Top 10 Things to See and Do in the Tatacoa Desert, Colombia

Tatacoa Desert hotel
Tatacoa Desert hotel | Chris Bell / © Culture Trip
Chris Bell

Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert is a fantastic place to spend a few days: with unique and surreal landscapes, some excellent hotels, the best stargazing in Colombia and much more, Tatacoa has plenty to keep you busy. Here are the top 10 things to see and do in the incredible Tatacoa Desert.

Visit the observatory

If Tatacoa is famous for one thing, it’s the amazing stargazing you can enjoy on a trip to the desert. With clear skies throughout the year and thanks to its proximity to the equator, you can see an astonishing number of stars at night in the desert. The best place for stargazing is the Tatacoa observatory, where high-powered telescopes allow you to get a closer look at planets and stars and an expert is on hand to explain everything.

Tatacoa observatory

Take a bike tour

One of the best ways to explore the huge expanse of the desert is to take a bike tour. Tatacoa BiciTour offers an excellent and comprehensive tour of the desert (along with great equipment, bikes and helmets) during which you can see all the highlights and get some exercise at the same time. It can be very hot during the day in Tatacoa, so make sure you take plenty of water.

Stay at Bethel Bio Luxury Hotel

The fanciest hotel in the Tatacoa Desert is Bethel Bio Luxury Hotel, a stunning eco-hotel overlooking the surrounding grey desert and the distant peaks of the Andes. With several lovely swimming pools, a great restaurant and individual pods instead of regular bedrooms, the hotel doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a unique and unforgettable way to experience the desert in total luxury.

Enjoying the view at Bethel Bio Luxury

Visit the red desert

Tatacoa is divided into two areas: the red desert and the grey desert. No trip to the Tatacoa Desert is complete without experiencing both of these contrasting environments. The first area you will reach if arriving from Villavieja (the entry point for visiting the desert) is the spectacular red desert. Consisting of red earth that has been baked and dried in the sun, this part of Tatacoa is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Colombia.

The red desert of Tatacoa

Relax and enjoy the peace

After all the sweaty hiking and cycling in the desert, there’s nothing better to do on a trip to Tatacoa than to simply sit back – ideally in a hammock or by a pool – and enjoy the desert air, the peace and quiet and the natural beauty. Try to pick a hotel or hostel with hammocks and a pool, and spend at least a day just kicking back and relaxing.

Take a dip at Los Hoyos

Los Hoyos is an obligatory stop on any tour of Tatacoa: a swimming pool formed by natural spring water in the heart of the rocky, grey section of the desert. With the punishing heat of the day in Tatacoa, pausing at Los Hoyos for a dip and a cold drink is a must. There is no more beautiful spot to take a swim.

Taking a dip at Los Hoyos

Visit Villavieja

The small town of Villavieja is the gateway to Tatacoa, but most tourists arrive there and leave straight away for the desert. This is a shame, as the town itself is worth a morning: the main square is attractive, and it’s home to an interesting palaeontology museum, housing a collection of more than 600 fossils discovered in Tatacoa, dating all the way back to the Miocene period.

Explore the grey desert

The other part of the desert stands in stark contrast to the aforementioned red desert: the rocky, moonlike grey desert is an entirely different experience to the baked earth of the red desert and wandering among its stoney outcrops and surreal rock formations feels like walking on the lunar surface.

The dramatic scenery of the grey desert

Attend a festival

Deserts and music festivals seem like a natural fit, so it’s no shock that Tatacoa has seen it’s fair share of exciting music events. The best of these in recent years has been Baum Festival, a regular Bogotá-based electronic festival which was transplanted to the desert back in 2017 and looks likely to return this year.

Go horseback riding

Another excellent way to experience Tatacoa, and a less exhausting one than cycling, is to take a horse riding tour. You can spend a full day on horseback, or if that sounds too much, you can simply tailor a tour to your needs and interests. One thing is for sure: riding through the desert – on a horse with no name? – is an experience not to be missed.

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