The savannahs and grasslands of Los Llanos stretch out endlessly across the eastern plains of Colombia, the sea of green sprinkled with wetlands, forests and palm groves that host an exceptional diversity of wildlife, from capybara to caiman, rare pink river dolphin and jaguar. Isolated ranches dot the terrain, home to the llanero cowboys whose culture has remained unchanged for centuries.
Out of bounds for many years, Los Llanos is now emerging from its hibernation but remains very much off the radar for most visitors to Colombia. Its vast empty plains teem with wildlife, with over 100 species of mammal and over 350 bird species. Brilliantly coloured flamingos, blue and yellow macaws, blue-crowned motmots and the iconic scarlet ibis create a rainbow of colour in this otherwise verdant countryside, while bumpy rides in 4x4s, on horseback or in a canoe may bring you close to anacondas, giant anteaters, howler monkeys and pumas.
The varied landscapes of Los Llanos create a rich diversity of ecosystems that have made it a paradise for birdwatchers, with capped heron, snowy egrit, jabiru and roseate spoonbills just a handful of the hundreds of species that live in the forests, wetlands, mudbanks and grassy plains. Heading out early with a guide you’re likely to see any number of exotic birds as they swoop across the endless skies and pick their way through flooded grasslands.
The best way to discover the never-ending plains of Los Llanos is undoubtedly on horseback, with both beginners and experienced riders able to head out with a local llanero, galloping across empty savannahs, splashing through crystalline rivers and searching out wildlife. One of the last authentic cowboy cultures in the Americas, the Llanero are bound to the land through their traditions and a day spent in their company is an insight into a way of life long since lost in the busy chaos of our lives. Learn to lasso, ride barefoot, and call the cattle before settling down to a feast of meat cooked over an open fire as the locals laugh, sing and dance to the crackle and glow of the fire.
A truly remote, unspoilt land, Los Llanos is an isolated pocket of exceptional topography with a staggering diversity of wildlife and an authentic cowboy culture rich in traditions. Life here is slow and days revolve around the land, the animals and enjoying the abundance of both.