Although tourism has been steadily creeping in over the past few years, there are corners of La Guajira that feel truly untouched. Where the popular kite surfing spot Cabo de la Vela has taken the brunt of the tourism boom, there is plenty more that's “off the beaten track”. As is so often the case, the harder you’re willing to work, the higher the reward.
The first question on most people’s lips is often the most logical - “how do I get there?”. Without the help of an organised tour, the route is fairly straightforward, if a tad fragmented. Most people visiting La Guajira are heading from the Santa Marta / Palomino & El Rio direction. The first stopping off point is Riohacha, a reasonably big city that can provide the necessary amities (cash machines and wifi) needed before leaping into the great unknown. Although the city of Riohacha itself has little to hold your attention for long, the beaches of Mayapo around 20km north east are a worthwhile way to spend a day. The flamingo park at Camarones is also a worthwhile trip, however check first to see if it’s the right time of year for flamingoes - as migratory birds they may be on holiday! From Riohacha, head to Uribia via Cuatro Vías, most likely in a colectivo (a car used as a taxi for several people at once). From there you will be whisked away in a packed jeep to Cabo de la Vela.
Cabo de la Vela is the first beauty spot in the Alta Guajira, a small strip of restaurants, tiendas and places to stay, mostly set in locals’ homes. Kite Addict and Pujuru are probably the most well established, both offering tours to Punta Gallinas and the surrounding beaches, plus kite surfing lessons. Don’t miss Pilon de Azucar, a small hill around half an hour on foot from the town, which enjoys commanding views up and down the coast.
Punta Gallinas, the most northerly tip of South America almost feels like the end of the world and is the next (and for most people, final) destination on their trip to La Guajira. Punta Gallinas has to be accessed by private car, which can be organised in Cabo. The area surrounding Punta Gallinas is spectacular, culminating in a 60ft sand dune that tumbles down into the ocean. A trip to the lighthouse that sits at the most northerly point is also worth ticking off.
El Rio also recommends a trip round the headland to Nazareth, a very out of the way (it’s around 4 hours from Punta Gallinas on the back of a motorbike) little village that sits on the edge of the Macuira national park. Tourist numbers here are low, however those who do venture there are rewarded with trips to truly bizarre sand dunes that sit in the middle of the national park and the mysterious “rock of destiny”, plus sightings of large blue and red locusts that swoop around the dunes.
Be prepared for an adventure. Organised tours are available, however if you have plenty of time we recommend using public transport, or going by motorbike with our boys at Adrenaline Addicts. El Rio can look after your bags and organise tours and private transport if necessary.
For more information, check out The Culture Trip's guide for visiting the area