Colombia’s vast Eastern Plains – or Llanos Orientales as they are known in Colombia – are a huge area of grassland that floods for seven months of every year and dries up for the remaining five. They are a truly unique and wild part of the country and one which sees precious few tourists. Here are 11 reasons why you should visit Colombia’s Eastern Plains.
The three regions that make up Colombia’s Eastern Plains – Arauca, Meta, and Casanare – hardly see anything like the number of tourists that visit more well-known areas like the Coffee Region, Caribbean Coast, or Medellin. This makes them satisfyingly off-the-beaten-track, and a trip to the Eastern Plains is the chance to visit a beautiful part of Colombia before most other people.
The llanos are the home of the Colombian llaneros, or cowboys: a hardy and tough people who have lived by similar traditional means for hundreds of years. Most tours in the region offer visitors the chance to learn about these cowboy traditions and even have a stab at lassoing, milking, and herding cattle for themselves.
The Eastern Plains are a huge cattle farming region and beef is the staple diet of the majority of its residents. Therefore, as you’d expect, people from the llanos have gotten pretty good at cooking beef over the years, and it’s just about the best place in Colombia to enjoy a delicious cut of the finest beef in the country. A llanos-style BBQ is just about the best meal you’ll have in Colombia.
The Eastern Plains are so rich in wildlife, and so conveniently flat and easy to navigate, that they are an amazing place to experience some of Colombia’s best ecotourism trips. In many places, you can drive around the vast plains in open-topped jeeps on a Colombian safari, enjoying amazing views of capybaras, deer, birds, caiman, and more.
The wide-open plains of the Colombian llanos make for some of the most beautiful and epic sunsets in the whole of the country and, with so many vast rivers to explore as well, no two sunsets in the llanos are ever the same.
From large land mammals like jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, capybaras, white-tailed deer, pumas, and anteaters, to a remarkable diversity of bird, reptile, and amphibian species, the llanos is home to some of Colombia’s most important biodiversity hotspots, and is a truly wonderful place to enjoy a spot of wildlife watching in Colombia.
To enjoy all of the wonderful wildlife-watching opportunities in the llanos, you’ll want to stay at a really good ecolodge, and you’re in luck! Casanare department is home to perhaps the best ecolodge in the whole of Colombia: Juan Solito Ecolodge at Hato La Aurora Reserve. This vast reserve is home to around 50,000 capybaras, as well as birds, caiman, anacondas, anteaters, and more, and guests can explore the plains in open-topped jeeps, on horseback, or by boat along the Ariporo River.
The people of the llanos see horseriding as second-nature, and being able to ride a horse well is practically a must in these regions. Therefore, tourism is highly focused on horseback riding, and tourists in the plains can have some of the most exciting adventures in Colombia on horseback. From riding across wild rivers, to herding cattle on the vast plains, the llanos is probably the best place in the country to go horseback riding.
There really aren’t many places where you stand a good chance of actually encountering one of these massive snakes in the wild, and the llanos is one of those places. In the dry season, when the only sources of water are small, isolated ponds and lakes, and all wildlife flocks to the only water sources for miles around, visitors stand a good chance of coming face to face with one of these mighty creatures!
The unique cowboy culture of the llanos isn’t just about riding and eating lots of steaks! The llanero culture has also produced some really wonderful and unique music and dances. The musical genre joropo, played on a traditional harp, guitar, and maracas, is unique in Colombia, and listening to llaneros belt out some beautiful joropo tunes while dancing under a starry sky is a truly magical experience.
Need we say more? Who wouldn’t want the chance to see one of these in the wild…