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Colombia: Andean Endemic Paradise - Birding Tour

Tour Overview:

The great Andean mountain range splits into three chains as it traverses Colombia, resulting in a very high degree of endemism (70+ endemic bird species). Colombia is blessed with an extensive system of reserves that protect many of these species, and we will visit many of them on this tour. Among the many targets on this tour are numerous spectacular birds including Buffy and Green-bearded Helmetcrests, Yellow-eared Parrot, White-mantled Barbet, Black-and-gold, Gold-ringed, and Multicolored Tanagers, Turquoise Dacnis, and many more.

Upcoming Departures:


5 - 23 March ($9490; single supplement: $410)

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Other Tour Details:

Length: 19 days

Starting City: Bogotá

Ending City: Bogotá

Pace: Intense

Physical Difficulty: Moderate

Focus: Birding

Group size: 8 + 1 leader

Detailed Itinerary

Central Colombia map BOTH PARTS.jpg

Day 1: Bogotá

The tour starts this evening in Bogotá. You will be transferred to a hotel in Colombia’s vibrant capital, where we will spend the first three nights.


Day 2: Sumapaz

Leaving early, we drive into the mountains south of the city to Sumapaz National Park, where beautiful páramo dominates the landscape. We’re after two very localized hummers here, the spectacular Green-bearded Helmetcrest and the odd Bronze-tailed Thornbill, along with Apolinar’s Wren, Bogota Rail, and Pale-bellied Tapaculo. We’ll also see a nice selection of more common high Andean species such as Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Teal, and Andean Duck.


Day 3: Bosque Guajira and Hummingbird Observatory

This morning will see us birding cool cloudforest northeast of Bogota, especially targeting the threatened Brown-breasted Parakeet, a very local endemic. Other birds we will seek include Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Black-collared Jay, Mountain Cacique, Slaty Brushfinch, Blue-backed Conebill, and numerous other species. In the afternoon, we will stop at one of the best set of hummer feeders in all of Colombia, where we will likely get great views of some truly amazing birds including Blue-throated Starfrontlet, both Black-tailed and Green-tailed Trainbearers, Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, and Coppery-bellied Puffleg.


Day 4: Chicaque Park and the Magdalena Valley

We’ll pack up this morning and head west into the Magdalena Valley, stopping along the way in Chicaque Park. Hummingbird feeders here sometimes attract the rare Golden-bellied Startfrontlet, and we'll bird the trails for species including Black Inca, Moustached Brushfinch, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Ash-browed Spinetail, up to four different spefies of chlorospingus, and many more. Continuing our journey, we’ll cross the mighty Magdalena River, the longest river in Colombia. We'll have one night in the scenic Combeima Canyon.


Day 5: Combeima Canyon to Victoria

Combeima Canyon is a great spot for several more endemics: Yellow-headed Brushfinch, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Tolima Blossomcrown, and the shy Tolima Dove. We’ll then drive a few hours north along the base of the Andes, stopping to look for two more endemics, Apical Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Euphonia. We'll spend a single night in a somewhat basic hotel near the village of Victoria.

Day 6: Victoria to Rio Claro

We'll spend the morning birding a superb forest reserve above Victoria, searching for several Colombian endemics including Magdalena Antbird, Sooty Ant-Tanager, White-mantled Barbet, and Beautiful Woodpecker. Later we'll continue north along the Magdalena Valley, making a short stop at a lake where we may see birds like Russet-throated Puffbird, Savanna Hawk, Wattled Jacana, Large-billed Tern, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-headed Caracara, Pied Water-Tyrant, Black-capped Donacobius, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail. We spend one night in a lodge near Rio Claro.

Day 7: Rio Claro to Medellín

A private reserve near Rio Claro has a small colony of the bizarre and unique Oilbird. This bird is in a monotypic family and is a huge draw for casual and world birders alike. We may have to wade through a stream, but it will be well worth it to see these neat birds. Other possible birds near the cave include Barred Puffbird, Bay Wren, Olivaceous Flatbill, Brownish Twistwing,  White-whiskered Puffbird, and various tanagers, oropendolas, woodpeckers, and other species. Later in the morning, we'll bird along the Rio Claro itself, looking for the scarce Gray-cheeked Nunlet, and giving us another chance at the other target endemics of this region that we may have missed over the last few days. We’ll then drive to the city of Medellín, where we spend a single night.

Day 8: La Romera to Jardín

La Romera is a small reserve on the outskirts of Medellín. The stunning Red-bellied Grackle is usually the star bird here, but we’ll also look for Stiles’s Tapaculo and the rare Yellow-headed Manakin. Later, we will drive for several hours to the pleasant mountain town of Jardín, where we will spend two nights. Late in the afternoon we will visit a superb Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, where several males can usually be seen at close range despite being only a few hundred meters from the center of town.

Day 9: Jardín Area

We'll depart early in 4×4 vehicles to the mountains above Jardín. Yellow-eared Parrots are making a comeback here thanks to good local conservation efforts protecting the wax palms they rely on. We’ll head up a rough road early in the morning to their reserve, and should enjoy nice views of them flying to their feeding grounds. We’ll spend the rest of the day birding the forest, searching for some scarce montane birds including White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Powerful Woodpecker, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Andean Pygmy-Owl, and Barred Fruiteater among a slew of more common species.

Day 10: Cauca Valley to Manizales

Leaving Jardín, we’ll stop for an hour or two near the Cauca River to look for the endemic Grayish Piculet, Antioquia Wren, and for another shot at Apical Flycatcher, before driving several hours south to the city of Manizales, where we will spend two nights.

Day 11: Rio Blanco Reserve

This municipal reserve protects the water supply for the nearby city of Manizales. Rangers maintain several antpitta feeding stations near the lodge, and we will stop at all of them during this morning. The antpittas are wild birds and therefore unpredictable, but there are decent chances to see Chestnut-crowned, Brown-banded, Bicolored, and Slate-crowned Antpittas, and occasionally others. Apart from the antpittas, there are plenty of other birds to look for, including Ocellated Tapaculo, Dusky Piha, Grass-green Tanager, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Black-collared Jay, Black-capped Hemispingus, Capped Conebill, Sharpe’s Wren, Golden-headed Quetzal, Flammulated Treehunter, and numerous tanagers. Hummer feeders are also quite good, with Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, and Tourmaline Sunangel among the species that visit them.


Day 12: Hacienda El Bosque to Termales Ruiz

We'll drive up into the mountains to an excellent new reserve on a dairy farm with another set of terrific feeding stations. With luck, we will see both Equatorial Antpitta and the spectacular Crescent-faced Antpitta coming into worms. Other superb Andean species can be found in the forest, including Barred Fruiteater and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan. We’ll then drive higher up into the Andes and spend one night in a remote and beautiful lodge with thermal baths – it’s nice to soak in the pools after a day in the field! The hummingbird feeders are superb, offering some of the best high Andean hummers around. Golden-breasted and Black-thighed Pufflegs, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Great Sapphirewing, Mountain Velvetbreast, and Viridian Metaltail are all regular there. In the afternoon, we’ll drive up to a spot above the lodge where the rare Rufous-fronted Parakeet can sometimes be seen flying over towards their roosting area. 

Day 13: Nevados del Ruiz to Santa Rosa

Early morning around the lodge can be productive for neat birds like Lacrimose and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, Pale-naped and Gray-browed Brushfinches, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Paramo Tapaculo, and more. We’ll then head up to the entrance to Los Nevados National Park at 13,800ft (4200m). Buffy Helmetcrest, an impressive endemic hummingbird, can often be seen here feeding on Espeletia flowers. Other possible species here are Tawny Antpitta, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Grass Wren, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, and Andean Siskin. In the afternoon, we’ll head to lower elevations and drive about three hours to the town of Santa Rosa, where we will spend one night, making a few birding stops en route.


Day 14: Finca Cortaderal to Otún Quimbaya

We’ll take 4×4 vehicles up to some forest patches high above Santa Rosa, where small numbers of the critically endangered Indigo-winged Parrot are still seen regularly. We’ll stake out one of their favored patches for several hours, hoping to get some views of this super-rare bird. We should see a few other species while we wait, possibly including Buff-breasted and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Purple-backed Thornbill, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, and Golden-plumed Parakeet. In the afternoon, we will drive to Otún Quimbaya, a reserve that protects one of the last remaining populations of the endangered Cauca Guan, which has become quite easy to see around the lodge along with the spectacular Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. Note: As of 2023, the lodge is still closed for renovations - if it remains closed, we will spend the night in a hotel in the nearby town of La Florida instead.

Day 15: Otún Quimbaya to Montezuma

We’ll have the full morning to bird around Otún Quimbaya, where we will try to see Hooded Antpitta at a known stakeout, along with Chestnut Wood-Quail, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Crested Ant-Tanager, and numerous tanagers including a chance at the ornate Multicolored Tanager. In the afternoon, we will drive west a few hours and then switch into 4×4 vehicles for the final journey to Montezuma Lodge, where we will spend three nights. This simple lodge is located in the incredibly rich Chocó region, where numerous stunning endemics occur. The lodge has been upgraded in recent years, and now all rooms have private bathrooms.

Days 16-17: Cerro Montezuma and Tatamá National Park

With two full days here, we will bird several different elevational zones, each of which have their own specialties. The middle elevations above the lodge are home to some of Colombia’s most coveted birds including Black-and-gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers, Crested Ant-Tanager, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, and Club-winged Manakin. We will find numerous other species while looking for them, some of which may include Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Sooty-headed Wren, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Glistening-green Tanager, Parker’s Antbird, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, and the newly-described Tatama Tapaculo. One morning we’ll take the 4×4’s all the way to the end of the road for a different set of species, among them Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-Wren, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Beautiful Jay, and Black Solitaire.


Day 18: Return to Bogotá

We should have time for a few more hours of birding this morning before driving to Pereira and catching an afternoon flight to Bogotá, where we will spend the final night.


Day 19: Departure

The tour concludes this morning with transfers to the international airport.

Trip Considerations

PACE: Intense. We try to see as many birds as possible, with special focus on Colombian endemics and regional endemics. Start times will range from 4:00am to 6:00am; several breakfasts and lunches will be taken in the field. Most days will be quite full with relatively little downtime. There is quite a bit of driving required on winding, mountain roads.

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Mostly moderate, with one or two more difficult hikes. Most of the birding is done from flat or only slightly inclined roads and wide tracks. You can expect to walk about 3 to 4 miles (4.8 to 6.4 km) per day on average. One day will involve a steep, predawn hike of around a mile. Parts of three days will be spent at elevations above 11,500ft (3500m), and one night will be spent at that elevation; no difficult walking is required at these high elevation sites.

CLIMATE: Most areas are quite pleasant, but it can be cold (down to about 40°F/5°C) at the highest elevations (4 days), and hot (up to about 93°F/34°C) on a couple of days in the Magdalena Valley. Some rain can be expected.

ACCOMMODATION: Generally good to excellent, but one night will be spent in a rather basic hotel (the best available in the small town), and hotels in Jardin (2 nights) are often noisy, so earplugs are not a bad idea to bring along. Wi-fi is available everywhere, but can be slow, and away from the cities the signal may only be available in a common area and not reach each individual guest room.


PHOTOGRAPHY: This is a birding tour, but it is not bad for casual photography in some places, especially where there are feeders.

Other Information

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Tourist visas are currently not required for citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and EU countries. Canadian citizens are required to pay a reciprocity fee on arrival. Visas are currently only required for a few nationalities, mostly from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Travel requirements are subject to change; if you are unsure, please check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff for help.


WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Tips to drivers and lodge staff; accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night day 18; meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 19; some drinks (most lodges include water and/or juice and tea/coffee; for meals which include no drinks, Tropical Birding will include reasonable non-alcoholic drinks during meals; safe drinking water between meals; one way flight from Pereira to Bogota; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio playback gear from the evening of day 1 to the evening of day 18; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (these transfers may be shared with other tour participants if they are on the same flight); ground transport in appropriate vehicle(s) for the group to all sites in the itinerary; entrance fees to the sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the tour leader; tips for luggage porters in city hotels if you require their services; flights (except for the included flight from Pereira to Bogotá); visa/passport fees; excess luggage charges; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.

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