Andean Giants: Unveiling the Highest Mountains in Colombia

It’s a country that has not one, but two top peaks. So, what are the highest mountains in Colombia? Let’s hit the slopes.

Travel and Exploration
9 October 2023

From grasslands to deserts, forests to jungles and even tropical beaches, Colombia has it all in spades. And mountains are no exception. It has one of the world’s great ranges, the Andes, running through its core, shaping its landscape.

Crossing over from Ecuador, the Andes split into three ranges that cut across the west of the country, roughly from southwest to northeast. This trio comprises the Cordillera Occidental, Central, and Oriental, being the western, central and eastern ranges. These three massifs are known as the Colombian cordilleras, and host to some of the biggest mountains of Colombia. However, the two very tallest of all are not part of the Andes.

So, where are the highest mountains in Colombia? Without further ado, let’s take a ‘peak’.

Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Simon Bolivar

Pico Cristobol Colon and Pico Simon Bolivar (Credit: Wade Davis via Getty Images)

Where most countries have one top peak, Colombia’s highest mountains come as a pair. The so-called “twin peaks” of Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Simon Bolivar rise an astonishing, and approximate, 18,947 feet above sea level, their sky-piercing reach rendering them permanently snowcapped.

These two volcanic giants have their home in the Santa Marta Mountains or Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta. Located at the very tip of northern Colombia, overlooking the Caribbean coast, they’re set within a national park and UNESCO Bioreserve. While the exact heights of both mountains are debated, they’re certainly an imposing sight, especially given their lowland surroundings.

Aside from Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Simon Bolivar, several other volcanoes in the Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta are counted among the highest mountains in Colombia. Among them are Pico Santander at 18,281 feet, Pico La Reina at 18,077 feet, and Pico Ojeda at 17,631 feet above sea level.

Nevado del Huila

View of the Nevado del Huila volcano seen from Cali, Colombia. (Credit: LUIS ROBAYO / Contributor via Getty Images)

With an average elevation of 10,000 feet, the Cordillera Central is said to have the tallest mountains in Colombia’s Andean ranges. And the highest of these is Mount Huila. Called Nevado del Huila in Spanish, this stratovolcano has an elevation of 18,865 feet. Located some 50 miles from the city of Cali, it’s set within the UNESCO Biosphere of Cinturo Andino and its own national park. Mount Huila is an active volcano, and last erupted in 2012.

Nevado del Ruiz

The Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Colombia (Credit: JOAQUIN SARMIENTO / Contributor via Getty Images)

Nevado del Ruiz is a glacier-topped stratovolcano in the central Colombian Los Nevados National Natural Park. Covering an area bigger than the city of Washington DC and rising some 17,717 feet, it’s one of the biggest mountains of Colombia. Having first erupted some 1.8 million years ago, it’s a deadly volcano and one that continues to pose a threat.

Nevado del Tolima

The Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Columbia. (Credit: Anadolu Agency / Contributor via Getty Images)

Los Nevados National Natural Park is home to several volcanoes, including another of Colombia’s highest mountains. Nevado del Tolima rises to an elevation of approximately 17,105 feet. Like its northerly neighbour Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado del Tolima is covered by a glacier, providing water for the municipality of Ibague. But it’s a much younger volcano, having formed within the past 44,000 years.

The Biggest Mountains of Colombia

Colombian Andes (Credit: Fred Fraces via Getty Images)

As we wrap up this expedition, it’s evident that Colombia is not just about vibrant festivals or aromatic coffee. The highest mountains in Colombia offer a glimpse into the country’s vast topographical wonders. From the twin peaks in the north to the Andean giants, the diverse range of Colombia’s highest mountains are truly a wonder to behold.


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