Macuira National Park: A Cloud Forest Hidden In The Desert

Here’s my report on my visit to Macuira National Park.

ūüõĎ Stop thinking about the classic 3-day tour of La Guajira. Start discovering a unique site in the middle of a desert.

Few travelers think of including Macuira National Park in their itinerary for La Guajira. And I think that’s a huge mistake!

It was on my 4th trip to La Guajira that I finally discovered this superb cloud forest hidden in the middle of the sand dunes‚ÄĒI went with Paola.

Here’s what you’ll get if you read my guide c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y:

  • Which tour can you book to get to La Macuira?
  • When is it impossible to go to La Macuira?
  • Why did I fall in love with this place?
  • How to get to La Macuira?

Who are we ūüĎč

Since 2015, Adrien, Alejandra, and I (Tom) have been helping travelers explore Colombia. Here, you will find everything you need to fall in love with this beautiful country easily.


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Over 100 of our readers explore La Guajira with Paola every month. This is the best-organized agency in the area, with consistent departures, excellent responsiveness, and great flexibility.

Pros:
  • Excellent multi-day tours to Cabo de la Vela, Punta Gallinas and Macuira Park.
  • Pay local prices at no extra cost.
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Macuira National Park: My Journey

Here is how it went.

An Early Departure from Cabo de la Vela

Woken up at 3:30 am by my phone’s shrill ring in La Guajira, I find Alejandra hogging all the sheets again. No worries, though ‚Äď in the desert’s heat, who needs them?

Stepping outside, Arnoldo, our ever-reliable driver, is prepping his jeep. Our mission? Uncovering the secrets of La Macuira National Park. Time to wake Aleja up!

Paola, our expert, had warned us: La Macuira is stunning, but it’s not easy to get to. Expect an early start and a long drive.

We’re five hours from Cabo de la Vela, racing against time to reach the park office. Forget paved roads and signposts here in Alta Guajira. It’s all about sandy paths and natural cues. ‚ÄúKeep the serran√≠a on our right,‚ÄĚ Arnoldo says, confidently navigating. It’s pitch black outside, but our human GPS isn’t bothered.

Two and a half hours later, after a bumpy attempt at napping, we stop for breakfast. It’s just us and the wilderness, far from city life.

So far, the scenery’s similar to Cabo de la Vela ‚Äď cacti, thorny bushes, and herds of Wayuu goats everywhere.

As dawn creeps in, La Macuira’s jagged peaks start appearing.

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Welcome to Nazareth

Our journey leads to surprising changes in the desert landscape. The usual cacti are replaced by dense greenery, and the familiar dry mud paths give way to areas of soft sand.

Five hours later, we roll into Nazareth. Life here is kinder to the Way√ļu than in Punta Gallinas or Cabo de la Vela. Their secret? They live next to the Macuira National Park, where a cloud forest produces water for several months per year. These rivers allow the Way√ļu clans to farm, sustaining and connecting them.

An Epic 6-Hour Hike in La Macuira National Natural Park

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived ‚Äď it’s time to explore the hidden oasis of Guajira. 

Our journey begins on sandy, shady, flat ground, providing a welcome break from the intense sun. 

After an hour’s walk and several stream crossings, we reach our first stop: “La Piedra de Wolunca,” a site steeped in Way√ļu legend.

The Wolunka Legend

National Park Macuira (4)

The mysterious¬†Wayuu legend of Wolunka¬†tells the tale of a woman created with teeth in her vagina, instilling fear in men. Fueled by curiosity, the mischievous twins Ma’y√ľi and Ulapiui tricked her and removed the teeth, which transformed into rocks.¬†

This event marked the first instance of gender-based violence in Wayuu cosmology, ultimately leading to the ability of men and women to engage in sexual relations.

The Most Beautiful Scenery in La Guajira

Just 30 minutes into our journey, we’re already at a watchtower, facing an incredible sight of vast golden dunes against lush greenery. This view alone motivates the group to move forward.

On our way, we encounter Way√ļu women selling vibrant Wayuu Mochilas, those iconic Colombian bags. Aleja instantly decides to buy one, for her collection.

Approaching the dunes, I notice large grasshoppers feasting on leaves. They look like aliens. The dunes themselves are a magnificent sight, a vast stretch of golden sand merging with the sky.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to climb to the top because of the midday heat, a slight disappointment, especially seeing local teens having fun at the summit.

My opinion: Aim for an early morning visit to fully experience these majestic dunes.

A Refreshing Stop and Cultural Experiences

On the way back, a refreshing stop at a waterfall with natural pools provides a welcome respite, one of the highlights of my Guajira adventure. 

As we depart the park, we eagerly anticipate a well-deserved lunch of Chivo sofrito, a local goat stew.

Our day concludes with two enriching cultural activities: a joyful dance called La Yonna ‚Äď a vibrant expression of Way√ļu cosmogony and social customs ‚Äď and a visit to the home of a local artist and poet who uses his art to narrate Way√ļu legends and the challenges his people face.

Time to sleep; tomorrow, a new adventure awaits us in Punta Gallinas.

Macuira National Natural Park: Travel Guide

Discover this hidden oasis and learn how to make the most of your visit.

How to Reach Macuira National Park on Your Own

Jeep in Dunas de Taroa in Punta Gallinas La Guajira

To access Macuira, you must first travel to Riohacha, the region’s largest city, and main gateway. A small airport offers direct flights from Medellin or Bogota. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Cartagena (7h) or Santa Marta (3h).

Upon arriving in R√≠ohacha, continue to the smaller municipality of Uribia (1h). From Uribia, a Chiva departs weekly for Nazaretha 9-hour journey (barring unforeseen issues). In 2023, departures were on Sundays at 7‚Äď8 am, with return trips from Nazareth on Thursdays at 2 am. Verify this information before your trip (good luck!).

Once in Nazareth, register at the park office before 12:00 pm if you plan to visit Macuira Park that day. Bring cash, as the last ATMs are in Riohacha.

Booking your Macuira Tour with Paola

Reaching Macuira Park independently might feel as challenging as James Bond saving the world. 

Fortunately, Paola operates one of the few agencies in Riohacha that offers a 4-day trip to La Macuira. 

Group departures aren’t daily, but private trips are affordable (around 350 USD/person for a group of four). 

The package includes visits to Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela, as well as Wayuu experiences along the way. Considering the potential challenges in La Guajira (strikes, bad weather), having a guide handle logistics is invaluable.

Book with locals
Easily Join The Best Tours in La Guajira with Paola
4.8

Over 100 of our readers explore La Guajira with Paola every month. This is the best-organized agency in the area, with consistent departures, excellent responsiveness, and great flexibility.

Pros:
  • Excellent multi-day tours to Cabo de la Vela, Punta Gallinas and Macuira Park.
  • Pay local prices at no extra cost.
See her profile How to pick your tour
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Best Time to Visit La Macuira National Park

Macuira National Park , La Guajira

The ideal time to visit La Macuira National Park is during the dry season, from December to April. 

This period follows the rainy season, providing a chance to swim in the waterfalls, and the green vegetation is even more striking. 

The park typically closes from August to November due to heavy rains and flooding, rendering dirt roads from Uribia to Nazareth impassable. 

For the optimal experience, visit Macuira Park early in the morning (6 am) to maximize wildlife sightings, especially for bird watching. Inquire with Paola about this option for private tours.

Interesting Facts about Macuira

Encompassing 25,000 hectares, Macuira Park boasts a rare cloud forest, a lush ecosystem teeming with life, situated just 600 meters above sea level. 

This unique location shelters over 500 species of flora and fauna, including endemic species like the Oates Way√ļ frog, a rock-climbing amphibian native to the region. Bird enthusiasts will also appreciate the park’s diverse avian population.

Visitors will traverse starkly contrasting landscapes, from arid desert to tropical dry forest and, ultimately, the cloud forest. This visual spectacle leaves a lasting impression.

Additionally, the park holds cultural significance for the indigenous Way√ļu people, who consider it a sacred ceremonial center for their mythology. The park is home to Jepirech, the spirit of the wind, and Igua, the cloud, which rains down and fertilizes the mountain range, producing the forests and water vital for the Way√ļu people.

Types of Accommodation in Nazareth

Though basic, accommodations in the village of Nazareth are surprisingly comfortable, featuring beds and A/C (although electricity is cut at 10 pm).

La Macuira: Bottom line

Embark on an extraordinary adventure in Macuira National Park, and let Paola be your guide

With her extensive knowledge and experience, she’ll ensure every aspect of your journey is meticulously planned. 

You can easily contact her directly by using our online form. This won’t cost you extra ‚Äď we simply connect you with him, and then he’ll reach out to you via WhatsApp. We do this to help travelers get in touch with reliable local agencies and ensure you get the best prices. It’s our way of supporting our favorite local agencies and ensuring you have direct access to top-notch services.

Book with locals
Easily Join The Best Tours in La Guajira with Paola
4.8

Over 100 of our readers explore La Guajira with Paola every month. This is the best-organized agency in the area, with consistent departures, excellent responsiveness, and great flexibility.

Pros:
  • Excellent multi-day tours to Cabo de la Vela, Punta Gallinas and Macuira Park.
  • Pay local prices at no extra cost.
See her profile How to pick your tour
Easy, quick and risk-free (Talk first. Book later)

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I have been traveling around Colombia and Mexico since 2015 to discover new experiences and help travelers make the right choices.

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