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Andean essentials birding trip

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13 days
Availability : All year
Max People : 8

This trip is the best way to get introduced to the amazing Colombian avifauna.
500-600 species on a journey through the Andes mountains of Colombia.

Tour Details

Welcome to Colombia, the birdiest country!

This meticulously curated tour is tailored to provide you with an exceptional birding experience in the Andes region of the country. During this journey, you’ll explore key hotspots for birdwatching in the Eastern, Central, and Western Andes, with a brief exploration of the Cauca inter-Andean valley situated between the Central and Western Cordillera.

The remarkable variety of ecosystems found in this area is the primary reason for the abundance of bird species you can expect to watch an impressive count of approximately 500 species on this birding expedition.

This tour offers an ideal opportunity to acquaint yourself with the captivating avifauna of Colombia. Its leisurely pace and limited long drives ensure a comfortable and accessible experience suitable for various types of birders, irrespective of their expertise levels. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer to birdwatching, this journey promises a memorable encounter with the rich birdlife thriving in the picturesque landscapes of Colombia’s Andean region.

Departure & Return Location

Bogotá, Colombia. El Dorado international airport – Medellín. José María Córdoba international airport with connection to Bogotá for international departures when necessary.

Price Includes

  • Expert birding bilingual tour guide
  • Hotel accomodation from day 0 to day 13
  • 1 domestic flight (extra domestic flight depends on departure airport)
  • Terrestrial transportation: Van/mini bus and 4 WD transportation when required
  • Entrance fees to parks, farms and reserves
  • 3 complete meals, water, snacks and other freebies

Price Excludes

  • Tips
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Mini bar expenses
  • Laundry and/or room service
  • Other items not mentioned above
What to Expect

Colombia stands proud as a megadiverse country, boasting not only unparalleled biodiversity but also a rich tapestry of landscapes and culture. On this captivating journey, you will be immersed in a symphony of experiences, from venturing through mist-laden cloud forests in the morning to delving into the lush embrace of tropical rainforests in the afternoon. Prepare to be mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colorful tanagers and the graceful sight of aquatic birds flourishing amidst the marshes that grace the Cauca river valley.

This thoughtfully designed tour takes you on a captivating adventure, covering some of the most significant locations in the Andes of Colombia. Each moment of this expedition promises to be a remarkable encounter with the astounding natural wonders that have made Colombia a true gem in terms of both biodiversity and captivating landscapes.

  • Several ecosystems: tropical dry forest, rain forest, cloud forest, páramo (moorlands), all levels of andean forests (sub-andean, hig-andean, elfin/dwarf) and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Calm pace and easy-to-walk trails and/or roads.
  • Comfortable and calm lodges near or within the areas of interest.
  • Flexible trip style: small groups, independent, species seekers, couples, families.
  • Modify this trip based on your needs and desires.
  • Physical demand: low to intermediate depending on the trip style you've defined.
  • Nature and culture interpretation by our expert guides.

Day 0Arrive to Cali - Km 18

Upon your arrival in Cali, a friendly company representative will be waiting to greet you at the airport. They will then escort you to your hotel where you will have the chance to meet with the tour guide. To start off our exciting birding journey, we will gather for a warm welcome dinner. During this time, we’ll cover important aspects such as introductions, house rules, and address any questions you may have. Additionally, we’ll go over the logistics for our first day of birding, ensuring that everyone is well-prepared and informed.

Night in: Cali area, 1000/1600 m, 22°C

Day 1Km 18 area

The Km 18 area, nestled on the ridge of the Western Cordillera, holds renown as a cherished birding hotspot. Its popularity stems from the establishment of bird feeders on local farms, leading them to embrace birdwatching as part of their business endeavors. Notably, it is the exclusive habitat where the captivating **Multicolored Tanager** and **Chestnut Wood-quail** can be observed relishing bananas and corn as part of their diet. The region offers an abundance of birding locations, ensuring delightful sightings, while also providing comfortable lodging and delectable food options.

Revered as one of the classic birding hotspots in the area, KM 18 is a haven for bird photographers seeking to capture stunning avian moments. The presence of at least five farms with hummingbird and tanager feeders only enhances the allure of this picturesque location, making it a true paradise for bird enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Night in KM 18 area. 1600 – 2000m. 

Day 2High Anchicayá canyon

The Anchicayá Canyon is renowned as one of Colombia’s top birding hotspots, providing easy access via a paved road and stunning canopy-level views. With the added advantage of hummingbird and tanager feeders, it serves as an ideal location for bird exploration, offering an introduction to the avifauna of the biodiverse Chocó region.

Our day begins with a pleasant walk along the paved road, which once connected to the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura. At higher elevations, Anchicayá hosts several remarkable species, including Tatamá Tapaculo, Grayish Piculet, Crested Ant-tanager, Parker’s Antbird, Chocó Tapaculo, Uniform Treehunter, Club-winged Manakin, Sooty-headed Wren, Glistening-green Tanager.

At 1100 meters elevation, we’ll visit “El Descanso,” a family restaurant known for its dedicated area to observe tanagers and hummingbirds. Here, you can witness the near-endemic Toucan Barbet feeding on bananas and engaging in recent nesting activities. The fruit feeders also attract Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Black-headed Brush-finch, Tricolored Brush-finch (Chocó), Tick-billed Euphonia, and Orange-bellied Euphonia. Among the noteworthy hummingbirds are Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, Empress Brilliant, and Brown Inca.

The Anchicayá Canyon also presents opportunities to spot other remarkable species, including Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Olive Finch, and Russet Antshrike.

Night in KM 18 area

Day 3San Cipriano

After breakfast, we’ll head to the renowned rainforest in the Pacific region. Our destination, San Cipriano, is a picturesque tourist village, attracting both locals and foreigners with its pristine forests and crystal-clear rivers. Managed entirely by the organized community, this town lies within an ethnic territory.

To reach San Cipriano, we won’t take the usual road but instead travel to Cordoba, about a 2-hour drive, where we’ll catch the unique “Brujitas” – old motorbikes attached to wooden platforms with benches, running on train tracks – that will lead us to San Cipriano. Once we arrive, we’ll have some free time to explore the charming town and its surroundings.

Our focus today will be on the trails around San Cipriano, where we’ll encounter species specific to the lowland and incredibly humid ecosystems. With luck, we may spot some rare birds, including White-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, the vibrant Scarlet-and-white Tanager (near-endemic), Rufous-winged Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Rose-faced Parrot, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Black-chested and White-necked Puffbirds, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Red-capped Manakin, Lemon-spectacled Tanager (NE), Five-colored Barbet (NE), Lanceolated Monklet, Black-tipped Cotinga, as well as Spotted, Bicolored, and Ocellated Antbirds, and Sapayoa, among others.

As the day draws to a close, we’ll have the opportunity to search for the elusive Ocellated Poorwill and Crested Owl.

Night in the Km 18 area

Day 4Sonso lagoon forest. Drive to Montezuma

This morning, we’ll venture to the Sonso lagoon, a public nature reserve adjacent to Buga city. Our goal is to spot local specialties in the tropical dry forest patches and along the Cauca river. If the area has experienced sufficient rainfall, certain sections will flood, attracting a variety of aquatic birds. Keep an eye out for fascinating species such as the (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, Cinereous Becard, Dwarf Cuckoo, Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, and more, including the occasional Horned Screamer.

After lunch, we’ll set off for the renowned Tatamá National Park in the Western Andes, approximately a 3.5-hour drive away. Upon reaching Pueblo Rico, we’ll switch to 4WD vehicles for the final 40 minutes of our journey. Arriving in the mid or late afternoon, we’ll have some time to explore the hummingbird feeders, which are home to the first endemics of the Chocó region.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 5Montezuma High-mid section. 2440 - 1800m

Certainly, Montezuma stands out as one of the finest birding locations in the Colombian Andes. Its prime position on the north side of Tatamá National Park, straddling the transition between the Chocó and Tropical Andes bioregions, makes it a true hotspot for birdwatching and nature enthusiasts alike. Over the next 2 full days and one-half morning, we’ll set our sights on encountering the remarkable avian gems that grace Tatamá NP.

Within the Montezuma hill, which lies in the Tatamá NP, we’ll focus on exploring the best spots in the higher altitudinal sections. Our journey will take us to 2200 and 2400 meters above sea level, where we’ll find two feeders that attract a diverse array of species.

The endemics we hope to spot include the Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren, and the Gold-ringed Tanager, the latter being a symbol of Colombia with its exceptionally restricted range.

Among the other noteworthy species present are the (NE) Tanager Finch, (NE) Black Solitaire, (NE) Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, (NE) Orange-breasted Fruiteater, (NE) Beautiful Jay, (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, (NE) Yellow-breasted Antpitta, (NE) Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, (NE) Purplish-Mantled and Glistening-green Tanagers, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Golden-headed Quetzal, and Ochre-breasted Antpitta.

The diverse Furnarids are well-represented here, featuring Olivaceous, Spotted, and Montane Woodcreepers, along with Brow-billed and the elusive Greater Scythebill. Additionally, we often spot four Fruiteater species: Green-and-black, Barred, Scaled, and the Chocó-endemic Orange-breasted Fruiteater.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 6Montezuma mid-lower section. 2000-1350 m

This day will start at the mid-level, considered the most biodiverse of the three sections. Here we’ll have chances to see the endemic Black-and-gold Tanager, Olivaceous Piha, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Glistening-green Tanager, (NE) Dusky Chlorospingus, (NE) Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Crested Quetzal, Olive Finch, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Tricolored Brush-Finch, Yellow-collared, and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias and Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant. Other interesting birds are Barred Hawk, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and some interesting antbirds as (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, Zeledon’s Antbird, (E) Parker’s Antbird, Slaty, Rufous-rumped, and Yellow-breasted Antwrens.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 7Montezuma lower section. Drive to Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary.

This morning we will explore the lower section of the Montezuma hill in search of missing targets and after lunch, we will head to the Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary which lies on the west slope of the Central Andes. Driving time 3.5 hrs. On the road and depending on our time, we will have some stops looking for Torrent Duck, the endemic Turquoise Dacnis, and White-capped Dipper.

Night: La Florida village. 1800 meters

Day 8Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary

Otún-Quimbaya, a renowned location with a rich birding tradition, is a small yet significant national park. It serves as a prime habitat for a variety of restricted birds, including the endemics Cauca Guan, Crested Ant-tanager, and Stile’s Tapaculo. Noteworthy species such as Hooded Antpitta, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Torrent Duck, White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Wattled Guan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Tyrannine, and Black-banded Woodcreeper can also be found here. During migration periods, several warblers grace the park with their presence.

Following a satisfying lunch, we will journey to the city of Manizales, where we’ll explore the lower elevations along the Los Termales road.

Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 9Río Blanco reserve

Río Blanco, one of Colombia’s oldest and most renowned birding hotspots, holds a special place in birdwatching history. It was the pioneer in establishing antpitta feeders, attracting at least four species: the (E) Brown-banded, Chestnut-crowned, Slate-crowned, and (NE) Bicolored antpittas. With strategic placements close to the lodge and main road, these feeders offer exceptional photographic opportunities.

In addition to the antpittas, hummingbird feeders draw in a colorful array of Andean species, including the Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Bronzy Inca, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph,  White-bellied Woodstar, and Fawn-breasted Brilliant, among others. Notably, the garden at the main entrance to the reserve hosts the Andean Emerald, Green-fronted Lancebill, and (NE) Choco Daggerbill.

The tanager feeders are frequented by Buff-breasted and Blue-winged Mountain-tanagers, Slaty Brush-finch, Masked Flowerpiercer, and other colorful species.

While walking along the road, birdwatchers may catch glimpses of highly sought-after rarities like the Masked Saltator, Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Tanager, Golden-plummed Parakeet, Montane, Tyrannine, and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Rusty-faced Parrot, Dusky Piha, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-hooded Tanager, Black-collared Jay, and Yellow-vented Woodpecker, and numerous other bird species, promising us an unforgettable and fulfilling birdwatching experience.

Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 10Hacienda El Bosque and Paramo del Ruiz

On this day, we’ll venture further up into the mountains, reaching an elevation of 10,000 feet to reach Hacienda El Bosque, a significant cattle farm that has been instrumental in preserving high-Andean forests and páramo for many years. This farm is particularly renowned for being the sole location where the near-endemic and elusive Crescent-faced Antpitta can be observed visiting a feeder station.

During this excursion, we’ll have the opportunity to spot a diverse array of captivating birds, including the Equatorial Antpitta, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and Sword-billed Hummingbird. The majestic Gray-breasted Mountain-toucan, known to visit the feeders in groups of up to six individuals, will undoubtedly be a highlight of the day.

Other enchanting species, such as the Andean Siskin, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Guan, and Hooded Mountain-Tanager, can also be observed near the feeders. We’ll be keeping an eye out for the elusive Blackish Tapaculo, the charming Paramo Seedeater, and the striking Crimson-mantled Woodpecker as well.

After a delicious lunch at Hacienda El Bosque’s “Bosco” restaurant, we’ll ascend even higher to the first patches of dwarf or elfin forests. There, we’ll search for the Golden-crowned Tanager, (NE) Black-backed Bush-tanager, Viridian Metaltail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Paramo Tapaculo, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, and other fascinating species.


Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 11Paramo del Ruiz and Los Termales road - drive to Riosucio

Today, we embark on an exciting exploration of Los Nevados National Park, situated in the highest part of the Colombian Central Andes. As we traverse the park, our journey will lead us through patches of forest, unveiling the picturesque Paramo, an enchanting montane ecosystem adorned with espeletia (frailejon) and grasses. With elevations soaring up to 4100 meters (13,400 feet), we must remain cautious of the chilly temperatures and take necessary precautions against altitude sickness.

At the upper elevation of 4100 meters, our focus will be on specific highland targets, namely the endemics Buffy Helmetcrest and Rufous-fronted Parakeet. These unique species are just the beginning of the remarkable bird encounters that await us.

Joining these extraordinary species, we anticipate sightings of the White-chinned Thistletail, Andean Tit-spinetail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Andean Condor, Ash-coloured Tapaculo, Andean Pygmy-owl, Mountain Avocetbill, and Black-backed Bush-Tanager.

Los Nevados National Park offers a remarkable opportunity to witness the rich biodiversity of birdlife thriving in this breathtaking natural sanctuary.

In the mid-afternoon, we’ll make our way back to the Western Andes, specifically to the town of Riosucio, where we’ll get ready for the next day’s adventure up in the mountains.

Night: Riosucio. 2000 meters

Day 12Riosucio - Jardín road: Mirador El Roble and the Yellow-eared Parrot reserve

This morning, we will depart early to visit El Roble Viewpoint, which is a must-visit location today due to the opportunities it offers to see the endemic Chami Antpitta. This bird frequents the feeding stations where it indulges in the daily supply of earthworms. Around the house of the family who owns the feeders, we can also spot the constant presence of Yellow-eared Parrots. Here, you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the company of hummingbirds typical of this habitat. Shortly after, we will head to the Yellow-eared Parrot reserve.

This reserve gained fame in 1998 when it was discovered to be home to the largest population of the endangered and endemic Yellow-eared Parrot. To this day, it remains the best place for observing these magnificent parrots. Our chances of sightings on this day also include the Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, White-rumped Hawk, Purple-backed Thornbill, Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Spillman’s Tapaculo, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Striped, and Flammulated Treehunters.

Night: Jardín. 1950m. 18°C

Day 13Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek and the Cauca river's tropical dry forest.

This morning, we’ll head to the renowned Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek on the outskirts of Jardin. During our visit, we’ll have the chance to witness the endemic Red-bellied Grackle and Crested Ant-tanager in their natural habitat. After enjoying this experience, we’ll begin our journey towards the city of Medellin. However, along the way, we’ll make an obligatory stop in some patches of the highly endangered tropical dry forest, which harbor four endemic species: the (E) Antioquia Wren, (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, and (E) Colombian Chachalaca.

This fragmented forest also serves as a habitat for other distinctive bird species, including the (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Jet Antbird, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Moustached Puffbird, Spectacled Parrotlet, Cinereous Becard, Striped Cuckoo, and Black-striped Sparrow, among many others.

Driving times: to Medellin: 1.5 hrs. To the Airport 3 hrs
Optional night: Medellín: 1500m. 22°C


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