated by five snow-capped volcanoes, most of which can be climbed. The park is home to a staggering array of ecosystems from high tropical mountain environments to cloud forests and sweeping, hot valleys. One ecosystem in particular, called the páramo, only exists in select few places on Earth and is considered one of the fastest evolving places on the planet. You’ll find an awe-inspiring array of flora and exotic animals at varying elevations. Los Nevados is also vulnerable to human disturbances, so please always remain aware of your surroundings when visiting the park and stay with your guide.
Things to Do
Our favorite adventure in Los Nevados National Park is the Nevado del Tolima Expedition. In 4 days, you’ll trek from Salento all the way up to the summit of Nevado del Tolima, giving you plenty of time to acclimate and experience the beauty of the park. If you have an extra day, we suggest you make a stop at the hot springs. Even though this is the most strenuous expedition, you don’t need previous climbing experience as it is not technically hard. You do need to be in shape both physically and mentally. If you want to touch snow, but want something slightly easier, try the summit of Nevado Santa Isabel. You can do it in 2 days, going straight from Pereira, or you can take it easy, enjoy the park and do it in 4 days from Salento, with a stop by Lake Otún. Another great trip, is the Paramillo del Quindio Expedition, this used to be a snow capped mountain, but now it’s a colorful and sandy peak. Located between Nevado del Tolima and Santa Isabel, the summit of Paramillo del Quindio has the best views.
There are two ways to reach the park, from the north side close to Manizales or from the south side by trekking through the Valle de Cocora outside of Salento. From any major city, Manizales can be reached by plane or bus with both featuring regular arrival times. Salento is a 5 hour bus ride from Medellin or an hour bus ride from Pereira, which can be reached by plane. As there is no public transport to the park, you can sign up for a day trip with various agencies, check out Project Cordillera’s expeditions to the park here, or commission a shared car to take you to the park and pick you up after your day hike. Entrance to the park is about 50,000 COP for foreigners.
Most visitors on an expedition in the park will be camping. That means you’ll have to bring everything you need to rest comfortably, typically items can be rented from agencies or are included in the price of the trek. El Cisne is the only accommodation in the park at 4,200m, but rustic and worth a visit.
The weather is reasonably cold and will become more chilly the higher you climb. Be sure to bring proper clothing and gear if planning to summit any of the volcanoes in the park. The variety of landscapes in the park means you’ll encounter a variety of weather patterns, be prepared with synthetic fabrics which will dry quickly if damp. Rain is also fairly common so don’t leave that rain jacket at home!
As the park begins at the jungle and climbs to 5321m at its highest peak, you will need to acclimatize yourself to the high altitude before starting on any hikes. If you are traveling with a guide over the course of a couple of days, acclimatization will not be much of a concern as your guide should be experienced in recognizing the early signs of altitude sickness and capable of responding correctly, and you’ll be gradually climbing. If you’re going alone, which is not recommended, the recommended approach is to increase by 500 meters each day, starting at 2,500 meters and work your way up slowly.
What to Bring
- Hiking boots
- Sleeping bag for cold temperatures
- Sleeping mat
- Clothes for cold/rainy weather – synthetic fabrics, lightweight wicking fleeces, liners, and plenty of layers.
- Jacket – waterproof
- Bug spray
- Waterproof bags – for packing essentials that could be damaged if wet
- Sunglasses (with UV protection)
- Salty snacks with high carb levels in easy to carry packaging (Remember, you must pack out all of your garbage, the less you bring the better)
- Water and refillable bladder or portable container
- Walking stick