Los Nevados National Park is located in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, between 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 snowed volcano of El Ruiz, and a minimum altitude of 2,600 meters (8,530 feet).
This excursion is a magical four-day trek that starts at the Cocora Valley, crosses cloud forests, climbs up to the paramo, skirts the Nevado del Tolima volcano, reaches Cañón hot springs, and finishes back at the Cocora Valley through a different route.
Bring three layers of specialized clothes for cold and wet weather at mountain altitudes between 2000mts (6560Feet) to 5000mts (16400feet), 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.
City of origin – Salento – El Cocora Valley
Early in the morning we will meet at the southern bus terminal in Medellin and take a bus to the town of Salento. There, a traditional Willys jeep will take us to the beautiful Cocora Valley where we will set up our first camp. The rest of the afternoon will be given over to enjoying the landscape, taking pictures and relaxing, given that the trekking will start the next day.
The trip from Medellin to the El Cocora Valley via Salento takes about seven hours by public transport.
Note: Those not embarking from Medellin may travel to Salento by their own means and start the trip from there.
El Cocora Valley – La Primavera
We will break camp in the morning and load the mules that will take our bags to our second campsite. During the beautiful ascent to a place known as La Primavera, each of us will only be carrying a small backpack with our 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 – Termales de Cañón
After breakfast and loading the mules, we will take a beautiful walk through the paramo that surrounds the Nevado del Tolima. The route will take us by Lake El Encanto, El Placer Valley and numerous streams before reaching the surprising Termales de Cañón hot springs. We will camp by the hot springs where we will be able to take a magical hot bath in the waters that descend from the nearby volcano. Wonderful views of Los Nevados National Park will also accompany the bath.
The trekking will take us some five hours and the campsite will be at 4000 meters (13,120 feet).
Termales de Cañón – Las Playas
After a pleasant night by the hot springs and a final bath in the morning, we will start our return walk to Las Playas. We will camp there and will be able to enjoy the views and spend some time with the local peasant community before our last night of camping.
This day’s walk lasts around five hours and the site is at 3,600 meters (11,810 feet).
Las Playas – El Cocora Valley
On our last day in the mountains, we will start the descent that will take us back to El Cocora Valley. The return route is an amazing canyon path where we will be able to clearly observe changes in vegetation in accordance with variations in altitude, temperature and humidity. Once at El Cocora Valley, we will again take a Willys to Salento, one of the most beautiful towns of the Quindío department. At Salento we will enjoy a well-deserved lunch typical of the region before taking the bus back to our city of origin.