Riohacha

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.

cabo de la vela pilon de azucar guajira colombia
Guajira Travel Giude – Cabo de la Vela – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Punta Gallinas

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.

punta gallinas bahia hondita guajira colombia
Guajira Travel Guide – Punta Gallinas – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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 and 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.

Tourist Guajira

Ethnotourism

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.

Ecotourism

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.

Useful Data

How to get there

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.

By air

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.

By land

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.

Key data

Tour operators

More than 20 agencies and tour operators operate in the city, offering their services to Guajira, the rest of the country and abroad.

Emergencies

Red Cross : 132 / (5) 727 30 77

Ambulance (5) 727 1394

Hospital/Urgencies (5) 727 1394

National Police 112

DAS 153

Firefighters
119 / (5) 727 66 60

Circulation and Transit 127

Civil Defense (5) 660 2888 Anti-Kidnapping

Distances between Riohacha and the following municipalities

  • Albania: 64 kmBarrancas
  • : 100 km
  • Dibulla: 74 kmDistraction
  • : 115 kmEl
  • Molino: 140 kmFonseca
  • : 120 km
  • Hatonuevo: 75 kmLa
  • Jagua del Pilar: 184 km
  • Maicao: 76 kmManaure
  • : 63 kmUribia
  • : 95 kmVillanueva
  • : 158 kmSan
  • Juan del Cesar: 134 km

04 Routes and circuits

Cabo de la Vela Alta Guajira Southwestern Province Sports and activities in nature

Route 01 : Cabo de la Vela

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Recommendations:

  • 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.

Route 02 Alta Guajira

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Not far from the Wind Farm, a little further north, is Portete Bay and Puerto Bolivar, from where coal is exported by rail from the El Cerrejón mines to other places.

Tourist visits to Puerto Bolivar are available every day except Wednesdays.

Information:
Visitor Center

(5) 350 67 40

Punta Gallinas

To get to Punta Gallinas, take a road heading northeast from the road that leads to Puerto Bolivar, which goes to places like Bahia Honda and Bahia Hondita, passing through others; Irraipa, Puerto Portete, San Jose de Bahia Honda, Pusheo, and Jayaripa.

Puerto Estrella

Puerto Estrella is a Wayúu fishing village where sunsets and sunrises are a spectacle of colors fused with the sea. Places to visit there are the Laguna de los Patos and the dunes.

Nazareth

Oasis within the National Natural Park La Macuira, populated by inhabitants of the Wayúu ethnic group, with a pleasant climate ranging between 18 and 23 oC. The indigenous boarding school and health center are important.

In Alta Guajira, Nazareth is the place where you eat, rest and spend the night, and from where you can visit several attractions such as the Laguna de los Patos and the dunes and sand dunes caused by the winds. Also from there, two hours away, you can get to Puerto Lopez, a town where there is a monolith five meters high around which grows cactus vegetation.

Route 03 Province

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To get to know “La Provincia” or Baja Guajira, the tour from Riohacha can be started in two ways:

The first is using the road that goes to the municipality of Maicao and at the intersection known as Cuatro Vías, 56 kilometers away, taking a right turn, you pass through Albania, a recently created municipality developed to provide housing for the workers of the Cerrejón coal complex; a short distance away are the municipalities of Hato Nuevo and Barrancas whose main attraction is the coal mine, where it is possible to make visits of a tourist, scientific or cultural nature.

The other road starts directly from Riohacha and goes through the rancherías Camochalán, Buenos Aires (Brasil), the villages of Cerillo, Monguí and Villamaría and arrives at Cuestecitas, in the village of Albania, where it meets the road that turns off at Cuatro Vías. This road also leads to Cerrejón.

After merging these two roads, the route continues through Hato Nuevo and Barrancas where the typical houses of the area can be appreciated.

The municipalities of Fonseca and Distracción, separated by only 5 kilometers, are of greater interest along the route. Among its attractions are the resorts on the Rancheria River where there is adequate infrastructure for tourists and typical food restaurants.

Continuing towards the south you will reach the town of Urumita, known as the “Garden of the Guajira” or “Capital Varde”, due to the exuberance of its flora. The place invites you to enjoy the “Pozo de las Tres Paredes” (Well of the Three Walls), and to visit the house of culture and the Marquezote and La Ollita bathing resorts.

La Jagua del Pilar, a town very close to the department of Cesar, is the last place on the route.

Route 04 Southwest

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Camarones – Paso de la Danta – Las Cascadas Park – Dibulla – Palomino

The tour begins by taking the Troncal del Caribe highway in the direction of Santa Marta, in a southwestern direction. Eight kilometers from the capital of La Guajira, you will pass through a widening of the road, which is a

strategically designed runway for emergency landings, and nearby is the Corolaho ranchería.

After having traveled twenty kilometers, you reach the village of Camarones from where you cross to the right towards the beach, and three kilometers further on you reach the Boca de Camarones and the coastal lagoons of Navío Quebrad and Grande, which are an integral part of the Fauna and Flora Sanctuary “Los Flamencos”, a place of incomparable scenic beauty and ideal for tours in native canoes among the mangrove forests that are a refuge and habitat for flamingos, large pink feathered birds and other endemic and migratory species.

At the park’s headquarters you can observe the growth stages of different species of turtles, which after being studied are released back into the sea.

The route continues to Paso de la Danta and Las Cascadas park, which are part of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, near the turnoff to the town of Dibulla.

Las Cascadas Park offers the visitor several options for walking among terrestrial and semi-aquatic environmental interpretation trails where you can see tree species such as the “mastre” cataloged as one of the tallest tree species in the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. In the place there is one whose height reaches 63 meters.

For nature tourism lovers, the park offers bird watching and observation of multiple animal species, hiking, appreciation of lush vegetation thanks to the abundance of water in the area, which also invites you to bathe in its wells and waterfalls, especially in the creek called Alargavida.

Las Cascadas is an ideal place for activities such as rappelling and canyoing.

Continuing this route, the road turns towards Dibulla, 5 kilometers from the main road and whose most important attractions are the beautiful beaches where you can bathe in the sea and also in the rivers and streams that flow into the sea.

Finally, we arrive at Palomino, where from the bridge that joins the departments of La Guajira and Magdalena it is very easy to appreciate the two highest peaks of Colombia, the Colón and Bolívar peaks, in the Sierra Nevada.

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