A trekking tour in Colombia mountain region, "Los Nevados", referring to Santa Isabel, El Ruiz and El Tolima, volcanoes that are each over 4900 meters (16,076 feet) high and perennially covered in snow and ice. This national park is remarkable also for its variety of ecosystems and rich biodiversity. In fact, just below the harsh frozen environment of its highest peaks Los Nevados has the extremely fertile páramo, a special ecosystem found only in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

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A trekking tour in Colombia mountain region, "Los Nevados", referring to Santa Isabel, El Ruiz and El Tolima, volcanoes that are each over 4900 meters (16,076 feet) high and perennially covered in snow and ice. This national park is remarkable also for its variety of ecosystems and rich biodiversity. In fact, just below the harsh frozen environment of its highest peaks Los Nevados has the extremely fertile páramo, a special ecosystem found only in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Located at elevations of about 3000 to 4000 meters (9840 to 13,120 feet) these humid areas are like sponges, absorbing moisture from the high mountain atmosphere and storing them in succulent plants. The páramo of Los Nevados is home to frailejones (cactus-like plants that are said to resemble friars), rabbits, eagles and Andean condors. The cloud forest of the park begins where the páramo ends, at just under 3000 meters. There the climate remains cool and moist but squat succulents give way to towering moss-covered trees. 

In biodiversity Colombia is first in the world in birds and second in flowers and the cloud forest of Los Nevados explodes with both. The forest is also full of Colombia's national tree. The palma de cera (wax palm) are the tallest palm trees in the world and have wax covered trunks that can grow up to 60 meters (200 feet) long.

In this adventure you traverse Los Nevados from north to south, hiking 41 kilometers (25.5 miles) and crossing three departments. You'll trek through all of the park's different environments and enjoy spectacular sights every step of the way. 

At night you'll be the guest of Colombian families in their farmhouses. This trek will let you experience the beauty and diversity of Los Nevados National Natural Park to the fullest.

Highlights and activities

  • Use mountaineering techniques to climb up Nevado de Santa Isabel (no previous mountaineering experience required).
  • Trek through a páramo, a unique environment of glacial lakes and succulent plants.
  • See all three snowy peaks of Los Nevados: Santa Isabel, El Ruiz and El Tolima.
  • Hike through a cloud forest full of exotic birds and flowers.
  • Sleep in quaint mountain farmhouses and get a taste of Andean farm life.
  • See Valle del Cocora, home of the tallest palm trees in the world.
Leo
Trip offered by Leo Travel expert in Colombia

Trip summary

  • Departure Pereira
  • End Pereira
  • Countries
    • Colombia
  • City
    • Los Nevados
    • Pereira
  • Theme Adventure and trekking
  • Travel style Tailor-made travel
  • Accommodation Standard
  • Flight Excluded
  • Guide Included
  • The tour has met our standards

Detailed itinerary

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  • 1
    Travel through the Coffee Region
    Day 1 Transfer by car

    Your adventure starts at the Pereira airport where you meet your guide. Together you drive on scenic mountain roads through the Coffee Region, passing small towns, coffee plantations and farmlands. After an enjoyable drive through the countryside you arrive in Potosi, a farming area just outside Los Nevados National Park.

    Your hosts for the night are Don Humberto and his family who run Campoalegre, a farm inn at 3930 meters (12,894 feet) above sea level. There you get your first taste of hand-made arepas, farm-fresh cheese and Colombian highlands hospitality.

    After dinner your guide gives you a briefing for the big day ahead and you go to bed early for tomorrow's alpine start.
    Overnight: On Trek.
    Meals included: Lunch, Dinner.

    Visited places:
  • 2
    Climbing Santa Isabel Volcano
    Day 2 Transfer by car

    The day begins with breakfast at 2:30AM. You drive an hour inside Los Nevados National Park to the Nevado de Santa Isabel trailhead at 4000 meters (13,123 feet). The trail ascends immediately and you hike by headlamp light through a highland forest of dwarfed trees, mossy plants and small lagoons. Patches of snow appear as you go higher, accentuating the barren but beautiful landscape with white. 

    The final push up the glacier which starts at 4700 meters (15,420 feet) is the most exciting and most difficult part of the ascent. The high point is at 4,950 meters (16,240 feet), just a few meters below the true summit which is guarded
    by a sheer rock wall.

    Now you need to get back down. 8 to 9 hours after starting you arrive back at the trailhead. Hot food and well deserved rest await you at Campoalegre.
    Overnight: On Trek
    Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    Visited places:
  • 3
    Otun Lake and the Paramo
    Day 3

    Today you start making your way south across Los Nevados National Park. You trek from Campoalegre and follow a wide mountainside trail with sweeping views of meadows and hills full of wild flowers. From the trail you see El Ruiz, the infamous and highly active volcano that killed 25,000 people when it erupted in 1985. After an hour or so you reach Laguna de Otun, a lake fed by the Santa Isabel glacier that you hiked yesterday. The lake sits at 3900 meters (12,795 feet) above sea level and is the source of the Otun River that supplies drinking water to the city of Pereira where you started this adventure.

    Then leave the wide mountainside trail and follow a narrow path that takes you through a garden of exotic succulent plants. This is the beginning of your trek through the páramo. At one point you go through a natural tunnel created by the interlaced branches of gnarled siete cueros (seven skins) trees.

    The toughest part of the day's hike comes near the end as you ascend a steep gully up a mountain before going down to the valley of Berlin where you spend the night at the farmhouse of your host family.

    Overnight: On Trek
    Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    Visited places:
  • 4
    Tolima Volcano and the Cloud Forest Today starts
    Day 4

    Today starts with a challenging ascent to the border of the Risaralda and Quindi o departments. At 4300 meters (14,108 feet) this is the highest point of your trek outside of Nevado de Santa Isabel and from here you can see Nevado del Tolima.

    The rest of the day is a gradual descent and you leave the páramo to enter the cloud forest. In the early afternoon you arrive at the Argentina farm at 3540 meters (11,614 feet). After lunch you hike to a waterfall. After another 10 kilometer (6 mile) day you spend the night back at the Argentina farmhouse where you rack your brain trying to solve Don Javier's highly frustrating puzzle.

    Overnight: On Trek
    Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    Visited places:
  • 5
    The Wax Palm Forest and Cocora Valley
    Day 5 Transfer by car

    As you descend to the lowest part of the cloud forest the tallest trees emerge. The wax palms shoot 60 meters (200 feet) straight into air and loom over the surrounding fog and dense foliage. Orchids and bromeliads are also prevalent in this part of the forest. Your hike takes you across streams and over log bridges. As you near the end of your trek you enter the famous Cocora Valley where farmers have cleared the forest but left the wax palms standing, creating a dramatic
    landscape of tall trees standing in sharp contrast to grassy hills.

    Your trek ends at a restaurant in Cocora Valley at 2300 meters (7546 feet) where you reward yourself with a well-deserved lunch (the specialty is rainbow trout and patacon). Today's 10 kilometers (6 miles) brings your total to 41 kilometers (25.5 miles). You've had the complete Los Nevados experience and can go home with a full camera and a full
    heart.

    After lunch you visit the quaint town of Salento before driving to the Pereira airport.
    Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

    Visited places:
  • Prices and conditions

    Price includes
    • Private transportation (pick up and drop off at the Pereira airport).
    • Accommodations.
    • All meals from lunch of Day 1 to lunch of Day 5.
    • Guiding service.
    • Entrance fees.
    • Mountaineering equipment (harness, rope, crampons) and sleeping bag.
    Price does not include
    • Flights to and from Pereira.
    • Personal trekking gear (backpack, boots, poles).
    • Trail food.
    • Travel insurance.