The best guide to La Guajira in Colombia to quickly decide if you should come and how to visit—info based on my many trips to this department and our local friends.

🛑 Imagine exploring the most incredible places in La Guajira efficiently and hassle-free.

Many travelers want to visit La Guajira when they’re on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. And I can understand why—I’ve been 4 times to La Guajira.

However, this department, complicated to access depending on where you want to go, is not unanimously appreciated by travelers.

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

  • Who are the native people living in La Guajira, and how can you know more about them?
  • What’s this exciting sport (starts with a K.) that you can do there?
  • Why some travelers didn’t like their trip over there?
  • The differences between Alta Guajira, Media Guajira, and Baja Guajira.
  • And more!

Who are we đź‘‹

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.


Our Favorite Local Expert

Our mission at Tomplanmytrip is to help you get in touch directly with the best local agencies in Colombia (tested and approved by us). It’s a no-cost, no-hassle, no-risk service.

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)

Why (or not) visiting La Guajira, Colombia

This section will help you get to know the main characteristics of La Guajira.

a unique culture: The Wayuu

At the heart of La Guajira beats the spirit of the Wayuu, Colombia and Venezuela’s largest indigenous group. They lead a fascinating matriarchal society, inviting us to explore and learn.

The Wayuu are La Guajira’s guardians, protecting wonders like Macuira National Park and the stunning Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas. Their deep respect for nature teaches us valuable lessons.

Visiting La Guajira isn’t just a trip; it’s an immersion into the Wayuu way of life. You’ll get to see the world through their eyes, taste their unique dishes, and hear their ancient myths and legends.

My opinion: I found the Wayuu to be a rather reserved people, and it wasn’t easy to communicate with them until I organized an experience that really focused on their culture.

Birdwatching in La Guajira

Flamingos La Guajira

La Guajira is a birdwatcher’s dream, with its mix of habitats like coastal wetlands, dry forests, mountains, and páramos.

  • Don’t miss the Flamingos Sanctuary, where you can see a flamboyance of flamingos in their natural setting. The sight of their pink feathers against a blue sky is unforgettable.
  • Head to the Camarones Forest Reserve.
  • Check out Macuira National Park, right in the La Guajira desert. Here, you might spot some of the world’s most unique birds, like the Perijá Metaltail, the Santa Marta Parakeet, or the Chestnut-winged Chachalaca

Mindblowing landscapes

La Guajira is like a live painting, with its desert sands meeting the blue sea. It’s a sight that sticks with you.

The beaches? They’re pretty much untouched and perfect whether you’re into chilling in the sun, trying out some water sports, or just taking a long walk on the sand.

Right in the middle of the desert, you’ve got the Macuira National Park. It’s like this cool, green spot in all that dryness, showing how tough nature can be. A great place to just relax and get away from it all.

In the evenings, the sky here puts on a real show. The sunsets are full of oranges, pinks, and purples – definitely Instagram-worthy.

And the night sky is something else. Without city lights, the stars pop out like crazy. If you’re into stargazing, you’ll love it here.

Kitesurfing in La Guajira

With its steady winds, calm sea, and stunning scenery, La Guajira is the perfect spot to live out your kitesurfing adventures.

There’s no shortage of kitesurfing schools in Riohacha and Cabo de la Vela. If you’re new to the sport, start in Riohacha.

And then you have Punta Gallinas. Imagine kitesurfing where desert, mountains, and sea all come together, against a backdrop of sand dunes and clear blue water. It’s as exhilarating as it is breathtaking. And hey, if you’re up for it, why not take a 5-day kitesurfing trip with this expert to really make the most of it?

Kitesurfing in La Guajira with Etto & Paula
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Since 2015, Tomplanmytrip (us) looks for the best local agencies in Colombia and put you in direct contact with them.

Pros:
  • Excellent bilingual guides.
  • Kitesurfing trips to Punta Gallinas.
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La Guajira is an adventure

This is where bold travelers come to find something different. Think less crowded paths and untouched landscapes.

Imagine cruising in a Jeep across vast deserts, where the only landmarks are the lone cacti standing tall against the harsh climate. It’s like stepping into a Salvador Dali painting.

As you go deeper, you’ll discover small towns that time forgot. These places are a real look into Wayuu culture. The locals’ hospitality is a true slice of Colombian warmth that’s stayed the same over the years.

Then there’s Punta Gallinas, the very tip of South America. Standing there, with the desert meeting the sea, feels like you’re at the edge of the world.

The adventure doesn’t stop at sunset. Imagine sleeping in a chinchorro (hammock), with just the desert wind and the occasional sound of goats munching on potato chips in the background.

Many surprises in La Guajira

Macuira Tour in La Guajira

La Guajira is where the unexpected is the norm.

Picture this: You’re off-roading in the desert, cacti everywhere, and boom – your Jeep stops. Fortunately, locals are pros at fixing cars, so you’re back on the road in no time.

Then you’ve got the Wayuu strikes. During my last stay, we had to leave at 3 a.m. to get through before the road was blocked.

If it rains, the paths will get muddy, and you’ll have trouble reaching the most remote points in the Alta Guajira. That’s why I recommend you avoid going there during the heavy rainy season (Sep-Oct).

Being flexible with changes is key here. It’s all about rolling with the punches, enjoying the surprises, and making the most of every moment. And to leave with a good agency to be able to face these unforeseen events.

Comfort is limited in La Guajira

La Guajira’s charm is in its rawness, but that also means luxury is hard to come by.

Accommodations are pretty basic – think budget beds and hammocks. It might sound a bit rough, but hammocks can be surprisingly comfy, even with the strong winds that might rock you to sleep.

Don’t expect air conditioning, and electricity usually goes off at night. But that’s okay, because the desert nights are cool, and the breeze feels great.

When it comes to food, La Guajira likes to keep it simple. Fresh veggies are scarce in the desert, so menus might be limited.

VISITING lA gUAJIRA = MANY HOURS IN A JEEP

La Guajira is where you test your love for exploration. You’ll find yourself on an epic road trip, rumbling across vast landscapes in a jeep for many hours each day—6 to 8 pers per jeep.

For me, La Guajira is often more visually spectacular than culturally immersive. If deep cultural connection is your goal, this might not hit the mark.

My opinion: To balance the experience, a 4-day trip is ideal. It gives you the chance to hike in Macuira National Park and interact more with the Wayuu culture, offering a richer experience.

LIFE IS HARD IN LA GUAJIRA

La Guajira is one of the country’s poorest areas. You’ll come across children asking for money, food, or water. It’s a tough sight, one that really makes you think about the inequalities in our world.

There’s also a big issue with waste management in La Guajira. You’ll see litter scattered around, which is sad considering the natural beauty of the desert and sea. This problem stems from irresponsible tourism, local indifference, and inadequate waste systems.

My opinion: Remember to travel responsibly. Respect the local culture, support the local economy, and bring back your trash. Your actions, however small, can help make a difference.

Best places to visit in La Guajira, Colombia

Playa Mayapo Riohacha La Guajira

Guajira is divided into three distinct areas: Alta La Guajira, Media La Guajira, and Baja La Guajira.

Visiting Alta La Guajira

Alta Guajira is more than its breathtaking sights. It’s the feeling of the desert wind against your skin, the captivating stories of the Wayuu people, and seeing a side of Colombia that’s still hidden from most travelers.

It’s this area that you’ll explore over several days with an agency. Here are the best tours in La Guajira.

La Macuira National Park

Nestled in the desert, the town of Nazareth serves as your gateway to La Macuira National Park.

This park is a unique oasis of biodiversity, boasting a cloud forest rich in rare plants and wildlife. Get ready for adventure along its hiking trails, which take you to stunning viewpoints and hidden waterfalls.

My opinion: It’s my favorite place to visit in La Guajira.

Cabo de la Vela

Cabo de la Vela, where the desert meets the sea.

This fishing village is a hotspot for kitesurfing, thanks to its consistent winds and peaceful waters.

Beyond the adrenaline of water sports, climb the Pilon de Azucar hill for breathtaking views, and wander along the golden beaches for some quiet time. Don’t miss the sunset from El Faro – a dazzling display of colors you’ll never forget.

Punta Gallinas

At Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of South America, you’ll find yourself in a landscape of stark, untouched beauty. Make sure to capture the iconic lighthouse with your camera, experience the thrill of running down the Taroa dunes, and take a moment to soak in the mesmerizing views.

My opinion: If you go to Cabo de la Vela, you must at least include also a stop at Punta Gallinas.

Visiting Media La Guajira

Media Guajira, the vibrant heart of La Guajira, is a mix of lively cities and charming coastal towns. Here are the main destinations:

  • Uribia, known as Colombia’s Indigenous Capital, is a cultural hub. Apart from a festival in May, it’s not worth visiting.
  • Riohacha, the capital of La Guajira, is a great hub to explore the desert but the city is quite boring. Popular day trips include Mayapo (white sand beach), the Manaure salt mines, and the Los Flamencos Sanctuary (home to pink flamingos and various bird species).
  • Maicao, a border city with Venezuela, is bustling with trade and diverse cultures—there is one largest mosque in Latin America.
  • Palomino is a trendy beach town that offers great food and stay options. Don’t miss the relaxing float down the Palomino River, leading to where it meets the sea.
  • Dibulla, less known, boasts pristine beaches like La Punta de los Remedios and maintains a genuine, unspoiled charm.

Visiting Baja La Guajira

Baja La Guajira, lying in the southern part of La Guajira department, stretches across the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá, including the Cesar valleys.

This region is celebrated for its fertile lands, promising livestock farming, abundant biodiversity, and cultural richness. It’s the birthplace of Vallenato, a unique music genre that beautifully mixes indigenous, African, and European elements.

One of its gems, Montes de Oca, is a protected forest reserve and a haven for biodiversity.

La Guajira: Interesting facts

Let’s take a moment to understand its rich history and culture. 

The Historical Journey of La Guajira

La Guajira’s history with European explorers dates back to 1498, when the explorer Juan de la Cosa first set foot on its shores. The region’s rich pearl deposits were highly sought after during the colonial era. In 1891, La Guajira was incorporated into the Magdalena Department.

The Wayuu people, or “Guajiros” as the Spaniards named them, have been the predominant inhabitants of the La Guajira peninsula throughout its history. Their resilience is legendary, having successfully resisted various invaders, including English pirates, Dutch smugglers, and Spanish pearl hunters. Today, their rich culture and traditions continue to be an integral and vibrant part of La Guajira’s identity.

The Economic Landscape of La Guajira

La Guajira’s economy primarily thrives on the exploitation of natural resources. This includes coal mining at CerrejĂłn, one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines, and natural gas extraction. The salt mines also contribute to the region’s economy.

However, La Guajira is no stranger to economic challenges. It’s a region grappling with extreme poverty and environmental issues like drought and pollution from coal dust. Particularly, the indigenous Wayuu people often bear the brunt of these hardships.

Tourism forms another critical part of La Guajira’s economy – with all the sites mentioned in this blog post. Many Wayuu families also earn their living by selling Wayuu mochila, goat rearing, and farming.

Bottom line: La Guajira

In conclusion, La Guajira, Colombia, is a destination that rewards those with an adventurous spirit and a deep appreciation for raw beauty. 

It’s not for everyone; it’s for those willing to venture off the beaten path, embrace the unexpected, and immerse themselves in a place that challenges and inspires. 

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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