Private Nature Reserve: El Palacio del Barbas — Filandia, Colombia
During my pre-trip planning, I came across a few YouTube videos of a local celebrity and historian named Alvaro Camargo from a small town in the coffee region of Colombia named Filandia. Everywhere I looked he appeared — as an authority in both the history of the area and an active conservationist who knows the value of the land through eco-tourism.
After listening to what he had to say and seeing the environment of where he lived, I decided to contact him and see if we could meet.
Alvaro responded and invited me to his home in Filandia. It turns out Alvaro lived his whole life in the coffee regions of Colombia and in addition to being a teacher at one of the local schools, he had purchased a large area of undeveloped land that he had converted into a private nature reserve. Bordered on one side by a grassy field and wedged into a valley called “Barbas Bremen,” Alvaro’s own “El Palacio del Barbas” is a large property at the end of the road leading away from downtown Filandia into the valley.
On the property, Alvaro has not only made it his home, but has converted the area into a truly private nature reserve with howling monkeys up in the trees, dozens of bird species, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and small natural pools. For the nature lover, it’s a dream come true. There are facilities for guests to stay on the property, but since I was only visiting for the day, I chose to stay in town.
I got there early in the morning, Alvaro agreeing to pick me up in the town square of Filandia for the short drive to his home and expansive acreage. We stopped at a few spots along the way, Alvaro explaining the history of the area and the dynamics of the natural beauty present in the valley adjacent to his land. He showed me where the Barranquero, or Andean Motmot, would burrow into the side of the clay walls along the streams and dirt roads to nest, where I was able to get a photo of one hiding among the trees.
We then headed up to his house where he showed me around the living areas of the property. He explained to me that he didn’t believe in baiting the wildlife, like setting up feeders for hummingbirds or leaving food out for other fauna. Alvaro instead put up flowering plants that naturally attracted the hummingbirds. I saw plenty of hummingbirds immediately and he briefed me in his open-air office of the days events.
Alvaro’s wife brought coffee as we talked about hiking the trails and visiting the waterfalls and streams. We then started down into the valley, passing an ecolodge setup for educational presentations, then down along one of the many streams flowing into the valley from above. We quickly arrived at the massive waterfall.
After hiking for a while and seeing lots of wildlife, we headed back to the main house for a rest. Here are some of the photos from the day.
Next to Alvaro’s cottage residence, he and his family built a lookout tower that rises to the treeline, perfect for watching in the mornings and late afternoon for monkeys, birds, or other small mammals scurrying through the treetops. Since many birds only perch on top of the canopy, this is the perfect spot to rest between guided hikes by Alvaro himself through the various trails on his property.
At the end of the day we rested on Alvaro’s observation tower, one of the many places to string up a hammock and relax at El Palacio del Barbas. From here you can get a great view of the Barbas Bremen valley as well as the jungle canopy.
I’ll definitely return to Alvaro’s jungle hideaway soon to get more photos and enjoy the scenery. If you’re interested in visiting, the best way to communicate with Alvaro is directly on his Facebook page: El Palacio del Barbas. For more info on the property or Alvaro, who guides tours of other areas of Quindío as well, he’s got a blog page with lots of details here: Camino del Quindío.