Colombia: # 1 Birding Destination on Planet Earth – 13 days

 

In South America, there is nothing quite like the Andes. Though it may seem like a single mountain range, in the south of Colombia, the Andes split into three distinct branches, creating an unparalleled variety of ecosystems and habitats. From the tropical forests in the lowlands to the towering peaks above the páramo, the biodiversity of the Colombian Andes is nothing short of astonishing.

This extraordinary diversity makes the Colombian Andes a paradise for birdwatchers, naturalists, and photographers. The mountains are adorned with countless species of birds, cryptic mammals, butterflies, and orchids. This carefully designed trip is tailored to maximize your chances of capturing a stunning collection of birds, including many endemic and rare species.

Our journey through the Andes will take you to the premier feeding stations on the western and central cordilleras. These hotspots are teeming with colorful birds, endemics, and range-restricted species. You’ll also have excellent opportunities to spot some mammals and other wildlife, enhancing the richness of your experience. The Colombian Andes are a naturalist’s delight.

This adventure offers an easy to moderate pace, perfect for birdwatching with excellent photography opportunities very single day while traveling from one stunning location to another. Led by a biologist with deep knowledge of the ecosystems, wildlife, and birds, this trip promises not only to enrich your portfolio but also to deepen your appreciation of Colombia’s natural wonders. Like all our tours, there is a photographer guide leading the journey with whom you will learn great photo techniques and increase your chances of creating a deep portfolio of magnificent bird images to take home.

There are very high chances of seeing and photographing the following species:

• Multicolored Tanager
• Chestnut Wood-Quail
• Andean (Highland) Motmot
• Toucan Barbet
• Silver-throated Tanager
• Rufous-throated Tanager
• Green Thorntail
• Little Tinamou
• Brown-banded Antpitta
• Crescent-faced Antpitta
• Grey-breasted Mountain Tou-can
• Sword-billed Hummingbird
• Buffy Helmetcrest
• Rainbow-bearded Thornbill
• Güira Tanager
• Andean Cock of the Rock
• Chami Antpitta
• Red-bellied Grackle
• Chestnut-naped Antpitta
• Tiger Cat (Oncilla)
• Crab-eating Fox
• Black Agouti

Tour Length
13 Days
12 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: Cali, Colombia
Departure: Rio Negro / Medellin, Colombia
Best Season

mid-July to mid-September (optimum) and mid-November to mid-March (high season)

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

Van

Accommodations

Hotels & Lodges

Challenge Level

Level 2 - Easy Level

Highlights

  • City of Cali – known by the locals as the city of Rumba but to the world as the Salsa capital
  • Cali is the capital city of the Cauca Department, the 3rd largest city in Colombia
  • The Colombian Andes Mountains – split into three fantastic and unique ecosystems
  • Los Nevados National Park and Paramo eco-systems – where unique flora and fauna thrive
  • Bird feeders at various location where the birds are accustomed to being photographed
  • Access to various leks for the enigmatic Cock-of the-Rock with its deep red crown
  • Lots of endemic species and rare bird species at many of our off-the-beaten-path locations
  • La Florida, Doña Dora, San Felipe and other farmhouses, fabulous locations for easy bird photography
  • The town of Manizales, in the Cauca River Valley and the heart of Colombia’s coffee country
  • The welcoming smile and warm greetings of the people of Colombia

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price7-10 travelers$ 5,120 / per person
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 5,885 / per person
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 6,425 / per person
Highest Price1 solo traveler$ 10,565 / for 1 person
Single Supplement Feeper person / per tour$ 770 / per single room
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrival to Cali, Colombia (Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport)

Upon your arrival at Cali airport, our driver will be there to greet you and transfer you to your hotel. Once you’ve checked in, you’ll have time to freshen up and relax after your journey. In the evening, we’ll gather for a meet-and-greet session, followed by a welcome dinner with the group and your tour leader. This is the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers and learn more about the exciting adventure that lies ahead.

Hotel: Dann Norte or similar (https://www.hotelesdanncali.com/)

Meals included:  D

Glistening-green Tanager (2)

Day 2: La Florida Forest and the Andes pass at Km 18

Just 45 minutes from the city of Cali, you can reach the summit of the western Andes at a pass known locally as Km18. This ridge is home to an Important Bird Area (IBA), where the surrounding cloud forest shelters a remarkable variety of species, including some of the most astonishingly colorful and endemic birds.

La Florida, a charming farmhouse nestled within this lush forest, has been meticulously designed for birdwatching and bird photography. Here, you will have access to various photography spots, each offering the opportunity to capture stunning and perfect shots of the avian inhabitants. Optional forest walks are available for those who wish to explore further.

The menu for the day includes vibrant tanagers, dazzling hummingbirds, and charming toucanets. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or a passionate photographer, La Florida promises an unforgettable experience amidst the natural splendor of the Colombian Andes.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: birds and mammals feeders at 2100 m (6800 ft)

High chances: Multicolored Tanager, Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Andean Motmot, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Andean Emerald, White-booted Racket-tail, Red-tailed Squirrel, Central American Agouti.

Hotel: Araucana lodge (https://www.araucanalodge.com/)

Meals included:  B, L, D

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Day 3: Doña Dora spot

One hour from our lodge lies Doña Dora’s house, situated on the western slope of the Andes along the old road leading to the Pacific. This area, surrounded by both primary and secondary growth rainforest, is a haven for vibrant birdlife and a top destination for photographers seeking to capture stunning avian images.

Over the years, Mrs. Dora has transformed her home into a bird paradise, particularly for bird photographers and enthusiasts. She has strategically placed various feeding stations under a fig tree, attracting a multitude of colorful birds. This setup provides an ideal opportunity to observe and photograph some of the most sought-after species in their natural habitat.

At Doña Dora’s, you can expect to encounter a dazzling array of bird species, making it a must-visit spot on our journey. Whether you are aiming for that perfect shot or simply enjoying the spectacle, this location offers a unique and enriching experience amidst the captivating beauty of the Colombian Andes.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: bird feeders at 1300 m (4200 ft)

High chances: Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Silver-throated Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Black-headed Brush-Finch, Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, Green Honeycreeper, Red-headed Barbet, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Chestnut-headed Oropendola.

Hotel: Araucana lodge (https://www.araucanalodge.com/)

Meals included: B, L, D

Green Honeycreeper

Day 4: San Felipe Farmhouse

San Felipe Farmhouse is nestled on the ridge of the western Andes, surrounded by lush cloud forest. Its beautiful gardens and the surrounding forest are home to a wide array of stunning bird species. The farmhouse has thoughtfully created various settings for bird photography, enhancing the chances of capturing high-quality images of diverse birds. These settings include hides within the forest and open spaces outside, offering a variety of photographic opportunities.

Spend your morning savoring a cup of excellent coffee while photographing the vibrant birdlife. After a leisurely lunch, we will transfer 2.5 hours to the outskirts of Buga city, ready for the next leg of our adventure. San Felipe Farmhouse promises a memorable blend of relaxation and exhilarating bird photography in a breathtaking natural setting.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: birds and mammals feeders at 2100 m (6800 ft)

High chances: Chestnut Wood-Quail, Little Tinamou, Scaled Antpitta, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Sickle-winged Guan, Colombian Chachalaca, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-napped Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Andean Motmot, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Andean Emerald, White-booted Racket-tail, Red-tailed Squirrel, Central American Agouti.

Hotel: Eco Hotel Hacienda el Diamante (https://www.ecohoteleldiamante.com)

Meals included: B, L, D

Blue-winged Mountain tanager

Day 5: Hacienda el Diamante

Today, we will be exploring the Cauca River Valley area. Our destination is Hacienda El Diamante, located on the outskirts of Buga. This region is characterized by a mix of secondary growth forest and livestock farming, with the hacienda itself boasting a private lagoon and access to nearby farmhouses.

Throughout the day, we will venture into the surrounding areas, including secondary forests and ponds, as well as the hacienda’s own property. Here, we will have the opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of birds. Expect to encounter striking tanagers, impressive woodpeckers, and a diverse array of water birds. The day promises a rich and rewarding birdwatching experience amidst the scenic beauty of the Cauca River Valley.

After lunch, we begin a 4-hour drive to Manizales with some nice birding opportunities en-route.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: birds at secondary growth forest and lagoon area 1300 m (5000 ft)

High chances: Turqouise Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Spectacled Parrotlet, Bare-faced Ibis, Crested Bobwhite, Blue-necked Tanager, Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-faced Whistling Duck, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Wattle Jacana, Cocoi Heron, Striated Heron, Buff-necked Ibis.

Hotel: QUO Hotel (www.quo.com.co)

Meals included: B, L, D

Masked Trogon

Day 6: Rio Blanco

Located just 30 minutes above the city of Manizales, the Rio Blanco Reserve is a vast expanse of primary high Andean forest that, at its higher elevations, connects with Los Nevados National Natural Park. This reserve is renowned as one of the pioneering locations in Colombia to establish forest bird feeders, attracting elusive species such as antpittas and a variety of other birds.

Depending on the season, you will find two to three forest bird feeders in operation, alongside tanager and hummingbird feeders near the reserve’s facilities. We will dedicate our day to photographing a diverse array of bird species, including the famously elusive antpittas, which are notably cooperative in this area. Prepare for an exciting day of bird photography in the lush and biodiverse setting of the Rio Blanco Reserve.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: Birds at forest feeders and into the forest, hummingbird feeders. 2400 m (7800 ft)

High chances: Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Bicolored Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Long-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Green and Black Fruiteater, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, White-capped Deeper, Red-tailed Squirrel, Tayra.

Hotel: QUO Hotel (www.quo.com.co)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 7: Hacienda el Bosque

Located just 20 kilometers (13 miles) from the city of Manizales, on the slopes of the central cordillera, Hacienda El Bosque is a stunning locale enveloped by high Andean forest. This picturesque hacienda has been thoughtfully adapted to facilitate easy birding and bird photography.

With three dedicated bird photography spots and productive trails meandering through the property, the hacienda offers ample opportunities for capturing incredible bird images. The diverse birdlife here includes many rare and range-restricted species, making it a prime destination for avid bird photographers.

Expect a high likelihood of encountering amazing birds, each adding a unique element to your photography collection. Hacienda El Bosque promises a rewarding experience amidst the tranquil beauty of Colombia’s Andean forests.

Pace: Easy to moderate

Conditions: Birds at forest feeders and into the forest, hummingbird feeders. 3000 m (9000 ft)

High chances: Crescent-faced Antpitta, Equatorial Antpitta, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Barred Fruiteater, Sickle-winged Guan, Andean Guan, Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-throated Quail Dove, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Paramo Seedeater, Grey-browed Brush-Finch.

Hotel: Termales del Ruiz (https://termalesdelruiz.com/)

Meals included: B, L, D

Buffy Helmetcrest

Day 8: Los Nevados National Park - Tinamú Reserve

Today, we will delve into the páramo ecosystem, exploring its incredible birds and breathtaking landscapes at Los Nevados National Natural Park. Our day begins early with a visit to the hummingbird feeders in the hotel’s garden, where we are likely to encounter a variety of stunning birds.

As the morning progresses, we will venture into the higher altitudes of the park, reaching elevations of around 4000 meters (12,000 ft) above sea level. Here, we will encounter a different set of bird species adapted to the unique conditions of the páramo.

The páramo is a truly special and unique ecosystem, with its own distinctive flora and fauna. Today promises an unforgettable experience as we capture the extraordinary beauty of this high-altitude environment and its avian inhabitants.

Pace: Easy to moderate

Conditions: Birds at feeders around the hotel and then natural condition on the paramo, 4000 m (12000 ft)

High chances: Buffy Helmetcrest, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Great Sapphirewing, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Shinning Sunbeam, Tawny Antpitta.

Hotel: Tinamú reserve (www.tinamubirding.com)

Meals included: B, L, D

Multicolor Tanager2

Day 9: Tinamú Reserve - Full day

Tinamú Ecolodge, situated near the city of Manizales at mid elevation, overlooks the Cauca River Valley and is surrounded by shade-grown coffee plantations, secondary growth forest, and patches of primary forest. This unique blend of habitats creates an ideal environment for a diverse array of bird species.

We will spend the morning exploring the lodge’s gardens, where there are excellent chances of photographing vibrant tanagers and dazzling hummingbirds. Additionally, short walks within the forest are possible, offering opportunities to encounter even more bird species.

The varied landscapes around Tinamú Ecolodge provide a rich and rewarding birdwatching experience, making it a perfect spot for capturing the beauty and diversity of Colombia’s avian life.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: Birds at feeders around the lodge and then natural condition on shade ground coffee, 1600 m (6000 ft)

High chances: Guira Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Andean Motmot, Golden-Collared Manakin, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Western Emerald, Coomon Pottoo.

Hotel: Tinamú reserve (www.tinamubirding.com)

Meals included: B, L, D

Purple-bibbed Whitetip

Day 10: Full morning in Tinamú, PM transfer to Cauca River Valley

Tinamú Ecolodge is located near the city of Manizales, at a mid-elevation position overlooking the Cauca River Valley. The surrounding landscape features shade-grown coffee plantations, secondary growth forest, and patches of primary forest. This diverse blend of habitats offers excellent opportunities for spotting a variety of bird species.

This morning, we will spend time exploring the lodge’s gardens, where there are high chances of capturing vibrant tanagers and dazzling hummingbirds. Additionally, we can take short walks within the forest to seek out more bird species.

After lunch, we will embark on a 5-hour journey northwest through the Cauca River Valley, ready to continue our birding adventure in new and captivating locales.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: Birds at feeders around the lodge and then natural condition on shade ground coffee, 1600 m (6000 ft)

High chances: Guira Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Andean Motmot, Golden-Collared Manakin, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Western Emerald, Coomon Pottoo.

Hotel: Casa Passiflora or similar (https://www.hotelesmemorables.com/es/hotel-casa-passiflora/)

Meals included: B, L, D

Toucan Barbet

Day 11: Mirador El Roble

Behind the town of Jardín, the Cordillera rises steeply to 2,800 meters (10,000 feet). Above the town, the landscape is dominated by pristine and secondary high Andean forest, teeming with fascinating and beautiful biodiversity. Our plan for the day involves visiting a local farmhouse run by dedicated campesinos (farmers) who have dedicated their lives to bird and wildlife conservation. They have carefully curated their property to enhance bird-watching opportunities and attract a variety of avian and wildlife species.

During our visit, we will have the chance to explore Antpitta feeding stations and hummingbird feeders, providing excellent opportunities for photography. Additionally, the surrounding forest offers favorable conditions for spotting other bird species and perhaps even glimpsing the elusive Oncilla (Tiger Cat), one of the smallest and most uncommon wild cats in the region.

This unique experience offers a rewarding day of bird watching and wildlife observation in a stunning Andean setting, where nature and conservation efforts are seamlessly intertwined.

Pace: Moderate

Conditions: Birds at feeders around the farmhouse and natural conditions at the forest. To reach the Antpittas feeding stations we have to walk on a muddy forest single track 2800 m (9000 ft)

High chances: Chami Antpitta, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Grey-browed Brush-Finch, Long-tailed Sylph, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Green Jay, Acorn Woodpecker, Green and Black Fruiteater, Speckled Hummingbird, Slaty Brush-Finch, Tiger Cat (Oncilla).

Hotel: Passiflora or similar (https://www.hotelesmemorables.com/es/hotel-casa-passiflora/)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 12: Bambusa and Jardin de Rocas (Rock Garden)

Today, we will explore two exceptional spots near the town of Jardín.

Our first destination is Jardin de Rocas, a local reserve located just five blocks from the town’s main plaza. This reserve takes pride in safeguarding the lekking area of the Andean Cock of the Rock, offering excellent opportunities for capturing the perfect photograph of this iconic bird. Alongside the Cock of the Rock, you may encounter other avian delights, making this location a bird photographer’s paradise.

Next, we will visit Bambusa Farmhouse, just 20 minutes away from the town. Surrounded by secondary growth forest and shade-grown coffee, this farmhouse provides a serene environment for birdwatching and photography around the feeders. Here, you will have the chance to capture a variety of birds in a relaxed setting.

After enjoying our time at Bambusa Farmhouse, we will depart Jardín and drive approximately 4 hours to the vibrant city of Medellín, where we can continue our birdwatching adventure or simply unwind after a rewarding day in the natural beauty of the Andean region.

Pace: Easy

Conditions: Birds at feeders around the farmhouse and then natural conditions at the lekking area, 1600 m (6000 ft)

High chances: Red-bellied Grackle, Andean Cock of the Rock, Crested Ant-Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Green Jay, Streak Sal-tator, Western Emerald, Green Hermit, Scrub Tanager.

Hotel: Medellín – Movich las Lomas (4*) (or similar) near the airport

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 13: Airport transfer day in Rio Negro (serving Medellin) - (Jose Maria Cordova International Airport)

Based on your flight schedule, we will arrange a departure time from the hotel to Rio Negro (Jose Maria Cordova International Airport). The journey from the hotel to the airport typically takes 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

For domestic flights, it’s recommended to arrive at the airport 1.5 hours before departure. For international flights, we suggest arriving 2.5 to 3 hours prior to departure to allow ample time for check-in, security, and other necessary procedures.

Hotel: none

Meals included: B

End of our services.

Colombia # 1 Birding Route 2024

Route of 13-day itinerary for Colombia: # 1 Birding Spot on Planet Earth

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival (Cali) & departure city (Rio Negro/Medellin)
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas: national parks, islands and museums
  • domestic airfare within the destination country (if there is a domestic flight in the itinerary, it’s included)
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • Over 25 years of experience in tourism

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • gratuities to guides, drivers and other personnel

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.