As you head southeast away from Bogotá, the jagged Andean terrain soon flattens out as if a giant guillotine dropped down across the mountains, revealing an endless sea of green grasslands. This is Los Llanos (the Plains). Teeming with wildlife, Los Llanos harbors more than 100 species of mammals and more than 700 bird species, including some of the planet's most endangered species.
Until a decade ago much of this area was essentially off-limits to foreigners, but today, with the surrender of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the retreat of drug traffickers and paramilitaries, the area is largely safe again and is quickly opening up to tourism. The biggest attraction here by far is Caño Cristales, the extraordinary multicolored rivers inside the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra de La Macarena, but elsewhere in the region you'll find fascinating archaeological sites, natural wonders and the warmth and earthy humor of llaneros in abundance.
- Caño Cristales Witnessing the extraordinary combination of colors that explodes to life for a few months a year in these remote rivers.
- San José del Guaviare Basing yourself in this lovable provincial town while exploring the surrounding countryside.
- Nueva Tolima Cave Paintings Staring up in wonder at the fascinating messages left for posterity by long-vanished indigenous peoples.
- Parque Nacional Natural El Tuparro Taking an adventurous trip to this truly remote slice of Los Llanos.
- Travelling by river to the Amazon Undertaking the ultimate Colombian adventure: the two-week river journey through Los Llanos to the mighty Amazon River.
When to Go
Apr The height of the dry season; very hot weather, but the best time to see wildlife.
Jun The annual Torneo Internacional del Joropo happens in Villavicencio.
Jul–Nov Caño Cristales takes on its famous red color as its unique plants roar to life.