Are you looking for a tour to discover the Guajira Desert?
Like many of us, you are probably attracted by the great arid landscapes. Perhaps you want to experience the thrill of feeling small in the midst of cacti and sand dunes?
One thing is certain, The Guajira desert will be an out-of-the-ordinary adventure.
Since this is an unusual experience, you will find all kinds of reviews on the internet. Some people loved it, others hated it.
For what reasons?
- Expectations that do not match reality. It is now fashionable to go to Cabo de la Vela or Punta Gallinas. In fact, travelers add these destinations to their itineraries without really knowing what they’re going to find there.
- A local agency (sometimes illegal) with jeeps in poor condition or unfriendly drivers.
We went 3 times to the Guajira desert and had the opportunity to meet great local partners!
Find out in this article how to best prepare yourself to do tourism in La Guajira, and above all, discover what to expect!
Table of Contents: The Guajira tours
1. A tour on my own in La Guajira
During my first trips to Colombia, I always tried to avoid organized tours.
Two reasons for that:
- The budget
- The feeling of freedom
My arrival in Cabo de la Vela
D – 1: One evening in Palomino, I meet Clement and he tells me about a desert further north on the coast. The experience seems rather nice and I let myself be tempted.
9 am: We leave with a small bag each in the direction of Riohacha. It seems that we have to stop in a place called “4 Vias” and then take a car to Uribia.
11 am: I realize that “4 vias” is simply a crossroads. A local packs 4 of us in a car in the direction of Uribia.
1 pm: After buying 10 L of water, we start looking for a truck in order to go to Cabo de la Vela. It’s quite easy to find. We get in the back with 12 people plus a few chickens, eggs, and at least 250 small packages of chips.
2h30 pm: It’s been a little while since we’ve left the road. I don’t know how the driver knows where to go. Maybe we are lost? At least there are big supplies of chips.
4h00 pm: We finally arrive in Cabo de la Vela. The village spreads out along the coast and there are very few people outside. The houses are mostly built with earth and plants that grow in the area (mostly cacti).
4h30 pm: In less than 20 min, a family sets up 2 hammocks on the beach for us, offers to take us to see the sunset at the lighthouse, and they know someone to drive us to Punta Gallinas.
6h00 pm: I silently contemplate the sun disappearing in a sea without waves. The colors blend, break up, and spread out in the sky. It is beautiful.
9h00 pm: The wind rises as we settle into our hammocks. I cover myself with my towel.
10h00 pm: I wake up and go back to sleep.
11h00 pm: I wake up and go back to sleep.
12h00 pm: Anyway, you understood me.
Departure for Punta Gallinas
5h00 am: Departure for the tour to Punta Gallinas. We are 9 travelers in the jeep.
6h00 am: I stop trying to sleep after the thousandth bounce of my buttocks on the bench in the back of the jeep. We take a short break to watch the sunrise.
8h00 am: The jeep drops us near a sea inlet, then we squeeze into a small boat to reach the camp. I realize that the driver does not come with us. He did not say more than 15 words in 3 hours.
8h30 am: The camp consists of a restaurant and a small store to buy beers, an area to hang hammocks, and some showers + toilets. It’s time for breakfast.
9h30 am: Their jeep doesn’t seem to work today. As a result, we climb into the dumpster of a construction truck. There is one advantage; we can utterly admire the landscape. On the other hand, we have to protect ourselves from the sun and the sand.
10h30 am: The first stop is in Bahia Hondita. The spectacle of colors between the yellow-orange of the desert, the green of the mangroves, and the palette of blues of the sky and the ocean is striking.
11h00 am: We are at the Punta Gallinas lighthouse, the northernmost point of the South American continent.
11h50 am: Taroa is the last stop of this adventure in the desert. Large sand dunes overlook the ocean. I begin to race down the dune with Clément to finish by throwing us in the water. The current is incredibly strong.
12h15 pm: After a grueling climb to the top of the dune, I realize that our truck is gone. It is supposed to come back “ahorita”, that is to say between 15 min and 2 days. I take shelter under the only tree in the area.
1h30 pm: The truck is there. It is time to return to the camp for lunch.
4h30 pm: Our small group decides to take a walk in the desert to admire the sunset.
9h30 pm: The stars are starting to shine in the sky. There is very little light pollution in the Guajira Desert, lovers of beautiful starry skies will be in heaven.
10h00 pm: I settle down in my chinchorro: the typical hammock of the region. It is wide and the sides fold down to be used as a cover. I’m going to sleep like a baby.
Back to Palomino
8h30 am: Let’s go for a long trip back!
9h00 am: A jeep is waiting for us on the other side of the sea inlet. Thank goodness! There is someone to pick us up.
11h00 am: We arrive in Uribia, then we decide to take a cab back to Palomino.
2h30 pm: The end.
2. Why book a tour to discover La Guajira
As you can see, it is possible to organize a tour in La Guajira without going through a local agency.
I mention it more explicitly in our article on Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas.
Therefore, you are probably asking yourself the following question:
Why should I book a Guajira tour with a local agency?
1# A well-structured Guajira tour
Being completely free and only making decisions once you’re on the spot is pleasant. But there are three important conditions for this to work well:
- Speaking Spanish.
- Having time.
- Knowing how to search and find information.
As you read my report, you notice that we took a lot of transportation to get to Cabo de la Vela and that we never knew what was going to happen.
By going through a local agency to take a tour in La Guajira, you avoid unpleasant surprises, you make your life easier and you travel much more comfortably.
2# You visit more places during your Guajira Tour
Since it is easier to travel by private transportation, you will be able to visit more places on your La Guajira Tour.
Going by ourselves to Cabo de la Vela, we missed the following places:
- Salt mines in Manaure.
- Punta ArcoIris and Pilón de Azúcar in Cabo de la Vela.
3# A good jeep and a friendly driver
Good local agencies take care of their vehicles and train their drivers to be more sociable with travelers.
They are not bilingual guides but at least they don’t grunt when you ask them a question.
Note that no one is safe from a flat tire in the desert. Do not stone the driver if this happens. 😀
4# A tour to La Guajira is almost as expensive as if you were going alone
Without going through a local agency, you might be able to spend about 350 – 400,000 COP for this trip.
On the other hand, you’ll spend more time in transportation and do fewer activities.
Now, if you are a group of 4 travelers, it is possible to find private Guajira tours for less than 600,000 COP per person!
That is a difference of 50 USD over the whole trip, which finally represents only 17 USD more per day if you spread this expense over the duration of the tour.
It’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?
Note: If you are traveling alone or in pairs, you can also inquire about joining a group 😉
3. Why visit La Guajira?
How do I know it’s worth coming to the Guajira Desert?
1# La Guajira is an adventure
The Guajira Desert is a hostile environment. Tourist infrastructures, roads, and jacuzzis are non-existent.
You will spend hours being shaken in a jeep, your bed will be a Chinchorro (traditional hammock) for the next two nights and it will be hot.
This allows you to discover another lifestyle, that of the Wayúu natives.
This is the ideal expedition to add a little spice to your adventure in Colombia.
2# Breathtaking scenery in La Guajira
It is not every day that we have the chance to travel through a desert along the Caribbean coast.
The color contrasts between the ocean, the barren land, the mangroves, and the sky are magnificent.
Not to mention the sand dunes.
And the sound of silence.
3# Sunsets in La Guajira
Everyone loves sunsets. You too, I guess?
Well, in the Guajira Desert, it’s even better. 😎
Why is that?
That’s because the sun sets directly in the ocean. Isn’t that cool?
4# A romantic night under the stars
There is very little light pollution in the desert. Don’t hesitate to walk around when all the lights in the camp are off.
You’ll love it.
4. Why could you not like your Guajira tour?
La Guajira is not for everyone. Some travelers may be disappointed because they expect something different.
A bit like when all your friends tell you about that great movie that just came out and you leave the room disappointed.
They also maybe booked their Guajira Tour with the wrong local agency.
1# There are no 5-star hotels during a Guajira Tour
All travelers are accommodated equally.
Be ready to sleep in a hammock, take cold showers, and don’t choose your meals.
That’s part of the beauty of this adventure. But if you like your little comfort when traveling, then think twice before coming 😉
Note: It is also complicated to cook vegetarian/vegan dishes. If this is your case, prepare yourself to eat rice with rice.
2# Many hours in the jeep
The Guajira Desert is vast and there are no roads. Therefore, you spend many hours in the jeep, especially if the jeep breaks down during the adventure.
This is why it is important to choose a good local agency.
You can also decide to stay one more day in the Guajira Desert (4 days instead of 3).
3# Few explanations about the Wayúu culture during the tour
Jeep drivers are not guides. Some of them know the Wayúu culture very well, although it is a knowledge they have learned over the years.
Other drivers do not want to interact with travelers.
In addition, the indigenous Wayúu are shy people who don’t mix much with tourists. Not to forget that nobody speaks English in La Guajira.
This may give you the impression that the trip is a bit “superficial”.
Fortunately, you will see (a little further on in this article) that it is possible to leave for 4 days to immerse yourself more in the Wayúu culture.
4# Unfriendly drivers
Some local agencies are less concerned about the well-being of their clients. They lower their prices to attract as many people as possible, and as a result, working conditions are less attractive too.
There is a greater turnover between drivers and their mission is only to get you from point A to point B.
Others companies are just plain illegal.
It is with full knowledge of the subject that we preferred to work with a legitimate local agency operating on a human scale:
5. Why do we like PuraGuajira?
There are more than a dozen local agencies that offer tours in La Guajira.
How to choose our future local partner?
We decided to start our research in Riohacha.
Starting from Riohacha
- It is the principal city in the Guajira Desert.
- It is accessible by bus or plane.
- The drivers are locals who know the area.
- Tours in La Guajira are less expensive (0 intermediate).
Then we did some benchmarking and decided to contact Beatrice of PuraGuajira.
And there… Love at first sight in
Notting Hill Riohacha.
1# They love what they do
Beatrice and Eisneider are lovers of the Guajira Desert and the Wayúu culture.
Every day, they prove by their actions that tourism and sustainable development are perfectly compatible.
Through their expeditions, they try to transmit these emotions and values to travelers.
2# Quality over quantity with their La Guajira tours
It’s a local agency on a human scale and you won’t be just a number.
6 key quality points
- Beatrice is the queen of the organization and speaks perfect English, Italian, and Spanish.
- Esneider is the most smiling and friendly driver in the entire Guajira Desert.
- The jeep and the driver stay with you throughout the trip.
- Tours may be private and limited to a maximum of 4-6 (depending on COVID situation) travelers.
- Their jeeps have comfortable seats in the back (not benches on which you squeeze 8 people) and are very well maintained.
- The circuits are built in a smart way. That is to say that you won’t stand on a dune at noon and you will avoid a significant part of the other travelers.
3# You can ask for an English or French translator
You should know that it’s not easy to find someone who speaks English (let alone French) in La Guajira!
If you are interested, remember to inform PuraGuajira in advance 😉
4# Prices are very reasonable for a tour in La Guajira!
It is normal to take the price into account to decide between two local agencies.
If you are a group of 4 people, their prices are in the low average of the tours departing from Riohacha.
It is possible to find tours for 500 000 COP in Riohacha, but the quality will be lower and it won’t be a private tour 😉
A private tour may seem expensive to you if you’re only a group of 2 people. If so, you can;
- Convince other travelers to join you
- Ask Puraguajira to find other travelers for the date of your tour. If they are able to do it, the price will be less depending on the total number of travelers.
In short, do not hesitate and go for it!
5. Book your La Guajira Tour and get 5% Off
We have a partnership with the agency PuraGuajira. By using our form, you will directly get a 5% discount on all their tours of La Guajira.
Note: PuraGuajira has all the bio-security protocols to operate during this difficult COVID-19 period.
1# Steps to book your La Guajira Tour
- Click on the “start” button of our form (See the point3# 🔽).
- Answer a few questions (first name, last name, dates, telephone, etc.).
- Choose the tour you wish to do.
- You will receive an email from us to confirm that your request has been taken into account.
- Wait for PuraGuajira to contact you within 12 hours.
- There is no deposit to pay. PuraGuajira works on trust. Don’t disappoint them 😉
- Payment in cash or credit card once on site.
Note: If you wish to join a group (in order to pay less), PuraGuajira will put you on a waiting list and keep you informed as you go along.
2# Tours offered by PuraGuajira
Find below 3 tours to explore the Guajira Desert:
- The classic 3-day / 2-night tour in Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas.
- The 4-day / 3-night tour if you want to learn more about the Wayúu culture.
- The 4-day / 3-night tour to Macuira if you want to go where very few travelers have set foot. Yes, there is also an oasis in this desert.
Don’t hesitate to visit their website to learn more about their La Guajira tours.
3# Our reservation form
6. Questions about the La Guajira tours
Here are the questions/answers that you can ask yourself before taking a tour in the Guajira.
How much does it cost?
Le prix varie selon si c’est un tour privé ou non.
- A 3-day / 2-night tour to La Guajira (not private) from Riohacha costs on average 550,000 COP/Pers.
- A private 3-day / 2-night tour to La Guajira (if 4 people) from Riohacha costs on average 600,000 COP/Pers.
How to choose an agency?
For us, the most important points are:
- The quality of the jeep and the friendliness of the driver.
- The itinerary within the tour.
That’s why we chose PuraGuajira. Check out their Instagram if you still have some doubts 😉
Safety in the desert?
Yes, it’s 100% safe if you leave with a tour. However, don’t venture alone to the border with Venezuela.
The best season?
It is best to avoid the period from September to November. It is considered the rainy season, the dirt roads become muddy and travel times increase considerably.
Which tour should you choose?
PuraGuajira offers three very interesting and different packages:
- If you have little time, choose the classic option of 3 days / 2 nights to Punta Gallinas + Cabo de la Vela.
- If you want to spend more time with a Wayúu family and spread out the number of hours in the jeep, then choose the 4-day / 3-night tour to Punta Gallinas + Cabo de la Vela.
- If you want to walk in the desert and discover an oasis off the beaten track, then take the tour to Macuira Park!
Ebook to plan your trip
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