Things to Do in Huila Department

Puracé National Natural Park, Huila Department: Address, Puracé National Natural Park Reviews: 4.5/5

Puracé National Natural Park

Puracé National Natural Park
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By Sebas
Good and bad experiences
Jan 2020
If you want to go to the Purace national park, here some useful informations: To get there, there is one bus company at the bus terminal in Popayan. Check out the timetable. When we were there they had only on bus per day very early in the morning (around 5:00). We were told that there are also collectivos from the Parque de Bolivar (or plaza de Bolivar?), which are more frequently. If you want to get to the Purace national park you have to go off the bus at the "Cruze de Las minas". Here, you have to pay the entrance and you get the guide. If you want to stay in the Cabañas tell them here. There are two usual trips that you can do in the national park: 1) The most common on is to see the condors in the morning (when we were there they didn't come) and then to go from this place on to San Juan which is around 15 km on an unpaved road from the park entrance). On the way you will see a Mirador with a nice view on a lagun and you will see plenty of frailejones in the paramo!!! In Sun Juan you will see the termales. This is a very impressive creek influenced by sulfur, which results in a very unique ecosystem. Really great! You wonder why I gave only gave 3 stars? When we were in Sun Juan after visiting the termales our guide told us that the tour was over. The problem was that it was almost 16:00 and we had to walk back more than 15 km because all buses etc. were full (only our guide managed to go back with a car. Close to the village he came then with his motorbike and took some of our group to the park entrance.) When we arrived there, some of the group wanted to go back to Popayan but at this time there was no transport any more... 2) The second trip is up the volcano. You have two options. You can go up by car (if you get one) to the campamento abandonado or you walk all the way up from the park entrance or the cabañas. Here, we had a really nice guide who took care of us. The weather this day was really bad, with a lot of wind and fog. Nevertheless, we managed to go up which was a great experience! 3) Here one more option. If you have plenty of time and you enjoy hiking there are tours of several days where you will see several volcanos. Ask at the park for more information. We stayed in the cabañas or.more precise in a private room, which was actually not a cabaña but next to them. The place of the cabañas is a bit nicer. The private room was neither bad nor exceptional. The Cabañas are close to the Parque entrance (I guess around 1-2 km). Be prepared for cold and hot weather and take sun cream with you!!! To sum it up,.we had good and bad experiences in the national park. Some guides/staff were very nice and helpful others simply.

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153 reviews
Very good

Edmonton118 contributions
A great thing about travelling in Colombia has been discovering the remote and spectacular countryside with its diversity of flora and fauna. After 2 days in Popayan I was ready to experience the Parque Natual de Purace but getting there was presenting problems. I decided to hire a professional guide who provided excellent service and the day was spent care-free enjoying the drive up through several ecosystems to the Parque where we experienced hot springs, condor sightings, waterfalls and a never ending display of impressive vegetation.
The drive takes you high up in the central cordillera of Colombia over some bumpy roads, overlooking incredible landscapes. At the top is a modest parks office where you pay your entrance and go on an orchid walk or a walk to the hot springs. In April, it can rain and it's quite cool so wear boots and take a jacket. You should also take money for lunch.
The guide, Cristian Eduardo Pipamija will also take you to for a soak in the hot springs in nearby Coconco if you like. He speaks just a little English so it will help if you have a moderate level of Spanish to coordinate services and negotiate the price as well as take advantage of his knowledge. Ask for his card at the Information centre by Parque Caldas. Next time I want him to guide us around Macizo while it is still pristine, undiscovered, precious. Please contact me for details as I could go on for pages!
If I were really selfish I would keep this all to myself. The Park is just being discovered by the outside world and it won't stay this unspoiled forever. Take advantage and go now!
Written April 22, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Wels, Austria1,463 contributions
make sure you have a good guide with you (35.000 COP /day for a local indian guide if you speak spanish, guides from Popayan are more expensive) .
have the transport arranged - best is private transport - you can take mini bus from popayan to purace village if you stay there or go directly further towards the termales de san juan.

we hiked about 15 km towards the termales on a rainy day but the scenery was so beautiful it is hard to describe (check out the photos).
reaching the entrance of the termales de san juan we had a short introduction from the guards there - everybody was so welcoming and friendly.
entrance is 20.000 COP or 8,4€ - you walk about 1 km inside and suddenly the forest opens up and gives way to the hot springs - what a beautiful scenery.

after coming back to the office of the park rangers it was raining and we took a rest in their wooden house - they offered us a hot coffee or tea and bcs. there was no vehicle passing by which we could have taken to get back to Purace the park rangers also prepared a lunch for us - we had a real good time with them and left after the lunch by foot.

after some 30 min a bus passed by and we got back to the condor feeding which is on the way to Purace.

after watching the condors and eagles (they are not afraid of people) we had to walk again bcs. there was no transport. another 40 min later a car passed by and took us along to Purace where we stayed at the posada touristica "EL JARDIN DEL CONDOR" (call. 0057-3147150476 or mail
this is the best place to stay when you are in the Purace national park.

evening time you may walk to the police station and you´ll find opposite a small local restaurant where fresh food is prepared just in the same room where you eat - very basic (only native indian who are friendly) but really tasty food for not more then 5.000 COP 2,1€ incl. a fresh fruit juice.

if you want to hile up the volcano make sure you take the 07:00 bus for the mining company which can be joined for just 1.000 COP or 0,42 € per person and it brings you to Pilimbala close to the volcano park entrance.
if you want to climb the volcano make sure you had enough training bcs. the air is quite thin there and there is no such thing as a paved way - it is all steep terrain and hard to walk - we needed 3 hrs to reach to the old military camp (now a radio or phone antenna) and we had to turn around not only because we where really tired but also bcs. the weather changed quite quickly.
on the way down we took another turn to pass the sulfate mine.

once down on the main road again we had to walk even more bcs. there was no transport - after almost an eternity and being very tired we where lucky and the only mini bus a day came to take us the remaining 5 km to Purace.

all the places we visited where extremely beautiful, but beware of the poor transport situation.
ask the inhabitants of Purace or the posada owners for the busses - to my knowledge there are just about 4 per day.
Written November 21, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Popayan, Colombia51 contributions
First things first. If you want to reach the top of the volcano, you have to start very early in the morning by taking a bus that leaves the terminal in Popayan at 5:00 AM.
The reason is that by 11:00 or 12:00 noon, the weather has a tendency to be more challenging, especially the closer you get to the top and the crater. No matter how difficult the hike and climb is, keep telling yourself it is worth the agony. I have traveled to the top 8 times and each time is unique and has its own challenges. This is not a trip for those whose idea of exercise is walking from the fridge to the living room couch. You need to be in decent shape and have your body ready for the 4 to 6 hour hike (Depending on how fast you hike up) from where the bus drops you off to the abandoned police station and then to the top where you might be able to see the crater, again weather permitting. A video record of your trip is the best way to remember the "fun" of your hike and the sensation of finally reaching the top. There is an optional way of renting a 4 wheel drive jeep that will take you as far as the abandoned police station but that is like someone dropping you off at the 20 mile marker of a marathon and you going the rest of the way by yourself. Your choice on that. You should also keep your eyes open in case one of the Condors happens to be flying overhead. They are impressive to see in their natural habitat. Finally, you need to also keep in mind that the last bus back to Popayan will be around 5:00 PM so get your photo shots and be aware of what time it is. The walk back to the road where the bus stops takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. You will definitely sleep well after your day long trip to visit the Volcano called Purace.
Written January 14, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Europe6 contributions
We visited the NP Purace, but we decided not to climb the volcano, as it's steep and long hike. Instead, we did the 15km trail from Termales San Juan to condor viewing point.
It's probably easier to do it with private transportation, but that option is very pricy. So we took the public transportation. There are few bus companies that go to Termales San Juan. One is called Sotracauca and has buses at 5am and 10:30am from bus station. Another one, also from bus station, has a bus at 9:30am. We took Translaplateña bus (minivan), there is one at 6:30 and another at 9:30, starts not from the bus station, but from office not far from Humilladero bridge. The price was 15000COP pp, same for all companies. Ride was 1,5 hours long, although driver said it will be two. The road is terrible, narrow and curvy, and drivers are crazy. No seatbelts too. That might be fun for some (like us), but not necessarily for everyone.
The driver let us out at Termales San Juan. It's not a bus stop, just in front of the ranger's house. We registered and then did the circular hiking trail around the Termales. The path was well made and nicely layed - it goes not only around the water, but has plenty of mini bridges and a viewing point up from the hill. The ranger warned us not to put water on our faces, as it's dangerous.
Next we went back to the road we came by bus. I don't know why it's called hiking trail, as it's not a trail, but the same street as we came by bus. We started from Termales and went back the way we came to condor viewing point (we passed it before by bus). We went for 2km and reached the Mirador Cascada de Bedón. It's 10 meters away from the road. It's not very spectacular - there is a nicer and bigger waterfall seen from the road (after the condor viewing point, going back to Popayan), it has no viewing point, but is well seen.
After that we went for another 5km and reached viewing point of Laguna San Rafael. There is no sing for that, just the ladder to climb up. The sing was used to 'pave' the muddy path up the hill. We uphill hike lasts around 5min, it's not high or far. We didn't see the lake, because it was cloudy. There supposed to be possiblity to hike to the lake, we found a path, but after 50meters the path dissapeared into the field. There are no signs whatsoever (we used gps to orientate), the field was very muddy as well. Not sure if it's possible to reach the lake without the local guide. We didn't have guide, as there were none in offer.
After the unsuccesful try to reach the lake, we stayed back on the road and went towards the condor viewing point. The hike was long, but not hard. The views and the plants around us were very similar and monotonious - nothing changes for 15km. We haven't seen any condors as well.
After we reached the condor viewing point (there is a sing for that) we went back home. We needed 4 hours to do all the hike. There are no bus stops, you just wave any bus/car that passes by you, at any time, at any place of the road. The busses go once in an hour, the last bus is at 5pm. As there are no bus stops, it's not clear where it supposed to be at 5pm - at Termales San Juan, condor viewing point or Purace town, so make sure you're done with your hike early.
All in all, it was a nice and leisury hike, a perfect alternative for those that want to visit the NP Purace, but doesn't want to do the hard volcano climb. My advice would be go to Termales San Juan, do the circular tour there and then go till Cascadas de Bedón and then take the bus back home - you won't miss out much, if you leave out the Laguna San Rafael or condor viewing point (as there are no guarantee that condors will be there and the lake is not accessible). Or, even better, go to Laguna Verde near Pasto - the hike there is less monotonious and shorter and the lake is nicer.
Written February 13, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

New York City, NY6 contributions
(English version below)

Mi viaje a Purace fue algo especial.
El parque está manejando por un grupo indígena. Para ellos la tierra es algo spiritual y poderoso. Mi guía me contó historias tradicionales sobre el Volcán - eso añade a una experiencia única.

Llegue en bus desde Popayan. Madrugue para subir el volcán el mismo día. También tienes el opción de llegar un día anterior y quedar en una cabaña muy linda con chiminea ardiente. (Están parecidos a unas chalets de Suiza! 20k cada uno con 7 camas!)

Baje del bus en cruces de los minas. En los fines de semana allá mismo puedes conseguir guia para ir al volcán, ver cóndores, o ir a algunos aguas termales impresionantes (pero no para bañar.) Porque era viernes temprano no había nadie en la parada del bus así que camine 2 km hasta Pilimbalá donde queda la oficina del parque - una caminata fácil y bella.

En la oficina fue sorprendido que había una restaurante con muchas mesas. Sirven desayuno, almuerzo y cena - comida Colombiano típico - barata y rico.

Después de comer desayuno reuní con mi guía y pasamos el día subiendo el volcán. Desde Pilimbalá en sendero es exigente - tardamos 5 horas subiendo. Pero muy bella el terreno del Páramo. También puedes subir mucho en camión y hacer las última kilómetros de pie.

Fue nublado así que la vista fue limitado pero todavía fue algo increíble y satisfactorio llegar al cráter. Te recomendaría traer mucho comida, bloqueador de sol, chaqueta impermeable, efectivo, y ropa de montaña. Espero volver para explorar otras partes del parque!

Had a great experience in Puracé! The park is run by an indigenous community, who take conservation of what they consider sacred land very seriously. For that reason, you have to hire an indigenous guide to lead you on hikes in the park. (35,000 COP)

My guide, Matías, was great; hearing traditional stories about the god of the volcano definitely added to the experience. As an American, I'm used to hiking solo in US national parks and am not the type to want a guide. But in this case it makes the experience not only one of communing with nature, but of getting to know a little about an ancient and fascinating culture.

I took the 5 AM bus from Popayan, getting off at Cruces de Los Minas. (Just tell the driver Puracé.) On weekends there's usually a guide waiting. It was a Friday so I walked the 2 km up to Pilimbalá, which is basically just a ranger station, restaurant, cluster of Swiss style cabins, and camping area. Was great to get a hot and hearty breakfast before starting my hike.

It's a pretty serious climb from Pilimbalá to the summit of the volcano. I think you start at around 9,000 and climb to 14,100 feet. *you can also get a ride up the first 8 km or so and hike the last few - still challenging but much easier. The last few miles are tough with the elevation, but the trail is full of interesting vegetation, small lakes, vibrant moss, and on a clear day, extraordinary views. It was cloudy the day I went, but we still had some gorgeous views of the undulating countryside for the first couple hours. My guide told folkloric stories about the gods of the volcano and explained some indigenous rituals (in Spanish.) I was struck by how different our lives were, a New Yorker and man from a dwindling but proud indigenous culture... sharing a long hike on a cloudy day.

I'll be back to explore some of the other hikes - including termales San Juan - natural springs in an otherworldly landscape. And to stay a night in one of the cute little cabins with word burning fireplaces. Bunk beds, colorful wool blankets, room for 7 - all of 20k COP! There's also a nice area for tent camping w running water and an outhouse. Plus the restaurant serving 3 meals a day makes it a pretty sweet overnight.

Recommend bringing cash (no cards,) sun block, waterproof jacket, warm layers.
Written December 7, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

5 contributions
We took the 7 am bus from the bus terminal in Popayan with Sotracauca to the aguas termales de San Juan. The bus ride was very expensive (20000 pesos one way) and took more than 2 hours ( very bad road). When we arrived it was raining so heavily that we didn' t get very far and stayed in the hut at the entrance for a few hours. No bus to Popayan passed in this time. In a rain-free period we went to the aguas termales ( 10 min walk to get there, then 20 min circuit). They are really beautiful and interesting.
Orginially we wanted to do the 15 km hike but it wasn' t possible because of the rain. Take good warm clothes with you.
Written July 22, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jeniffer R
Cali, Colombia72 contributions
Despite 5 years ago it used to be a 'guerrilla territory' nowadays is a safe space in which you can enjoy the beauty of remarkable flowers, birds, animals and landscapes from Paramo ecosystem.

This natural park is protected by the indigenous community 'Coconucos' and offers a clear example of human-nature equilibrium. Always remember to hire a local guide from the park ($35.000 COP) because it is easy to get lost due to the characteristics of place. You can also hire transportation if you go on big groups. That option can be helpful to support the locals who live from ecological tours.

On that regard, you must visit: valle de los frailejones, laguna de Bedón, termales de san juan, cascada San Antonio, bebedero de las dantas, Puracé volcano and definitely witness the biggest bird of Latin America in wild state 'Condor de los andes'.

Make sure to take the proper equipment because it is cold!!!! 🌨
Please be responsible with the environment and respectful towards the cultural heritage of the area☺️
Written October 2, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

San Diego, CA14 contributions
An easy driving tour from Popayan. See the Paramo, hot springs (termales), water falls, hike the volcano.

If you speak any minimal Spanish - skip the English guides. You must have a local guide. Unless you want to check off your bird list, skip the condor feeding (visit the San Diego zoo where I live), or better yet go to Patagonia for this. Bring rubber boots (for sale in Popayan for 20,000 - 30,000 COP) to enjoy hiking in the mud!

Other Paramo areas in Columbia are more spectacular but if you are near Popayan, this is a good choice for a day trip. The sulfur springs are quite interesting if a bit cold. Get adventuresome and eat lunch at a local house on the east side of the park (where the ubiquitous north American trout is prepared [Trucha Ahumada]).
Written October 1, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Michael C
Irvine, CA100 contributions
Loved the Condor feeding, Termales San Juan, Cascada Bedón. páramo. There is also a San Rafael lagoon that is hard to reach but probably worth the effort. Important to hire a guide as some of this is protected land.
Written July 24, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bogota, Colombia459 contributions
This is an amazing Paramo (Colombian ecosystem unique) so I recommend highly to go there. Also, if you want to learn about the area you can talk with any guide try to look for that on their website, they guide would be indigenous from Purace. If you want to do it by yourself, here are the instructions: take a bus from the terminal in Popayan (check previously the schedule with coomotor, transhuila 3USD or 4USD) or there is other option with cootransplatense (check the schedule previously 4.4USD- 6.25). Earlier you visit more time you would have, so ask to drop you off in Termales de San Juan kilometer 38, enjoy the view, sounds, odors and weather.
Left the area and take the road going up, you should go until the Kilometer 34 and there is a waterfall, all the places has information on the road so you don’t get confuse. Go up and there is a mirador or look out in the kilometer 31, you are not going to see the name in wood on the road however is on the right site.

During you walk you are going to find rivers across and under the road, also you would find rivers in parallel.

Enjoy the park, use cloth waterproof or rain jacket, proper shoes, sun protector, water and don’t forget to pick up your garbage even though it is fruits peels.

I recommend to be aware about the transport back to Popayan after 5pm you are not going to get public transport.
Written July 2, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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