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This large seaside resort is the starting point for a 4×4 trip to La Guajira, a region populated by the Wayuu (or Guajiros), an Amerindian people living mainly from weaving (clothes, hammocks …) and fishing.
Not far from there is the sanctuary of Los Flamencos, an ideal place to observe the pink flamingos, on an area of 7,000 hectares.
It’s a quiet place, perfect for hiking, fishing with the locals, or doing nothing else but enjoying the sun and relaxing on the beach.
In addition to the sanctuary, you can visit the rancherias (traditional inns), the Sea Turtle Environmental Research and Education Centre, and go to the Navio Quebrado, Grande or Laguneta de Chentico lakes to observe birds…
Cabo de la Vela
For a glimpse of the La Guajira region, head to Manaure: in this setting of cacti and white mountains is the largest salt marsh in Colombia.
Then stop in Uribia: the indigenous capital of the country, this small trading town is a reflection of the Wayuu culture.
Finally, cross the magical Carrizal Desert.
You will then arrive in Cabo de la Vela (literally “Candle Cape”) is a small lively seaside village, a real paradise for kitesurfers and windsurfers.
Just 10 minutes away, there is a sublime orange sand beach, bordered by a rocky promontory (Pilon de Azucar) from where you can watch a magical sunset.
For a complete immersion in the Wayuu culture, cross the La Guajira desert to Punta Gallinas (75 km north of Cabo de la Vela, about 4 hours of tracks).
Along the way, you will discover isolated beaches, dunes and rocky cliffs (Hondita Bay, Pusheo desert beach…) and even do part of the trip by boat.
At Punta Gallinas, you stay in a local house, in a wayuu rancheria where you can taste the local specialties based on fish and seafood; you discover the local life.
You will go to Taroa, for a walk on immense white sand dunes which, swept by the wind, give the sea a yellowish colour.
You can bathe there and then watch the sunset giving the dunes an intense orange colour.
This region is the northernmost point of the South American continent.
Welcome to La Guajira
In an incomparable panoramic view, the Guajira Peninsula stands out in the imposing Caribbean Sea, the northernmost tip of Colombia and South America, surrounded by beautiful and calm blue waters and decorated with the immense colorful Wayúu handicrafts, an ethnic population that inhabits these exotic lands.
The indomitable character and the very way of life of the indigenous population is a true reflection of a race that resisted Spanish subjugation.
Ecotourism in La Guajira has outstanding potential for national and international recognition. To this end, several products are being developed and various alternatives are being considered to take advantage of the comparative advantages of natural and cultural attractions and current demand trends. The Wayúu way of life is an indication of the influence of the culture of the Arawak et Carib ancestors, who were characterized by their fierce resistance to the Spanish yoke.
Sun, mountains, desert, beach, and a special human potential, mostly endogenous and raizal, mark this department as a different and unexpected region in the entire Caribbean area, where reality is confused with fantasy.
Visiting La Guajira is an out-of-the-ordinary experience, where you will learn about the perfect harmony between man and his environment. From the settlements of the people who guard the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the Wayúu who live together in the desert and demonstrate the balanced way in which the Guajiro builds and protects their natural environment.
The environmental and ethnic elements have created the department’s own identity, cradle of transcendental emblematic manifestations of the Republic of Colombia such as vallenata music, the legacy of Francisco El Hombre, the magical realism of the writer García Márquez and the tradition of the National Navy influenced by the heroic deed of Admiral Padilla.
The Wayúu ethnic group, the most representative of Colombian indigenous cultures, is settled almost entirely in the northern region of the department and more specifically in the territory occupied by the municipality of Uribia, which is recognized as the indigenous capital of Colombia.
The social nature of the Wayúu allows the arijunas, whites in wayuunaiki guajiro, language of the ethnic group, to know their traditions, their cultural expressions and their social life, opportunities that they share with the tourist in the afternoons of ranchería or in the excursions to Cabo de la Vela and to the Alta Guajira in which they are pleasantly compenetrated in their daily life in lodgings or inns with food service and, at the same time, they correspond them acquiring the products of their manual arts: chinchorros, mochilas, manillas and other handicrafts.
The diversity of La Guajira’s ecosystems is unique in Colombia. It includes tropical dry forests, tropical rainforests, savannas, deserts and all the thermal floors with their corresponding biota, which generates the most favorable environment for activities such as bird watching, reptiles and fauna in general, observation of very diverse flora, interpretive trails in natural parks, knowledge of mineral exploitation and repopulation of animal and plant species, and restructuring of soils and subsoils that have been exploited, knowledge of the wind energy generation system.
Sun and beach
La Guajira has large extensions of beaches, most of them with calm waters and white sands, such as those located within the urban area of Riohacha or very close to it, such as Marbella, Del Guapo, Gimaura, La Boca, De Los Cangrejos and La Raya: Marbella, Del Guapo, Gimaura, La Boca, De Los Cangrejos and La Raya.
About 25 kilometers from Riohacha are the beaches of Mayapo that, from the village, extend in north and south directions and are frequented by all kinds of tourists. Other beaches a little farther away from Riohacha, but also very visited, are located in Cabo de la Vela.
In Puerto Estrella, Cabo de la Vela, Bahía Portete, Puerto Bolívar, Punta Gallinas, among others, there are beautiful and quiet beaches suitable for relaxation.
To the south of the capital, almost parallel to the road that leads to the department of Magdalena, are the beaches of Camarones, Carrizal, Aipir, La Punta, Mingueo and Palomino, which are less crowded, but with pleasant characteristics. Near Mingueo and Palomino there are beaches on the sea and some rivers and streams that come from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In the same region, some of these streams form waterfalls and wells of refreshing waters that are frequented by the local inhabitants and many times by tourists.
Towards La Baja Guajira, the recreational hobby that most attracts both the local inhabitants and visitors to the region, are bathing in the rivers and streams, generally with fresh waters that descend from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta or the Serranía del Perijá.
Sports and adventure
The north winds attract amateurs and professionals to develop activities such as kitesurfing and sailing in small sailboats. The rivers and streams of La Provincia and the southeast are ideal for canyoning. There are several trails suitable for hiking. The area of the Ahuyama Desert, near Cabo de la Vela, is a good place for windcar rides. In La Alta Guajira, automobile competitions such as the La Guajira Rally are held.
Places to Visit in La Guajira
Alta Guajira is one of the favorite destinations for visitors who enjoy adventure tourism, ecotourism and ethno-tourism, as it is possible to meet and interact with the indigenous population, observe their customs and learn about their history and culture.
culture through oral tradition, imaginaries, myths, dances, gastronomy and handicrafts that are expressions of the worldview that this indigenous people have of the world.
In ecological tourism, it is possible to see diverse coastal landscapes such as beaches, bays, capes, points, cliffs, combined in an ecosystem of desert climate, predominantly flat, in which subxerophytic and xerophytic vegetation stands out, sand forms on the seashore, modeled by the wind as sand dunes or dunes that resemble sculptures.
In contrast, there is a landscape of hills that forms a series of mountain ranges such as Jarara, Cosinas and Macuira, with heights that reach 800 meters and shelter from dry forests to cloud forests as in La Macuira, which is an oasis in the middle of the desert, with water sources and varied vegetation.
This territory includes the Resguardo Indígena de la Media y Alta Guajira, inhabited by the Wayúu ethnic group, which is part of the Arawak family. This community is bi-national because its ancestral territory extends into Venezuelan territory. The population is dispersed and is only concentrated in the municipal capital of Uribia and in some villages such as Cabo de la Vela and Nazareth.
It is the largest municipality in the department (7404 square kilometers). Founded in 1953, it was the capital of the former Special Commissariat of La Guajira until it was created as the National Intendancy.
Ninety percent of its territory is desert, except for an oasis in its heart: La Macuira National Natural Park.
Uribia is home to most of the Wayúu, the largest indigenous group in the country, consisting of more than 40,000 people. Their Festival of Culture, Colombian Cultural Heritage, is held there.
Uribia has a good hotel, several restaurants and a unique market.
It has an extraordinary mineral wealth: talc, limestone and salt deposits are currently being exploited.
Uribia, located 104 kilometers from Riohacha (90 minutes drive) can be reached by two routes. For the first, take the road to Maicao, 5 kilometers (10 minutes) and before reaching the point known as La Gloria, follow a secondary road to the left, passing through El Pájaro, Musichi and Manaure, and then join the paved road to Uribia. Take the second road towards Maicao and at the Cuatro Vías site turn left and follow the railroad parallel to the road. This is the most frequented route.
Means of Transportation
Passenger transportation is constant, using public service cars, vans and buses that are taken directly in Riohacha or at the Cuatro Vias road junction.
Parc naturel national de la Serranía de La Macuira
The park is located in the Wayúu indigenous reservation. According to their cosmovision, Jepirech, the spirit of the wind, drives Igua, the cloud, which with its rain fertilizes the mountain range, thus producing the forests and water necessary for all the Wayúu people.
See Also: Macuira Park Complete Travel Guide
Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, its warm climate is cooled by the Caribbean breeze.
It has the most important and extensive marine salt flats in Colombia: production exceeds 700,000 tons for local consumption and industry. The salt flats extend over 4200 hectares, with seven huge ponds, some of which are managed by the indigenous population.
Manaure is also rich in natural gas near the town of El Pájaro and in Chuchupa and Ballenas, where the country’s largest gas fields are located.
Salinas de Manaure, El Pájaro, Santa Rita church, Musichi (concentration of pink flamingos) and Aremasain indigenous boarding school (Manaure).
Village belonging to the municipality of Manaure, located 25 kilometers (20 minutes) from the departmental capital, connected by a road in good condition. The inhabitants of the small town derive their livelihood primarily from fishing, and lately the tourist development that has been introduced in its beautiful white sand beaches, considered the best. In the vicinity of almost 10 kilometers of extension have been built kiosks and a basic infrastructure accompanied by services to enjoy the sun and the activities of the sea. The strong winds, which blow almost all year round in the place, have attracted sportsmen specialized in the modalities of kitesurfing, small sailboats and windsurfing.
How to get to la Guajira
Riohacha is the epicenter from which travel to the different tourist destinations in the department is undertaken, since the city concentrates most of the services for that purpose: comfortable and varied hotels, restaurants and food places to suit all tastes and budgets, tourist information and agencies, which facilitate access to the places you want to visit, commercial activity, banking services and hospital care.
The only airport with commercial flights every day is Almirante Padilla Airport located in Riohacha. On Tuesdays and Saturdays there is a flight from Riohacha to Aruba Island.
The department of La Guajira has a good road network. There is a highway that connects Riohacha with Barrancas, Fonseca, San Juan del Cesar and Villanueva, which connects in Valledupar with the Eastern trunk road. Another road, the Caribbean trunk road, starts in Paraguachón and connects with Maicao, Riohacha, Santa Marta and Barranquilla. In addition, there are roads that connect most of the towns and villages and bridle paths, which are only passable in summer.
More than 20 agencies and tour operators operate in the city, offering their services to Guajira, the rest of the country and abroad.
Route 01 : Cabo de la Vela
- Bring drinking water.
- Wear comfortable clothes, tennis shoes and sunscreen.
- Buy hammocks made by the locals, who are expert artisans.
- Do not bring radio receivers, cell phones or portable televisions, if you want to forget everything.
In tourist La Guajira there are two roads with attractions for visitors. The one with the best conditions is the Cuatro Vias, which leads to Uribia and Manaure. The one leading to El Pájaro and Musichi is more interesting, but does not offer good conditions for year-round traffic.
The approximate distance between Riohacha and Uribia is 104 kilometers; from Uribia to the desert is 22 kilometers; from where the desert begins to Cabo de la Vela is 30 kilometers, and to the Wind Farm and Puerto Bolivar, almost 50 kilometers.
Before arriving at Cabo de la Vela by way of Mareywamana, there is a fraction of the characteristic desert called Desierto de La Ahuyama .
When it rains, it is necessary to take alternate routes, such as San Martín or Media Luna. This route passes through Puerto Bolívar (where coal is exported from El Cerrejón) and the Wind Park, before reaching Cabo de la Vela itself. This route can be used for the return trip, if desired.
If you take a tour of one or more days, it is necessary to contact a specialized tourism agency or hire a four-wheel drive vehicle, always accompanied by a professional guide.
It is recommended to leave Riohacha early in the morning, preferably before 6:00 a.m., head north on the Maicao road and take one of the two attractive routes.
Along the Pájaro-Musichi-Manaure-Coastal Route you can appreciate the beautiful sunrise and many ranches, and before reaching Musichi you can have the opportunity to observe pink flamingos in the marshes and mangroves, as well as herons and other birds. Later, and not far away, you will reach the Manaure salt flats where you can learn about the natural process of sea salt extraction by the indigenous people, in ponds of pink, purple or white coloration depending on the state of maturity in which they are found. After a journey of 21 kilometers (about 20 minutes) you arrive in Uribia.
The direct route to Uribia, with an intersection at Cuatro Vias, is 95 kilometers long and takes about an hour and a half to cover. After Uribia, the road is no longer paved. It is recommended to take a snack and continue through the Ahuyama Desert to Cabo de la Vela, or Jepira, in Wayúu language. Incredible land where everything is aridity, not even bushes grow, only creeping plants. There is no place like it in the whole country: it is of a rare and austere beauty. If you climb the hill where the lighthouse is, you will have a magnificent panoramic view of the flat and desolate region, and in contrast a sea of beautiful shades of green and blue.
The name Cabo de la Vela was given by Alonso de Ojeda (1499) when he thought he saw the whiteness of a sail in the distance.
This is where the division between Alta and Media Guajira begins. Near the lighthouse is the Ojo de Agua, a natural outcrop where, according to indigenous mythology, the Wayúu communicate with their ancestors. You can also see the Pilón de Azúcar, a white rock in the sea, which according to Wayúu beliefs, marks the path that leads the souls of the deceased to the unknown, to the Beyond. The only village is Cabo, a hamlet of a few houses where transportation arrives and lodging is available. You can observe beautiful sunsets and shooting stars at night.
In the Cape, where the natives show great hospitality, there are more than 100 lodges, native and tourist inns(1) that provide very good food based on fish or seafood at reasonable prices. At very low cost they provide hammocks, hammocks or rooms for the night.
Jepirachi wind farm
A few kilometers from Cabo de la Vela is this important energy resource that generates between 60,000 and 75,000 megawatts per hour in a clean way, taking advantage of the wind, which moves the blades of 15 windmills. A typical tour includes a visit to the site.
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