MONTAñAS

The magic of the Tatacoa Desert

AUTHOR: Sebastian Rodriguez

This was my first experience as a traveler without company and backpacker style. It took me a couple of weeks to collect the necessary information and I decided to start my trip to the Tatacoa desert without a lot of money but totally motivated to know this destination; which for me, means a place with hidden magic.

 

Desert of the Tatacoa Cuzco

TATACOA DESERT – HUILA

The Tatacoa desert, with 330 square kilometers of ocher and gray earth, is the second largest arid zone in Colombia, after La Guajira.

The Tatacoa is in the department of Huila and in reality is not a desert but a tropical dry forest which has miles of years sheltered large amount of flora and fauna.

Cuzco Region in the Tatacoa Desert

The landscape of the Tatacoa desert is divided by two main zones; the red floors and the gray floors. In each of these, the immense formations of the arid land become a spectacle for the eyes.

HOW TO GET TO THE TATACOA DESERT?

To get to the Tatacoa desert from Bogotá you must first take the bus to the city of Neiva, the passage along the way you can get it from $44,000 COP per person and the trip lasts approximately 6 hours.

To go to the Tatacoa desert, you must reach the city of Neiva. From the Neiva terminal there are buses or vans that take travelers to the desert for a value of $15,000 COP person.

Cuzco Region
Sector of red soils El Cuzco

There is also the possibility of going first to the municipality of Villa Vieja and visiting the paleontological museum, where most of the fossils found in the desert are found, its entrance costs $2,500 COP and $7,000 from the terminal bus. Neiva

The trip from Neiva to Tatacoa is almost 2 hours, on the way it becomes evident as the terrain changes progressively. The huge cactus can warn of the proximity to this arid area, the landscapes and the remoteness of civilization and every time the sun and the sky feel more imposing.

Rock formations of the Tatacoa Desert

WHAT TO DO IN THE TATACOA DESERT?

The first area we encounter in the desert is called El Cuzco, one of the most attractive natural scenarios in Colombia that is characterized by being solid ground and where one can find one of the astronomical observatories of the Tatacoa.

The strong red color of the earth, a sample of the strong temperatures and the passage of time in its terrain. In this zone is located the Labyrinth of Cuzco, which can be accessed with or without a guide.

Cuzco labyrinths

A personal way, I preferred to travel first with the company of a guide who was going to give me information about the area and its history; so I familiarize myself with the place and then go a little further and be ecstatic with the immense red earth formations and yellow bands that exist there.

Cuzco labyrinths
Rock formations of Cuzco
Walk through the labyrinths of Cuzco

During the tours there are almost no tourists, it is a very large area and the influence of the walks is not much, it is preferable to choose first the service of the guide, the work that is also done by the inhabitants of the desert, guide information from your own experiences and wisdom.

The guide service can be contracted for a value between $30,000 and $40,000 COP, which includes ecological walks both from the Cuzco area, as well as from the gray areas of the desert. For this second place, they usually transport visitors in vans to the area called Los Hoyos where there is also a walk through the gray soils and their formations.

Rocks in the form of ghosts
Rocks in the form of ghosts

It lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 min. At the end of the tour the walkers arrive at a pool in the middle of the desert to cool off a little, this has a cost of COP $5,000 COP per person.

Hoyos Pool

Upon returning from this sector I could see the large area of land that comprises the Tatacoa desert and can not be alone with time looking at the route.

I recommend doing a walk or bike along the main road; It is an extensive route, but it promises to have places in natural viewpoints and the possibility of seeing this uninhabited place more closely.

Desert main road on the way to the Hoyos
Desert main road on the way to the Hoyos

For this walk it is necessary to bring enough liquid, very good sunscreen, hat, sleeves or long sleeve shirt and comfortable shoes.

These walks are impregnated with a very natural sensation since there is no auditory contamination; You can experience an immense silence that embraces the whole. The desert of the Tatacoa is characterized by its plains that become endless before the eyes, and which have as their only final point the central mountain range showing its total grandeur.

Mirador de Ventanas - The highest part of the Tatacoa desert
Mirador de Ventanas – The highest part of the Tatacoa desert

These landscapes are an opportunity to connect with nature and clear the mind of any concern, it is a total immersion in time that surprises both day and night.

The valley of desires
Valle de los deseos (Valley of the tears), a tradition from the visitors who make piles of rocks and make a wish that will come true when the winds of the desert take down the pile..
Tower of rocks symbolizing a desire of some traveler

THE TATACOA DESERT ON THE NIGHT

The perfect plan for the night is to go to the astronomy talk given in two different places in the Tatacoa desert, both very close to the Cuzco area. They cost $10,000 COP per person and it is an opportunity to learn a little more about our galaxy, the history and cartography of the sky and how all the star elements were named.

Vegetation of the Tatacoa desert

The wisdom of the astronomer in charge makes the mind travel between Arab names of stars and Greek representations in the constellations; Using a laser, he explains the sky to us and through telescopes are shown star clusters, nurseries of baby stars and even Saturn with its well-defined rings.

It is an experience that has no comparison; in the desert the sky is a window to the unknown and before our eyes The Milky Way makes its presentation giving an idea of ​​that other unexplored world that we have out of the earth.

Sunset in the Tatacoa desert

WHERE TO STAY?

There are a great variety of hostels and inns in the municipality of Villavieja for those who wish to spend several days in this fascinating place; all the hostels offer services of cabins, hammocks, camping and restaurant. Almost all of them handle similar prices; the night in camping is in $15,000 COP, hammocks for $12,000 COP and cabins at $60,000 COP per couple.

Camping area in the Noches de Saturno hostel
Camping area in the Noches de Saturno hostel

IN SHORT

✅ Bus round trip Bogotá – Neiva: $ 88,000 COP
✅ Bus back and forth Neiva – Tatacoa Desert: $ 30,000 COP
✅ Guide to tour the Tatacoa desert: $ 40,000 COP
✅ Entrance Palaeontological Museum of Villavieja: $ 2,500 COP
✅ Night in camping in Villavieja: from $ 15.000 COP

Candelabra cactus, magical Colombia
Candelabra cactus, magical Colombia

Colombia is a country full of unexplored magic, of recondite places full of stories and mysticism to know.

Undoubtedly, this trip has represented the beginning of my long journey to explore my country in depth.

WHAT MORE VISIT CLOSE TO THE TATACOA DESERT?

-> Los Guacharos Cave between Huila and Caqueta
-> San Agustín Archaeological Park

-> Honda, Tolima

Sebastian Rodriguez

Sebastian Rodriguez

Soy un Quindiano apasionado por la naturaleza, la cultura y los idiomas.

Encontré en la fotografía, de manera empírica, la forma idónea de plasmar y dar a conocer esos lugares de Colombia que a más de uno hacen suspirar. Aún tengo muchos rincones por conocer de mi país, en los que junto a una cámara, espero poder captar toda su magia y misticismo.

Instagram: @srodriguezr7

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