Los Nevados National park is one of the best places to plan mind-blowing Colombia treks.
Mountain lovers each have a special reason to come and venture on these trails that pass between the peaks of snow-covered volcanoes and the infinite valleys of frailejones.
- The observation of magnificent animals such as the condor, the mountain tapir, or the spectacled bear.
- The diversity of the landscapes, from lush forests to paramós and glaciers playing hide-and-seek between the clouds.
- The challenge of wanting to climb one of the highest volcanoes in Colombia.
- Go beyond your limits by going away for several days with your backpack and your little legs.
And you, what is your main reason for coming to the Los Nevados National Park?
You must have a lot of questions on your mind right now.
Los Nevados National Park offers many trekking opportunities, and there is little correct information on the internet.
- Do you want to hike to the Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado del Tolima, Nevado Santa Isabel, the Paramillio del Quindío or the Laguna del Otún?
- Can you go without a guide?
- From which city should you leave?
Through this article, you’ll get the answers to all these questions and more.
I made a (failed) attempt without a guide to discover Los Nevados National park in 2016. Then I went back there in 2019 with Adrien and the Montañas Colombianas agency.
Let’s start by comparing these two experiences.
– Pssst, we even have a deal with Montañas Colombianas to offer you 5% on all their treks in Los Nevados! Click here to jump directly to this section.
T. Contents: Los Nevados National Park
Our stories in Los Nevados
Depending on the trek you wish to do in the Los Nevados National Park, it is not mandatory to go with a guide.
This decision is up to you and will depend on your experience in the mountains and the comfort you are looking for.
I fully understand that some travelers want to save the price of a guide and visit the Los Nevados National Park on their own. This is what I wanted to do in 2016.
Story of my solo experience in Los Nevados
Click on the filters below to find out how my solo adventure in Los Nevados went ⬇️⬇️
Trek in Los Nevados on a whim
–“I have just been told about a trek of several days above the Valle del Cocora. Besides, you don’t even need a guide. Are you in?”
I look up from the empanadas I just bought in the main square of Salento and ask with a smile. – “Why not. For when?“
–“In 2 days” answers Thorsten.
We find some information on the internet and then the phone number of a shelter. Unfortunately, this one is full because it’s a 3 days weekend. The famous public holidays of Colombia!
–“Never mind, we’ll go camping.”
After finding the only shop that rents mountain equipment, we return to our hostel to prepare our bags.
They weigh 16 kg. I’m tired just to think about it.
Departure for the Los Nevados National Park
10 am: After a late departure, we finally arrive at the Valle del Cocora. It is already 10 am and there is still 20km of hiking before arriving at the shelter La Primavera.
Knowing that night comes at 6pm, we better hurry.
11 am: The beginning of the trail is easy to find. The ascent begins.
12h30 pm: The trail is used daily by the farmers with their horses, and it rained the previous days. As a result, we have mud up to our knees.
5h00 pm: We are at the “Lost Valley” section because there is no more indication. Fog and rain get acquainted. By chance, we meet a group with their guide. We follow them.
6h00 pm: Sophie asks me when we are arriving. I have no idea. I tell her it’s soon.
7h00 pm: It’s dark, it’s raining, and I stumble every 30 meters walking on my oversized poncho. Sophie hates me.
8h30 pm: We finally see the shelter. We don’t have the energy to set up the tents in the rain. We dream of a bed and a hot soup.
8h40 pm: There is no bed available. Remember, it’s a 3-day weekend. Luckily there is still some soup left.
9h30 pm: We install our floor mats and sleeping bags in the barn and stick all 4 of us together. I hope Sophie won’t try to kill me in my sleep. 🔪
We finally have a bed!
08h00 am: The night was not great. Luckily, some hikers have already left, and we can take their rooms.
08h15 am: I’m buried under 3.5kg of scratchy old blankets. That’s perfect. I sleep.
2h00 pm: Sophie shows us her toes. They have turned blue/black. At least she no longer needs nail polish.
3h00 pm: The sun is shining through the clouds. We profit from it to make a short 20 min walk. Not more than that. We want to be in shape for the return.
4h00 pm: The room is available tonight. The tent will stay in my bag.
Back to Salento
07h00 am: We have learned from our mistakes. Today we are leaving early.
04h00 pm: I finally see the Willys jeeps. Tonight, it’s party time. We’ll dance reggaeton on the tables.
To sum up, I carried a tent for more than 40 km without ever using it, and we were too exhausted to be able to enjoy the park Los Nevados on the second day.
It makes for good stories to tell, but at the time, we were less cheerful.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to explore Los Nevados National park again in September 2019.
This time, I attempted the ascent of the Nevado Santa Isabel.
Story of my trek in Los Nevados with Montañas Colombianas
Click on the filters below to find out how my adventure with a guide in Los Nevados went. ⬇️⬇️
Meeting with Montañas Colombianas
Montañas Colombianas offers many treks in Los Nevados. The most difficult thing is to choose.
Sebastian suggests a 3-day trek from El Cedrál to the Santa Isabel glacier.
It is a rather demanding adventure that allows you to admire Los Nevados National Park’s different ecosystems.
The day before departure, we meet our guide, James, to talk about the trek. He looks like a smiling bear with clothes on.
Day 1: We cross the Andean rainforest.
07h00 am: Departure by jeep from Pereira.
09h00 am: We arrive at El Cedrál. This is where we start the adventure. James gives us our snacks. I have enough dried fruit to last 2 weeks in the woods.
10h30 am: The trail we follow is used by the farmers who live in the area. The vegetation that surrounds us is very dense. I hope that jaguars like dried fruits.
02h30 pm: We had a huge lunch at the La Pastora shelter. Fortunately, we had time to take a little nap on about twenty comfortable cushions in the common room. It is now time to get back on the road.
04h30pm: In the distance, we see a beautiful waterfall. This indicates that we have reached the El Jordán Finca.
05h30pm: We warm our hands with a hot drink coffee + panela while waiting for dinner.
7h30pm: I sleep.
La Laguna del Otún et sa fôret de frailejones
06h00 am: It’s almost time for breakfast. In the meantime, one of the owners shows us around. I start milking cow’s milk. Without success. Adrien is doing a little better. If there is one day the end of the world as in Walking Dead, he will be the one who will take care of the fields. I’ll do the accounting.
10h00 am: We have just left the tropical forest to venture into the mysterious world of the paramós. Strange plants of 2 to 5m, which look like a cross between an artichoke and a sunflower, surround us. These are the famous frailejones.
10h30 am: The clouds are moving away and we can see in the distance some Los Nevados’ peaks such as the Paramillo del Quindío and the Paramillo de Santa Rosa.
11h00 am: We have lunch near the Laguna del Otún. A condor passes over our heads. He lets himself be carried by the draughts without beating his wings once.
3h00 pm: We arrive at the lodging of El Cisne. Our jeep is already there with the rest of our stuff (crampons, shoes, ice pick, helmet).
Day 3: Santa Isabel Glacier and the thermal baths of San Vincente
2h30 am: I’m waking up with a hot cup of coffee in front of my nose. We soon leave for the ascent of Nevado Santa Isabel.
03h30 am: The jeep has dropped us off at the beginning of the trail. We still have 5km left before reaching the summit.
04h30 am: We reach the snow. It’s time to put on the crampons, helmet, and harness. The ascent is not very risky, but these are mandatory safety measures. There are very few guides who are authorized to lead hikers on the glaciers of Los Nevados.
05h30 am: We are at the top! Unfortunately, the sky is cloudy, and we cannot admire the sunrise. The view is still clear, and we can see some peaks, such as the Nevado del Tolima and the Paramillo del Quindío. There is no noise. I find this silence bewitching.
06h00 am: It’s time to descend. On the way back, we discover a beautiful nature that we had not been able to observe because of the darkness. At this altitude, ecosystems change rapidly. We go from snowy summits to a lunar scenery due to the melting of the glacier.
09h00 am: I am in front of a huge plate of rice, plantains, and beans.
10h00 am: No more efforts. It’s the jeep that takes us back to Pereira. On the way, James proposes to us to stop at the hot baths of San Vincente. Our aching muscles need it!
This trek to the Nevado Santa Isabel is one of the most beautiful experiences in Colombia.
The ideal mix of adrenaline, wonder and human adventure.
As you can see, my two experiences in Los Nevados were very different.
I made many mistakes when I left without a guide. Did you find out which ones?
The treks in Los Nevados National Park
You can do dozens of hikes in Los Nevados National Park.
How to choose?
There are different factors to consider.
- Is there a summit or a lake you would like to go to?
- What month of the year would you like to go? (some trails are much muddier during the rainy season)
- Would you like to go with a guide? Do you have a vehicle?
- How fit are you?
- How many days do you have available?
–Do not hesitate to ask Montañas Colombianas directly through our online form.
To help you to choose the ideal trek in the Los Nevados National Park, I will present you the most famous highlights
1# El Nevado Santa Isabel
Santa Isabel is one of the 3 glaciers still present in the Los Nevados National Park.
Depending on the tour you choose, you can stop at the glacier’s border or decide to go to the summit. Few guides have the specialization “glacier,” and the agency will have to provide you with adequate equipment (ice-axe, crampon, helmet, ropes, and harness). Make sure you are well informed before choosing your agency.
The summit of Nevado Santa Isabel peaks at 4,980m.
Although it is necessary to be in good physical shape to reach the summit, there is no technical passage. Moreover, the jeep can take you to the Conejeras site (4100m).
It is therefore the most accessible nevado of the national park.
- City Departure: Pereira (3h), Santa Rosa de Cabal (3h), Manizales (3.5h)
- Los Nevados Park Entrance: Potosí ou El Cedral.
- Elevation: 4980m
Tours to the Nevado Santa Isabel offered by Montañas Colombianas:
Tip: Ask to stop at the thermal baths of San Vincente on the way back.
2# El nevado del Tolima
The Nevado del Tolima is the sexiest volcano in Colombia. A mix of George Clooney, James, and Maluma.
However, this ascent is not for Mr. Everybody. The Tolima summit has to be earned, with quite technical and very steep passages.
There is no road to reach the camp, and the tours are a minimum of 4 days. Also, there is no shelter. So you will have to camp! -Luckily, Montañas Colombianas uses mules to take care of the logistics (tent, food, down).
Get ready to be amazed on this hike in Los Nevados National Park. The easiest path starts from the Valle del Cocora. Just like our 3-day trek to the Nevado Santa Isabel, you will pass through very different ecosystems. The trail goes through the lush rainforest before reaching the paramós. Then the frailejones give way to volcanic rocks, hot springs, and glaciers.
The summit of Nevado del Tolima peaks at 5,220m.
- City departure: Salento ou Ibague.
- Los Nevados Park entrances: Valle del Cocora (from Salento) ou Anzoátegui (from Ibague).
- Elevation: 5220m.
Tours to the Nevado del Tolima offered by Montañas Colombianas:
- Nevado Tolima ascent | Round trip from Valle del Cocora | 4 days | very difficult | See this tour
- Nevado Tolima ascent + Termales de Cañon + Laguna del Otún| Departure from Valle del Cocora and arriving at El Cedrál |7 days | very difficult | See this tour
- Touching the Tolima glacier |Round trip from Valle del Cocora | 3 days | Difficult | see this tour
3# La Laguna del Otún
The laguna del Otún is a beautiful lake at the foot of The Nevado Santa Isabel. Located in the paramós, it is an ideal hike for those who wish to discover this intriguing ecosystem.
The starting point is from El Cedrál, and you can get there by taking a Chiva (local bus) from Pereira. The trip takes 2 hours.
This 2 to 3-day hike is possible without the help of a local agency. It is, however, necessary to have an excellent mountain experience. Read Mark and Xin’s adventures to learn more.
- City departure: Pereira.
- Los Nevados Park entrance: El Cedrál.
- Elevation: 3900 m.
Tours to the Otún Lagoon offered by Montañas Colombianas:
- Laguna del Otún |Round trip from El Cedrál | 2 days | Medium | See this tour
- Nevado Tolima ascent + Termales de Cañon + Laguna del Otún| Departure from Valle del Cocora and arriving at El Cedrál |7 days | very difficult | See this tour
- Laguna del Otún + Santa Isabel (summit)| 3 days | Difficult |See this tour
4# Termales del Cáñon
These are natural hot springs near the Nevado del Tolima.
This is a pleasant area to rest on the third day of your hike in Los Nevados National Park.
However, there is no shelter. You have to get there with everything you need to camp, eat and drink.
- City departure: Salento ou Ibague.
- Lso Nevados park entrance: Valle del Cocora or Juntas.
- Elevation: 4 000 m.
The tours passing through Termales del Cañón and offered by Montañas Colombianas:
5# Paramillio del Quindío
Few articles mention the Paramillo del Quindío.
Because a “Paramillo” is the name given to a Nevado whose glacier has disappeared. It is a kind of ice bald – Yes, it’s a thing. 🥶
It is, however, a wonderful trek with incredible views. The Paramillo del Quindío is located between the Nevados del Tolima, Ruiz, and Santa Isabel, so you will be able to admire their beautiful snowy peaks (depending on the weather).
- City departure: Salento.
- Los Nevados park entrance: Valle del Cocora.
- Elevation: 4 750 m.
Tours leading to the Paramillo del Quindío and offered by Montañas Colombianas:
- Valle del Cocora + Paramillo del Quindío | Medium + | 3 jours | See this tour
6# Le Nevado del Ruiz
With a peak culminating at 5 311m, the Nevado del Ruiz is the highest volcano in Los Nevados National Park.
It is also the most dangerous volcano in Colombia because it is still very active. There were more than 20,000 deaths in 1989.
This volcano is heavily monitored and is closed to the public.
However, a section called the Valle de las Tumbas can be visited by jeep. It is, therefore, an easy activity without any physical effort.
The Nevado El Ruiz, nicknamed Kumanday – beautiful peak – by the natives of the region, offers a lunar spectacle to travelers brave enough to approach it.
It’s up to you to decide whether you prefer to arrange transportation on your own or use the services of an agency.
- City departure: Manizales (2h).
- Los Nevados park entrance: Las Brisas.
- Elevation: 4 300m (Valle de las Tumbas).
Tours to the Nevado del Ruiz offered by Montañas Colombianas:
- Nevado El Ruiz – Valle de las Tumbas | Easy | 1 day | See this tour
Why booking a trek to Los Nevados with Montañas Colombianas
At this point, you should have an idea of the trek you want to do in Los Nevados National Park.
Now you may have a new question in mind: Do I have to hire a guide to do this trek in Los Nevados?
I’ll keep it short.
The answer is yes.
1# The advantages of going with a guide to Los Nevados
At first thought, it is perhaps difficult to appreciate the usefulness of a mountain guide.
After all, you’re never better served than by yourself, right?
It is the skills and knowledge of these guides that will ensure that you enjoy Los Nevados to the fullest.
- Peace of mind: Montañas Colombianas takes care of reservations, logistics, and authorizations.
- Safety: The guides are trained in first aid and can quickly contact Montañas Colombianas if any problems arise.
- Fauna and Flora: The guides have grown up in this region. They have a lot of anecdotes to tell about.
- Cultural exchanges: The work is hard in the mountains, and the families living in Los Nevados have little time to spend with travelers. The guides make it easier to connect and communicate with them.
- Getting to the top of the Nevados del Tolima or Santa Isabel: Without a guide, you cannot go there.
- A lighter bag: Depending on the trek in Los Nevados, Montañas Colombianas will carry some of your equipment by jeep or mules.
2# Why we recommend Montañas Colombianas
Many agencies offer treks in Los Nevados National Park. To be sure to choose the right one, we have talked to some of our local partners.
-“You should talk to Sebastián from Montañas Colombianas!” – they told us.
In less than 20 minutes with him, we were fans.
2 days later we left for an incredible 3-day trek to the Nevado Santa Isabel.
Why we love Montañas Colombianas:
- The co-founders are passionate mountain enthusiasts. They know the risks associated with mountaineering and implement numerous procedures to ensure the safety of their clients.
- The guides are certified WFR (Wilderness First Responder). This is the most advanced rescue training in the world for non-medical personnel.
- It is an organized agency. With Montañas Colombianas, everything works like clockwork 🙂
- Montañas Colombianas help to preserve the Los Nevados National Park. They minimize their environmental impact during the treks and work with the local communities. The agency is Tourcert certified.
- The guides are locals.
- They propose many routes that vary according to the experience and physical fitness of the client.
- It is a legal company with all the necessary authorizations to go to the top of the Nevado del Tolima and Santa Isabel.
- They keep the travelers in small numbers (usually no more than 5 people per group). You can also decide to privatize your group.
- If you wish, Montañas Colombianas will provide you with some of the equipment: helmets, harnesses, crampons, walking sticks, tent, sleeping bag, etc… at no extra cost.
- Some guides speak French or English.
Book your trek and get a 5% discount
We have a partnership with the agency Montañas Colombianas. By using our online form, you get directly:
- 5% discount on all their tours.
Note: The city of Pereira validated the different bio-security protocols implemented by Montañas Colombianas to operate during this complicated period of COVID-19. You can consult them here.
Cancellation conditions (from the client):
+ Between 30 and 16 days before the departure date, Montañas Colombianas will refund 80% of the total value of the trip.
+Between 15 and 9 days before the departure date, Montañas Colombianas will refund 50% of the total value of the trip.
+ Between 8 and 1 days before the departure date, Montañas Colombianas will refund 25% of the total value of the trip.
More information here.
1# Easy steps to book your trek to the Los Nevados National Park
- Click on the “start” button of our form (this is section 2# 🔽).
- Answer a few questions (first name, last name, dates, phone, etc.).
- You will receive an email from us to confirm that your request has been taken into account.
- Wait for Montañas Colombianas to contact you within 24 hours.
- Later, you will then have to pay a 50% deposit to confirm your booking. Payments by credit card and Paypal are allowed.
- Payment of the balance in cash or credit card at least 2 days before the beginning of the trek.
Think to book in advance: To preserve Los Nevados, there is a limited number of visitors per day.
2# Our Online Booking Form
Recommendations for your trek to Los Nevados
Montañas Colombianas will give you all the necessary information to make your trek in Los Nevados go smoothly.
To start getting organized, here are some important things to think about.
1# Weather in Los Nevados National Park
If the sun shows up, you’ll walk around in a T-shirt during the day. On the other hand, you will put on a sweater and a jacket as soon as the night falls.
The paramós are in a very humid area, and the weather can change very quickly. Keep your anorak handy to avoid getting wet.
Here are my little tips to discover Los Nevados in good conditions:
- Tell yourself it’s going to rain. Try to have the equipment to protect you as much as possible from the rain: Gore-tex shoes, a raincoat, protection for your bag.
- If it’s sunny, you must protect yourself. At 4,000 meters above sea level, the skin on your face can quickly smell like burning flesh – Yes, I’m exaggerating a little. Take sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap.
- There is no heating in the shelters. You will warm yourself in the kitchen and under a mountain of old blankets. In the evening, it is between 5°C and -2°C.
- Depending on the month, some trails will be very muddy.
- The best months are from December to February and July – August.
2# the necessary equipment for Los Nevados
The watchword is to keep your bag as light as possible. Let’s see the essentials you’ll need for a trek in Los Nevados National Park.
Click on the filters below to know the equipment needed for Los Nevados ⬇️⬇️
During the hike:
- Comfortable walking shoes (waterproof if possible).
- Thick socks.
- Gaiters (for mud).
- Hiking pants.
- Breathable T-shirt (merino wool).
- Hiking sweatshirt.
- Hiking jacket.
- Walking sticks – Provided by Montañas Colombianas if needed.
- Bag 40 L.
- Waterproof protection for the bag.
- 2 L of water.
- Snacks – Supplied by Montañas Colombianas.
- Sandwich for lunch – Supplied by Montañas Colombianas.
- Sun cream.
In the evening, it is important that you wear dry clothes:
- Thick socks – Yes, you’ll look awful.
- All the necessary equipment to camp if there is no shelter: At the Nevado del Tolima base camp, near the Laguna del Otún and the Termales del Cañón.
You will need specific equipment to climb to the top of the Nevado del Tolima or Santa Isabel.
Montañas Colombianas will provide you with everything you need the day before the ascent.
- Ice axe.
3# Who can do these treks to Los Nevados National Park?
If you decide to go on your own (without a local agency’s help), it is important to have a perfect mountain experience.
The trails are poorly indicated (take a GPS with you), and the fog can set in a few minutes.
Beware also of mountain sickness. Here are some recommendations. For this reason, these activities are not recommended for children under 14 years old.
If you go with Montañas Colombianas, you just need to be in good physical and mental shape. Choose your route according to your abilities, and don’t hesitate to ask the agency for advice.
4# How much does a trek to Los Nevados cost?
Many factors will determine the price of your trek to Los Nevados.
Is this a private tour? Would you like to climb to the top of a Nevado? How many travelers are in the group?
Here is an order of prices for a group of 2 pers:
- 3 days / 2 nights without glacier ascent: approx. 1,000,000 COP/Pers.
- 3 days / 2 nights with glacier ascent: approx. 1,400,000 COP/Pers.
- 5 days / 4 nights with glacier ascent: approx. 1,900,000 COP/Pers.
Prices decrease significantly if you are a little more numerous. For 4 pers:
- 3 days / 2 nights without glacier ascent: approx.800 000 COP/Pers.
- 3 days / 2 nights with glacier ascent: approx. 1,000,000 COP/Pers.
- 5 days / 4 nights with glacier ascent: approx. 1,700,000 COP/Pers.
5# Where to stay overnight in Los Nevados
The shelters in Colombia are not supplied by helicopter. In the Los Nevados National Park park, everything happens thanks to the mules (with their arrieros).
As a result, the rooms are basic, poorly insulated, with single wooden beds, foam mattresses, and scratchy old blankets. Don’t worry; after 6 hours of hiking, you will still sleep like a baby.
The shower is a simple pipe connected to the river. The water is therefore … icy 🙂
This is part of the charm of Los Nevados. And we have never been disappointed by the friendly atmosphere between these 4 pieces of wood planks.
It is complicated to contact a shelter if you don’t go through an agency.
The shelters where you can sleep in Los Nevados:
- La Primavera
- Finca Aquilino
- La Pastora
- El Jordán
- El Cisne
- Buenos Aires
There are also some areas where you will have to camp:
- Termales del Cañón
- Nevado del Tolima Base Camp
- La Laguna del Otún
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