How to Visit San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia?

How to Visit San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia?
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A place like San Jose del Guaviare is not easy to prospect. We couldn’t find any information on the internet.

Where to start? Who should we meet? How is the bus? 

Nothing, nada, nitchts.

Ten years ago, San Jose del Guaviare was a FARC’s stronghold. Even the government didn’t want to get there.

But the political situation has changed a lot in Colombia. And now, this town is a paradise filled with secret gems, colorful rivers, Colombian cowboys, and aguardiente.

San Jose del Guaviare: What you must know

Where: San Jose del Guaviare is in the Guaviare department, South of Bogota.

When: Although you can visit San Jose del Guaviare all year round, some highlights are more worth-seeing during the raining season.

What can you expect: Many stunning sites surround San Jose del Guaviare. You can admire a river that turns red during the rainy season (like in Caño Cristales), unravel mysterious rock paintings, observe pink dolphins, and swim in various natural pools and waterfalls.

Is it touristic: Not yet as this destination has recently opened to the public. It’s the ideal occasion to stay in an authentic Colombian town!

How to get there: There are direct flights from Bogota and Villavicencio. You can also take a 10h night bus from Bogota.

How to plan your activities: You need to use a private vehicle to head to the different touristic sights. The easiest way to use the service of a local travel agency. We went with Geotours Guaviare. They did an amazing job.

Is San Jose del Guaviare safe: Yes! We never felt insecure during our stay, even late at night, when heading back to our hotel.

Where to stay: The lodging offer in San Jose del Guaviare isn’t exceptional.

How many days: You need at least 4 days in total to visit the main highlights. Save time by heading back to Bogota with a night bus.

Our best tips: Although you might save a few dollars by planning everything on your own, the experience will be a lot better (and easier) if you book a full package. Ask the agency if you can join a group tour. You will get more possibilities if you contact them for a few months in advance.

Must read: The field report of our 5-day experience in San Jose del Guaviare.

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Table of contents: San Jose del Guaviare

  1. How to get to San Jose del Guaviare
  2. How to leave
  3. Things to do
  4. Where to stay
  5. Where to go out
  6. Should you book an all-included tour?
  7. Get our free guidebook
  8. Chill out while we organize your trip
Watch this cool 1 min video!

How to Get to San Jose del Guaviare

You must leave from Bogota to include San Jose del Guaviare in your Colombia itinerary.

1# How to fly to San Jose del Guaviare?

Flying is always the easiest and most comfortable way to get somewhere in Colombia. 

However, there are still a few inconveniences

  • You can’t observe the landscapes
  • There is no daily flight. It means you have less flexibility
  • You pollute a lot more
  • They can cancel your trip in case of bad weather conditions
  • It’s sometimes difficult to book it online

Must read: Our Bogota travel guide to plan your activities and hotels

Flights Bogota - San Jose del Guaviare (+)

The only airline company to get to San Jose del Guaviare is Satena. They fly out of Bogota.

Flight Bogota – San Jose del Guaviare | Duration : 1h30 | Price: Around 220 000 COP / 70 $

  • Monday (Afternoon)
  • Wednesday (Early Morning) 
  • Saturday (Early Morning) 

The prices and dates can change. Check on Satena website before planning your trip.

The airport is near the center.

Important: The lugagge allowance change according the model of Aircraft

#2 Can you reach San Jose del Guaviare by bus?

Bus Bogota - San Jose del guaviare (+)

Yes, it is! 

Once again, the departures are from the main bus terminal (Salitre) in Bogota.

Look for the bus company Flota La Macarena.

There are buses leaving every day, days and nights. 

Bus Bogota – San Jose del Guaviare | Duration: 9 – 10 hours | Prices: Around 70 000 COP / 22 $

You can’t book them on the internet. However, there are departure times.

TIP: Take a night bus to save time. Our night bus wasn’t comfortable at all! Ask at the counter desk if there is a VIP one.

#3 Can you travel from Caño Cristales to San Jose del Guaviare?

Boat La Macarena - San Jose del guaviare (+)

Edit 2020: This boat trip isn’t doable anymore until further notice

After an amazing trip to the rainbow river, you can decide to extend your adventure to San Jose del Guaviare.

Don’t take the jeep. It will be a horrible muddy path for 10 hours.

Fortunately, there is a boat leaving every week – almost – on Mondays during the rainy season from June to November

Boat La Macarena – S.J.D Guaviare | Departure time: 8h00 am | Cootransfluvial | Duration: 10 hours | Price: 120 000 COP

How to leave from San Jose del Guaviare

Because you don’t want to stay forever in San Jose del Guaviare – Sorry Andres -, you also need to know how to leave the city.

There are not many options. You must head back to Bogota or Villavicencio.

1# Fly back to Bogota with Satena

Flight San jose del Guaviare - Bogota (+)

The flights San Jose del Guaviare – Bogota are not every day. Double-check the departures with the Satena.

  • Monday (Afternoon)
  • Wednesday (Morning)
  • Saturday (Morning)

Flight S.J.D Guaviare – Bogota | Duration: 1h15 | Price: Around 220 000 COP / 70 $ | Website

The airport is near the center. Order a taxi for 7 – 10 000 C0P  and arrive 1 hour in advance at the airport. 

#2 Take a night bus to Bogota

Bus San Jose del guaviare - Bogota (+)

There are various departure times. Ask your local agency which one would best suit you.

Bus S.J.D Guaviare – Bogota | Duration: 9 – 10 hours | Prices: Around 70 000 COP / 22 $

After San Jose del Guaviare, explore la Macarena

Boat San Jose del Guaviare - La Macarena (+)

Edit 2020: This boat trip isn’t doable anymore until further notice

There is a boat leaving to La Macarena every Saturday.

I don’t recommend you to take the jeep. The trip is longer and extremely muddy.

How do we know it? Because we did it ^^. Read our travel guide about Caño Cristales.

We planned to take the boat all the way to La Macarena. Unfortunately, there was a strike that day. So we had to take a boat then a jeep to La Macarena. The ride was insane! Plus, we had a massive hangover from the previous night…

I let you watch our video 🙂

Boat S.J.D Guaviare – La Macarena | Departure time: 9h00 am | Cootransfluvial | Duration: 10 hours | Price: 120 000 COP

Things to do in San Jose del Guaviare

The town of San Jose del Guaviare isn’t appealing, but we enjoyed a lot our stay there.

First of all, the town is 100% safe. We could hang out with our cameras and phones without being worried to use them. 

Second, there are many bars, clubs, and restaurants. We liked to spend the evening with our crew and the staff of Geotours. It’s perfect to create bonds while sharing beers and histories.

I will tell you about restaurants and bars in San Jose del Guaviare a bit further in this article

1# El Centro Cultural de San Jose del Guaviare

Some travelers don’t want to book their activities in advance. I wouldn’t recommend to do it in San Jose del Guaviare, especially if you’re a small group (1-2 people) because it can be a lot more expensive. Indeed, the local travel company won’t be able to add you to another group at the last minute.

But, if you don’t mind to pay a private tour, you shouldn’t have too much problem to find someone.

Once in San Jose, go to El centro Cultural to get the best information about the tours and trustful guides

Centro Cultural | Opening hours: Monday to Friday | 8 am – 6 pm

Town San Jose del Guaviare
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Main square San Jose del Guaviare

#2 Cool things to do in town

There are not many things to do in town. But we still found 2 fun activities:

1. Wake up at 5h30 am and take pictures of the fish market. 

2. Drink a beer and observe the sunset on the Guaviare river

  • From boat-bar at the port
  • From the bar El Mirador
Sunset San Jose del Guaviare
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sunset on the Guayabero River

#3 The different day trips from San Jose del Guaviare

I’m sure this place will be soon a booming touristic attraction in Colombia. 

Located between the Llanos and the Amazonia, San Jose del Guaviare offers various landscapes such as an immense savanna, a deep jungle, endless river banks,  and so on.

You need to be a bit organized to visit the maximum of these gorgeous places in a minimum of time.

First but not least, you have to book a guide and vehicle.

All these places are outside San Jose del Guaviare and there is no public transportation to get there.

We used the service of Geotour, and there were awesome 🙂

1 - Cerro Azul and the River Guayabero (+)

Located two and a half hours away from San Jose del Guaviare, Cerro Azul is one of the main highlights in the area.

There, an old and unknown civilization drawn hundreds of pictograms on 2 large facades.

The drawings are perfectly well preserved. And that’s weird! Because they are subject to every climatic condition like rain and heat.

How is it possible? What plants did they use? 

There are a lot of missing answers.

Moreover, we can find the same pictograms in the  National Park Chiribiquete.

On the way back, some tours offer you to take a boat ride through the Raudal -Rapid – de Guayabero. The scenery is impressive and you can even spot of a few dolphins!

Cerro Azul San Jose del Guaviare
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Sebastian showing us different pictograms

2 - Dolphins in the Laguna Damas del Nare (+)

The laguna Damas del Nare is a lagoon rich in planktons located 2 hours away on the Guayabero river.

And do you know who love planktons?

Dolphins!

A family lives there throughout the year, enjoying an orgy of food.

Moreover, they share a cute relationship with the locals residing there. They love to pick the rope throw at them in the lagoon and terrorize the visitors by swimming between their legs.

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3 - Puerta de Orion, Caño Sabana (Pink river) & Tranquilandia (+)

Caño Sabana is the little sister of Caño Cristales. There, from June to November, an aquatic plant called Macarenia Clavigera grows in the bed river. 

The color changes from Pink to Purple according to sun exposure. The result is astonishing.

On the way to observe this marvelous river, local tours give you the opportunity to start the hike a bit further so you can admire the Puerta de Orion, a huge rock – 12 m high – in the middle of the savanna. 

Then, you can chill at the waterfalls in Tranquilandia, hoping to spot a few monkeys.

4 - The intriguing pozos naturales (+)

Back in time, El Guaviare was just a small part of a huge ocean. But things are never set in stone with Mother Nature. 

Nowadays, the water has disappeared and made rooms for a soil composed of sedimentary rocks.

Because of the erosion, holes occurred through the ages in a bed river located 30 min away from San Jose del Guaviare. They look like natural jacuzzis. Moreover, some of them are deep enough that you can jump in it!

Pozos naturales San Jose del Guaviare
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Let’s burn then jump in the Pozos Naturales

5 - Serrania de la Lindosa and Los Túneles (+)

As I told you, flows, rains and tides have shaped the landscapes of El Guaviare.

Serrania de la Lindosa and Los Tuneles are 2 perfect places if you want to admire the work of mother nature.

There, massive rocks create a mysterious atmosphere with sceneries comparable at an old abandoned city or a secret maze.

Ciudad de Piedra San Jose del guaviare
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Where to stay in San Jose del Guaviare

The climate is very humid in this area of Colombia. Book a hotel with a pool and air-con if you can’t deal with the heat. 

  1. Panorama hotel: It’s one of the cheapest hotels you will be able to find in town. The family in charge is always smiling and ready to help. Rooms are simple but more than acceptable for the price. 
  2. Hostel Guaviare soul: The owner had the great idea to turn her mother’s house into a hostel where travelers can meet and share. Private rooms and Dorms. They also sell tours.
  3. Portico hotel: A pleasant hotel, with air-con in the rooms. As in every hotel in Colombia, the soundproofing is inexistent. Refreshing swimming pool.
  4. Aeroporto hotel: The value for money isn’t exceptional, but it’s still the best hotel in town. The rooms are moderns and comfortable. Guests can also relax in the pools and the gardens.

Where to go out in San Jose del Guaviare

San Jose del Guaviare isn’t a big city. You won’t have any issue to stroll in the zona rosa to pick your restaurants and bars.

1# Where to eat in San Jose del Guaviare

List of our favorite restaurants (+)

Nomadas was my favorite restaurant for the night. They serve different delicious meals around 22 000 COP. No menu del día.

El Dorado de Omar is a perfect restaurant if you wanna eat a big fish with your menu del día. Around 18 000 COP

Carnes y Carnes is for meat lovers. The small portion is already huge! They only open at night. Around 20 000 COP 

El Mirador del Barquito in the Cultural center is our little tasty secret. The view on the river is gorgeous and the food fantastic. Get your Menu del día for only 6 500 COP!

El Ranchon is one of the upscale restaurants in town but the menu del dia is affordable. 10 000 COP

2# Where to Go out in San Jose del Guaviare

Bars and clubs are open every day in San Jose del Guaviare. But the inhabitants usually go out on Saturdays.

The Zona Rosa – party district – is composed of 2 streets near the main square. Follow the lights and music beats, you can’t miss it.

List of our favorite bars (+)

Banana Disco club and La Cantina are 2 funky clubs with a mix of Salsa, Merengue and Reggaeton. A bottle of aguardiente cost 70 000 COP and there is no cover.

Also, enjoy the sunset on the river Guayabero from EL Mirador or El Barquito Sol Y Arena. Cheap Beers.

And in case you wanna drink a good coffee or juice, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to Marroqui cafe. Their internet is fast! 

EL Mirador San Jose del guaviare
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EL Mirador

Can you visit San Jose del Guaviare on your own?

The answer is yes.

You can book your accommodations online and pay a bus ticket at the bus terminal in Bogota. 

Once you are in San Jose del Guaviare, go to the Cultural center and find a guide who will organize your day trips – you can’t do otherwise. You’ll also need to pay for a private vehicle.

By doing so, you will need more days to visit the main highlights. Also, it might be quite expensive if you can’t join another group.

Is it cheaper to book an all-included tour to visit San Jose del Guaviare?

This is the option we chose.

We had a great experience with Geotours Guaviare and we are happy to consider them as partners.

There are other local travel agencies in San Jose del Guaviare, and I’m sure some of them are doing a great job too.

Tip: Don’t book your tour with a national travel agency. Try to find a local travel agency in town. Thus, you will avoid paying an intermediary.

1# How much do you need to visit San Jose del Guaviare without a tour?

Let’s say you are a couple who wants to explore San Jose del Guaviare 4 days / 3 nights

Considering you arrive at the last minute, you’ll have to stay one extra day and night to organize your trip.

Moreover, it will be hard to join another small group – As it’s not very touristic yet.

You’ll need at least 2 460 000 COP

See the calculations

  • 4 nights El Portico : 90 000 COP * 4 = 360 000 COP
  • 5 breakfasts – 2 pers : 10 000 * 2 * 5 = 100 000 COP
  • 5 Lunches – 2 pers : 20 000 * 2 * 5 = 200 000 COP
  • 5 dinners – 2 pers : 20 000 * 2 * 5 = 200 000 COP
  • 4 day trips: 400 000 COP * 4 = 1 600 000 COP | Jeep + Private guide + entrances

2# How much does an all-included tour cost?

If you prevent Geotour (or us) in advance, they can give you various dates to be with another group and share the costs.

For the same activities and accommodations, you could pay – Prices 2019 / 2020:

  • 2 000 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 6 pers in total
  • 2 500 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 4 pers in total
  • 3 800 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 2 pers in total

As you can see, prices can be super interesting if you can join another group! Besides, you get other advantages like:

  • Geotour helps you to book your bus tickets
  • They organize everything for you – Peace of mind!
  • You meet other travelers – You will be able to avoid your travel buddy
  • The staff hang out with you at night
  • You know they are doing an excellent job

I believe it’s 100% worth it to use the service of a local agency, especially when traveling to an off the beaten path destination.

The experience and the quality of your trip will be much higher, you’ll be less stressed and your money directly benefits the local economy.

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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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