Yopal should be your top choice when organizing a Colombian safari. These immense plains that flood in the rainy season is home to incredible wildlife that attracts more tourists yearly. I spent 15 days exploring the beautiful savannahs of Los Llanos to find the best local agencies and travel tips.
Yopal is a municipality and capital city of Casanare located at the limit of the Eastern Range Andean Mountains and has a population of 180,000 inhabitants. This department, enriched by the oil boom, became independent at the end of the 20th century following the separation from Boyaca. It is the second most important city in the eastern llanos of Colombia (after Villavicencio). Still, it is the one that most represents the llanera culture, with its vibrant music and its endless ranches (hatos). Recently, small local agencies have emerged to show travelers the beauty of the department and to help preserve its culture and wildlife.
Best time to visit Yopal
One thing is sure; you won’t be cold in Yopal. There are 3 seasons to know, which will influence the tours you can organize.
December – March
It is the dry season, without a drop of rain. The savannah turns yellow, and the water holes are scarce. The animals gather around them, so it is easier to watch the wildlife.
Between October and December, the Copa América de Coleo takes place. The participants must make the bull fall by pulling its tail.
In December, there is also El Cimarrón de Oro. It is a musical competition of the Joropo, with singing and improvisation contests (like rappers but with cowboys)
20/12 starts the Festival del Gaván with 4 days of musicals and cultural events in San Luis de Palenque.
May – October
It’s the wet season, with heavy rains, especially from May to July. The savannah is flooded and colored with flowers. The most remote nature reserves are difficult to access, and experiences such as horseback riding and boating are preferred.
April & November
These are two months of transitions, with the advantages and disadvantages of both seasons. They are perfect months to travel long distances on horseback.
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How to get to Yopal & around
El Yopal airport is a small airport called El Alcaravan. There are direct flights from Bogotá (Avianca), Medellin (Easyfly), and Bucaramanga (Easyfly). Its location is 15 minutes from the center by cab. You can also reach some hatos by charter flight from Bogotá or Yopal.
The bus terminal is 10 min from the center by cab. There are direct buses from Bogotá (9h, libertadores), Villavicencio (6h), Bucaramanga (12h), Sogamoso (5h), Trinidad (2h).
If you come from Bogotá, the easiest way is to pass by Guateque & Santa María. The road is in good condition until Trinidad. Then, it is dirt roads.
Private transportation companies have high rates because they also work with oil companies. The cost drastically impacts the price of the tours in Los llanos.
You can move anywhere in the city for 6-8000 COP. There are few cabs in the city, so it’s better to call them by phone.
Things to do in Yopal
1# Explore the city center
Yopal has little sites of interest to visitors, but it still has something to keep you busy for a few hours (knowing that you will probably arrive the day before your safari).
Then you can go shopping. The hat is an essential element of the Llanero. The best shop to buy it is Florentino. This family makes handmade hats with quality materials. I’ve got one for my dad 🙂
And to buy souvenirs for your loved ones, visit Ámala & Orinoquia Sabor y Arte.
Then relax in the park la Iguana or on the central square before enjoying the city’s many restaurants. The locals love to eat out.
Every Thursday night, from 8 to 10 pm, there is a Joropo music band at the bar of the GHL hotel (Terraza Llanera). It’s best to book in advance.
2# Observe the sunrise above the city
Sunrises are famous in the region of Los Llanos, especially from January to March. Although you will see many of them during your multi-day trip in la savanna, you can add one more to your collection in Yopal. There are two options:
Animal watching in the savanna is why travelers come to Yopal. Many hatos (traditional ranch) have been converted into nature reserves to preserve nature and welcome travelers.
The most famous animals to observe are the giant otter, the giant anteater, the morrocoy tortoise, the anaconda, the caiman, the puma, the jaguar, the capybara, and the deer.
Los llanos also act as restaurants for migratory birds. Bird lovers can easily observe storks, many species of herons, little egrets, roseate spoonbills, sandpipers, snipes, black skimmers, fork-tailed flycatchers, and more.
Depending on the weather and your wishes, you will travel by jeep, canoe, tractor, bicycle, or horse, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.
The number of different animals I could observe during my 2Colombian safaris amazed me. Still, you’ll need to stay several days to increase your odds. I recommend 4 days.
Must read: my 2 reviews to pick the right Colombian Safari.
GHL is a safe choice if you're looking for a comfortable hotel near a shopping mall and a couple of good bars and restaurants (same building). The staff is attentive, and travelers usually like the buffet for breakfast. Free wifi
By staying atHoliday Inn, you'll be able to enjoy a small but refreshing rooftop pool. The hotel is near the mall Unicentro and many restaurants. The wifi signal could be better, and there is no bar or restaurant inside the hotel.
Hotel Camoruco belongs to the family of our local partner (Laura), and it will be a great option if you go on a multi-day trip with her. I recommend the Deluxe habitation (the bed and pillow were incredible). Good prices.
Posada el Diamanteis a small guesthouse near San Luis de Palenque (2 h from Yopal). The garden is full of fruits and flowers, which attracts many birds and animals (monkeys!). There is even a 45-minute walk to observe them. Free parking.