Colombia’s Remote Chiribiquete National Park Is Opening to Tourists for the First Time This Month

Jun 2, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

This spring, Departures reported that Colombia’s largest, most biodiverse and most inaccessible national park would open to tourists for the first time this June: But only to those who admire the dramatic jungle landscape from the air.Covering 17,000 square miles formed by distinct biogeographical provinces whose landscapes include Amazon rainforest, sacred tepui tabletop mountains and savanna, Chiribiquete National Park (known in Colombia as Parque Nacional Natural Serranía de Chiribiquete) is home to uncontacted indigenous tribes. It was also one of four sites added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2018.

So why has access to Chiribiquete — which translates as The Maloca of the Jaguar — been granted now?

Photo by GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images.
Photo by GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images.

Iván Macías, director and guide of Colombia Oculta (one of just 19 tour operators that begin tightly controlled flyovers this month), told The Points Guy that, “Besides being the largest national park in Colombia, Chiribiquete is a very sacred site.”

“It’s been highly restricted up until now because five indigenous tribes who don’t have any contact with the outside world live there, and the National Natural Parks System [a government agency] takes great care to look after these groups. It’s also a highly biodiverse sanctuary, an unexplored corner not just in Colombia but in the whole world; it still holds a lot of secrets for humanity.”

Remote, and almost impossible to access by land, Chiribiquete’s airspace has been tightly controlled for many years by the AeroCivil [Civil Aviation Directorate]. Four years ago, tour operators were able to start seeking permission from AeroCivil to fly over the park. But the number of flights escalated quickly, Macías said.

“A plan was never established to control these flyovers, and that concerned the National Natural Parks System, who have the uncontacted tribes’ best interests at heart. Imagine if you were a member of that tribe, who had chosen voluntary isolation, and you suddenly see a plane flying above you. It would be pretty unpleasant. And that is the reason flyovers have been so controlled.”

“AeroCivil declared the park a prohibited parameter for commercial flights and only allowed . army or tourist flyovers — but only once permission has been granted by the National Natural Parks System.”

That body then stepped in to create much-needed regulation, and it took two years to create a plan that authorized flyovers in a controlled, small-scale way. “My company undertook the National Parks-organized course in order to comply with operations, and flyovers are now approved in this way,” he explained.

Photo by GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images.
Photo by GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images.

The first official Chiribiquete National Park flyover — which is already fully booked — takes place on June 8, which Macías is thrilled to guide. Nineteen tour operators have joined forces to offer other flyovers between June 27 and Jan. 31, 2020 — 11 of which are run by Colombia Oculta.

Day-long excursions depart from Bogotá and include an informative talk that highlights the 75,000 cave paintings and petroglyphs found in 60 rock shelters discovered at the foot of the tepuis, thought to be the world’s oldest. The jaguar, a symbol of fertility, prominently features in these depictions. On board the high-wing Cessna flight, selected for the best views possible, visitors can see the tepui table-top mountains: sacred temples that played their part in the creation of the planet, according to the indigenous tribes. Park flyovers last one hour.

Given Chiribiquete’s remote location and tightly monitored airspace, these approved flyovers are your only opportunity to see a sliver of this unexplored and unique landscape.

Feature photo by GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.