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Parque Nacional Puracé

A road heads east from Popayán towards Parque Nacional Natural Puracé. After 18 kilometers (11 miles) it forks: one branch goes to La Plata and Garzón, the other to Pitalito.

The largely unpaved La Plata road skirts the northern edge of the national park. At Kilometer 12 is Puracé village (altitude: 2,381 meters / 7,810 ft, population: 5,264) . Almost eleven kilometers (seven miles) beyond is the Cruce de Mina, the turn-off to a sulfur mine and the main ranger station at Pilimbalá (altitude: 3,350 meters/10,988 feet). Continuing along you encounter other attractions of this sector of Parque Nacional Puracé: a condor observation point (Km 25), Laguna de San Rafael (Km 31), Cascada Bedón (Km 35), Termales San Juan (Km 37) and Cascada San Nicolás (Km 41). This road passes by the Crucero a San Andrés de Pisimbalá, the turn-off for Tierradentro, before finally arriving at La Plata, 147 kilometers (88 miles) from Popayán.

The southern fork is paved until Coconuco (alt: 2,481 m/8,138 ft, pop: 6,600), where there are two hot springs: Agua Herviendo and Aguas Tibias. Twenty-four kilometers (14 miles) further along is Paletará. Both villages have good trout fishing and are also access points for Parque Nacional Puracé; from Paletará you can reach Laguna del Buey in the park. The next 62 kilometers (37 miles) of road is very rough until Isnos, near some of the archaeological and natural beauties of the San Agustín region. Twenty-seven kilometers (16 miles) beyond is the Cruce de San Agustín, the crossroads to that village. After another 27 kilometers (16 miles), the main road ends at Pitalito.

Puracé National Park has Andean forests, high Andean forests and páramo. Within its territory are the headwaters of Colombia's mightiest rivers: Cauca, Magdalena, Caquetá and Patía. It is home to over 160 species of birds, spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), mountain tapir or danta de montaña (Tapirus pinchaque) and puma, among other mammals. In the 1990s, the San Diego (California) Zoo helped to reintroduce the Andean condor to the region. A study is presently underway to document the number of orchid species.

Most of the park is resguardo indígena, or indigenous reserve lands, of the Coconuco, part of the Nasa (Páez) nation. Reservations must be made with the national park office, Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia Surandina, in Popayán. The entry fee (nationals $3.50, foreigners $8.50) is paid at Pilimbalá and Termales San Juan.

Here are other activities in and around Parque Nacional Puracé that may be of interest: Termales San Juan, Cascada de Río Bedón,

By Lorraine Caputo

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

18 Oct 2011

VIVA Colombia

Things to do in Parque Nacional Puracé

Termales San Juan

114991Sulfur-laden waters bubble from out of the earth, flowing, rushing to a brook winding across the páramo at 3,200 meter (10,496 feet) altitude. Deep emerald mosses and red lichens carpet the banks. ...
National Park

Volcán Puracé

114992The star of this 803,600-hectare national park is Volcán Puracé. A near-perfect cone peak, it rises 4,760 meters (15,613 feet). A well-defined trail leads from the Pilimbalá ranger station through ...

Cadena Volcánica de Coconuco

114993Like a necklace of rough, uncut jet stones draping the páramo is the Cadena Volcánica de Coconuco. Beginning at Pan de Azúcar, a volcano towering 4,670 meters (15,318 feet), nine more volcanic ...

Cascada de Río Bedón

More or less parallel to the Popayán-La Plata road, which passes along the north edge of Parque Nacional Natural Puracé, is the Bedón River. Just past Kilometer 35 the río plunges from 3,060 ...
National Park

Camino Natural

One of the three park roads, the Camino Natural cuts across the park, from San Sebastián in Cauca to San Agustín in Huila. This pre-Hispanic road takes the average hiker two days to complete, ...

Hot Springs

After days of exploring the natural wonders of Puracé National Park, trekking across the cold, windy páramo, what better way to relax strained muscles and to warm up than to soak in hot springs? ...
Spa/Hot Springs

Trout Fishing

Your fly makes a soft plop as it lands in the crystalline water of Río Aguasilencio—Silent Water River—or one of its tributaries flowing near Coconuco and Paletará. A subtle breeze passes ...
Other Activity
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