Along the Caribbean sea, between Venezuela and Colombia, the Guajira Desert is an untouched peninsula, an arid and hostile environment.
Its impressive variety of breathtaking lunar landscapes spread as far as the eye can see. Full of dramatic scenery, with hundreds of goats and thousands of cactus scattered around, the area is a sacred place for the Wayúu community, Colombia’s largest indigenous group.
Wayúus have been living in the region for centuries after they fled from Spanish colonization. Semi-nomadic, strong, and independent, they are still fighting to preserve their rich culture and traditions. They survive on beautiful and colorful craftwork, goat farming, salt cultivation, and tourism. Women lead the clans, passing on Wayúu culture between generations.
Traveling to La Guajira is a beautiful opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and immerse yourself in a unique indigenous culture.
Called Piichi or Miichi, Wayúu houses are usually gathered in groups of five or six, the Rancherías. The fairly small houses are divided into two parts: a place to eat and cook, and a place to sleep. Wayúus sleep in colorful handmade hammocks called Chinchorros.
Cabo de la Vela is a sacred place for the Wayúu community. The Pilon de Azucar, a small hill watching over the beach, is home to resting souls. This special bay, Playa del Pilon, on the Caribbean Sea is also blessed by strong winds which makes it, unexpectedly, one of the best spots in the world to practice kitesurfing.
The Crested Caracara (a type of falcon) is one of many species of birds you can see in the Guajira. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to spot Shining Green hummingbirds, Vermilion Cardinals or even Green Rumped Parrotlets. Colombia is home to the world’s second-largest biodiversity. Surprisingly, even in the aridest part of the country, you can find amazing wildlife.
Wayúu women traveling on the back of donkeys search for water. Every day, women who live in remote parts of the desert need to travel long hours in order to obtain drinking water. The women are the cultural leaders and pillars of the Wayúu community, while men take care of social relations with other clans.
American flamingos are, surprisingly, the stars of the coastal desert. This beautiful bird species are mostly attracted by Guajira’s muddy and salty lakes near the coast. Right before Riohacha, the capital city of La Guajira, you will find the Flora and Fauna Sanctuary of Los Flamingos, an amazing site to observe thousands of flamingos, among many other bird species.
Wayúu woman selling shells on the side of the road to Punta Gallinas. She picks them up at the nearest beach and blocks the road with a rope so cars can stop to see and buy her products. Usually, it is the younger members of the family who lay out a rope or a bicycle chain to create a roadblock. They remove it in exchange for food (usually candy bars), water, or money.
The Guajira peninsula has a huge variety of landscapes and its immensity can be beautiful as well as threatening. Northeast trade winds coming from the Caribbean Sea pass across the peninsula. Without any natural obstacles, rainfall is almost non-existent in the region, creating desertic climate and gorgeous scenery.
Las Dunas Taroa is an exceptional site, one of the most beautiful within La Guajira desert, where the sand dunes fall into the Caribbean Sea. It seems like you are no longer in Colombia but transported to North Africa.
Dunas Taroa. You can access this extraordinary place, close to Punta Gallinas, by a two-hour boat ride from Cabo de la Vela or a three-hour car ride from Riohacha. If you want to go swim in the sea, you are going to have to climb back up the massive sand dune to get back to your car. Think twice!
Punta Gallinas is the most northerly point in South America. People come here to make wishes and leave their mark by piling up small rocks: one rock for one wish. If the rock falls, the wish is lost. Punta Gallinas is also the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Bahia Honda is a breach of the sea near Punta Gallinas. This beautiful place is the perfect spot for a boat ride. Here, you will bump into mangroves in the middle of the desert. You can start the ride leaving from Luzmila, one of Punta Gallinas hostels.