Wedged between the peaks and valleys of the snow-speckled Andes and the sweltering lowlands of tropical Amazonia, los llanos is a yawning expanse of prairies and wetlands extending across the border into Venezuela and draining into the Orinoco basin. This is Colombia profunda, sparsely populated and strikingly traditional, so off the beaten track that the only places for visitors to stay are modest farmsteads and guesthouses set within vast cattle farms, (hatos), where the cowboy lifestyle still reigns supreme. Only now is this alluring, welcoming region opening up to adventurous visitors.
The tropical prairies, which morph into shimmering wetlands after rain, seethe with a breath-taking profusion of wildlife, feeding and breeding in the myriad of waterways, clinging to the branches of the trees in the patches of dry forest which groan throughout the year with an abundance of exotic birds. Monkeys squabble in the canopy, alligators sprawl on the watery beaches, giant capybara roam cross the paddy fields, anacondas slither silently across the trails, giant storks elegantly pick their way across the pasture. All this trusting wildlife happily co-exists alongside hatos’ humpy zebu cattle.
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Where to go when - our guide to The Colombian llanos
The weather in The Colombian llanos is wide and varied
This off-the-beaten track destination is Colombia’s answer to the Wild West, with cattle ranches, wide open plains and a traditional farming way of life. The wet season in the Llanos is May - September, during which the plains flood up to one metre deep. Heavy rains mean the grasslands and forest transform into temporary wetlands which attract roughly 70 species of water birds. Most wildlife is harder to spot at this time, but kayaking through flooded waterways is spectacular, particularly at sunset.
November - April is the drier season, when thousands of birds flock to the limited watering holes. You’ll easily spot ducks, herons, ibisesa and giant storks, plus you may also spy the capybara, anacondas, alligators and monkeys which populate this region. September - March offer the best climate and conditions for visitors.
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Real Latin America Experts
Ben Line - Travel Expert
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.
Millie Davies - Travel Expert
Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.
Lina Fuller - Travel Expert
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.