Los Nevados National Natural Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados) is a national park located in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian

The Los Nevados National Natural Park owes its name to the ice caps that still top some of the Park’s majestic volcanic structures, undoubtedly one of its main attractions. The formations are between 2,600 and 5,321 metres in height, hence the fact that temperatures vary from mild to cold.


The Park‘s most characteristic ecosystem is the paramo, consisting of scrubland, peat marshes, dense shrubs and lakes, although it also presents the supra -paramo, represented by snows, rocks, ash, grassland, peat marshes and shrubland, permanent snows on the peaks of El Ruiz, Santa Isabel andTolima, and the high Andean forest ecosystem, characterised by the presence of trees that mas grow up to 30 metres in height.

The 5,300-metre-high (17,400 ft) volcano Nevado del Ruiz dominates Los Nevados


Water is one of the Park’s main treasures, represented by two main phenomena: on the one hand, the fact that it contains the most important water reserves for the departments of Risaralda, Caldas, Tolima and Quindio, which supply 37 municipalities; and on the other, because the Otun Lake complex, located in the Park, was declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. Furthermore, in the protected area water is regulated for agri-industries in the Magdalena Valley and the vale of the River Cauca, two of the most productive in the country.

The Park comprises 19 watercourses of different dimensions and characteristics and 10 sub-basins. Six of these sub-basins drain the Magdalena hydrographical depression, and the remaining four the River Cauca depression. Such abundance of water is due to two fundamental conditions: on the one hand, the thawing of perpetual snows, which gives’rise to the headwaters of the rivers that flow into the country’s two great inland basins (those of the Cauca and the Magdalena), and on the other, the Cordillera lakes, several of which are glacial in origin. Some, such as the Otun Lake, may correspond to volcanic craters, while others seem to be related to springs or groundwater, resembling wetlands or stretches of shallow water that drain gradually to feed the watercourses in the Fork’s buffer area.

The area is home to 1250 species of vascular plants, 200 bryophytes, 300 lichens and 180 macroscopic fungi.


Protected plant species in the Park include the wax palm, the Colombian pine and the pino romerón.


The Park fauna is characterised by its variety and by the way it has adapted to the climate and heights of the Andean cordilleras.

Prominent among the wildfowl is the bearded helmetcrest, a unique species endemic to the region. There is also a wide variety of parrots, although many other species are also present, notably the crested eagle, the budgerigar, the yellow-eared parrot, the Andean duck, the red partridge, the golden-plumed parakeet, the rufous-fronted parakeet and the true lord of the Park, the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), Colombia’s emblematic species.

The condor is the world’s largest flying bird. Adults may stand 1.30 metres off the ground and attain a wingspan of up to 3.30 metres. The males weigh up to 12 kilos and the females up to 10. The Andean condor’s habitat stretches along the entire length of the great South American cordillera, from western Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego, although its numbers have dropped alarmingly over recent decades and its situation is now critical. They build their nests, shared by adults and young of both sexes, normally on high crags sheltered from the rain, the wind and potential predators.

The condor feeds on carrion. Their hook-shaped beak has a sharp cutting edge. They have short, almost straight claws with which they rip their prey apart and the males, unlike the females, are crested.

Lastly, the Park’s most characteristic mammals include the spectacled bear, the puma, the oncilla, the white-tailed deer, the northern pudu and at least 20 species of bats.


The people who inhabit the vicinity of the Park are warm, hospitable farmers. As regards the families residing in the Park, most of them are fruit of a migratory process that began halfway through the XIX century. Visitors may not only make contact with these people but also sample their typical dishes, purchase their craft products and use their services as guides.


  • Established: 1977
  • Area: 58,300 hectares
  • Altitude: Between 200 and 4,100 metres above sea level
  • Climate: Cold – temperate
  • Average temperature: 5,321 metres above sea level

Glacial activity has shaped the landscape 3,000 m (9,800 ft) above mean sea level, leaving U-shaped valleys and moraines behind.


  • LOCATION: Los Nevados National Natural Park lies in the Cerro Bravo-Cerro Machln volcanic complex, comprising the snow-capped peaks of El Ruiz, Santa Isabel and Tolima, in the heart of the Cordillera Central and in the jurisdictions of Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio and Tolima departments. This gives us an idea of the size of the area and its biological importance.
  • HOW TO GET THERE: The Park opening time is from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, although it remains open until 3:30 in the northern sector. There are two overland routes to the Park:
  • 1.- Access from the Brisas refuge sector 43 kilometres from Manizales on the road to Murillo there is a fork, and the refuge stands one kilometre from this.
  • 2.- Access from the Otun Lake: Take the road from Pereira to El Cedral, where a bridal path begins that takes us to the Otun Lake. The journey lasts between 7 and 9 hours. You may also get there from Santa Rosa de Cabal.
  • WHERE TO EAT: There are eateries and restaurants in the Park hinterland, cafeterias in Brisas, Arenales and El Refugio and a restaurant in the Centro de Visitantes, which allows one admission until 5:00 p.m. Should you take a day trip to the El Ruiz snows, take isotonic drinks, fruit and salt peanuts with you.
  • WHERE TO STAY- The Centro de Visitantes El Cisne is the only authorised accommodation. It has room for 32 people and you may stay until 2:30 pm, There are also two camp sites: Arenales, with room for 178 tents, where you may enter until 4:30 pm, and El Cisne, with room for 95, where you may enter until 2:30 pm.
  • WHERETO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest hospitals and health centres are in Mandates and Villa Maria (Caldas), Salento (Quindlo), Pereira and Santa Rosa de Cabal (Risaralda); and in Ibague, Libano, Santa Isabel and Villa Hermosa (Tolima).
  • HOW LONG TO STAY: You may visit the El Ruiz snows in one day, though for a complete visit we recommend three days and two nights.
  • WHEN TO GO: To avoid the rains, you should visit the Park in January, February, July and August. It i; unadvisable to go in April, May, October and November. Access to the Park in the northern sector is restricted, depending on the activity of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano. Therefore it is advisable to consul the Parques Nacionales and Servicio Geologic® Colombiano websites prior to planning your visit.

To climb to the snows of El Tolima, start from Ibague and go to Juntas, which is as far as you can take a vehicle


There are many activities to enjoy, which suit all tastes, although t engage in them permission is required from National Natural Parks. Applications must be submittec at least three working days in advance.

There is much scope for conventional activities such as fauna and flora observation, photography and video filming, or environmental research and education, but this Park is also ideal for spors enthusiasts, who may enjoy activities like adventure hiking, mountain cycling, ice and rock climbing mountain rescue courses and different forms of mountaineering (expeditions, hiking, trekking arc so on). We recommend the following trails, all of which are suitably signposted and feature information panels:

  • Walking Refugio del Ruiz – Glaciares (4,800 – 5,100 metres above sea level). depending on the level of activity of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano. / Cisne – Mirador de Laguna verde 4,150 – 4,460 masl). / Cisne – Periferia del Centro de Visitantes (4,150 masl). / Conejera.
  • Walking Santa Isabel (4,000 – 4,800 masl). / Laguna Otun – Nevado Santa Isabel (3.95C 4,800 masl). / Bosque del Eden (4,000 masl). / El Cisne – Mirador de laguna Verde cantada – Mosul (4,150-3,800 masl).
  • Mountain cycling Villa Maria – La Cueva- El Cisne (57 kilometres between 1,850 and 4,150 masl). / Brisas El Cisne – Potosl (40 kilometres between 4,050 and 3,959 masl). / Brisas – El Cisne – Potosi — Telarana – Villamaria (97 kilometres between 4,050 and 1,850 masl). / Brisas – Refugio (10 kilometres between 4,050 and 4,800 masl). Brisas – El Cisne – La Cueva – Playa Larga – Villamaria (84 kilometres between 4,050 and 1,850 masl). / Brisas – Murillo (44 kilometres between 4,050 and 3,950 masl), depending on the level of activity of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano.
  • Rock climbing: Rutas sector Chalet Arenales.
  • Ice climbing: Glaciares de Nereidas / Recio / Azufrado / Lagunillas
  • The Park has three vantage points, also ideal for fauna and flora observation: the first, near La Arboleda, offers a magnificent view of the entire mountain region; from the second, La Ye, you may enjoy a superb view of the entire extension of Chingaza Lake; while the third, El Mirador de los Condores is very close to the site where these birds were set free as part of the species’ repopulation programme. With luck, on a clear day, you might be able to observe them.


Besides these circuits, the Park offers many other places of interest, including lakes such as those of El Otun, El Encanto, El Mosquito, and vantage points such as Laguna Verde, Asomadera, La Gazapera and El Tucurrumbi and, above all, the snow-capped volcanoes of B Tolima and Santa Isabel.

  • To climb to the snows of El Tolima, start from Ibague and go to Juntas, which is as far as you can take a vehicle. Then hike to the thermal springs of Canon. You may also make the ascent from Salento, a three-day climb.
  • To visit the Nevado del Ruiz sector, you must be accompanied by a guide authorised by the Park.
  • If you come in your own vehicle, we recommend 4×4 with the headlights on and the windows down for proper ventilation and to avoid mountain sickness. Access depends on the level of activity of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano.

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