Galeras Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is an icon of the Nariño department. The Galeras volcano, its main attraction, is one of the most active in the continent.

The Galeras Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a symbol of Narino Department. The Mount Galeras volcano, one of South America’s most active, is the Sanctuary’s main attraction. Some of its vents belch hot gases almost continuously, while other extinct craters bear witness to the mountain’s historical activity.



The area is characterised by the wealth of its waters, which include more than 125 streams, several rivers, four lagoons (Negra, Telpis, Me-jfa and Verde) and numerous small pools, like La Blanca, Sumatambo and LaTrucha, which benefit around 500,000 people living in the Sanctuary’s hinterland.

The main watercourses in the protected areas include the River Cha-guaico and the Barranco, Maragato and Chorrillo rivulets in the northern sector; the streams of Los Saltos, El Medio, El Volcán, El Chilco, Rosales and the River Mijitayo, all tributaries of the River Pasto in the eastern sector; the rivulets of Marquesa, Los Ajos, La Magdalena, La Aguada, Tel-pis, Amaya, La Zaragoza, the River Cariaco, the River Azufral and the Churupamba stream and Las Juntas in the southern zone.

The main watercourses in the protected areas include the River Cha-guaico and the Barranco, Maragato and Chorrillo rivulets in the northern sector; the streams of Los Saltos, El Medio, El Volcán, El Chilco, Rosales and the River Mijitayo, all tributaries of the River Pasto in the eastern sector; the rivulets of Marquesa, Los Ajos, La Magdalena, La Aguada, Tel-pis, Amaya, La Zaragoza, the River Cariaco, the River Azufral and the Churupamba stream and Las Juntas in the southern zone.


The Sanctuary’s main ecosystems consist of cloud forest and high paramo.

The varied topography and climatic conditions (temperature, sunlight, relative humidity and rainfall) of the Sanctuary have allowed the development of a highly diverse flora.

The plant formations in the Sanctuary area include bosque achaparrado or stunted forest and plant communities formed by trees of between four and ten metres’ hi height. An enormous variety of fruit trees and medicinal plants are found in some areas of this woodland.

Meanwhile, the paramo and sub paramo areas provide a habitat for shrubs and other low, woody vegetation. The most representative species, however, is the elegant frailejon or espeletia, and the Sanctuary contains the largest populations of these shrubs in Colombia’s uplands. Because of the extreme climatic conditions in which it lives, with constantly changing daytime temperatures and cold nights, the leaves of espeletia are covered with a layer of fine hairs which help them prevent water loss by direct evaporation from the surface of the leaves and from transpiration.

These ‘friars of the mountains’ protect their internal tissue and stores of water by forming a ruana or terno, a layer formed by layers of dried leaves that do not fall from the trunk (marcescent foliage). Though not all of the leaves are kept, most are, especially in plants living at higher altitudes.

The frailejones (which means ‘friars’ in Spanish) owe their name to their upright bearing and relative large leaves forming a rounded ball like a tonsure at the top of the plant and with their brown, dead leaves covering the trunk. It is said that large frailejones can take on the appearance of a man on foggy days. Perhaps it is the brown-coloured trunk which suggested the appearance of friars.

These populations currently in grave jeopardy when the paramos are extensively fired and ploughed without control as a consequence of the progressive expansion of farming.


Among the animals reported in the Sanctuary are six species of frog, two of which are included in the Libro rojo de anfibios de Colombia (Red List of Amphibians of Colombia).

The wildfowl, meanwhile, includes thirteen species of hummingbirds, nine of which are resident in the area, one is a migratory species and three are rare or accidental visitors. Other common birds are the thrushes, easily recognized by their dark plumage and orange legs and beaks.


It is estimated that the protected area contains around 250 private estates owned by farmers, peasant communities and institutions. Some of these are partially located in the higher areas of the Sanctuary towards the interior, while others lie completely within the area. In the area adjacent to the Sanctuary there are some 40 settlements which operate different productive activities and depend on its water. These settlements are fully committed to conservation in the area.

The biodiversity of Gorgona's ecosystems means the Park has a rich and varied fauna.


  • Established: 1985
  • Area: 7,615 hectares
  • Altitude: Between 1,950 and 4,276 metres above sea level
  • Climate: Cold
  • Average temperature: 3°C AND 13°C


  • LOCATION: The Sanctugry is situated in the south of Colombia in the Nudo de los Pastos region, and it forms part of the Galeras volcano complex, It is located in the higher areas of the municipalities of the Department of Nariño.
  • HOW TO GET THERE: There are three overland routes:
  • 1.- Popayan – Pasto: a 118 kilometre ring road runs around the seven municipalities forming part of the protected area, linking them to the towns of Pasto, La Florida, Consaca, Yacuanquer, Sandona, Tangua and Narino.
  • 2.- From Pasto: the route runs from the Anganoy district (Nido de Aguilas) to the Sanctuary Control and Monitoring Point in the Urcunina sector.
  • 3.- From Pasto: the route leads to the San Felipe settlement in the municipality of Yacuanquer, one hour’s drive from the departmental capital.
  • WHERE TO EAT: There are good restaurants in Pasto. It is important to take the necessary provi-sions on trails, including water and calorie-rich foods which can be acquired in Pasto or in the townships on the way to the Sanctuary.
  • WHERE TO STAY: Visitors can stay at the Sanctuary’s campsite providing they have permission from the National Parte’authority. It is also possible to spend the night in one of the welcoming peasant houses in San Felipe near the Teipis and Laguna Verde sector.
  • WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest clinics are in La Florida, Sandoná, Consaca and Yacuanquer, and the nearest hospital is in Pasto.
  • HOW LONG TO STAY: Two days and one night near Laguna de Teipis and Laguna Verde sector. Setting out early, visitors can walk the Sanctuary’s trails in one day.
  • WHEN TO GO: October and May are the wettest months, and January and July the driest.

The Galeras Fauna and Flora Sanctuary - Volcano Galeras


The Galeras volcano is unquestionably one of Colombia’s most frequently visited eco-tourism destinations, and the neighbourhood boasts various extraordinary beauty spots, like the Teipis, Mejia (Yacuanquer), Negra (Pasto) and Verde lakes, the Tunal waterfall (Consaca), the Chorrera Negra cascade (La Florida), hot springs (Consaca) and natural canyons. Furthermore, in the immediate vicinity of the Galeras volcano fine local handicrafts made from to-quilla straw may de purchased. Visitors should take into account that most of these sites are located in a high risk volcanic activity area; consequently, whenever any change in the volcano’s activity is observed, measures will be taken to prohibit visitors’ access to eco-tourism areas.


The trails explain the importance of the paramo ecosystem to visitors, as well as matters related with conservation and the importance of water, Trails are open to visitors only when volcanic activity is at level four, When open, however, they allow visitors to enjoy the main activities offered by the Sanctuary, including hiking, observation of wild fauna and flora, photography and video filming and environmental research and education.

  • Achichay Trail: Length: 1 km / Degree of difficulty: Moderate / Activities: The trail provides an opportunity to see a variety of mosses, ferns, orchids and begonias, and to watch sparrows and other birds. It provides a spectacular view of Mt. Galera’s cone and active fumaroles. The trail is in the Urcunina sector.
  • Frailejon Trail: Length: 2.1 km / Degree of difficulty: Moderate / Activities: From the trail, visitors may enjoy fine views over the whole of the city of Pasto, the beauty of the Valle de Atriz and a wonderful panorama of the high mountains marking the boundary of Amazonia to the east. They will also see a wide valley of frailejones and the head of the River Mijitayo. The trail is in the Urcunina sector.
  • Teipis Trail: Length: 1.3 km / Degree of difficulty: Moderate / Activities: The main attraction of this trail is the excellent view it affords of the distant mountains and of volcanoes like Chiles, Cumbal and Cotopaxi in Ecuador, as well as wetlands and the stunning Lake Teipis.
  • Jossepe Trail: Length: 1 km / Degree of difficulty: Moderate / Activities: This trail reveals the Andean woodland, waterfall and the relationship of the local community with the Sanctuary in a visit to the private reservations belonging to civil society.

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