Is San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia worth it?

Is San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia worth it?
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In less than 15 years, the safety situation in Colombia has totally changed. San Jose del Guaviare is a perfect example of it.

Once a dangerous  FARC stronghold, it’s nowadays a secret paradise full of undiscovered gems. Travel to San Jose Del Guaviare to admire rock paintings, chill in natural jacuzzis, swim with dolphins, take fantastic pictures of a purple-pinkish river and wander through unreal landscapes made of vegetations and intriguing stones.

Skeptical?

Read our 5-day adventures in San Jose del Guaviare with Geotour.

Tips, photos, video and more!

Read our San Jose del Guaviare Travel guide to learn everything about this place!

Sunset on the Rio Guayabero in San José del Guaviare
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Sunset on the Rio Guayabero

Our arrival in San Jose del Guaviare

San Jose del Guaviare was first on our list of places to visit in Colombia. And by chance, Andrés invited us to test the services of Geotour, one of the best local travel agencies to explore the surroundings of San Jose del Guaviare.

We added it to our excel planning – Adrien loves it.  It was set in stone. On the 10th of November, it will be.

But 2 weeks, 3 liters of aguardiente, and 2 Salsa classes later, we messed up with the dates. We thought the tour would start the 11th instead of the 10th. When we realized our mistake, it was too late. We had to take two night-buses in a row to arrive on time in San Jose del Guaviare.

The night bus Medellin – Bogota with Rapido Oacha was surprisingly comfortable – We booked the VIP seat thanks to the app Red Bus. There were luxurious and spacious seats, with individual screens to watch movies.

However, it was still a rolling fridge…

Once in Bogota, we spent the day in the hostel La Pinta in the Zona G. For the food addicts, this district is a true paradise.

Then, it was time to take our second night bus.

What an experience!

Shitty seats, no space, no toilets, it was the opposite of the previous one.

Day 1: Rock paintings and dolphins

San Jose del Guaviare

“Guys, be ready at 6h30 am tomorrow.”

The early bird catches the worm. It’s the same in San Jose del Guaviare. There are lots of activities to do around, so you need to wake up early to enjoy it a maximum.

Sat at the back of the jeep with 4 other fellow travelers, we were ready to discover one of the most impressive Guaviare’s secret.

It took only a few minutes to be out of the city. We followed a dirt road for 1h45 before arriving at Finca Chontaduro for a traditional Colombian Breakfast.

Finca Chontaduro, the education farm

Finca Educativa San Jose del Guaviare
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The family who manages the Finca

Because of the FARC, lots of farmers were cultivating coca leaves in El Guaviare. Then, everything changed during the 2000s.

But, because their lands are often isolated, it’s not easy to make their living from agriculture. Hence, farmers try to find different ways to generate new incomes.

Fortunately, sustainable tourism is another solution. And Geotour Guaviare helps them to grow their business.

After a friendly welcome from the Finca’s staff – and a surprising pet -, we ate a huge breakfast with all the ingredients coming directly from their farming.

Arepa, hot chocolate, eggs, Borojo Arequipe – it’s supposed to be aphrodisiac, but the taste is so yeuks! –

In the meantime, the owner told us stories about his past to get a better understanding of the situation 20 years ago.

Then, to sensitize us about cocaine’s health problems, he listed all the chemicals you need to produce the famous white powder-like Gasolina and dilute sulfuric acid

The rock paintings in Cerro Azul near San Jose del Guaviare

Cerro Azul in San Jose del Guaviare
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Sebastian showing us different pictograms

Filled with arepas, we were now ready to discover Cerro Azul. The hike isn’t tough, but the humidity makes you sweat like hell.

Anyway, it’s worth it.

After 30 min, we were able to enjoy the first part of Cerro Azul, a colossal wall of  7 m long and 4 m high. There are so many pictograms on it that I couldn’t observe them all at once. Drawn with an orange-reddish painting, they represent huge disappeared animals, geometrical patterns, and daily life events of the indigenous living there back in time.

There are still many unexplained mysteries around these rock paintings.

First, it’s complicated to date the pictograms. Scientists found foods and human rests near Cerro Azul. Thanks to the Carbon 14’s method, they were able to date them around 12 500 years old. But is it the age of the pictograms?

And if it’s the case, how is it possible they stayed in such perfect conditions? What ingredients did they use to draw the paintings?

So many questions left to answer.

After a short break, we continued our exploration. To reach the second part of Cerro Azul, we went through dark tunnels and passed by fantastic viewpoints.

Boat ride and dolphins nearby San Jose del Guaviare

Raudal Guayabero Speedboat
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Our magnificent speedboat

In San Jose del Guaviare, the day never stops. On the way back, we had one last stop before enjoying the swimming pool of our hotel.

Regrouped on 2 small boats, we rode upstream el Raudal Guayabero to look for dolphins and have a quick dip in Cascada del Amor.

During the boat ride, I felt tiny. On both sides, high cliffs covered by the vegetation surrounded the river and our makeshift boats. Moreover, we noticed huge chunks of wood perched on the rocks. From June to September, because of the heavy rains, the river can increase up to 4 -6 m!

Day 2: Let’s swim with dolphins

San Jose del Guaviare

Villa Lilia is another old Coca plantation located 2 hours away by boat. There, tourists can have a typical Colombian lunch and chill in hammocks before looking for dolphins.

Indeed, 20 min away from the Finca, there is a famous canal called Laguna Damas de Nare where live a small community of dolphins all year long. However, their number is higher from June to September.

Because it was a 3-day weekend, we were a big group (30 people). But, everything was well organized, and I didn’t fell “oppressed.”

After a quick 20 min walk from Villa Lilia, we jumped into 2 long speedboats to look for dolphins. It took us more than 1 hour to find 2 of them. During this time, we could swim in the warm water of the canal with our life jackets.

Boat looking for dolphins
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Dolphins love the vibrations of the motors. They are curious and want to know what’s going on.

Our guide threw many times a long rope in the water to play with them while calling them by their name.

I have no idea if dolphins can recognize voice’s noises. But they grabbed the rope with their “mouth” and started swimming between our legs.

I have to admit it was a bit scary at first. You can’t even see your feet in the brown water of the canal. So, I let you imagine my face when I felt a big unknown submarine monster touching my legs.

Then, it was time to get back on the boat to arrive in time for our Velada Indigena – An indigenous Ceremony.

Watch our Day 2 in San Jose Del Guaviare

Day 3: What!? A pinky river?

San Jose del Guaviare

Caño Cristales is probably one of the most famous places to visit in Colombia. There, a mysterious pink/purple aquatic plant grows in the river bed during the raining season.

The show is astonishing!

But traveling to La Macarena can be a bit expensive for some of us.

Another alternative is to observe the Macarenia Clavigera plant in Caño Sabana. It’s not as impressive than in Caño Cristales, but it gives you a good taste of it.

And it’s a lot easier to access.

Fitted with our best outfits – 2 same long shirts bought in San Jose del Guaviare because sandflies terrorize us -, we began the expeditions 40 min away from the city, in the direction of the Puerta de Orion.

Must read: Our Caño Cristales travel guide

Pass through the Puerta de Orion

Puerta de Orion San Jose del Guaviare
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Puerta de Orion

A long time ago – way before the birth of my old old Grandpa -, the Guaviare department was under billions and billions of Cubic Meters of water.

Nowadays, the ocean is gone, but it left lots of traces of its passage like sediments and weird rock shapes. One of the most typical of them in San Jose del Guaviare is La Puerta de Orion.

We heard 2 explanations for the name.

  • The first people who have discovered it could observe the Constellation of  Orion through the huge hole
  • The place is deeply connected with Chiribiquete (There are the same rock paintings in both areas), and the Constellation of Orion is visible there through the year.

The 30 min walk to La Puerta de Orion was pleasant. Landscapes change a lot in San Jose del Guaviare. After 2 days walking among dense vegetation, it was surprising to wander in the savanna.

Caño Sabana and the cranberry river

Caño Sabana San Jose del Guaviare
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Caño Sabana

Then, we arrived in front of Caño Sabana. Below our eyes, we admired cranberry water flowing between rocks and palm trees.

On 100 m long, a beautiful purple/pink carpet covers Caño Sabana.

From June to November, the Macarenia Clavigera grows in this bed river. The color of this aquatic plant change from Green to Purple according to its exposure to the sun – like your skin, especially if you’re from Irlande.

After hundreds of pictures, we moved to our final stop.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing our sour muscles in the cold water in Tranquillandia with beers, monkeys and fun Colombians

Watch our DAY 3 In san Jose Del Guaviare

Day 4: River with natural jacuzzis

San Jose del Guaviare

Pozos Naturales are another highlight in San Jose del Guaviare.

Indeed, rocks of sedimentary origin are more soluble in the water. Therefore, the stream creates canyons and deep holes in the river bed.

It becomes a perfect playground for making funny videos and relaxes in warm natural jacuzzis.

The Pozos Naturales are part of the “Aquatic path” created by Geotour. We walked all day long near the river, and we have never been asked to hurry up.

Gosh, I could have stayed for hours in these kettles. There are three big ones, where a bunch of people can stand all together easily – I even dived into the first on.

The 6 others are more intimate. Pick the one that fits best your need and enjoy your slice of paradise.

For this 4th day, we were only 3 people. A cool Colombian girl named Yvonne, Adrien and I. And nobody else was there!!! Thus, we tried them all many times. ^^

Pozos naturales San Jose del Guaviare
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Pozos naturales

We left once our toes were all crumpled like an old apple forgotten in the fruit basket.

Thank you, Luis, to be such a patient guide 😉

We arrived around 2 pm at an empty restaurant nestled on the riverbank – even the owner wasn’t there – and waited for Andres to bring us our delivery lunch in banana leaves.

We discovered a Tejo game in the backyard and quickly forgot our empty belly. The goal is to throw heavy iron disks into a box of clay — the closest to the center score.

Adrien won the 2 parties with 2 nice shots followed by explosions – Ah yeah, I forgot to tell you, there are also papers filled with gunpowder in that game.

Watch our DAY 4 in San Jose del Guaviare

Day 5: Let’s run amidst giant rocks!

San Jose del Guaviare

– “Hm, we should maybe start running.”

In less than 5 min, pouring rain was playing drums on rocks and leaves. But, after 5 days in San Jose Del Guaviare, you become a forecast wizard. You know when it’s time to find a shelter.

And lucky for us, we were wandering within the Ciudad de Piedras.

There, huge rocks stand in line like sleepy giants and constitute natural streets paved with grasses. We hid between 2 massive stones, waiting for the storm to pass.

He didn’t take long to walk around before heading to our next destination, the tunnels, another rocky spot with mysterious entrances and bats.

Jose guided us among the narrow paths of this natural maze for a bit more than 1 hour. Then, it was time to get back to San Jose del Guaviare to enjoy our last night with the great team of Geotour.

Watch our DAY 5 in San Jose del Guaviare

Let’s compare the different day trips in San Jose del Guaviare

Maybe some of you can’t/don’t want to stay five days in San Jose del Guaviare.

In that case, you have to choose between different day trips.

But, how? :0

Let’s have a closer look at each of them.

1# Day trip to Cerro Azul and Raudal Gayabero

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 6h30 t0 19h00
  • Transportation time: 4 – 5 hours
  • Difficulty: 2.5/5
  • Point of interest: Rock paintings, dark caves, boat drive in the nice canyon, dolphins
  • Why you could not like it: You hate cavemen paintings because you think you could do better
  • Preference order: 2/5 | 1 being my favorite

2# Day trip with Dolphins and Laguna Damas de Nare

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 6h30 to 19h00
  • Transportation time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: 0/5
  • Point of interest: Swimming with Dolphins
  • Why you could not like it: You’ve already seen pink dolphins and they scare you
  • Preference order: 4/5

3# Day trip to Puerta de Orion and Caño Sabana

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 8h30 – 17h30
  • Transportation time: 1h30 – 2 h
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: Red-purple-pink river because of Aquatic plants, weird rock shapes, and  swimming
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t like pink
  • Preference order: 1/5 – My Favorite

4# Day trip to Pozos Naturales

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 9h – 16h30
  • Transportation time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: Lovely river with deep holes, swimming, an aquatic path
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t like to play and record funny videos
  • Preference order: 3/5

#5 Day trip tunnels and Ciudad de Piedras

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 9h – 17h
  • Transportation time: 1h30
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: walking among giant rocks and admire the Guaviare plants
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t care about rocks
  • Preference order: 5/5

Our thoughts about San Jose del Guaviare

Julian, Andres, Sebastian, Amilton and the others are a young team full of energy, and they are proud to represent their hometown. Through their travel agency, they help different locals to live from tourism.

They were always smiling, helpful and ready to show us the best of San Jose del Guaviare – and a few nightclubs ;).

The different expeditions were well organized – not perfect but a lot more than what I was expected, considering that tourism is a recent thing here.

The town of San Jose del Guaviare itself is not attractive. However, we found some cool restaurants and funky bars.

I was also surprised to discover a town 100% safe. We could walk day and night with our camera without being worried. The inhabitants are smiling and glad to observe the growth of tourism thanks to the peace agreement. 

Don’t wait. Add San Jose del Guaviare to your Colombia itinerary!

Andres Staff Geotour
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Casual Andrés, Casual ^^

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I fell in love with Colombia 5 years ago. Through this website, we help every month thousands of travelers to plan their trip to this beautiful country. Use our Premium service on the site www.Colombia-insider.com if you want us to take care of everything for the organization of your trip to Colombia.

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