Visiting Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area In Colombia

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area Colombia South America

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is a National Park in northern Colombia that is known for geological formations and incredible landscapes.

Los Estoraques is one of the smallest preservation areas in Colombia but here visitors can walk amongst towering rock columns, deeply carved canyons, explore caves, hike on nature trails, go camping and enjoy the magnificent scenery of this region.

Despite being one of the most interesting locations in Colombia, Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area rarely gets mentioned in guide books or on “must visit” South America lists.

If you’re planning a trip to Los Estoraques (or just looking for some Colombia travel inspiration), we cover all you need to know for visiting this impressive park.  

About Los Estoraques

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is a great place to visit if you love geology and landscape photography. Los Estoraques National Park consists of formations that look similar to the sandstone columns at Zhangjiajie in China or Cappadocia in Turkey, just on a smaller scale.  

The unique terrain at Los Estoraques has formed over thousands of years with erosion from water and wind. This area is considered to be a “dry forest” and the ground here is covered in orange-colored sand with some green vegetation.

Los Estoraques is open to visitors Monday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. During opening hours visitors can hike around on various trails that weave through the park and enjoy the beauty of nature. Some of the trails follow along the flat ground on the bottom and some climb up to the top of various hills offering incredible panoramic views.

This entire area is open to explore on your own but make sure to wear slip-resistant hiking shoes. Some of the trails that lead to viewpoints are very narrow and slippery. It started raining during the first day of our visit and the dirt turned into slick mud which can be a bit dangerous especially since there are many steep drop-offs.

Where Are Los Estoraques Located

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is located in northern Colombia next to a small colonial town called La Playa De Belen. Los Estoraques is a bit out of the way from most major attractions but is well worth the trip if you love discovering hidden gems.

We stopped by Los Estoraques on our way between Cartagena and El Cocuy National Park. It took us around 2 days of driving to get there from Cartagena. We mostly took toll roads which added up in cost but at least the highways were nice and pothole-free.

Another popular city nearby is Bucaramanga, around 5 hours south. But overall there isn’t much else to see or do around Los Estoraques so not many people know about it.

Psst! Read This Next: 15 Incredible Things To See & Do In Colombia

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is located on the outskirts of La Playa De Belen. Despite what its name indicates there isn’t a beach nearby, but the town itself is very charming and everyone we met there was so friendly. Most buildings in this village are still preserved in their colonial style with white façades and red tile roofs.

La Playa De Belen has a few small shops and restaurants along with some cabins for visitors, a plaza, and an adventure park. La Playa De Belen town itself is only a couple streets wide but has everything to make your stay comfortable. The locals were so welcoming and even offered to help us with our laundry after we realized that we were down to our last pair of clothes.

If you’re worried about safety while traveling in Colombia, we personally had no issues in this region and felt very safe. La Playa De Belen is a quaint little town where all the cobblestone streets are super clean and the colonial-style houses are well taken care of to preserve their original looks.

The entrance to Los Estoraques is located just a couple of minutes’ drive from La Playa De Belen. We drove there ourselves but you can also walk to Los Estoraques from town.  

Location: Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, North Santander, Colombia

Los Estoraques Entrance Fee

For international visitors, the current fee to enter and hike around Los Estoraques is 5000 pesos (1 USD) per person. If you’re a local, the entrance fee is a little bit cheaper at 3000 pesos (50 cents).

If you wish to hire a guide to learn more about the history of Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, a guide costs around 20,000 pesos (5 USD) per group. These guides can be hired by the entrance but are not mandatory. Do note that if your Spanish is limited, you might be better off going on your own.

During our Colombia road trip, we were traveling around in our Promaster campervan so our camping options were flexible. We decided to stay one of the nights at Los Estoraques parking lot so we could wake up early in the morning and go shoot photos before more people arrived. It was also raining heavily during the first day of our visit so the exit road was completely flooded and we couldn’t leave even if we wanted to.

Overnight camping at Los Estoraques cost us 10,000 pesos (2.50 USD). While the road coming in was a bit rough, there was a flat grassy area by the entrance where we parked for the night.

Hanging out with friends that we met during our Pan-American Road Trip

There is a sign at the entrance that Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is camping friendly, but I will note that some overlanders have had issues staying here in the past. It appears that there is a dispute over who owns this land – the government or the locals.

While the local man who runs this place and collects entrance fees has no problem with people sleeping here at night, some people have commented on the iOverlander camping app that the park rangers are not as welcoming. Thankfully none came to check on us during our visit.

There are also restrooms on site but if you wish to use them, you will need to pay an additional 500 pesos (15 cents).

What To Expect

After paying the entrance fee and parking our car we entered Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area. There is a trail that starts right next to the parking lot so after changing into something more comfortable we ventured out on a hike.

As soon as we stepped into the trail we were surrounded by unique rock formations all around us as far as we could see. We hiked to some viewpoints situated above canyons so deep that we couldn’t even spot the bottom. Probably not the best place to hang out for those who don’t like heights.

At the top, we were able to get some drone footage of the rock patterns and the scale of this place. Unlike most National Parks, Los Estoraques didn’t have any signs against drones. At the entrance, there was a sign that photography is actually welcome although that can always change in the future.

If you don’t feel comfortable hiking up to these viewpoints there are plenty of trails to explore on the bottom that pass through various formations and caves.

Although Los Estoraques is a small National Park compared to others, some of the trails can be a bit confusing and there are very few signs indicating which way to go. If you choose not to go with a guide bring a phone with GPS so you can track your starting point.

We recommend setting aside at least a few hours to explore the various trails at Los Estoraques National Park. This region can get very hot so wear light clothing, sunscreen, a hat and bring plenty of water.

Where To Stay

La Playa De Belen is a small town so the choices for where to stay are pretty limited. Unless you’re an overlander and plan to sleep at the Los Estoraques parking lot, there are a couple of cheap hostels and Airbnb cabins that you can book in the area.

Casa de Campo” El Placer” is a highly rated Airbnb rental cabin at the foothills of Los Estoraques formations and a great place to stay while exploring this area.

Posada Marmacrisli is another charming guesthouse within La Playa De Belen town. For their latest pricing and availability, you can see the listing here.

As an option, you can also stay in Ocaña city, around 45 minutes away from Los Estoraques. Ocaña is a much bigger town than La Playa De Belen so it has more choices for hotels.

Things To Do Nearby

Here are a few other great things to see and do in the area.

Parque Natural Yaragua

Los Estoraques is a protected park so dogs are not allowed to enter it. If you’re looking for a dog-friendly place to hike around and see similar formations check out Parque Natural Yaragua located within La Playa De Belen city.

Parque Natural Yaragua is a fun adventure park that offers zip lining, suspension bridges, paintball, walking paths, and 360 viewpoints of Los Estoraques. Parque Natural Yaragua also offers cabins for overnight stays and a restaurant on property. If you’re interested in a thrilling adventure, zip line here costs around 25,000 pesos (7 USD) and a walk across the suspension bridge is 15,000 pesos (4 USD).

Los Pinos

Another location worthy of checking out near La Playa De Belen is Los Pinos. Los Pinos is a pine forest on the outskirts of the town where visitors can see panoramic views of Los Estoraques formations. We drove up here after visiting Los Estoraques and spent a couple of nights camping and unwinding in the forest with other overlanders.

Los Pinos is located just a short drive from the town and the entrance to visit and camp at Los Pinos costs 2000 pesos (50 cents). We enjoyed camping there since the trees provide shade from the sun and it wasn’t as hot as being down in the town.

Looking for more Colombia travel inspiration? Don’t forget to check out some of our other popular Colombia posts below:

Interested in how I capture photos on my trips? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my images:

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