National Parks
Tour Operators

Snowy mountains on a volcano - Colombia

I take the bus from Honda to Manizales. The bus ride takes 4 hours. When I arrive in Manizales, I go straight to the tourist office in the bus terminal. This is probably one of the best information offices in Colombia. The man who helps me, is super friendly and gives me a lot of information. I even get a few guides and brochures. He is a mega fan of Colombia Fácil and even wants to stick the sticker in his office! So welcomed I take a taxi to Mountain Hostel. In the taxi I'm amazed at the heights and slopes here. Manizales is situated at an altitude of 2150 m. It is a college town and is a very important center for the Colombian coffee production. The day after tomorrow I will do a coffee tour with Hacienda Venecia, but tomorrow I'm going hiking in the National Park Los Nevados.                                                   

National Park Los Nevados has 53800 hectares. The height varies between 4200 and 5321m (13779-17457ft). You can visit the park by car, but you can also go for brisk walks. The park is not only important for the preservation of its fauna and flora, but also for the water it contains. It ensures the supply of over 3 million inhabitants. The springs also provide water to agricultural areas of the Rio Magdalena valley and the valley of Rio Cauca, two of the most productive regions of the country. There used to be six glaciers. Due to global warming, there are only three left: Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado del Tolima and Nevado Santa Isabel. That last one I will climb tomorrow with Ecosistemas.

At 5am I get picked up at Mountain House Hostel. I am used to it already and like to live to the rhythm of Colombians by getting up early. Madrugar they call it here.

Our transportation is composed of two large jeeps. Our group consists of nine tourists, one guide and two drivers. Our guide is called Fernando. Fernando knows basic English and set me as his translator. I feel honoured. The drive to our first stop takes an hour. We drive through the green mountains. Occasionally now and then I see a tree with white leaves. This tree is called Yarumo Blanco. Very nice how this occasionally stands out in the landscape. We also drive along some waterfalls. On top of the largest waterfall is a hostel. Here we go for breakfast. Our breakfast consists of eggs, arepa and hot chocolate. Via this link you can learn a little more about Colombian food.

After breakfast, we jump back in the car of Oscar and drive another 2 hours to the start of our walk. From here we have a beautiful view of the snow-capped Santa Isabel. Waw! Snow in Colombia ... almost unbelievable. I am really looking forward to it and the sun apparently as well because it's a beautiful day! We each get a bamboo cane (believe me, you'll need it) and Fernando advises us not to dress too hot. It gets colder as you rise. It is important that you have warm clothes with you; the weather changes constantly on the move. I was very pleased with the gloves I could borrow from Mountain House. We walk at a good pace with this young group. I walk at the back of the line with Fernando because I want to enjoy every bit of scenery. My camera does not leave my hand. So beautiful it is here. We walk along lagoons and very special trees. These trees are just a cross between a cactus and a palm tree.

They are called Frailejon (Espeletia Pycnophylla). They grow only 2 to 3 cm per year. Some are over 150 years old! We also see a lot of bushes of rosemary (Romero de paramo - Diplostephium schulltzii) and very special white bushes, Lupinus. Here I see vegetation that I've never seen before! There is also the tree of 7 skins (Arbol de 7 Cueros - Polylepis sericea). It is called so because it continually changes bark. On the trunk you can see the different colors.

The climb takes three hours and is quite fierce. But anyone can do it at his own pace. Fernando tells us that a 69-year-old man has climbed after cardiac surgery. On top of the mountain, he called his doctor to tell him the good news. The tears of happiness were in his eyes, said Fernando. His youngest participant was a 7-year-old girl. Next weekend he guides a school group of 12-year-olds to the top. So you see ... it's the mental willpower that takes you upstairs. On the way we see small streams and waterfalls from which we fill our water bottle. Mmmm ... this water is fresh and tasty!

After three hours of walking, we see the splendor of Santa Isabel

I still can not believe I'm standing here in the snow in Colombia with gloves on! Superb right?! The two Colombian participants cannot stand in the snow fast enough. They make an angel in the snow and make a thousand pictures. I also feel like making an angel, but I have no waterproof clothing and decide not to do it. The English boy in our group, suffers from height. He's only 2 days in Colombia and immediately climbed to 4850m (15912ft). No wonder his head is to explode. Together with his girlfriend, he starts his way back while we are just bathing in the afterglow of the snowy landscape! Fernando says that this after 13 years, will be no longer here. The warming of the climate will ensure that disappears this natural beauty! Such a shame!

Around 4pm we are back in the hostel where we enjoy a wonderful meal. Anyone could choose in advance what he wanted. I chose trout. Really yummy! Even the vegetarian balls that the two German girls ordered were delicious! We are all starving and enjoy to the fullest!

After dinner we take the car back to Manizales.

Because this week is the week of friendship and love in Colombia, we are treated extra good. We go to the therminal hotspots!

We visit the Termales de Otoño. These are just 10 minutes from the city. There are three pools. The water comes from the still active volcano Ruiz. The water is lovely and it does not smell to much like lava as other baths. After a few minutes small wounds and mosquito bites starts do begin to sting. I hope they will heal faster because of this. To go under water with your head is not a good idea. The water stings terrible in the eyes. The hot water works wonderfully relaxing for the muscle. There are also some artificial waterfalls where you can stand which are ideal water massages. Delicious! Afterwards you can take a refreshing shower with sweet water.

This is the perfect end of this incredible journey! I'll definitely go back to Manizales, because I want to climb Santa Isabel also from the south side. This trip takes longer, but then you also get to see the beautiful large lagoon. I would definitely go back with Ecosistemas. Everything was perfectly arranged and Fernando was a fantastic guide! They have another very satisfied customer!

1. You need warm clothes because as you rise it gets colder, so better start with little clothes and then put extra on everytime you get a little higher.

2. Do you quickly have problems with heights, take a pill in advance.

3. Take some snacks and a bottle that you can fill with water from the river.

4. Good hiking shoes are a must.

5. Try to take gloves!

Here you can find information about How2getthere Manizales.

Written by Colombia Fácil Researcher Magali - 2014