11 Reasons Why You Should Visit La Guajira at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Travelling in La Guajira, Colombia
Travelling in La Guajira, Colombia | © Chris Bell
Chris Bell

The Colombian department of La Guajira is a unique and beautiful place: a huge coastal Caribbean desert covered in giant sand dunes, salt flats, and stunning beaches, and home to Colombia’s largest Indigenous population. La Guajira is definitely one of the best places to visit in Colombia, so here are 11 reasons why you should make time to visit.

It’s a land of amazing contrasts

Guajira encompasses everything from the jungles and crystalline rivers of Palomino to the arid deserts of Punta Gallinas; from the paradise beaches of Cabo de La Vela to the forgotten cloud forests of Macuira. At first glance, La Guajira may seem like a bleak and even forbidding place, but the diversity and contrasts that abound there make for a truly unique travel experience.

World-class kitesurfing

The waters around Cabo de La Vela in La Guajira are famous for having some of the best – and most consistent – kitesurfing in the world. The flat bay facing the town has year-round winds, perfect for practising the extreme sport, and for windsurfing as well. There are a couple of kitesurfing schools and hostels, so whatever your level, you can enjoy the activity.

It’s the best place to buy a beautiful Wayuu bag

The Wayuu are especially famous for their stunning, handmade mochilas or shoulder bags. These bags, with their bright colourful patterns and geometric shapes (all informed by the myths and legends of the Wayuu), have become quite the fashion accessory all around the world in recent years, and La Guajira is the best place to pick one up at a good price. However, avoid haggling too much: many Wayuu are very poor and need the money that souvenir shopping brings.

Wayuu bags in La Guajira │

It’s unlike any other landscape in Colombia

There really is nowhere else in Colombia where you can experience desert as you can in La Guajira. The other famous Colombian ‘desert’ is Tatacoa, but that is officially classified as a ‘semi-arid area’ and is nothing like the wild vastness of the Guajira deserts. The fact that these vast expanses of sand are located on the Caribbean coast makes for some truly unique places: the huge Taroa Dunes and Macuira National Park being two good examples.

Surreal and beautiful salt flats in Manaure, Guajira

There is amazing birding

It might not seem that such dry desert could support much wildlife, but the scrubby forest surrounding Camarones is one of the best birding sites in Colombia. Apart from the aforementioned Flamingos, the area supports populations of Guajira endemic species such as the stunning Vermillion Cardinal, the elusive Tocuyo Sparrow, and the lovely Buffy Hummingbird.

Beautiful beaches

The beaches of the Guajira are unlike any others in Colombia, and beach-lovers will have an amazing time exploring the paradise sands of Cabo de La Vela, Punta Gallinas, Camarones, and Mayapo. They might not be the white-sand and palm trees image of the classic Caribbean beach, but spots like Taroa, Playa del Pilon, and Mayapo beach are as stunning as any others you will see.

Beaches in La Guajira

It’s a real adventure

Travelling to La Guajira is far from the easy backpacking circuit further along the coast in Santa Marta and Cartagena. There’s no Wi-Fi, no hot water (showers are taken from a bucket), and travelling involves long and dusty drives in jeeps and open-backed trucks. It might not appeal to the flashpacker demographic, but those looking for a real travel adventure in Colombia should look no further than La Guajira.

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