La Guajira, Colombia: 17 Top Things to Know To Plan Your Tour

La Guajira, Colombia: 17 Top Things to Know To Plan Your Tour

We traveled 3 times to La Guajira in Colombia. In 2019, we were lucky enough to meet Beatrice & Esneider. They run a small travel agency called Pura Guajira Travel in Riohacha.

This out-of-the-ordinary adventure is not for everyone. There are different things to know before deciding if you want to come to La Guajira. Then you need to choose a good travel agency. And the right tour.

You don’t want to find yourself in the desert for three days with an unpleasant driver, do you?

Thanks to my article, you’ll be able to find out:

  • The Pros & Cons of La Guajira, Colombia.
  • The name of our favorite local agency to plan this adventure. Spoiler alert: It’s Pura Guajira.

Keep reading. We’ve got a suprise for you at the end of this article.

T. Contents: La Guajira, Colombia

My experience in La Guajira, Colombia

During my first trips to Colombia, I was backpacking. I was poor. I was saving money to buy aguila beers.

As a result, I was not the type to book an organized tour.

I tried to travel through La Guajira by my own means. It’s doable till Cabo de la Vela.

Let me tell you how it was.

First day in La Guajira

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.

2nd day in La Guajira

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.

3rd day in La Guajira

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.

As you can see, it is possible to organize a tour in La Guajira without going through a local agency. There are pros and cons.

La Guajira, Colombia: What to expect

Discovering La Guajira is not an experience like any other. Forget the paved roads, air conditioning, and comfortable beds.

Here are 17 things you should know about La Guajira, Colombia.

1# La Guajira is an adventure

Tour Pura Guajira Chinchorro
Chinchorro | Credit: Pura Guajira

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 sceneries

Tour Guajira landscapes
View from our hammock the 2nd night

La Guajira, Colombia

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.

Shhh.

3# Sunsets in La Guajira

Tour Pura Guajira sunset
Credit: PuraGuajira

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.

5# There are no 5-star hotels

Camp in Punta Gallians
My 2nd night in La Guajira

La Guajira, Colombia

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.

6# Many hours in the jeep

Jeep Pura Guajira Tour
Jeep | Credit: PuraGuajira

La Guajira 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).

7# Find out about the Wayúu culture

Wayuu Pura Guajira
Wayúu dance | Credit: Pura Guajira

The Wayúu are indigenous people who have fought fiercely to keep their territory. Each family lives in a Rancheria (farm) separated from each other by a few hundred meters. This allows the cattle not to be mixed.

Their lifestyle in this hostile environment is very different from ours.

The Wayúu make their living partly from handicrafts. Women make beautiful bags whose colors and shapes all have a meaning.

8# Some tours do not include the Wayúu culture

Wayuu Pura Guajira Tour
Pueblo Wayúu | Credit: PuraGuajira

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, it is possible to leave for 4 days to immerse yourself more in the Wayúu culture. In that case, book the Cultural tour offered by Pura Guajira.

9# Not all the drivers are friendly

No, he was not our driver.

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:

Pura Guajira Travel!

10# The northernmost point in South America

Punta Gallinas Guajira
Nope, we can’t go further.

Yes, it is.

My father took us to the most southern and northern corners of France.

So I like the cardinal points.

I don’t know if this is a good enough reason to visit La Guajira. But it’s a cool thing to talk about when you get back from your trip. #ImShowingOffForDinner

11# Manaure

Tour Pura guajira Manaure
Manaure | Credit: Puraguajira

La Guajira, Colombia

Manaure produces 70% of the salt production of Colombia. The contrast in color between the white of the salt, the yellow of the earth, and the oceans blue are stunning.

Some local agencies start their tour with a short stop in Manaure. It is the case of Pura Guajira.

12# Cabo de la Vela

Cabo de la Vela, pilon de Azucar
Pilón de Azucar | Credit: Pura Guajira

La Guajira, Colombia

Cabo de la Vela is the last village of La Guajira. The inhabitants live from fishing and tourism. Wooden houses are built all along the coast. If you wish, you can get there by public transport.

There are beautiful beaches accessible by motorcycle cab: Pilón de Azucar and Ojos de Agua.

All agencies spend one night there.

13# Punta Gallinas

Bahia Hondita Guajira
Viewpoint on your way to Punta Gallinas

La Guajira, Colombia

All the tours pass through Punta Gallinas. You will spend the night there. It is a quiet and beautiful place, with different places to visit: The huge dunes of Taroa, the bay of Bahia Hondita.

At night, don’t forget to look at the sky to admire the stars.

14# Best condition for kitesurfing

Cabo de la Vela, kitesurf
Kitesurfing in Cabo de la Vela | Credit: Pura Guajira

La Guajira, Colombia

In some areas of La Guajira, the sea is waveless and there is wind all year round.

These are the perfect conditions for kitesurfing.

There are schools in Cabo de la Vela and Riohacha that offer lessons and equipment rental.

You don’t have much time, but you still want to kitesurf? Pura Guajira offers a 4-day tour with a visit to La Guajira + 5 hours of kitesurfing.

15# Macuira Park

Macuira Park Pura Guajira
Beatrice in the Macuira park | Credit: Pura Guajira

La Guajira, Colombia

Macuira is a national park hidden in the desert of La Guajira, Colombia. It has the unique feature of being surrounded by mountains and forest.

Yes, a forest, a desert and the ocean. Can you imagine it?

Macuira Park is home to many endemic animals and bird species.

It is quite complicated to get there because the road is sometimes flooded and few travelers know about it. Only a few agencies offer 4-day private tours. It is the case of Pura Guajira.

16# La Guajira is an impoverished area

Kids Pura Guajira
Wayúu kids | Credit: Pura Guajira

It’s hard to live in La Guajira. There is not much growing, water is scarce and the department is neglected by the government.

Responsible tourism is one of the solutions to improve the economy of this region.

17# Bucket shower

Bucket Shower Guajira

No hot shower or jaccuzi in La Guajira. French people will have an excuse to skip the shower. #cliché.

How to visit La Guajira, Colombia

It is not obligatory to go through an agency to visit La Guajira — even though it has many advantages.

Let’s see how to do it.

1# Visit La Guajira without booking a tour

Some travelers do not like to use the services of local agencies. Sometimes it’s because of money, sometimes it’s because they want to be more “free”.

If this is your case, you must:

  • Getting to Cabo de La Vela by public transport (departure from Uribia or 4 vias)
  • Find a driver and a jeep that leaves for Punta Gallinas. They will bring you back to Uribia too.

It’s not complicated if you speak spanish. However, you won’t know if the driver and the jeep are fine. Note that they are not guides. They don’t give you explanations during the journey.

2# Visit La Guajira with a local agency

There are organized tours that leave from Santa Marta, Palomino and Riohacha. The classic tour includes one night in Cabo de la Vela and one night in Punta Gallinas.

You should know that the agencies in Santa Marta and Palomino subcontract to agencies in Riohacha.

Pura Guajira can arrange door-to-door transportation from Santa Marta. The departure will be around 4:30 am to arrive at the departure time in Riohacha.

There are many advantages to using a good local agency to visit a remote destination such as La Guajira. And the prices are very reasonable!

Why do I like Pura Guajira

Thanks to my backpacking experience in Colombia, I know the difference between a quality tour and a tourist trap.

Pura Guajira adds value to this adventure in La Guajira, Colombia.

1# A well-structured Guajira tour

Tour Pura guajira Dune
Taroa dune | Credit: PuraGuajira

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 exploring the desert with Pura Guajira, you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises and travel much more comfortably.

2# You visit more places during your Guajira Tour

Boat trip Bahia Hondia Pura Guajira
Boat trip in Bahia Hondita

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 Arcoris and Pilón de Azúcar in Cabo de la Vela.

3# A good jeep and a friendly driver

Tour Pura guajira Jeep
Jeep | Credit: PuraGuajira

Pura Guajira take care of their vehicles and their drivers are adorable.

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# You can ask for an English or French translator

Speak English

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 Pura Guajira in advance 😉

5# They love what they do

Pura Guajira team
Beatrice & Esneider | Credit: PuraGuajira

Beatrice and Esneider 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.

6# Quality over quantity

Esneider kids Pura Guajira Tour
Esneider | Credit: PuraGuajira

It’s a local agency on a human scale and you won’t be just a number.

  • 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 smartly. 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.

7# Prices are very reasonable

Colombia Insider et Pura Guajira
Us on a tour with PuraGuajira.

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.

With Pura Guajira, you can book your 3-day tour for 550 000 COP/Pers — if it’s a group tour.

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?

Pura Guajira offers 2 types of tours:

  • Private. Other travelers won’t be able to join your group.
  • Public. Puraguajira tries to find other travelers for the date of your tour. If they can do it, the price will be less depending on the total number of travelers.

Pura Guajira’s Tours

Tour PuraGuajira Punta Gallinas
Sand dune towards Punta Gallinas | Credit: Pura Guajira

Here are the 4 tours that might interest you if you want to explore the Guajira Desert.

1# Classic 3-day tour Cabo de la Vela + Punta Gallinas

This is the most popular tour in Guajira among travelers. It allows you to discover the beautiful landscapes of the desert in a minimum of time. On the program:

  • Day 1: The village of Manaure and its salt fields
  • Day 1: Visit Cabo de la Vela and its surroundings (Pilón de Azucar beach & El Faro)
  • Day 2: Discovery of the landscapes of Punta Gallinas (Dunes of Taroa, Bahia Hondita)
  • Day 3: Quick stop in Uribia and return to Riohacha
  • Rates 2020/21: shared tour: 550 000 COP/Pers; private tour: from 650 000 COP
  • Contact PuraGuajira

2# 4-day tour to discover the Wayúu culture

There are two downsides to the classic 3-day / 2-night tour: You will be in the jeep for many hours, and you will have little opportunity to experience the Wayúu culture.

If you prefer to travel more slowly and take your time (thumbs up), then you will love this option:

  • Day 1: The village of Manaure and its salt fields
  • Day 1: Visit Cabo de la Vela and the surrounding area (Pilón de Azucar beach & El Faro)
  • Day 2: Discover the landscapes of Punta Gallinas + boat ride with a Wayúu fisherman
  • Day 3: Admire the dunes of Taroa + share the daily life of a Wayúu family
  • Day 4: Brief stop in Uribia and return to Riohacha
  • Rates 2020/21: shared tour: 750 000 COP; private tour: from 850 000 COP
  • Contact PuraGuajira

3# 4-day tour Kitesurfing + Punta Gallinas

Since it is the perfect place for kitesurfing, it would be a shame not to enjoy it. Travelers can take a 5-hour lesson (with equipment) in Cabo de la Vela or Punta Gallinas on this tour.

The price of kitesurfing is not included in the initial price. So one person can take the lessons while the other travelers visit the area.

  • Rates 2020/21: 6 – 5 pers: 700 000 COP/Pers; 4 pers: 800 000 COP/Pers 3 pers: 900 000 COP
  • 5-h Kitesurf lessons + Equipement: 700 000 COP
  • Contact PuraGuajira

4# 4-days tour to discover the Macuira Park

Do you want to go to an area of La Guajira that is little known to travelers? Then you will love Macuira Park. The drive there is quite strenuous (because it is long). It is the price to pay to admire this magnificent oasis. By the way, you will have a 4 hours walk with a local guide.

  • Day 1: The village of Manaure and its salt fields
  • Day 1: Visit Cabo de la Vela and its surroundings (Pilón de Azucar beach & El Faro)
  • Day 2: Visit Macuira Park
  • Day 3: Discovery of the landscapes of Punta Gallinas (Dunes of Taroa, Bahia Hondita)
  • Day 4: Brief stop in Uribia and return to Riohacha
  • Rates 2020/21: Private tour: from 800 000 COP/Pers.
  • Contact PuraGuajira

How to book your Guajira Tour

We have a partnership with the agency PuraGuajira. Use our online form below to contact them to book their tour at the best rates (no intermediary)

It takes 2 minutes.

Once done, Pura Guajira will reach out to you within 24h to organize a fabulous adventure in the desert of La Guajira.

Note: PuraGuajira has all the bio-security protocols to operate during this difficult COVID-19 period.

Not sure yet? We give you more information on our Pura Guajira page.

La Guajira FAQ

Questions

Here are the questions/answers that you can ask yourself before taking a tour in La Guajira.

For us, the most important points are:

  • The quality of the jeep and the friendliness of the driver.
  • The itinerary within the tour.

Yes, it’s 100% safe if you leave with a tour. However, don’t venture alone to the border with Venezuela.

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.

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 add a sporty interlude to your experience in the La Guajira desert then choose the 4d/3n tour with kitesurfing + Punta Gallinas
  • If you want to walk in the desert and discover an off-the-beath place, take the tour to Macuira Park!

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