Join us to experience the vibrant, diverse country of Colombia. With a rich cultural heritage and the most bird species in the world (just shy of 1900!), this is a good measure of biodiversity across taxa. So be prepared, we have a lot to discover on this adventure!
Departing from Cali, this tour is impeccably crafted to bring you to varied habitats within the complex (and scenic!) Andes Mountains and the adjacent Cauca and Magdelena Valleys. Colombia’s Cauca and Magdalena dry forest valleys are centers of endemism and biodiversity. By staying in lush montane and cloud forest reserves on both sides of the valley, we maximize our endemic encounters and tally a good list of species in the different branches of the Andes. The colorful array of tanagers and hummingbirds is beyond imagination! Exciting feeders (great for photography), mixed flocks, and secretive antpittas await. Visit key national parks (Tatama, Otun Quimbaya, Los Nevados,), famous eco-lodges and reserves (Montezuma, Rio Blanco, Cameguadua Marsh) and travel the renowned Buenaventura Road. Join Xavier Munoz for incredible birding, good food and fun! Dramatic valleys are filled with a lush mix of agriculture, including the heart of Colombia’s beautiful “Coffee Triangle.” Open for tourism for a number of years, this region is considered one of the safest areas to visit.
- Visit the "Balcón de Colibríes," (Hummingbird Balcony), the perfect place to spot Long-billed Starthroat, Purple-throated Woodstart, Crowned Woodnymph, and more
- Spend time at Doña Dora's feeders looking for the Chocó endemics like Golden-chested Tanager, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Black Solitaire, and Toucan Barbet
- Search for endemics like Multi-colored Tanager, Grayish Piculet, and Turquoise Dacnis
- Discover Otún Quimbaya National Park, where birds, butterflies, and botany abound
- Spot as many as five species of antpitta at Rio Blanco Reserve’s feeding stations
- Seek Andean Condor at Los Nevados National Park, high in the paramo of the Andes
Day 1: Arrivals in Bogota
Welcome to Colombia! Arrive today on flights convenient for you. You are transferred upon arrival to our hotel where our group gathers for a welcome dinner to get to know our guide and fellow travelling companions.
Accommodations at Bogota near the airport (D)
Day 2: Cali | Balcón de Colibríes
We are up early today to catch our flight to Cali. This is a short, one-hour flight and then we have a full day to explore once we land. We spend this first day in Pance, located in the eastern foothills of Farallones de Cali National Park, visiting the Balcón de Colibríes or “Hummingbird Balcony.” The feeders here are abuzz with brilliant hummers; we set our sights on seeing Long-billed Starthroat, Purple-throated Woodstar, Crowned Woodnymph, and Steely-vented Hummingbird. We also watch for Colombian Chachalaca, Flame-rumped Tanager, Yellow-crowned Parrot, the ubiquitous Bananaquit, and if we are extremely lucky as we walk the nearby forested road, Andean Cock-of-the-rock.
After our first birding excitement, we drive to our modern hotel and settle into rooms, enjoy dinner together with time for tallying up our species for those that wish after dinner.
Accommodations at El Peñón Hotel, Cali (B,L,D)
Day 3: Doña Dora | Old Buena Ventura Road | Araucuana Lodge
We are up bright and early again today to start our drive to Anchicayá and enjoy good morning birding at the home of Doña Dora, a must stop for those birding the Cali area. Named for the lovely woman who owns the little roadside rest stop, Doña Dora hosts a paradise for birders with natural perches making photography and observation delightful at her feeders. Doña Dora’s place is located in the Chocó biosphere and attracts rarities like Chocó Brush-Finch, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Toucan Barbet, and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia.
After this time at the feeders, we drive down on the old road to Buenaventura, a classic Colombian birding route, looking for the Chocó region endemics: Golden-chested Tanager, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Black Solitaire, Toucan Barbet, Chocó Tapaculo, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Club-winged Manakin, and others. We spend the full day with varied birding stops along the way.
Araucuana is a wonderful lodge, featuring modern architecture with big windows. It lies immersed in a bamboo and palm grove on a property in the Western Andes. Temperatures are ideal at a comfortable 5600 feet above sea level. Only about 40 minutes from bustling Cali, we find ourselves surrounded by nature! This intimate lodge is situated on 20 acres of Andean forest and gardens. It has just ten rooms, and our gracious hosts serve delicious meals from their organic farm.
Accommodations at Araucuana Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4: Anchicayá | Araucuana Lodge
Today we enjoy a full day birding at Anchicayá. We explore the area, making our way to Bajo Anchicayá (Lake Anchicayá) looking for special birds. The lake and its surrounds are part of the lower elevation Chocó region; we explore closer to the Pacific coast than habitats we have explored so far. Sitting on the northern edge of Farallones de Cali National Park, this area is considered one of the most important places for biodiversity in the world—eBird checklists number species at the lake at over 400! We search for the affable Chocó Toucan, its brilliant yellow bill and throat so bright against the foliage, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Ocellated Antbird, Esmeraldas Antbird, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Golden-collared Manakin, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, and others.
We head back to the hotel in the afternoon time to relax (siesta!) or to bird on the grounds before our special farm to table dinner.
Accommodations at Araucuana Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5: Finca Alejandría | Buga
We say goodbye to this lovely lodge and hosts after breakfast this morning and drive up to Finca Alejandría, also known locally as Hummingbird Paradise. We bird along the way, making stops and taking our time to really get a sense of place. We then spend the day at Finca Alejandría watching the charismatic hummingbirds and tanagers coming to the feeders. We keep a special watch for the endemic Multicolored Tanager, so beautiful and bright! We also watch for special species like Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Crimson-rumped and Southern Emerald Toucanets, and Collared and Masked Trogons.
We do have to tear ourselves away at some point, and in the afternoon we drive two hours on mountain roads to Buga. Buga is one of the oldest cities (circa 1555) in the interior of Colombia. It gives us an authentic view of the laid-back approach to the life of a Colombian tourist town. It is also one of the most important pilgrimages for Catholic Colombians and Ecuadorians, with fine examples of Republican-era architecture. Of note is the Basilica of the Lord of Miracles.
Our hotel tonight has a lovely and large pool for those who want to take a dip.
Accomodations at Guadalajara Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6: Montezuma Lodge | La Clarita Section of Montezuma Road
After breakfast this morning we set off north toward Montezuma. It’s a four-hour drive into the lush, higher elevation Chocó region of the western Andes. We arrive and get comfortable at our simple accommodations, then enjoy lunch at the lodge. Montezuma is highly prized by birders and very special, for many the highlight location of the trip. A family has created a little birding paradise here with feeders, vegetable gardens, and trout ponds. There are trails going up or down in elevation from the lodge.
This afternoon we bird the La Clarita section looking for Chocó specialties like the lovely Toucan Barbet, Black Solitaire, Golden-winged Manakin, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Western Emerald, Lanceolated Monklet, and many others.
Return for the show of hummingbird activity at day’s end and dinner.
Accommodations in Montezuma (B,L,D)
Day 7: The Famous Montezuma Road
We depart early this morning hoping to arrive at dawn on a high ridge (the heliport site) above Montezuma. It is a rigorous 4-wheel drive adventure to get there, but this location gives us amazing views of Tatamá National Park, a wet montane forest of the Chocó bioregion, and birds leaving their morning roosts; we also have the chance to see the beautiful and endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer coming to the hummingbird feeders set out along the way, as well as the secretive and endemic Munchique Wood-wren, typically very active in the morning.
We take lunch with us today so we can savor our time up the mountain. We bird our way back to the lodge, taking our time to walk, bird, and explore in search of even more regional specialties before arriving back at the lodge for dinner and with time to enjoy the feeders and grounds.
Accommodations in Montezuma (B,L,D)
Day 8: Montezuma | Otún Quimbaya National Park
We spend the morning looking for any birds we may have missed around the Montezuma area and then after a final lunch at our lodge, we depart for our next lodge. It’s a three hour drive to La Suiza Lodge, and we make the most of it, birding along the way. We watch for interesting species like Turquoise Dacnis and noting colorful rural street scenes. If time allows, we bird the riverside around the hotel. Torrent Duck could be there waiting for us, as well as Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Inca Jay.
The elevation here is 5800 – 7400 feet, with pleasant, cool evenings. The park is located in the foothills on the western slope of the central Andes and covers more than 1200 acres of native and planted forests in a mix of montane to cloud forests. The botany is also impressive here. This is a good spot for butterflies and charismatic large insects. Fruiting Cecropia trees attract fruit-eating birds like Golden-plumed Parakeet.
Accommodations at La Suiza Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 9: Otún Quimbaya National Park | Cameguadua Marsh
We spend the morning exploring Otún Quimbaya looking again for Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Cauca Guan, and more. We also visit Cameguadua Marsh to look for shorebirds and other specialties like Grayish Saltator, Grayish Piculet, Slaty Spinetail, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, and others.
This afternoon we transfer to San Vicente Hot Springs Hotel. Take a break and enjoy the hotel’s pool and hot springs, nestled in the lush mountains.
Accommodations at the San Vicente Hot Springs Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10: Cortaderal & Termales San Vicente | Tinamú Reserve
We spend the full day birding in Cortaderal and Termales San Vicente. This tiny area is home to the Indigo-winged Parrot, endemic to Colombia and critically endangered; it is one of the most threatened species of parrot in the world.
In the afternoon we transfer to our hotel. This lovely little hotel caters to birders and is nestled right in a private reserve that used to be a coffee plantation. More than 260 birds have been documented here! We explore the grounds, watching for sleeping Common Potoo, Gray-headed Dove, Gray-headed Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Little Tinamou, Moustached Puffbird, Scaled Antpitta, Grayish Piculet, tanagers, hummingbirds, and more. This is a lower elevation site, about 3500 feet, so after our mountain time you can enjoy the warm weather.
Accommodations at small nature lodge near Tinamou Reserve (B,L,D)
Day 11: Tinamú Reserve | Manizales
We spend the day exploring the trails and surrounds of our hotel’s reserve. This is a perfect place to witness birds of the Magdalena Valley and Cauca Canyon.
We say goodbye in the afternoon and make the short transfer to our next hotel, a beautiful eco-lodge with open-air balconies, dining room, pool, and more. Watch for birds like Andean Motmot, possible late wintering migrants like Vermilion Flycatcher, and even macaws on the grounds.
Accommodations at a boutique hotel near Manizales (B,L,D)
Day 12: Nevados National Park | Termales del Ruiz
We leave early this morning to drive up in elevation to the paramo region of the Nevados National Park. This day we reach the highest elevation during the entire tour—at Nevados we head up to just over 13,000 feet. Our goal is to witness the endemic and charismatic Buffy Helmetcrest, which inhabits habitats over 11,500 feet only. Bring warm clothes and a windbreaker!
In the afternoon we visit Termales del Ruiz to see other birds of the paramo. We watch for a rainbow of hummingbirds and tanagers at feeders here. Here we also find a fascinating flora of cold-tolerant paramo plants and we have a good chance to observe Andean Condor.
We finish the day with a drive down to Manizales for our celebratory dinner and to reminisce about our favorite birds and moments of the tour.
Accommodations at a boutique hotel near Manizales (B,L,D)
Day 13: Rio Blanco Reserve | Flight to Bogota | Departures
We get up early today to visit a very special place—the Rio Blanco Reserve, which is nearby atop the watershed of Manizales in the mountains. Admire excellent views back to the city and out to the mountains beyond before exploring the lush forest here on our final morning.
Walking forest trails with an early arrival, we hope to find several endemics: Cauca Guan (rare), Chestnut Wood-quail, and Stiles’s Tapaculo. We also look for Sickle-winged Guan, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Greenish Puffleg, Highland Motmot, Strong-billed and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Streak-capped Treehunter, Moustached Antpitta, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, both Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrants, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Dusky Piha, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, both Pale-eyed and Glossy-black Thrush, White-capped Tanager, and Slaty Brush-finch. Along the stream we look for White-capped Dipper and Torrent Duck.
In the early afternoon, we depart the reserve, pick up our things, and have lunch and make our way into Pereira (about a one-hour drive) for our short, one-hour flight to Bogota. You can book your international flights out of Bogota this evening, or we can drop you at an airport hotel for flights out tomorrow morning. A great trip comes to an end. (B,L)
Cost of the Journey
The cost of the tour is $4890 DBL / $5390 SGL, from Bogota, Colombia. Cost is based on double occupancy and includes all accommodations; all meals as specified in the itinerary, internal flights, airport transfers, professional guide services, local park and other area entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.
The cost does not include transportation to or from your home to Bogota, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, porterage, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Book flights to El Dorado Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento International (BOG) in Bogota, Colombia. Please plan to arrive at a time convenient to you on January 20. Please plan departures in the evening of February 1.
Photo credits: Buffy Helmetcrest by Xavier Muñoz; Group Birding by Peg Abbott; Torrent Duck by Peg Abbott; Group by Peg Abbott; Andean Emerald by Peg Abbott; Andes Mountains by Peg Abbott; Brush Tanager by Peg Abbott; Adventure Birding by Peg Abbott; Fruiteater by Greg Smith; Antpitta by Greg Smith; Red Howler Monkey by Greg Smith; Group Photos by Peg Abbott; Blue-napped Chlorophonia by Xavier Muñoz; Chestnut-crowned Antpitta by Xavier Muñoz; Cinnamon Flycatcher by Xavier Muñoz; Emerald Toucanet by Xavier Muñoz; Red-ruffed Fruitcrow by Xavier Muñoz; Rufous-browed Conebill by Xavier Muñoz.