This itinerary is primed for tropical bird viewing in Colombia: the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. You'll start your birding adventure in the town of Minca, where its green dry forest harbors some diverse species, from toucans to trogons and hummingbirds to red-crested woodpeckers. Then, continue towards the higher reaches of the Sierra and the San Lorenzo Ridge— you'll lodge here amidst mountain scenery, with views all the way to the Caribbean Sea.

Highlights

  • View rare endemic bird species around Minca
  • Travel to the premier birding destination of the San Lorenzo Ridge
  • Overnight at a high-altitude lodge built just for birders

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival - Transfer to Minca Minca
Day 2 Birding around Minca and El Dorado Nature Reserve El Dorado Nature Reserve
Day 3 San Lorenzo Ridge & mid-elevations, Sierra Nevada Mountains El Dorado Nature Reserve
Day 4 El Dorado Nature Reserve El Dorado Nature Reserve
Day 5 Birding El Dorado - Transfer to Minca and Santa Marta. Santa Marta
Day 6 Depart Santa Marta  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival - Transfer to Minca

Minca, Colombia
Minca, Colombia

Welcome to the Colombian coast! Upon arrival to the colonial city of Santa Marta (the site of the first Spanish settlement in the country), you'll transfer to the remote town of Minca, located in the foothills of the Sierra de Nevada mountain range. 

This small town was originally colonized as a coffee-growing center and has become a favorite spot for travelers and locals alike. It's popular among travelers who want Caribbean mountain scenery at lower temperatures than those found directly on the coast. After arriving you'll have the afternoon free to relax in your hotel or enjoy a bit of afternoon birding. And what a hotel it is—you'll be staying in treehouse-like eco-hab bungalows nestled in the green jungle blanketing the hillside.

Day 2: Birding around Minca and El Dorado Nature Reserve

Keel-billed toucan, one of many bird species you can spot around Minca
Keel-billed toucan, one of many bird species you can spot around Minca

Today you'll meet with your expert birding guide and begin the exploration. Colombia is world-renowned for its biodiversity, and it's home to 2,000 bird species. This region of the Sierra Nevada is ideal for birding as it is comprised of two distinct types of forest: native dry forest and middle-elevation premontane wet forest.

In and around Minca, you can spot myriad exotic birds such as the shining-green hummingbird, scarlet-fronted parakeet, swallow tanager, bicolored wren, keel-billed toucan, rufous-capped warbler, orange-chinned parakeet, black-chested jay, yellow-legged thrush, streaked saltator, masked tityra, and white wren. If you're lucky, you might glimpse the elusive royal flycatcher. You won't miss them—they sport a colorful headdress ready for Mardi Gras. 

You'll finish the day by making a two-hour trip from Minca up the mountain in a rugged 4x4 to the El Dorado Nature Reserve. Its location at 1,900 meters (6,233 feet) above sea level means you'll have panoramic views of the Sierra Nevadas all the way out to the Caribbean. It's also a premier birding site, and you'll get up close and personal with some exotic feathered friends as they enjoy a sip at the various feeders around the property. You'll overnight in the lodge here.

Day 3: San Lorenzo Ridge & mid-elevations, Sierra Nevada Mountains

The endangered Santa Marta parakeet
The endangered Santa Marta parakeet

The focus today will be on the endemic bird species around Santa Marta. Before first light, you'll drive up to San Lorenzo Ridge and, upon arrival, breakfast on the clearing. The San Lorenzo Ridge is located on the western edge of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and is the best spot to find endemics and near-endemics in this isolated mountain range. The massif was recently selected as having the most irreplaceable concentration of biodiversity in the world by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN). 

Endemic and brightly colored hummingbirds here include the blossomcrown and sabrewing. Other bird species include the Santa Marta bush-tyrant, white-lored warbler, Sierra Nevada brush-finch, yellow-crowned whitestart, black-backed thornbill, and white-tipped quetzal. It's also possible to glimpse the famed and endangered Santa Marta parakeet, which resembles a small green parrot. You might even see birds typical of the Andes Mountains, such as many species of raptors, including hawks, with the occasional sighting of the Andean condor (Colombia's national bird).

Day 4: El Dorado Nature Reserve

Santa Marta Brush-Finch
Santa Marta Brush-Finch

Depending on your interests, and what you did the previous couple of days, you'll have your choice of activities. You can re-visit the forest above or below the lodge, or continue scouring the trails within the reserve itself, looking for any of a number of targets that have eluded you thus far. 

After ascending or descending from the ridge, keep a lookout for raptors circling above, and enjoy sights of the hummingbirds congregating around the lodge feeders. Hopefully, the black-fronted wood-quail and slaty-backed nightingale-thrush will be active at the feeders as well. At night, your group will search for the Santa Marta screech owl around the lodge before or after dinner.

Day 5: Birding El Dorado - Transfer to Minca and Santa Marta.

Colombia is home to many types of hummingbirds
Colombia is home to many types of hummingbirds

This morning you'll enjoy more birding at El Dorado. Because the area is so rich in avian varieties, you'll have even more opportunities to spot different species. Endemic birds like the streak-capped spinetail abound here, as do both the brown-rumped and Santa Marta tapaculos. Also, keep on the lookout for the black-backed thornbill as well as other types of hummingbirds. 

Mid-morning you'll descend from El Dorado back to Minca, birding along the way, before transferring back to Santa Marta. You can spend the evening as you see fit. Perhaps sample the coastal cuisine at one of the city's fine restaurants before strolling the colonial plazas before retiring to your hotel.

Day 6: Depart Santa Marta

City street, Santa Marta
City street, Santa Marta

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! Enjoy your last morning in Santa Marta with a leisurely breakfast and walk along the sea. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your connecting flight home.

Map

Map of Birding Tour of Coastal Colombia - 6 Days
Map of Birding Tour of Coastal Colombia - 6 Days