Travel hours along a straight dirt road, turn left, follow your nose to where the desert meets the sea and you will find yourself in Cabo de la Vela, ‘the tip of the candle’.
The sandy village in the North-Eastern corner of Colombia has long been a tourist destination thanks to the desert beaches, cloudless skies, striking sunrises, sunsets and stunningly starry nights.
More recently, adventure sport has arrived. The consistent year-round winds make Cabo a kitesurfer’s paradise and it was this that brought me there on two separate occasions. Consisting of a single street, the coastal town sits a few hours from the Venezuelan border in La Guaijra, Colombia’s largest desert region, also home to the Wayúu, an indigenous tribe known as the people of sun, sand and wind.
A little bit further into the desert from Cabo de la Vela, you have Punta Gallinas, the northern most point of South America, and home to one of the coolest beaches I have been too thanks to the gigantic dunes that take you straight into the sea.
La Guajira is my favourite part of Colombia so I want to help you get there. It’s a bit fiddly but not complicated and though it may not all happen as quickly as you’d like, everything, in its own special way, does move smoothly, like a well-oiled lifted jeep…
HOW TO GET TO CABO DE LA VELA and PUNTA GALLINAS
correct as at Feb 2017
Leg 1: Santa Marta to Rioacha (2hrs):
You can get a public bus for COP 25,000 but I would recommend, for COP 35,000 that you make the most of the colectivo taxis that pick you up from your hostel and drop you off at the colectivo meeting point: Calle 15 #5 in Rioacha.
Leg 2: Rioacha to Uribia (1hr)
Go to calle 15 #5 in Rioacha. Colectivos (normal 5-seater cars) leave for uribia regularly. Cost 15,000 per person. You only really need to leave Rioacha at 9:30 earliest. The jeeps usually leave Uribia at 12 ish.
When you get to Uribia get the driver to drop you off at Tierra del Sol. This is where Rafa (+57 320 641 9090) comes into play.
Leg 3: Uribia to Cabo de la Vela (2hrs)
Rafa or one of the other drivers at Tierra del Sol can take you to Cabo de la Vela and you can arrange for Punta Gallinas trip through him too.
Legs 1-3 can be done in a day by a series of public transport. Setting out at 7am from Santa Marta by collectivo, you should get to Rioacha at 9am, then to Uribia for 10:30, then into Cabo de la Vela at 2ish.
Leg 4: Cabo de la Vela to Punta Gallinas (3hrs + 3hr tour)
Now it’s time for the jeep ‘tour.’ You can organize it through your accommodation the night before, or ideally just sync up with Rafa again – I have heard a few stories of grumpy (and super fast) desert drivers so be conscious in your choice. Before you get excited none of the drivers gives much of a ‘tour’ – ie don’t expect a guide unless you go with the excellent Pao at History Travelers (e-mail Pao).
The jeeps pick up you from your hostel at 5am the next day so you get to the accommodation to dump your stuff and have breakfast around 8am.
Cost for the 24-hour jeep tour is normally $120,000. That includes 3-hour drive Cabo de la Vela to your accommodation, then 3-hour drive to Punta Gallinas itself, a lake view and to Taroa beach – look forward to the awesome sand dunes. Then the 3 hour drive back to Cabo the next day.
On top of that you will have to pay for hammock, breakfast x 2, lunch and dinner (should be around COP 75,000). If you want to go straight back to Uribia you normally have to pay an extra COP 30,000.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN CABO AND PUNTA GALLINAS?
Not much. That’s why I love the area. It’s all soaking up the stark remote landscapes; desert, sea and sky. Relax, take a book, a few blank pages and a pen and relax.
In Cabo: Spend the afternoon in Cabo – have a wander, walk to the faro (lighthouse) for sunset. You need to leave at 4:30 from the town, to get there for 5:45 sunset.
If you’re into (or want to be into) kitesurfing, you will love it! it is one of the best places in the world for steady year-round winds. Head to Eoletto’s for more information once you’re there, or contact Etto, Jorge Luis and Paula in advance.
In certain months (July – October ) you can go for an optional extra go on a flamingo tour and then watch the sunset from a different beach – I liked this.
One night at Punta Gallinas is enough. You stay in a kind of standalone compound and there’s really nothing to stay a second day for.
Head back to Cabo for more relaxing and kitesurfing. It's a wonderfully simple existence - sleeping in a hammock strung up in a shack made of cactus wood, cooking by torchlight and showering in the sea is totally worth it in order to get a daily fix of some of the best kitesurfing that Latin America has to offer.
I hope you love it as much as I do!
TRAVELLING IN OTHER AREAS OF COLOMBIA?
For the full collection of notes I collected while exploring Colombia, head to Over to you: Tips for Travel in Colombia
(Includes Santa Marta, Tayrona National Park, Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) Trek, Cartagena, Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Isla Providencia, The Coffee Region, La Guajira and great Colombian music, books and festivals to aim for)
Hope you enjoy!! Please do share with anyone you think might find them useful.
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