Los Nevados National Park lies in the heart of the country at the apex of the central Andes in Colombia’s Coffee Region. Within its borders there are some eight volcanoes, some extinct and collapsed, others very active such as the historically deadly Nevado del Ruiz or Kumanday (Sleeping Lion). Three have rapidly disappearing glaciers due to climate change. The highest peak (El Ruiz) rises some 5,321 metres (17,162ft) into the sky. The rugged landscape is created by the explosive giants that command this highly volcanic stretch of the Andes, which gave rise to the lush, verdant foliage and fertile soils of the warmer coffee-strewn valleys below.
One of Colombia’s most beautiful parks, Los Nevados protects some 58,300ha of various high-Andean ecosystems, among them Andean cloud forest, high-Andean forest, sub-páramo and páramo – the latter ecosystem is found in only five countries and thought to be the world’s fastest evolving: Colombia is home to over 52% of the world total. The páramo is a world of mist, lakes, dense bush grass and the emblematic, strange frailejones – thick-trunked plants with a head of furry leaves and yellow flowers, betraying their distant links to the common daisy.
The park’s entry points are the basins of the Rivers Quindio, Cardenas, Otun, Toche amongst many others, all featuring the giant sponge-like vegetation that characterises the páramo. Within the forests and across the tundra, diminutive pudu deer, puma, spectacled bear and abundant birdlife can be found, including two rare country endemics which have their strongholds in Los Nevados.