In La Guajira, you don’t have to decide between a wild and adventurous desert trip or a vacation at the beach, where you can enjoy the beautiful Caribbean Sea. In this article, you get to know what makes La Guajira such a great destination and where to go during your visit.Photo: History Travelers
La Guajira is located in the most northeastern part of Colombia. Marked by the beautiful contrast of the turquoise Carribean sea and the golden sands of the desert. In this place, you can not only enjoy the beauty of wild nature but also learn about the culture of one of Colombia's Indigenous people. If you are looking for a bit more adventurous Carribean vacation, then this destination should be your choice.
4 places to visit in La Guajira
Cabo de Vela
The first thing that comes to your mind thinking about the Carribean Sea is probably amazing beaches, where you can relax all day long. And of course, there are some of them in La Guajira. But other than the beaches in Cartagena, here you have them almost for yourself, as La Guajira is still a more remote destination. So you don’t have to worry about reserving the best spot at the beach. At the Playa del Pilón you will for sure find a place to relax and enjoy the romantic scenery of the sunset. The beach of Pilón is named after the hill located next to it, El Pilón de Azúcar. This hill is a spiritual place for the local indigenous people, the Wayúu. In their belief el Pilón de Azúcar is the last place that a Wayúu soul will visit before it passes on to the afterlife.
Another great place to enjoy the sounds of the ocean is the Playa de arcoíris (rainbow beach). The name is a little misleading, as it is not really a beach as you’d imagine. There is no golden sand, but reefs that are hit by the waves. But it will surprise you with its beauty, as you can observe a gorgeous light display when the sunlight gets broken up by the crashing waves.
Cabo de la Vela is also the place to go to, for those who are interested in some sports activities. The constant winds make it a great kitesurfing spot.
Or maybe you are looking for something to bring back home? Then you can also just go for a walk and shop for some souvenirs, as the beautiful Wayúu bags are sold here. To top off a day at this beautiful spot there is a lighthouse where you can watch the sunset, too.Kitesurfing in Cabo de la Vela, Photo: History Travelers
Macuira National Park
Another surprise you’ll be able to discover in the desert is the Macuira National Park. It has some great hiking trails, where you walk through the forest. And you get the chance to spot some rare bird species. You need to be patient to get to the park since it is located far into the desert. But you will be rewarded with the unique and almost untouched nature there.
Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, Camarone
Bird lovers and hobby ornithologists should also stop by Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in Camarones, where you have the chance to see American Flamingos. There are also a great variety of other colorful bird species, like the Buffy Hummingbird, the Russet-throated Puffbird or the beautiful Vermilion Cardinal.Flamingo in Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, Photo: History Travelers
Punta de Gallinas
Punta de Gallinas is a region within La Guajira, where the most northern spot in South America is located. This spot is marked by another lighthouse. Next to this Faro
you will find a small cabin painted with a map, where you can check your exact position. More than that, you can climb the impressive Dunes of Taroa, which are located in this area as well. This is probably one of the best spots to enjoy the contrast between the sea and the desert, as they are located directly at the ocean. And of course, Punta de Gallinas is not missing out on a beach, where you’ll feel like you have the whole sea for yourself. At the Punta Agujas beach, you can simply lean back and enjoy nature's beauty.Most northern spot in South America
Interesting facts about the Wayúu culture
The Wayúu are by number the largest indigenous ethnic group in Colombia. They live with their families at Rancherías
, their traditional homes, which consist of several different cabins. Most of the cabins are built out of cactus wood and roofed with palm tree leaves since other building materials are difficult to find within the desert. The Rancherías
are divided into different areas for cooking, living, and sleeping. There is also a separate place for the goats, which belong to every Ranchería
. These animals were brought to La Guajira by the Spanish conquerors. Nowadays, they are an important component to the Wayúu nutrition.Friche
, for example, is a traditional dish, which is fried goat meat. And of course, there is also a typical drink. Chirrinchi
is an alcoholic beverage, made of panela (unrefined cane sugar) and water. This drink is an important element of funerals in the Wayúu culture. If a family member dies, the Ranchería
will be visited for nine days and every visitor will receive a bottle of Chirrinchi
and something to eat, that they can share with their family.Drawing of a Wayúu Rancheria
Another important part of Wayúu culture is their handicraft work. If you are looking for a souvenir that is connected to the indigenous people of this area, the Wayúu Mochila
(bag) might be your choice. This bag is a significant part of the Wayúu culture, as they are deeply connected with the role of the Wayúu women. Girls learn how to make them as soon as they turn 8 years old and it can take up to six months for a Mochila
to be done. The designs of the bags vary as they are made for different uses. Besides the typical bags, the Wayúu women also wave the beautiful chinchorro
, a in this region typical crafted hammock.Wayúu mochila (bag)
How to get to La Guajira
This unique area caught your interest and now you are wondering how to get there? You can take a bus to get to Riohacha, the capital of the region. They start from Santa Marta and Palomino. To get further into the desert it is best to go by jeep. You can either book transport to discover the desert or book a tour. A local guide will help you to find your way through this vast array of sand. Anyhow, be prepared that it takes quite some time to get from one place to another as the distances are long.
What to pack when visiting La Guajira
As you would probably expect, it gets quite warm in La Guajira. So bring light clothes. To be well protected from the sun sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and long-sleeved shirts are a good idea.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful Carribean Sea don’t forget to pack your bathing suit and towel.
Other helpful things that should find a place in your backpack are mosquito repellent, a flashlight, and hiking shoes.
As the infrastructure is not really touristy yet, consider bringing some snacks to enjoy on your explorer trip through the desert.
It’s the unique mix of opportunities for adventures and relaxation that makes La Guajira such a special place. You can learn something new about the indigenous culture, experience the wild desert and still unbend to the sound of the sea. That sounds like the perfect vacation to you? Then La Guajira is definitely worth being considered to be your next destination.Sources: