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Colombia's National Parks And Reserves


Colombia has 56 national parks and reserves, from the Caribbean Islands to the Amazon jungle, along both coasts and deep into the Llanos. Over 12 percent of the national land and marine territory, representing a total area of 12,602,321 hectares (31,127,733 ac), is protected.


There are five types of protected areas. The largest group, containing 41 reserves, is the Parque Nacional Natural (PNN). (Note: In Colombia, a Parque Nacional is one that belongs to the nation and therefore is not necessarily a wildlife reserve, whereas a Parque Nacional Natural is a protected area.) The 12 Santuario de Flora y Fauna (SFF) preserve sensitive flora and fauna zones. The two Reserva Nacional Natural (RNN) parks are located deep in the Llano plains. The last protected area is Isla de Salamanca, the only Vía Parque (VP).


Almost half of the parks are designated Parque Ecoturísticos (Ecotouristic Parks), providing lodging, tour guides and other infrastructure. Among these are: Los Nevados in the Zona Cafetera; Utría, Malpelo and Gorgona in the Pacific Coast area; Corales del Rosario y de San Bernardo, Isla de Salamanca (adjoining the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta), Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Tayrona and Old Providence McBean Lagoon in the Caribbean Coast and Islands region; Los Flamencos and Macuira in the Guajira; Iguaque and El Cocuy in Eastern Colombia; Puracé, Galeras and Isla de la Carota in Southern Colombia; and Tuparro in the Llanos and Amacayacu near Leticia in the Selva. See the respective chapters for more information on these reserves.


Some of the parks are recognized by international agencies as being unique environments, thus providing them with more protection. Two of the reserves—PNN Los Katíos near the Panamá border and SFF Malpelo off the Pacific Coast—are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO also has recognized some of Colombia’s geography as Biosphere Reserves: the Cinturón Andino (which includes PNN Nevado del Huila, Puracé and Cueva de los Guárachos); El Tuparro (PNN El Tuparro); Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (PNN Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and SFF Los Flamencos);Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (VP Isla de Salamanca and SFF Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta); and Seaflower (encompassing the entire San Andrés archipelago, including PNN Old Providence a McBean Lagoon). As well, almost 460,000 hectares (1,136,200 ac) are Ramsar Wetlands Sites of International Importance. These are the Río Magdalena estuary in SFF Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta; Laguna de la Cocha (SFF Isla de la Carota); Río Baudó delta; Otún Lagoon marshlands in PNN Los Nevados; and PNN Chingaza’s watershed.


Colombia’s National Park Service accepts Colombian and foreign volunteers for one- to six-month-long stints. For more information about volunteering, or about the national parks themselves, visit:


Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: Highlights, Highlights, Colombia's Regions, Highlights, Highlights, Colombia: A Country Of Contrasts, Highlights and Highlights.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

26 Sep 2011

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