Do you want to discover a unique destination, still preserved from mass tourism, close to the indigenous communities? We advise you to travel to the heart of the Guajira desert. In La Guajira you will go a little further into the Caribbean coast, not far from the Tayrona Park but in a completely different landscape, while remaining close to the sea.
In this article we will give you our advice, the areas to visit, the unmissable. From Riohacha to Punta Gallinas, get ready for an extraordinary journey, between sand dunes and flamingos!
The essentials of Guajira
- What to see in La Guajira? Riohacha and the Los Flamencos Wildlife Sanctuary, Puntas Gallinas, Cabo de la Vela and the Macuira National Nature Park
- What to do in La Guajira? Take a trip between sea and desert
- Practical information
- When to go to La Guajira? Avoid October/November
- Health and equipment needed during your stay in La Guajira: bring clothes for cool nights and the necessary equipment for travelling in an arid area.
- What are the main events in La Guajira? Don’t miss the cultural festival in Uribia, capital of the Wayúu community.
- How to get to La Guajira? By plane from Riohacha airport or by bus from Santa Marta.
La Guajira in video :
Guajira Peninsula, the Caribbean desert
A Caribbean desert land, the department of Guajira offers a multitude of incomparable images and colours. Its diversity of landscapes makes it a magical destination where the thousand-year-old tradition of the Wayúus, a pre-Columbian people who never gave in to Spanish colonisation, is preserved.
Even today, the Wayúu represent more than 45% of the population of the Guajira, making them the first indigenous people of Colombia (500,000 individuals). Skilled craftsmen and traders, the Wayúu know the land where they were born, and remain essential to its development, particularly by welcoming lovers of wild and arid nature who come to visit this desert of a thousand colours.
What to see and do in La Guajira?
Before arriving in Riohacha, this sanctuary is well worth a stop on your journey to Guajira. You will find it 20 kilometers from Riohacha, on the Troncal del Caribe road, which first passes through Tayrona and Palomino. The Flamingos sanctuary is a 7,682 hectare reserve with mosaics of lagoons, dry forests and swamps.
If you are lucky, you will be able to see over 185 species of birds (80% of which are migratory), such as eagles and the roseate spoonbill. Four species of sea turtles come here to lay their eggs.
Why visit the sanctuary? To see the flamingos of course! In season, you will see thousands of them, the show is amazing! But be sure to check with the park beforehand to see if the flamingos are there or not, so you don’t come for nothing!
Riohacha is the town where you will stop before your expedition into the heart of the Guajira desert. It is a pleasant stop for a day, where you can stroll along the “Paseo de la Marina” promenade along the beach and do some shopping for typical Wayúu handicrafts. You can also go and admire the sunset on the pier and rest in the shade of the large palm trees that line the beach.
What else can you do? A great option is to watch the fishermen at work, take a walk in the José Prudencia Padilla Park or visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Remedios.
Some additional information : Riohacha is the capital of the department of Guajira, 170 km from Santa Marta. It has 170,000 inhabitants and was founded in 1535 by the German explorer Nicolas de Federman. The predominant economic activities are all related to the port, which is located in the city.
Cabo de la Vela
If you are touring the Guajira, your first stop is Cabo de la Vela. This is the most visited destination in the Guajira, for several reasons.
Not to be missed : The beach and kitesurfing!
In Cabo de la Vela you will find large beaches with orange sand and warm, clear water. The lunar landscapes where the rock is eaten by the sea are sublime.
Cabo de la Vela is also the ideal place (one of the best in the world!) to practice kitesurfing and windsurfing, thanks to its favorable winds.
Did you know that? Cabo de la Vela is above all a spiritual place for the Wayúu. It is here, at the foot of the Pilon de Azucar, an incredible rocky viewpoint overlooking the desert and the sea, that the souls of the deceased rest.
In this waterside village, 160 km from Riohacha, don’t forget to enjoy a beautiful sunset from Punta Faro.
- The second must-see during your stay in La Guajira is Punta Gallinas! Its bay by the sea is a place full of spiritual energy, perhaps because it is the northernmost point of the South American continent. It is for us the best spot in Guajira to admire a sunset, feet in the water. It is a peaceful and wonderful moment.
A little anecdote: Here, people balance a stone and make a hopeful wish for the future. If the stone falls, the wish is not granted. This custom creates a moon-like setting in this sublime place.
- Where to ride the dunes? The most beautiful part of Punta Gallinas remains for us the Taroa Dunes. The highest one is 60 meters high and looks like a wall facing the sea. It is an enchanting sight, as if the desert was flowing into the sea.
- Fancy a boat trip? Bahia Hondita is the place to go. Here, a piece of sea has been lost, surrounded by rocks and desert. This water formation has created an ecosystem of mangroves and you can admire many birds!
Macuira National Nature Park
If you have 2 more days in the Guajira, we advise you to go further into the desert to discover this superb national park. This semi-desert is an extraordinary place. Microclimates form oases that resemble tropical forests! It is a destination that is not yet open to mass tourism, which makes it totally authentic, far from the beaten track.
Macuira, land of the Wayuus!
The Serranía de Macuira, which owes its name to the ancestors of the Wayúus: the Makui. It is above all a refuge for the Wayuu community, which is little influenced by the outside world and lives from local agriculture. The forest rangers are all very welcoming natives.
A bit of geography! The Macuira National Park is made up of a mountain range 500 metres high. The highest point is Cerro Palúa, at 865 metres. Macuira’s isolation gives it an interesting flora and fauna and a notable wildlife, which includes the Cardinalidae, as well as 15 species of snakes, such as the coral snake.
Expert advice: We highly recommend a walk to the El Chorro waterfall. It is a lush and charming green area.
We advise you to stop for a day in Palomino, before heading to Riohacha. It is one of the last villages of the Guajira bathed in virgin forest before arriving at the desert climate. It is a good stopover for a relaxing moment by the sea, between the Tayrona Park and the desert of La Guajira.
Did you know that? This is the only place where you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada from the beach! Take advantage of a beautiful morning to go up the Sierra Nevada and float down the beautiful Don Diego River, close to nature and the birds.
Warning: This small fishing village is rather a victim of its own success and is experiencing a tourist boom. But the area remains authentic.
What to do in La Guajira? Aventure Colombia activities
Contact Aventure Colombia for more information and/or to book tours in Guajira ([email protected]). Example of what we offer:
Between sea and desert
In the extreme north of Colombia and South America, you will discover Punta Gallina, a magnificent landscape of sand dunes, plateaus and rocky cliffs that emerge from the sea, embracing the magnificent Bahia Hondita. During this 3 or 4 days tour of Guajira, in private or in group (your choice), you will discover Cabo de la Vela, Colombian temple of Kitesurfing and its superb beaches.
You can enjoy beautiful sunsets in Punta Faro and Punta Gallinas, ride down the dunes of Taroa and take a boat ride through the mangroves. You will also be able to see flamingos in the middle of the desert and get to know the daily life of the Wayúu community a little better. On your way, you will discover the indigenous capital of Uribia and the fishing village of Riohacha. Prepare yourself for a unique journey, in an area still preserved from mass tourism, and absolutely magical!