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.
Characteristics of Riohacha
Located on the Caribbean coast, the Colombian city of Riohacha is the capital of the department of La Guajira.
A fertile pearl region long coveted and attacked by pirates, Riohacha is nowadays an excellent starting point for exploring the surrounding areas.
With a vast white sandy beach and beautiful buildings that bear witness to the Spanish colonial era, Riohacha attracts many visitors every year.
Number of Inhabitants
Riohacha has just over 167,800 inhabitants (2005 estimate).
The territory was populated by Indian ethnic groups before its discovery by Christopher Columbus.
The conquistador Alonso de Ojeda reached the current location of Ríohacha in 1498, and the city of Ríohacha was built by Juan de la Cosa in 1535.
The Spanish royalty grants the status of autonomous city to Ríohacha in 1547.
It was attacked by the English freebooter Francis Drake in search of pearls and gold in 1596, and on May 2, 1769, in the midst of a revolt, the Waryyu attacked it.
Ríohacha carried out commercial transactions with Holland, the West Indies, England, New York and Panama during the 19th century.
On July 1, 1965, the Guajira Department was created and Ríohacha was designated as its capital.
At present Ríohacha is a cornerstone city in the growth of ecotourism and national cultural tourism.
The city of Riohacha is located in the northern part of Colombia, in the centre of the Guajira department.
It has a port and an area of 3120 km².
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How to get around Riohacha ?
The city of Riohacha has Buses or Taxis as its main means of transportation.
Taxis are the ideal means of transport for getting around the city and tourist areas quickly.
Count a minimum of 3,000 COP for a ride in the city centre.
Buses: There are two networks, the Transmilenio and the secondary network, which includes busetas, colectivos or ejecutivos (denomination attributed differently according to the size of the vehicles).
The Transmilenio makes it easier for visitors to get around.
What to see in Riohacha ?
The city of Riohacha has some tourist sites to discover.
Visitors will mainly go to the Riohacha Cathedral (Nuestra Senora de los Remedios), the Paseo de la Marina, the bronze statue of Francisco Rodríguez known as El Hombre (the father of vallenato music) and the large Municipal Market.
Government site of the city of Riohacha (in Spanish)
What to do in Riohacha ?
Relax on the beaches that line the city and enjoy their glowing sunsets.
Stroll along the Paseo de la Marina.
Visit the traditional Wayuu handicraft market.
Taste local specialties in one of the many restaurants along the seafront.
Have fun in the bars and discos in the pedestrian street of Calleron de las Brisas.
Mochilas, bufandas, ruana (Colombian pancho), Indian pottery, leather goods, beautiful blankets, gold jewelry.
Gastronomy and local recipe(s)
The dishes: the “cuy” (roasted guinea pig); mote (corn cooked with spices); poleada soup; locro (stew made with beans, corn and squash)
Desserts: quimbolitos (typical biscuits); dulce de Chilacuan; paila ice cream; almendras de leche (made with milk and cinnamon); alfajores.
Beverages: champus (made with panela honey, corn and fruit); hervidos (hot drink made with fruit juice and liquor); canelazo (cinnamon hervido).
What to see in Riohacha ?
Around the city of Riohacha, there are various sights to see.
Maicao, a city in the central eastern part of the department nicknamed the “commercial showcase of Colombia”; Cabo de la Vela, its fishing village and magnificent Pilon de Azucar beach; the Manaure saltworks; the Jepirach ecological park; Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of South America.
It is preferable for those who wish to travel to Colombia to seek advice from their doctor and to subscribe to a medical evacuation insurance.
The local authorities do not require any prior vaccination, however, it is recommended that you are protected against typhoid fever, rabies, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria-tetanus-polio, and yellow fever.
Only clinics in Colombia’s major cities are sufficiently equipped medically to deal adequately with all conditions.
In principle, medical treatment is payable in advance before the patient is treated.
The regional hospital Nuestra Señora de los Remedios and four other facilities are available in Ríohacha.
The Paris timetable is 7 hours ahead of the Ríohacha timetable throughout the year.
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.
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.
846,609 pop.* 846,609
20,848 km 2
From 27 oC to 35 oC
From 0 m.a.s.l. to 450 m.a.s.l.
Latitude 10o 23′ and 12o 28′ North and longitude 71o 06′ and 73o 39′ West
- Juan del CesarUrumitaLa
- Jagua del PilarUribia
- and Manaure
Geography, boundaries and hydrography
The departmental territory corresponds mostly to the peninsula of La Guajira. The relief is formed by mountains, cliffs, plains and dunes.
Due to their marked physiographic differences, three different regions are considered from the northeast to the southwest:
The Alta Guajira, located in the extreme peninsular, semi-desert, with scarce vegetation and mostly cactus, and some mountain ranges that do not exceed 650 meters above sea level, such as La Macuira, Jarará and the hill of La Teta. The majority of the Wayúu Indians live there and the infrastructure for coal and salt exploitation is located there, as well as many of the natural charms.
The Media Guajira covers the central part, with a flat and undulating relief, it is less arid. It is dominated by dunes and sand dunes.
Baja Guajira, also known as La Provincia, corresponds to the foothills and part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Perijá mountain range and the Montes de Oca. It is more humid, has arable land and offers a great diversity of climates.
The semi-desert plains and dunes near the coast are extensive and striking. The Guajira coastal strip alternates between cliffs and straight coastline. The main coastal features are: the bays of Portete, Honda, Hondita and Cocineta, Cabo de la Vela and the Coco, Aguja, Gallinas and Boca de Camarones points.
To the east, with the Caribbean Sea and Venezuela. To the north, with the Caribbean Sea.
To the west, with the Caribbean Sea and the department of Magdalena.
To the south, with the department of Cesar.
The most important watercourse is the Ranchería River, which rises in the Sierra Nevada and flows into the Caribbean Sea in the city of Riohacha. Of great importance is the Ranchería River dam, located in the village of Chorrera in the municipality of Distracción. This dam was built to provide multiple water benefits and to supply a large part of the department in a regulated manner. Although this river has many streams, especially in its middle and lower regions, they are insufficient and of temporary course.
The Montes de Oca are, along with the Sierra Nevada, the most important water providers in the region, which is why their main and tributary streams are used for various human and agricultural purposes. The main courses are the Carraipía river and the Majayura stream.
Due to the physiographic characteristics of the department, the natural factors are very varied. In Alta Guajira, dividivi bushes, trupillo, palo de brasil, cactus and xerophytic species predominate. The fauna is abundant in fish, reptiles, especially sea turtles, and birds such as the pink flamingo.
In the Middle and Lower Guajira, areas of higher humidity, lower winds and lower altitudes, the natural characteristics are also varied. The forest relicts maintain an enormous biological potential that is the basis for the natural processes of regeneration and restoration of the surrounding ecosystems, in addition to being refuges for endangered, endemic and migratory species.
The existence of forest remnants from the basal zone to the Venezuelan border at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level allows for ecosystem connectivity and guarantees the maintenance of genetic flows with the Perijá mountain range and the rest of the Eastern Cordillera, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Ranchería and Cesar river valleys and the Caribbean plain.
In 2011, the population was 846,609 inhabitants, 44 percent of which corresponds to the municipal capitals and 56 percent to the rural sector, generally small conglomerates and rancherías.
The climate in the peninsula is dry and with high temperatures (27 oC to 35 oC), cooled by the sea breeze and the northeast trade winds that blow during most of the year. Rainfall is scarce and generally occurs in the months of September, October and November.
The aridity of the peninsula means that economic development does not have the same speed as in other departments of the country, but this is not an obstacle, as it is of great importance and value its natural resources: coal, natural gas and sea salt. These activities represent approximately 70 percent of the economy, followed by the service sector, especially tourism, which accounts for 15 percent. Cattle and goat ranching, along with corn, sesame, rice, African palm, cotton, sugar cane and tobacco crops, account for 11 percent, and small and medium manufacturing industry accounts for four percent. The city of Maicao, on the border with Venezuela, is an important point of commercial activity.
Two national natural parks and a wildlife sanctuary are part of the Guajira territory: Serranía de Macuira National Park in the Alta Guajira region; Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park, whose surface area is shared with the departments of Magdalena and Cesar; and Los Flamencos Wildlife Sanctuary, a short distance from the departmental capital.
Culture and Traditions
The Wayúu, ethnic wealth
The Wayúu language is called Wayuunaiki. The term kusima is used to refer to other indigenous people, and alijuna to designate non-indigenous people, regardless of whether they are white, black or mestizo, in general for the ‘civilized’.
Their language belongs to the Arawak family, some of them speak Spanish. They settle in isolation along the peninsula and mainly around Nazareth, Uribia, Serranía de Jalala, Maicao and Manaure.
The Wayúu settlements are matriarchal, that is to say, the woman is the one who dominates the family. They are generally grouped into five or six houses, rancherías or pichiipala, inhabited according to kinship through the female line. The dwelling is very simple and undecorated; valuables are kept in backpacks that are hung up. The kitchen is an independent construction, and there is always a shed (luma) with a thatched roof and columns without partitions in which social life takes place.
The dwellings are rectangular (in Alta Guajira some circular ones can be seen) built with yotojoro (the heart of the cactus) or bahareque. In recent decades, zinc and brick have been introduced. The corrals are located away from the houses.
The main production system is livestock, especially goats. Cattle are a way of obtaining prestige and wealth because they are used to obtain more wives and as payment for reparations.
The arrival of industry and construction are changing the traditional forms of subsistence, which was the need to produce manufactured objects and to work as wage laborers during the dry seasons in different industrial regions of Venezuela.
Another traditional way of obtaining money is in the work of the salt mines and informal commerce, which for decades have helped to overcome the precariousness of the territory.
The social organization is based on matrilineal classes associated with greater wealth and poverty. Marriage is an economic transaction and polygamy is the representation of economic success.
Except for the last woman, the rest live with their children in separate rancherías and the husband visits them periodically.
There is no political organization and there is no central authority. That is why the problems among them are solved directly, which can cause real quarrels between families. The only social institution or authority is the piache or palabrero, man or woman who receives such powers by illumination.
The typical clothing is very simple, the man uses guayuco or loincloth (less and less used) held by a sash (siira) and always the backpack or susuchón and the hat (mawisa) with symbolic drawings.
The woman’s clothing is very colorful; she wears the guajira blanket or wayusheein (a kind of Arabian djellaba) made of light industrial fabrics that cover her from the sun’s rays, a headscarf, and the kakunas, jewelry that was part of the payment for the marriage.
The attire is complemented with guaireñas or cotizas made with indigenous techniques, which are decorated on top with wool tassels or multicolored threads.
Music and folklore
In the north, the dance of the yonna or chichamaya stands out, and in the south, vallenata music.
The chichamaya is considered autochthonous and of great significance for the indigenous people. In general, the dance of the kid is a reason to celebrate the arrival of the rains, and parties are held in honor of Mareiwa, the creator God of the Guajiros.
The dance is performed by one or more women and a man; the latter dances backwards to the beat of the drums, and the woman dances forward more serenely, with the aim of knocking the man down. Finally, she makes him fall and those around them celebrate with joy.
The man is dressed with the best garment: the guayuco, and the woman, with the best blanket, the taquiara.
On the contrary, the traditional vallenato rhythm is a native contribution of the southern region, cradle of accordions and minstrels, where the rhythm emanates from the melodious combination of the caja, the guacharaca and the accordion.
The jurisdiction of the municipality of Riohacha has a double pride: accordion music entered and spread through this place, and also Francisco Antonio Moscote Rodríguez, known as Francisco el Hombre, creator of one of the most important folkloric currents in the country, the vallenata music, was born and died in this area.
Rancheria Tourist Days
It is a unique opportunity to learn about the reality, habits and customs of the Wayúu natives; traditions are shared, the Wayuunaiki language is heard and the social distribution of the ethnic group is perceived.
The visit can include the tasting of a plate of friche (typical goat-based dish), prepared in front of the visitor and the delight of a toast with chirrinchi (distilled liquor based on panela). You can buy handicrafts made in the same place and appreciate the dance of the yonna or chichamaya.
The ranchería activity can be done in an afternoon or a day or spend a night sleeping as the natives themselves do.
Myths and legends
Miracle of the Virgin of Remedios
Since May 14, 1663, the miracle performed by the Virgen de los Remedios is commemorated in Riohacha. According to the version transmitted from generation to generation by the people of Riohacha, this event took place in the natural phenomenon of a violent storm at sea. In the darkness of the night, between thunder and lightning, in the fury of the wind and rain a multitude of men and women who went crazy with fear and with men full of tears implored mercy to the Virgin of Remedies, this was taken out of the temple and walked through the main streets; her crown was thrown into the sea by the gale, which produced the serenity of the waves. Thus originated the miracle of the Virgen de los Remedios.
Origin of the Macuira Mountain Range
The guajiro myth tells that once upon a time there was a cacique who had a hut in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta from where he could watch the faces of his three sons who lived with him. One night, he dreamed that they were walking away to the north of La Guajira. This thought haunted him again and again until one night, distressed by the dream, he got up to see if his children were asleep, but they were not to be found. Alarmed, he looked to the north and there stood three imposing peaks. It was his three sons who had given birth to the Macuira mountain range.
From Tomarrazón, a small town in La Guajira Media, Francisco el Hombre left with his accordion on his chest and went through the dusty trails of the smugglers and traveled the tangle of bridle paths that, in those days, were the only means of communication. From town to town, with his cracked feet, he went seducing women, drinking rum and singing the latest news. One night, in the comings and goings of his vagabond singing, he found himself face to face with the devil and, with no other alternative, he had to fight for his soul in an accordion duel. The Credo, played backwards, decided the contest in favor of Francisco el Hombre. Since then, piquerías are the most emotional way to judge who is the best accordion player.
Jagged Vagina Myth
It is a myth about the origin of the Wayúu ethnic group that says: At that time, women were considered semi-goddesses, they had their vaginas with teeth and there was no way of human reproduction. Wolunka, daughter of the goddess Mareigua one day when she was bathing intimately in a well was discovered by two twins who with an arrow knocked down the teeth of her vagina; at the same time, all the other women were detached. The action made it possible to conceive children and it was Wolunka who was the first to give birth to a daughter. From then on, the Wayúu began to reproduce.
In La Guajira, the main gastronomic tradition is the goat, prepared in different ways, being the most famous dish the friche. Due to its proximity to the sea, it is rich in a variety of fish and seafood that attracts visitors and seafood lovers to taste the freshest and most appetizing typical dishes.
Friche is the most famous of the Guajira dishes; it is prepared with young and tender goat legs and ribs, with the animal’s blood and offal. It is seasoned with garlic and finely chopped onions and green paprika, lemon, salt and pepper to taste. All the ingredients are mixed and sautéed, and then left to cook over low heat, stirring the mixture constantly. It is served with a corn bun or clean bun.
Other dishes are: shrimp rice, chorizo rice, chipichi rice (seafood), stingray salad, chichigüare arepa (fried tender corn arepa), canchafa arepa in machobayo (ground corn arepa, roasted in an almond tree banana leaf and finally grilled). The dishes are accompanied by drinks such as corn chicha, loquat juice, iguaraya, wild cherry and canned grape juice.
Desserts are equally varied and include the traditional coconut cocada (coconut candy), dulce de leche de Monguí, bolitas de leche, icaco candies, sesame, corn, green papaya and other delicious desserts such as grapefruit and potato candy.
The Wayúu make the most famous handicrafts of La Guajira. Their colorful and well-designed weavings are items that, in addition to being decorative, are part of the usual accessories of their creators. Blankets, backpacks and chinchorros enrich the handicraft inventory, especially in Uribia.
Wayúu handicrafts are characterized by cheerful tones and vivid colors. The colorful tones that the natives imprint on their handicrafts are a reflection of the artistic character of the women who, from a very early age, learn to weave in the “Encierro” (sutus or papcos) where it is said that “to be a woman is to know how to weave”. They mainly use cotton as raw material to create their usual products, such as blankets, an essential part of their clothing, and “chinchorros” and backpacks decorated with balls and bangs of the same material that provide them with singular beauty. They also produce espadrilles in fabric and thick rubber floors very resistant and durable known as “guaireñas”.
Parties and Events
Our Lady of Los Remedios Patron Saint’s Festivities
The Virgen de los Remedios, intimately known as La Vieja Mello, represents one of the oldest religious traditions of the riohacheros. It is equated to the Virgen de La Candelaria because it coincides in the date of its celebration (the celebration of La Can
(the same is very common in other parts of the Colombian Caribbean). Within the framework of her festivity, among other activities, there are novenaries, masses and the procession that goes through the center of the city and the edge of the bay, very solemn acts, dawn and musical retretas in honor of the Virgin; payment of promises or “mandas”; celebration of baptisms, marriages, first communions, fireworks, and kiosks of typical food and handicrafts.
Wayúu Culture Festival
It is held in the municipality of Uribia, known as the indigenous capital of Colombia, in order to highlight and preserve the Wayúu customs. Craft exhibitions, conferences and horseback rides are held and a beautiful and authentic representative of the Wayúu culture (Majayura) is chosen.
A week before Lent, the carnival festivities are held. During these days, the people have fun in booths to the sound of drums, throwing cornstarch and taking out every Friday of pre-Carnival the authentic “pilón guajiro”. The festivities end with the parade of the embarradores throughout the city of Riohacha and their bath in the sea at dawn.
Los Laureles Festival
The Festival de Los Laureles is a cultural, folkloric, recreational and civic event for the dissemination, promotion, recovery and preservation of Vallenato folklore and culture in all its splendor. The name was given in honor of the trees that adorn the main square, known as fig trees although it is also known as Indian laurel, that is why the Festival de Los Laureles is named after them.
The return of the raizales of Fonseca turns this return towards the nostalgia and the memory of the old times and their customs. In the feast of St. Augustine can not miss the Eucharistic celebrations and sacraments, the procession and the payment of promises, accordion competitions, unpublished song of great quality, piquería or kiosks of typical food and crafts, so the slogan “Fonseca, to return to you is to repeat the joy of being born again” was institutionalized.
Flower and Calaguala Festival
Cultural and sports competition with the participation of schools. The name is due to the flowers and the calaguala fern, very common in the region. There are folkloric dances, exhibition of floral arrangements and calaguala, accordion competitions in the amateur and children’s categories and unpublished pieces in vallenato rhythms.
Cuna de Acordeones Festival
Santo Tomas Festival. Gathering of the great accordionists of La Guajira and Cesar. Contests of unpublished pieces (son, puya, paseo and merengue), best accordion players in the categories of children, amateur and professional, best singer and the piqueria of adults and children in the modalities of free theme and forced foot. Forum on Vallenato folklore. Parade of folkloric dances: mapalé, cumbia, vallenato, pilón. In addition, Eucharistic celebration, procession and fireworks.
National Coal Festival
The celebration includes mass, retreta and pyrotechnics. In the National Reign, the candidates represent those departments that produce coal. There is also an amateur accordion contest, pyrotechnics, unpublished songs in the rhythms of puya, paseo, merengue and son, a parade of floats with the candidates and regional folklore groups, a regional dance exhibition, a gathering of Wayúu Indians and an exhibition of paintings and handicrafts.
Religious-cultural event in the prosperous town of El Molino.
Festival Cuna de Compositores
This festival highlights the folklore and customs of the people of San Juan. In the event the unpublished songs are chosen in the different categories and the composer of the year is chosen.
National and International Dividivi Festival
It is the most important festival celebrated in La Guajira. Riohacha is adorned with a great feast. Numerous walks accompany step by step to their candidate, and in the popular dances end the revelry and joy of the people of La Guajira.
Dividivi is a tree that grows wild in La Guajira, whose fruit is an S-shaped curled pod, rich in tannin, which serves as raw material to produce tonic extracts used in tanneries.
Frito and Almojábana Festival
Event dedicated to fried foods, which are consumed in large quantities in the area. The almojábana is the edible product par excellence and has become the basis of the economy of the village of Cuestecita in the municipality of Albania. Contest to award the best fried and the most exquisite almojábanas.
Corn Festival and Corn Reign
It is held in the picturesque village of Villa Martin (Machobayo), municipality of Riohacha, the first weekend of December. It is a folkloric and cultural event that integrates all the towns of La Guajira, among its events are highlighted: Unpublished song contests, piqueria, children’s accordion, calbalgata, rooster fights and beauty pageant.
- Riohacha. Francisco el Hombre Festival in January.
- Riohacha. Fiestas patronales de Nuestra Señora
de los Remedios in early February.
- Riohacha. Carnivals are held from January to March.
- Uribia. Feast of the Wayúu Culture in May.
- Cuestesitas. Festival of the Frito and the Almojábana in May.
- Distraction. Festival of Los Laureles in May.
- La Junta. Festival y Reinado del Fique in July.
- Fonseca. Festival del Retorno in August.
- Riohacha. Bolero Festival in September.
- Villanueva. Festival Cuna de Acordeones in September
- El Molino
- Singer’s Festival in October.
- San Juan del Cesar. Festival Cuna de Compositores in December.
- Monguí. Dulce de Leche Festival and Contest in December.
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.
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.
- Code: 5
- Dirección de Turismo de La Guajira Calle 1a. Avenida de La Marina No. 4 42Tel
- : (5) 727 10
- [email protected] | [email protected]
- PIT (Point of Tourist Information) Calle 1a Avenida de La Marina
More than 20 agencies and tour operators operate in the city, offering their services to Guajira, the rest of the country and abroad.
Red Cross : 132 / (5) 727 30 77
Ambulance (5) 727 1394
Hospital/Urgencies (5) 727 1394
National Police 112
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
Tips for the Traveler
More and more people are leaving the traditional tourism paths and entering natural parks, civil society reserves and community areas, spaces for conservation.
Minimizing the impact of tourism
Nature tourism has earned a place as a national strategy to show travelers all the natural beauties that the country has, in order to protect these places, defend them from misuse, and work towards conservation. However, tourism can also threaten these areas if visitors and resource managers do not take appropriate measures and act respectfully with the environment, minimizing their impact.
It is in the hands of visitors to make eco-tourism an alternative to travel in a way that deeply respects the culture and environmental riches of the country. The ethical traveler must know deeply the limits that seek above all the respect for the environment, learn about ecosystems, enjoy and visit the wonderful secrets that the country offers.
As the number of visitors to these natural areas increases, the negative impacts on the environment and therefore on the beauty of the landscape become evident if there is no strategic plan for the proper care and management of the environment. In this context, the different actors in the tourism industry, such as tour operators, municipal and departmental authorities, and environmental authorities, among others, play a very important role in maintaining and caring for natural areas and promoting appropriate attitudes among visitors for the development of outdoor activities that are recognized as responsible and sustainable tourism practices.
At the international level, a large number of countries have been pioneers in defining and implementing strategies to reduce the environmental impacts of outdoor activities and nature tourism. In this sense, many countries in the Americas have been adopting the “Leave No Trace – Leave No Trace “4 program, which seeks to provide tourists with tools to carry out their outdoor activities in a more organized way, minimizing their impact and committing to environmental care. The “Leave No Trace” program has become a way of coordinating with tour operators, administrators of protected natural areas and the general public to promote the responsible use of wild areas through the application of minimum impact techniques. To this end, seven principles have been identified, which are based on promoting the need to think before acting and act ethically and consciously.
Seven basic principles
Tourism stakeholders will find in these principles a guide that, together with reason and the desire to act ethically, will enable sustainable development.
Prepare and plan ahead.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
3. Dispose of waste properly. 4. Leave what you find.
5. Minimize the use and impact of campfires. 6. Respect wildlife.
7. Be considerate of other visitors and local inhabitants.
These 7 principles are the foundations from which the participants of the activities initiate the practice
of responsible and ethical tourism. To ensure good practices, the best recommendation they can follow is to think and question before acting, looking for answers that clearly indicate whether our actions when traveling to natural sites are environmentally ethical or not. Your environmental awareness
will give you the answer to this question and when you return home you should be confident that the sites you visited are better than you found them.
Riohacha the capital
In this area of magic and reality, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, lies Riohacha, the capital of La Guajira.
There, on the southwestern coast of the peninsula, the city remains perfumed by a combined aroma of salt and iodine.
From the air, it is an enchanting landscape: calm coasts adorned by coconut trees, boats going or coming from fishing, and flocks of pelicans, herons and seagulls that brighten up the place. The Muelle de los enamorados (Lover’s Wharf), which lies from the beach to the sea, also stands out. Next to it, the mouth of a creek that has been a silent witness of all the history of the city.
Seaport on the Caribbean, reveals at a glance that the impact of the modern economy has reached there. The construction of tall buildings overlooking the sea, wide avenues that meet the highways leading to Santa Marta, Barrancas, Valledupar and the border market of Maicao with Venezuela.
- Pop. 220,754.
- 28 oC3
- Latitude 10o 23′ and 12o 28′ north and 71o 06′ and 73o 39′ west.
How to get there
The Almirante Padilla airport, located five minutes from the town, is served daily by a national airline and twice a week by an international airline.
The Terminal de Transporte Terrestre is the arrival and departure point for four large interdepartmental transportation companies and three intermunicipal companies for minor routes. It is advisable to use the door-to-door transportation service for small vehicles from Maicao and the departmental capitals bordering La Guajira.
The Terminal is located on 15th Street between Carreras 11 and 12, where several transportation companies are located, such as Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, Expreso Wayuu, among others.
From Valledupar, Riohacha is reached by a paved and well signposted road.
Roads: Valledupar, La Paz, Varas Blancas, La Jagua del Pilar, Urumita, Villanueva, San Juan del Cesar, Buena Vista, Distracción,
Fonseca, Barrancas, Papayal, Hatonuevo, Cuestecitas, Villamartin (Machobayo), Mongui, Riohacha.
From Santa Marta
To make this route, the traveler must take the Caribbean trunk road, heading north, passing the bridge over the Palomino River, from where the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta can be seen and where the departmental boundary of Magdalena and La Guajira is located. The road is well paved, well signposted and in perfect safety conditions.
On both sides of the road, there are gas stations, food stops, hotels, restaurants and several small houses ideal to stock up on supplies for the next trip.
Transportation on Riohacha’s main roads is provided by collective service cabs, which are either shared fares or pay-per-stand fares. In addition, individual cabs are inexpensive because of the short distances involved.
The climate, especially on the peninsula, is dry and with high temperatures (27 oC to 35 oC), cooled by the sea breeze and the northeast trade winds that blow during most of the year. Rainfall is scarce and generally occurs in the months of September, October and November.
The foundation of Riohacha is the result of two migratory transplants from the island of Cubagua, located near Margarita, to Cabo de la Vela, and from there to the site currently occupied by the capital of Guajira. On March 21, 1538, King Charles I of Spain signed a Royal Decree in Toledo authorizing the transfer of the Cubaguenses to Cabo de la Vela. The migrants settled there with their families and all the prerogatives, titles and coats of arms transferred from the population of origin, as stipulated in the aforementioned royal decree.
The settlement, baptized Santa María de los Remedios, was founded in accordance with the relevant laws and lived off the pearl trade, but in 1545 its inhabitants sought a new settlement further west because of the permanent siege by pirates and sometimes by the natives themselves.
Led by Francisco de Castellanos, they migrated and reached the Gayúa pass, one league from the mouth of the river.
They called Ranchería, and the town they established was named Nuestra Señora de los Remedios del Río de la Hacha (Our Lady of the Remedies of the River of the Axe). This name obeys, according to tradition, to the fact that the newcomers, thirsty and desperate, promised an axe to an Indian they found on the road, as long as he showed them a source of drinking water.
In time, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios del Ríohacha became a flourishing port, by virtue of the copious banks of mother-of-pearl at the mouth of the tutelary river. In the beginning, the town belonged to the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo, and later to the jurisdiction of Santa Marta, whose government built three forts to defend it from the attacks of buccaneers and guajiros.
Subsequently, it was erected as a Governorate, because in the belief of the metropolis, there would be better mechanisms to protect it from enemies from land and sea; but even so, the territory was martyred, plundered and sometimes reduced to ashes.
During the republican life, Riohacha belonged to the department of Magdalena, but with the promulgation of Decree 1824 of June 13, 1954 it became the capital of the Intendencia de La Guajira, and later the law established it as the capital of the department of La Guajira.
Culture and traditions
Every year, Riohacha hosts various cultural events such as theater, storytelling, dance, poetry, bolero and vallenata music festivals. Recently, events of high national and international impact have been added to its agenda, such as the Hay Festival Riohacha (chapter of the Hay Festival of Literature And The Arts) and the Francisco el Hombre National and International Festival of contemporary vallenata music.
It is important to know that Riohacha has an outstanding architectural heritage that deserves to be known and valued. Its urban memory is nourished with buildings of marked republican style, such as the Municipal Palace and some hotels; well preserved temples of traditional religious style such as the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the church of San Francisco de Asís, the chapel of the Divina Pastora and the church of San Judas Tadeo. Its tradition
The urban structure is also structured with old Caribbean-style buildings that evoke its legendary past and serve as living testimonies of its historical past.
There are small restaurants and inns for all tastes, easily located in the center of the city, especially on or near Avenida de la Marina.
Towards the end of Avenida Primera and Carrera II, there are small kiosks and establishments selling very fresh cebiches and seafood cocktails.
An important part of the economy is livestock: cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. Fishing, especially for shellfish, turtles and pearls, is carried out in an artisanal way. Indigo, mahogany, cedar, guayacán, oak, and totumo are also important forestry products.
In the city there are hotel establishments of different categories and rates. Some are located near 12th Street or Avenida de la Marina and others are scattered throughout the city, but mostly near the historic center and others on the outskirts. There are also guesthouses and some finca-hotels near the urban area.
Along the Avenida de la Marina and in the vicinity of the hotels, as well as in the public market, the Wayúu Indians exhibit and sell handicrafts, bags, backpacks, chinchorros, handles, bracelets, hats and blankets. There are also some specialized stores that buy these products directly from the artisans.
Riohacha has several hospital establishments, such as private clinics and first aid centers, which treat private patients or those of health entities. Among them are: Clínica Riohacha, Cades, Renacer and Clínicas de la Península. Public health services are provided by Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Hospital.
On Avenida de La Marina are the main entertainment establishments, which begin their services in the afternoon hours and conclude at the end of the night.
Scattered throughout the city and easily accessible, there are Internet sites that offer their services at low costs and remain open continuously from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
ATMs of all banks that accept national and international cards are available to customers. They are easy to find in the center of the city and in the Suchimma Shopping Center.
Commercial establishments are usually open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays and holidays until 4 p.m.
01. Paseo de la Marina
Constituted by the urban beaches and its articulation with the Tourist Pier and the Camellón on the coastal strip of Avenida La Marina, it was designed to walk enjoying the landscape of the Caribbean Sea. It has twelve interpretive columns of the landscape and culture of La Guajira. The PIT (Tourist Information Point) is located there.
02. Tourist Pier
Built in 1937, it is approximately 700 meters long. Entering the pier allows you to appreciate a great panoramic view of downtown Riohacha.
The pilgrimage of the Virgen de los Remedios – La Vieja Mello – is held at the pier every May 14, a ceremony known as El Día del Milagro (Miracle Day).
03. Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios
It is located in front of Almirante Padilla Park. In addition to the careful architecture of this temple of the XVI century, it is necessary to know the image and the history of the Virgin taken to Riohacha from Cabo de la Vela, when the port was assaulted by the English who were looking for pearls.
The cathedral is part of Colombia’s national heritage because the remains of the famous Guajira hero, Admiral José Prudencio Padilla, lie in it.
To the northeast and on 1st Street is the Riito Bridge over the mouth of the Ranchería River. It is interesting to observe the artisanal and indigenous fishermen preparing their nets and other gear for their daily work. It is a very appropriate place to appreciate the sunset. It takes its name from the large number of crabs that can be observed. A little further north, a short distance away is a popular beach resort known as Valle de los Cangrejos (Valley of the Crabs).
05. Padilla Square
The Plaza de Padilla is considered the center of the city and the meeting place and gathering place of the riohacheros. It is adorned by the statue of Admiral José Prudencio Padilla. It is very well preserved and framed by a beautiful architecture – Municipal Palace, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Remedies and modern buildings.
06. Salt Lagoon
It is the largest body of water in the capital of the department. It is home to a large number of migratory and native birds.
07. Nicolás de Federmán Park
It is located at the end of La Marina Street or First Avenue. It is surrounded by cannons that recall the defense of the city. The monument to the conqueror Nicolás de Federmán stands out.
08. Monument to Francisco el Hombre
Notable point at the traffic circle at Calle 15 and Carrera 7.
09. Return of the fishermen
It is very interesting to appreciate the return to the city of the artisanal fishermen, between three and five o’clock in the afternoon, with their fish caught at sea.
10. Departmental Cultural Center and Public Library Casa de la Cultura
This important building is considered one of the most valuable architectural heritages in Riohacha. Its round structure, elevated from ground level, stands at the end of Avenida de La Marina. It hosts economic forums, cultural events and offers workshops and courses.
Bordering the structure, at street level, a true work of urban art can be detailed. An impressive mural painted by several local artists represents many elements of La Guajira, such as the Wayúu handicrafts, the vallenato, the deserts and the embarradores (a group of people who are dedicated by tradition, on Carnival Sunday, to embarradores the attendees).
Riohacha’s main attraction is its six beaches (Marbella, Del Guapo, Del Muelle, Gimaura La Boca, De los Cangrejos and La Raya), all with white sands lined with coconut palms and the Tourist Pier since 1937.
Los Flamencos Flamingo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Park
It is a place that for no reason should not be missed by anyone visiting La Guajira. It is located between the village of Camarones, and the capital of the department of La Guajira, Riohacha, and the mouth of the Tapias River. Because of its rich bird life, it is recognized as a sanctuary of fauna and flora.
How to get there
Access: The town of Camarones is located 20 kilometers east of Riohacha along the Caribbean Highway. From there, take a three-kilometer road north to La Boca, where the Sanctuary’s administrative center, the Guanebucane cabin, and the El Mangle visitor center, where services are provided to the local community, are located.
Activities: hiking, wildlife observation, especially birds and mangroves, cultural heritage (knowledge of ranches), photography and video, research and environmental education.
Ecotourism service providers can take you on a rowing and sailing boat tour of the Navío Quebrado Lagoon, through tunnels in the mangrove walls where you can observe flamingos and other birds representative of these ecosystems. They can also take you to some ranches and guide you on land tours to some of the wildlife observation platforms.
Boca de Camarones
It is part of the Fauna and Flora Sanctuary Los Flamencos. It is located on the coast, to the northwest of the city of Riohacha. It is reached after traveling 20 kilometers along the Caribbean trunk road to Santa Marta. On the way to Camarones, there is a 3-kilometer detour towards the sea that leads to the park’s administrative headquarters. There is a very particular ecosystem made up of a succession of fresh and salt water marshes, including the Navío Quebrado and Grande lagoons, which can be traveled by canoe throughout their length and width, especially through the existing mangrove tunnels, under the guidance of a member of the local community. In it rest and nest varieties of endogenous bird species and, especially migratory, among which stand out the pink flamingos likely to be sighted on the surface or flying at very short distance.
Main municipalities and attractions of La Guajira
- Hato Nuevo
- Barrancas Fonseca
- Distraction San Juan del Cesar
Riohacha, Maicao, Albania and Dibulla are located in what is known as the Media Guajira, which marks a change of landscape, vegetation and even population, as its people are a mixture of indigenous and mestizo especially; likewise, socioeconomic relations change and the tourism offer is different from the Alta Guajira.
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.
50 m.a.s.l. 30 oC 11o 22′ north, 72o 14′ west
A young town with a great civic spirit, its name means Land of Corn and is the commercial showcase of La Guajira, an hour’s drive from Riohacha. The Caribbean trunk road connects this town with important cities on the coast and the Venezuelan border. It also has other roads leading to the south of La Guajira and the El Cerrejón mine. It has an area of 2174 square kilometers. Its heterogeneous population is made up of mestizos, indigenous people, provincials and foreigners from the Middle East.
Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque
A must visit when arriving in Maicao is the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque, built in 1987, a temple of prayer for Muslims that, along with the Dar El Arkam College, is one of the main cultural centers of the Muslim community. The mosque is the third largest in Latin America and its architectural beauty is to be admired, in addition to the mystical significance it represents for the community. It is the center where Muslims meet five times a day, and a place visited by nationals and foreigners, students and researchers.
El Cerrejón carboniferous complex
The largest open-pit coal deposit in Latin America and the third largest in the world; it is located in Baja Guajira between the municipalities of Albania, Hato Nuevo and mainly Barrancas. To access the mine and observe the extraction process, El Cerrejón offers a guided tour program, which must be arranged in advance. To get to the site, tourists must travel to the town of Albania. Nearby is the main entrance where there is a video showing the backhoes removing the material, the dump trucks loading the coal, and the execution of the plan to dynamite the rock and continue with the extraction.
During the tour you can visit parts that make up the coal complex, such as the green areas, workers’ residences, the school, the supermarket, the club and other places for the welfare of the workers, as well as the dumps, water tanks, machine shops and the areas already exploited and recovered.
A railroad network of approximately 150 kilometers transports the coal from the mine to Puerto Bolivar, on the Caribbean Sea, near Portete Bay, where it is shipped to the international market.
Tours must be requested and confirmed at least three days in advance.
Monday through Saturday from 7 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays, subject to availability.
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays. Only groups of at least ten people are served.
at the La Mina Visitor Center:
(5) 350 57 05 Puerto Bolivar: (5) 350 67 40
11o 16′ north, 73o 18′ west
The main attraction of this municipality are its beautiful beaches and the combination of salt and fresh waters, because in this site are the mouth of different rivers and streams that reach the sea; therefore, the visitor takes advantage of these currents, such as the Jerez River, whose main attraction is its clean and fresh waters.
It is a town to enjoy the tranquility of the beach, the breeze and the sea. However, its rural area extends to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is part of the national natural park and the Kogui-Malaya-Arahuaco indigenous reservation.
Las Cascadas Natural Park
It is located in the village of El Mamey, jurisdiction of the municipality of Dibulla, approximately one hour from Riohacha (66 kilometers) and two kilometers after crossing the detour to the municipal seat, on the left side. There you will find a cobblestone road on which you will travel 1,700 meters to the facilities of a farm dedicated to agriculture.
In this place you cross a creek and after a 1500 meter walk along a trail, you will arrive at one of the 15 waterfalls suitable for canyoing. All of them have different characteristics and are connected by a jungle path or by the bed of the creek.
The place, with lush vegetation, is part of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, from there you can see the mestre, the tallest tree in the Sierra that can reach 65 meters high, and many tree species that make up the natural park, among which there are many varieties of ferns, bells and snails. Representative animal species of the place are the ñeque, the zaíno, the guatinaja, the skunk, and some reptiles and primates. There are abundant birds such as toucans and the endemic black-eared parrot. The place can be considered a natural spa , and can be used for hydrotherapy, mud therapy and thalassotherapy.
There are two interesting trails: an aquatic trail, with natural pools and waterfalls, and a land trail through the jungle.
Baja Guajira is framed between the Perijá mountain range and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the high valleys of the Ranchería River, which flows north, and the Cesar River, which flows south. In these valleys the most popular folkloric rhythm of the country is created and spread: the vallenato.
200 m.a.s.l. 28 oC 11o 04′ north, 72o 46′ west
To get to the land of Vallenato from Riohacha, take the road to Cuestecitas in a southeasterly direction; there, in the valley of the Ranchería River, turn south following the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. You will first arrive at Hato Nuevo,
It is a small town where time has stopped, as it still preserves the old typical houses of the area as relics. It was founded in 1840 by the miller Blas Amaya.
In the month of July the Festival and Departmental Reign of Friendship is celebrated. Tourism is the predominant activity, especially motivated by its natural spas such as the Cascadas and Aguas Blancas, in the upper part of the Gritador stream.
10o 57′ north, 72o 47′ west
After crossing the village of Papayal, you will arrive at the town of Barrancas, in whose main square you will find the monument to the Extraction of Coal.
The National Coal Festival and Contest and the Virgen del Pilar Patron Saint Festivities are held there in October.
12 m.a.s.l. 28 oC
10o 53′ north, 72o 51′ west
It was populated in colonial times by Spanish travelers and conquerors who, attracted by these fertile lands, began to inhabit the region.
Within the town, it is worth visiting the Carlos Huertas House of Culture, which is a space for learning and dissemination of the Vallenata culture. It also attracts its main park surrounded by the stage and the town’s church.
In its surroundings are La Cueva in the village of El Conejo, and attractive resorts such as the Canal del Hático, La Guaca, Las Vegas, Arenas Movedizas and Cordonal. La Guaca, Las Vegas, Arenas Movedizas and Cordonal.
There are two Wayúu reserves called Cocicemara and Mayabangloma.
65 m.a.s.l. 28oC 10o 53′ north, 72o 53′ west
Distracción is a recently created municipality, 1995. Before this date it was a corregimiento of Fonseca.
The most popular places for locals and visitors are the spas. El Silencio, on the right bank of the Ranchería River, El Salto and the El Pulgar well. The spas have a complete infrastructure for the comfort of visitors: parking, dressing rooms and restaurants. In the urban area, it is interesting to know its main square and around them some houses that preserve the architecture of the town.
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.
11o 55′ north, 72o 00′ west
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 Pája.
ro, 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.
Serranía de La Macuira National Natural Park
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.
It is the only mountainous elevation that exists in the middle of the Alta Guajira desert. Oasis where water condenses and creates a unique ecosystem of great biodiversity.
Serranía de La Macuira National Natural Park is located in the northeastern part of the peninsula, in the municipality of Uribia, near the town of Nazareth.
How to get there
From Riohacha, take the road to the municipality of Uribia; from there travel along the road that leads to Bahía Portete, where you begin a 115-kilometer journey along trails to Nazareth (seven to eight hours in the dry season). It is recommended that the section be done during the dry season (in winter it is practically impassable) in a four-wheel drive vehicle and always in the company of a baquiano (local guide).
Part of the trip can also be done through Venezuela (visa required). Take the Maicao-Paraguachón road, cross the border and continue along the road that leads to Castillete, which is abandoned in front of the Cojoro mountain range, to enter Colombia again and travel to Siapana and Nazareth on dirt roads.
From Riohacha, the last town to get supplies is Uribia. Occasionally, in some rancherías, typical food can be found.
La Macuira park does not offer lodging, but hammocks are available in the Wayúu rancherías. Next to the National Natural Parks information office, there is a camping area with space for 5 or 6 people; some houses in the village also offer lodging services.
Three types of forests can be found in the park’s area: tropical dry forest, jungle and mountain forests.
The flora is diverse, comprising 349 species, ten of which are endemic. The dwarf cloud forest (with restricted access), unique in Colombia, covers an area of about 15 square kilometers and has a large number of epiphytes and mosses(1). It is home to a large variety of lower plants, including ferns, bijaos and bromeliads, all characterized by their ability to store water, which exalts the peculiarity of this forest to capture the moisture that forms the fog.
The ideal length of stay will depend on the tours you wish to do. However, if you have four nights and five days, you can make a tour of the mountain range starting from the town of Nazareth. The best time to go is in the summer. There is some rain between October
The closest health center to La Macuira is in Nazareth.
The park has many places of environmental and cultural interest. To enter these areas you need the guidance of an authorized guide and to register in the visitor’s book. It is recommended to visit the Mekijano lookout point. From there, you can appreciate the magnitude of the park and its environmental diversity. Another striking site is the Chorro de Ipakiwou, where the Rocky Wall is located, the mythical place of Princess Macuira, turned into rock and condemned to cry eternally forming the crystalline waters that emanate from the rock.
There is also El Médano, a block of sand transported by the wind to the mountains.
It is a sacred place and ceremonial center for Wayúu mythology. On this site, the creator spirit Mareiwa formed his people. On the way is the Wolunka rock, scene of the myth of the Jagged Vagina.
Other sites of special interest are the Batea de Kajashiwou, an ideal spring for bathing; the Itojoro hill, to see Nazareth from there; the sea, the desert and the interior of La Macuira; and Kalai, a haunting water spring, a sacred Wayúu place where the spirit of nature Pulowi dwells.
- and education
In the different tours you can see birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals such as deer and ocelots, among others, as well as a variety of flora. You can also enjoy refreshing baths in crystalline streams and interact in the ranches with expressions of the Wayúu culture.
Internal Circuits from Nazareth:
Mekijano viewpoint: an hour and a half hike from Nazareth, it offers a panoramic view of the park’s diversity. There is a ranchería that offers food and lodging services.
El Chorro de Ipakiwou: from the Mekijano lookout point, a hike of about an hour and a half of ascent takes you to the rocky wall of the Macuira Princess. Small lagoons suitable for bathing are formed in the stream.
Nazareth-Siapana Trail: a seven-hour hike that crosses the Serranía and passes through different types of forest, streams and rocky areas until reaching the hamlet of Siapana, where the locals offer lodging, food and handicrafts.
El Medano-Alewouru: a three and a half hour walk from Nazareth, is a huge sandy block, considered one of the landing sites of the creator spirit Mareiwa. On the way there is the Wolunka stone, scene of the myth of the Jagged Vagina.
La Batea de Kajashiwou: one hour by vehicle, three hours by bicycle and four hours on foot, from Nazareth on a pleasant trail. Water source suitable for bathing, intermittent at some times of the year. It is an important sector in the production of Wayúu hats.
Cerro Itojoro (roasted corn): hike of approximately two and a half hours on a steep and rocky road to reach the top. You can see the panoramic view of Nazareth, the sea and the interior of the Serranía.
Kalal: three-hour hike from Nazareth. A ranchería provides lodging and food. There is a permanent water spring, and it is a sacred site for the Wayúu; one of the places where the spirit of nature Pulowi dwells.
To keep in mind
Always travel accompanied by a native guide.
It is prudent to make contact with the indigenous authorities in Nazareth or neighboring rancherías, explain the purpose of the visit and hire a guide.
For information in all cases: National Natural Parks of Colombia
Bogotá Visitors’ Assistance Office
Carrera10 No. 20 30, 1st floor
(1) 353 24 00 Extension 138 or 139 [email protected]
3 m.a.s.l. 28a38oC 11o 34′ north, 72o 34′ west
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).
04 Routes and circuits
Cabo de la Vela Alta Guajira Southwestern Province Sports and activities in nature
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.
Route 02 Alta Guajira
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.
(5) 350 67 40
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 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.
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
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
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.