National Parks: Chingaza
The Chigaza National Park is located just outside of Bogota (about an hour's drive on paved, well cared for roads) in the Department of Cundinamarca. It offers you an opportunity to get up close and personal with nature -- hiking, camping, birding and photography are your best options here.
Established as a National Park in 1977, Chingaza covers about 76,600 hectares. It ranges in elevation from 2,600 feet above sea level (800 meters) to 13,200 feet (4020 meters). At the lower elevations of the park, the climate is rainy and more tropical, while the higher elevations are host to a frigid tundra climate with temperatures reaching below freezing.
Most of the year, the area will receive a great deal of rainfall, with mid-December thru February being the dry season. The area receives so much rainfall that a particular moss has adapted to help hold the water. The Spahagnum moss can hold up to 40 time its weight in water.
The Park is home to the Chuza Dam, which provides Bogota with 80% of its drinking water.
Chingaza was also a sacred place for the Muisca (Chibcha) Indians and offerings of gold and emeralds were made there. There are even remaing Muisca ruins at the Seicha Lake Archeological site.
The Park is also the refuge of several endangered species including the Andean Condor (the National Bird of Colombia), the Spectacled Bear, the Tapir, and the Puma.
If you are a birder, you'll want to note that you can see the following species in the park:
Bogota Rail, Flame-winged Parakeet, Matorral Tapaculo, Rusty-faced Parrot, Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Bearded Helmetcrest, Black-headed Hemispingus, Rufous-browed Conebill and Black-chested Mountain-Tanager.
(UPDATE MARCH 2010) Got an e-mail from an adoptive family that tried to visit Chingaza and found it to be considerably further away that this post suggests. I have heard there are 2 entrances one is much closer. I will investigate further and report back.