Caribbean Colombia: Santa Marta & Perija Mountains & the Guajira Desert: Feb 26—Mar 07, 2017

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Departs: Bogota
Tour Limit: 8
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (143.8 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of...

Local Leader

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White-whiskered Spinetail

White-whiskered Spinetail— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


A perfect complement to our Andean trips and one that can be linked to our Bogotá, Eastern Andes, and Magdalena Valley tour. With the addition of an exciting new destination, the Perijá Mountains, a visit to coastal Salamanca National Park, and expanded exploration of the Guajira Peninsula deserts, our route is considerably revised from previous offerings. Expect even more endemics, a tremendous diversity of birds large and small including guans, quetzals, colorful tanagers, and an amazing array of hummingbirds, as well as extraordinarily varied landscapes and stunning mountains.

Martha Harbison writes about the Perijá region of Colombia in Beyond the Coca Curtain: Can Birding Build an Economic Base in Colombia? in the March/April 2016 issue of Audubon magazine. VENT leader Steve Hilty is working for John Myers, the director of Audubon’s Latin American programs, to produce an app that provides information for the stops along the Northern Colombia Birding Trail.

Colombia just gets better each year. With cruise ships calling at the ports of Cartagena and Santa Marta, and travel agencies extolling the country’s virtues with the slogan, “The only risk is wanting to stay,” Colombia’s Caribbean beckons. Indeed, most of the country is back to normal and as safe as anywhere in Latin America, and birders have taken notice. Since our return to Colombia in 2009, when we operated four trips, a flood of birders and birding companies have followed us, discovering the joys of birding in this vibrant and beautiful country. You can be assured that Colombians are very excited to receive foreign visitors, and every bit as excited to show their country and its avian riches to us, as we are to offer this trip. And, for the first time, we are able to offer an exciting new and important destination to our Santa Marta tour. In fact, it is such an important destination that we have changed the name of this tour to reflect this new region—the Perijá Mountains—an area that, for the first time, hosts a new visitor lodge.

For years birders and naturalists have looked longingly at Colombia’s enormous list of birds—the longest in the world—and its enticing endemics—some 70 species found only within its borders, and many more with distributions that barely extend beyond its borders. One of the most endemic-rich sites of all is, ironically, one of the closest for travelers—the Santa Marta Mountains. This lofty, pyramid-shaped mountain range springs up from the shores of the Caribbean to nearly twenty thousand feet, and it is a birder’s dream. Almost 20 species of endemics, gorgeous scenery, and a new and comfortable mountain lodge are situated in a perfect climate zone. There also is a completely different set of birds just a few hours away on the nearby Guajira Peninsula.

White-tailed Starfrontlet

White-tailed Starfrontlet— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


Most of Santa Marta’s endemics are, logically enough, preceded by the name Santa Marta, so there’s a Santa Marta Parakeet, a screech-owl, a foliage-gleaner, an antpitta, a bush-tyrant, a wren, a brush-finch, a warbler, and a tapaculo. Even better, some are actually easy to see, although a few require patience, and maybe a bit of luck. There also is another exciting area nearby: the Perijá Mountains, a narrow, northward extension of Colombia’s Eastern Andes that, for most of its length, forms an international border between Colombia and Venezuela. This mountain range harbors a number of endemics as well. Although close to the Santa Marta Mountains, the Perijás are relatively undeveloped and, until recently, we’ve been unable to visit because there have been no overnight facilities. That has changed, and now we have the opportunity to explore yet another exciting group of endemic birds, as well as spectacular mountain scenery. So, if you’re curious about Colombia, and especially the Caribbean region–and who isn’t—this is the perfect trip. We think you will be pleasantly surprised by the birds, the beauty of the country, and the friendliness of the people. The only risk, really, is wanting to stay.

Lowland and foothill elevation hotels (one night each); all other overnight lodging in cool highlands; singles may not be available in the two highland sites (three nights at each site); moderate pace with no strenuous walking; some midday breaks; most walking on roads or short trails close to a lodge; warm to hot in lowlands, pleasant in mountains; sea level to a little over 10,000 feet; rain unlikely in lowlands, a possibility in highlands.