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Colombia is one of the countries which is doing the most to preserve its natural resources. A large part of the country possessing the greatest biodiversity, situated in both hot, jungle regions, and in "páramos", nevados and deserts, is prtotected by the State through the National Park System. At present there are 34 National Parks, 8 Sanctuaries of Flora and Fauna, 2 Natural Reserves and a Unique Natural Area in the System, covering an area of over 34,000 sq. miles, equivalent to 9% of Colombia, managed by the Special Administrative Unit of the National Parks System of the Ministry of the Environment.*

These 45 natural reserves are located throughout Colombia providing a broad choice for ecological tourism: from the hot Guajira on the Caribbean to the thick jungles of the Amazon, and from the Pacific islands to the jungles of Vichada and Guainía on the border with Venezuela.*

The following are the most important Parks in the System:

Tayrona Park*      
        The Tayrona National Park is situated on the Caribbean coast, north-east of Santa Marta, in the state of Magdalena. Covering an area of 37,000 acres of which 7,000 correspond to coastal waters, Tayrona Park has a dry tropical climate with temperatures which vary between 59 an 84 F. The majority of the park is covered by virgin tropical forest and inhabited by over 100 species of mammals, 200 species of birds and 50 species of reptiles.
The paujil, a kind of hen, is often represented in Tayrona gold work and is indigenous to the area, as is the majestic condor which nests in the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Monkeys, squirrels and a variety of snakes also inhabit the park, with which the tourist must co-exist. Abrupt coastlines with cliffs alternate with gentle, beautiful bays and inlets. Coral reefs are an important part of the wonderful underwater world which awaits diving enthusiasts.

Los Katíos National Park*
      The Darién National Reserve in Panama and Los Katíos National Park in Colombia join at the border; the latter covers an area of 227 sq. miles, divided between the states of Chocó and Antioquia. The bi-national objective in the area of the Darien Gap is to research, protect and preserve the region from the environmental impact of building the Panamerican Highway. The region was originally the settlement of the Cuna Indians, who during the Conquest were displaced and forced to migrate towards the regions of Panama and the Chocó by the Katío-Embera Indians, from whom the reserve takes its name.

Corales del Rosario Park*
      The Corales del Rosario Park is 30 miles southwest of Cartagena Bay, an area of 48,000 acres with an average temperature of 27-30 C. Visitors can stay on the islands and go snorkeling or diving, sail and swim.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta*
     The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an area of over 900,000 acres from the coast to coast to the snow-capped peaks of the massif, with all kinds of climate and temperature. This is the highest coastal mountain in the world, and is inhabited by the kogi, arhuaco and arsario communities. Around the base of the mountain there are traces of the vanished culture of the Tayronas.

Los Nevados National Park*
       
The entire coffee region spreads out over the Central Cordillera, the highest of the three cordilleras which cross Colombia. Los Nevados National Park, created in 1974, is situated in this mountainous massif and crosses part of the states of Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío and Tolima. It covers an area of 220 sq. miles, with high points which range from 8,000 to 18,000 ft. above sea-level, and has a variety of climates which include those corresponding to high Andean forest, páramo, and perpetual snow.

Nevado del Huila*
       The Nevado del Huila is another Park on the Central Andes, with an area of 390,000 acres at altitudes between 8,000 and 17,000 ft. above sea level and temperature of 3- 13 C. 

Puracé Park*
          The Puracé Park is 200,000 acres lying between 8,000 and 16,000 ft., with temperatures between 12 C and -2 C, another good place for trekking and for climbing above the snowline.

Iguaque Sanctuary*
         The Iguaque Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna lies 126 miles from Bogotá and 5 miles from Villa de Leyva, at the heart of the state of Boyacá, near the lake of Iguaque, a sacred ceremonial site of the Muiska culture which inhabited the area. According to mythology, Bachué, the goddess of fertility, emerged from this lake hand in hand with a three year-old child. When he grew up they were married and the offspring of this union populated the Earth.
Some time later the original couple submerged themselves in the lake in the form of snakes.
For this reason to climb up to the lake of Iguaque is almost mystical, and in its honor the park preserves the area, which possesses a rich variety of plants, animals and minerals. Typical fauna includes four kinds of deer, and large numbers of birds, oppossums, bats, rabbits, ocelots, squirrels and armadillos. The flora consist of four broad categories: low and thick vegetation, oak forests, cold-climate bushy woodland and the vegetation of the páramo.

Tuparro Park*
      
El Tuparro National Park covers an area od 2,100 sq. miles, situated in the state of Vichada, in the district of Puerto Carreño, on a broad savanna bathed by the Orinoco River. Different types of forest line the water courses. The savannas which cover the major part of the park can be divided into floodable and "High Llano".

Amacayacú Park*
             Situated in the southern sector of the Colombian Amazon, between the Cotuhé River in the north and the Amazon to the south, Amacayacu borders on the west with the Cabimas and Pamaté streams and on the east with the Amacayacu River, which gives its name. The park covers an area of 11,350 sq. miles and has a mean temperature of 81 F. The place is rich in animal and vegetable species: to date nearly 500 species of birds have been recorded, among which there are 11 classes of heron; 150 mammals and two of the four aquatic species of mammals: the Amazon manatí and the bufeo, a freshwater dolphin. There is also a large variety of fish which provide a plentiful food supply for the inhabitants.

Macarena National Park*
           In the Region of the Orinoquía. La Macarena National Park is of notable scientific value since it is the oldest of the cordilleras in the country, and is home to different species of flora and fauna which later dispersed throughout American territory. The great biodiversity of this range of hills is due to its proximity to the Andes, which has permitted many Andean species to emigrate to La Macarena.
Annual mean temperature of the range is 77 F in the lowland areas and 54 F in the highest parts. The rainy season is between April and November and the dry season between December and March.

Utria National Park*
          Located in the state of Chocó, the park covers an area of 210 sq. miles with topographical features such as the Utría Fiord and the Baudó Hills. The temperature at sea-level is 82 F and it is humid, due to the mists off the hills and the fact that the area has one of the highest rainfalls in the world.
The park consists of areas of rain forest, inlets, estuaries, mangrove swamps, coral reefs and 43,000 acres of Pacific coastline. Marine fauna is very diverse, including 105 species of crustaceans and several species of whales which visit the coral reefs, among them the famous hump-baked whales. In addition there are two Indian reserves in the area.

    

* Source: "Colombia" , published by Corporación Nacional de Turismo Colombia. Information provided by Permanent Mission of Colombia to the OAS.

* Source: "Colombia, Turist Guide" , published by Fondo de Promoción Turística de Colombia. Ministerio de Desarrollo Económico, Viceministerio de Turismo. Information provided by Permanent Mission of Colombia to the OAS.

 

 

 

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Updated: 18 March 2008

 

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