Colombia is a country that offers all types of vacations for tourists. Here you can find an amazing tropical paradise with soft sand beaches and turquoise water, and at the same time a deep jungle full of animals. For those who would rather spend their days walking through the forests than laying out on the beach, I wrote this article to explain the difference between a rainforest and a cloud forest, and where to find it in Colombia.
The difference between rainforest and cloud forest is in their altitude. Cloud forests are located between 500 and 4000 meters in altitude. Rainforests grow at lower elevation, and as such tend to be hotter.
The first and probably best choice for those who want to explore rainforests in Colombia is a trip to the Amazon river.
The Amazon river crosses three countries: Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. To explore the Amazon river and the rainforest on the Colombian side you will need to get yourself to Leticia.
Leticia is a small city in the Amazonas department, Colombia. It is a place where three countries meet. You can easily visit Brazil and Peru while in Leticia.
To get to Leticia from any big city in Colombia you can do so only by plane. There is no possibility to drive there, since there is no road.
Chances are, on the way to Leticia you will have to do a transfer in Bogota. A flight from Bogota to Leticia will take two hours.
Usually the flight from Bogota, or from somewhere else with a layover in Bogota would cost you around $100.
There are two ways to explore the Amazon river and the rainforest around it.
The first one is the easiest one, but less fun. At Leticia port you can find a day tour (there are a lot of these) that will take you to a few places along the Amazon river, and at the end of the day you will come back to Leticia.
The second is to have a multiple day Amazon trip, during which you will experience, and see many interesting things.
A multiple day Amazon trip will start in Leticia, where you would be picked up and taken by boat to Puerto Narino.
Puerto Narino is a small village with just 6 000 people. It is a well maintained place without vehicles but with clean streets, and cute statues all around.
Puerto Narino will be your base for three days. From which you will take excursions into the rainforest.
A multiple day Amazon trip will definitely stay in your memory for a long time. This part of my Colombian trip was actually one of the most exciting, and interesting.
The cloud forest is one of Colombia’s many treasures. Colombia, along with Ecuador and Peru, has the most diverse cloud forests in the world.
Cloud forests represent just 1% of all forests on the planet. It is a tiny percentage for such an amazing ecosystem. These forests are home to many species of plants, animals, birds.
Cloud forest takes its name from a literal meaning “clouds in the forest”. Usually it looks like clouds lay right atop the tree canopy, and when you visit it is like walking through fog.
You can find cloud forests all around the Andes mountains. Even if you are visiting Bogota, the capital of Colombia, you can easily explore cloud forests. There is Chicaque Natural park 40 minutes away from Bogota. Chicaque Natural park is a cloud forest that you can visit and see for yourself how amazing such a place is.
In Medellin you would be able to explore a few cloud forests around the city. Many people visit them on the outskirts of the city for birdwatching. Besides exploring the forest itself, you can spot many birds, including the endemic Red-bellied Grackle.
There are also a lot of towns around Medellin from where you can explore cloud forests. One of such places is a small town in the Andean mountains called Jardin.
Jardin town is located 4 hours drive from Medellin. You can easily get there by a public bus that leaves Terminal Sur, near the small, local Medellin airport.
Jardin town is a charming place that you might like to visit even if you are not interested in exploring cloud forests. There is quite a lot to do like visiting the cave of Splendor, visiting coffee plantations, and exploring the town itself. However it is a great place to see how diverse and complex cloud forests are.
The best way to explore cloud forests in Jardin like in Medellin would be a birdwatching tour. We did two such tours: one half day tour, and a full day tour.
The full day tour went to the Caldas department, about two hours by off-road jeep. In this forest there are waterfalls everywhere, and the lush greenery is a sight to behold.
Deep in the forest you can spot birds such as antpitta and other rare species.
Another place where you can explore a cloud forest is Minca, a tiny village in the Sierra Nevadas. We visited Minca after spending a week on the beach in Taganga.
Minca is located up in the mountains overlooking Santa Marta city. It is a great place to relax from the crowds and hot weather. Minca has a few trekking routes through the cloud forests that, I am sure, you will enjoy.
Minca’s forests are also homes to many species of birds, so if you are a bird watcher, coming to Minca would be a great decision.
Colombia is a rich country of natural wonders. Whether you want to do a jungle cruise and explore the rainforest, or do a simple trek through the mountains and cloud forests, you will definitely find it in Colombia.
An amazing thing about traveling around Colombia is that you can combine different types of vacations. You can explore the forest in the morning, and visit museums in the capital of Colombia in the afternoon.
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