Colombia has more than 60 different Frailejones trees, unique at the Paramo ecosystem. Frailejones trees grows one centimeter each year, and in some cases only 1 centimeter each 10 years, exist specimens of 10 meters height.
Los Nevados National Park is located in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, between the Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío and Tolima departments. Within the park boundaries one can find three snow-covered volcanoes (Ruiz, Santa Isabel and Tolima), large expanses of paramo forests, lakes and streams, where a diverse array of animal and plant species coexist. The park spans an area of 583 km2 (225 sq mi), with a maximum altitude of 5,321 meters (1,053 feet) above the sea level at the top of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, and a minimum altitude of 2,600 meters (8,530 feet).
The following excursion is a beautiful hiking trip through the Central Mountain Range of the Colombian Andes. It starts on its western side at the Cocora Valley and ends in the city of Ibagué, on the eastern side. The trip ascends through the cloud forests, the moor, and the barren and sandy zones until reaching the Nevado del Tolima summit (5.240 m). Afterwards, we will visit Termales de Cañón (hot springs) before descending through colonial stone trails until Ibagué.
Bring three layers of specialized clothes for cold and wet weather at mountain altitudes from 2000mts (6560 Feet) to 5000mts (16400 feet), where we will face cold temperatures between -6C° (21F°) and 15C° (60F°) plus the occasional wind chill factor. We should also bring protection against sun, wind and rain.
ITINERARY 6 DAYS
City of origin – Salento – Cocora valley
Early in the morning we will meet at the southern bus terminal, where we will take a bus to the beautiful and colorful town of Salento, located in the core coffee region of Colombia, department of Quindío. We will visit the picturesque town and spend the first night in a typical town hotel. We will spend the rest of the afternoon will be for enjoying the landscape, taking pictures and resting before the trek start on the next day. The trip from Medellín to Salento will take 7 hours approximately by bus.
Note: Those not embarking from Medellin may travel to Salento by their own means and start the trip from there.
Salento – Cocora valley – La Primavera
Once we have breakfast, we will take a Jeep Willys typical from the region that will take us to the Cocora valley, 12 Km from Salento. There, we will load the luggage on the mules that will carry it until our first camp site. During the beautiful ascent until La Primavera, each person will only carry a small backpack with personal belongings. Once at La Primavera, we will set up our camp, with a stunning view of the Nevado del Tolima volcano and its surrounding paramos as our backdrop. The walk on Day 2 will last some seven hours and the campsite will be at 3,700 meters (12,140 feet).
La Primavera – El Encanto lake
After having breakfast and loading the mules, we will take a beautiful walk through the paramo, until reaching our second camp site, located besides El Encanto lake. There, we will be able to enjoy stunning views of Nevado del Tolima volcano and the surrounding mountains of Los Nevados National park. During the afternoon, we will pack our climbing equipment for the next day and rest for the summit attempt. The walk will take 2-3 hours aproximately and the camp site will be at 4.000 meters.
El Encanto lake – Nevado del Tolima summit – El Encanto lake
Before the dawn, we will start our ascent to the summit. If the weather permits, we will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the dawn from 5.000 meters. Once on the glacier, we will follow the guide’s instructions to put on the equipment required (crampons, piolets, ropes, harness, etc) to make our journey to the summit. Climbing the glacier will take us some 1.5 hours until the top at 5.240 meters, with astonishing views of the other snowy peaks of Los Nevados National park. After the summit, we will start our descent to our camp site by El Encanto lake where we will enjoy a deserved lunch and rest. The trekking to the top and back will take 10-12 hours approximately.
El Encanto lake – Termales de Cañón hot springs
On this day we will take a beautiful walk to the Termales de Cañón hot springs. During the trail we will pass by El Encanto lake, El Placer valley, and through numerous creeks before reaching the hot springs. Once there, we will set up our camp will be able to take a bath in the hot springs coming down from Nevado del Tolima volcano, while enjoying the magnificent views of Los Nevados National park. The walk will take approximately 3 hours and the camp site will be at 4.000 meters.
Termales de Cañón – Juntas – Ibagué
After a pleasant night by the hot springs and a last bath in the morning, we will start our last day walk, a beautiful descent that will take us to the other side of the mountain range. During the the trail we will cross the spectacular andean paramo that will then become into fog forests to finish at the Juntas village. There, we will take a bus to the city of Ibagué (40 min approximately). At Ibagué we will take another bus to the city of origin. The last day walk will last approximately 8 hours.