Crossing La Guajira Desert

La Guajira Desert is one of the most impressive places we have seen in Colombia. Over the three days we spent crossing it in our jeep, we saw 60 metre high sand dunes, blue sea, burnt cliffs, people from the Wayuu community and the most northerly point of South America.

To visit this place we based ourselves in Rioacha, a town approximately one hour away from palomino. There isn’t much to do here, but you can take a walk along the beach and enjoy the sunset.

Sunset in Rioacha

Food tip: In Rioacha, I had the best meal I had in the whole time spent in Colombia. We ate in a restaurant called Lima, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

Our trip

Although it isn’t very easy, you can probably organise the crossing of the desert and a trip all the way to Punta Gallinas on your own. However, as I said in my Santa Marta post, we had budgeted an excursion to Ciudad Perdida, which never happened. Moreover, you can only go through the Wayuu villages with an organised tour, as the public bus stays on the main roads.

For these reasons, we ended up taking a tour that costed 520,000 COP – almost half the price of the Ciudad Perdida average trek. We book the tour through our hostel – The Caribbean – and it was cheaper than the ones with other agencies, like Expotour, that start from at least 600,000 COP, but offer the exact same things. All the tours include transport, accommodation and three meals per day.

If you want to organise the tour yourself, scroll to the end of the page and see how to!

Day 1

We left early in the morning and our first stop was Uribia, the village that it’s considered the indigenous capital of Colombia, for a short visit and to get some water and snack for the way. Our guide also suggested we get sweets for the kids in the village because they love them! After this, we cross the desert and its villages, to reach Cabo de La Vela. After having lunch, we visited the Arco-Irish Beach, climbed the Pilon de Azucar and finally visited the lighthouse to watch the sunset from there.

Arco-Irish beach

Pilon de Azucar and Eoghan trying to take a sunset picture at the lighthouse

We slept in hammocks – or chincorros, as they call the large ones to sleep in – for the first time, and falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the waves was very nice. However, remember to bring with you your sleeping bag – we took just the sleeping bag liner with us, as it was very warm – because the hammocks’ fabric might feel a bit uncomfortable on the skin.

Day 2

We left the camp at around 8am, and started crossing the desert again. On the way, we stopped in Bahia Honda for a quick refreshing swim. We reached the camp in Punta Gallinas at around 2pm and spent the afternoon there, relaxing and enjoying the landscape around us.

Day 3

We got up very early and kept crossing the last bit of the desert and we first stop in Dunes Taroa. After that, we continue on to reach the Faro de Punta Gallinas, the most northerly point in Colombia and South America, before returning back to Rioacha.

Dunes Taroa

If you want to do it yourself…

If you don’t want to get an organised tour, it is still possible to get there yourself:

  • Get a bus from Riohacha to Uribia – 32,000 COP round trip
  • Get a bus from Uribia to Cabo de la Vela – 30,000 COP round trip
  • You can camp in Cabo de la Vela for 5,000 COP per night, rent a hammock for 20,000 COP or stay in a hostel room for around 40,000 COP per night
  • Get a bus from Cabo de la Vela to Punta Gallinas – 150,000 COP round trip
  • You can sleep in a Chinchorro in Punta Gallinas for 25,000 COP per night
  • There aren’t many food options in Punta Gallinas, but overall, food for the four days should be around 100,000-150,000 COP.

In total, you will end up spending between 350,000 COP and and 400,000 COP. This means that, without taking a tour, you will only end up saving between €30 and €50 euro.

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