As you might have already noticed while planning your trip, Colombia is a country with plenty of attractions and destinations to offer to tourists and travellers. The amount and variety of these Colombia tourist attractions and destinations are so big that it makes it a fantastic country to visit as a holiday destination. There is certainly something for every type of traveller.
I am sure you have already heard great comments about the most iconic and popular destinations such as Bogotá, Medellin, Cartagena, San Andrés and the Tayrona Natural Park.
These places have been popular already for many years as they were some of the very few locations in Colombia that were considered “safe” for travellers during the many years of internal conflict.
Thanks to this “safe” status, these places started attracting tourists way before other locations in Colombia. Nowadays, these destinations offer a well-developed tourist infrastructure.
However, these places represent a tiny portion of the entire Colombian territory. The rest of the country was virgin to tourism for decades due to the armed conflict that Colombia had. Violence between the army and the police with guerrilla groups and drug cartels made most of the country unsafe to travel.
Luckily, these dark times have already passed and nowadays it is totally safe to visit almost the entire territory of Colombia.
This change didn’t happen quickly or all at once, though. Safety improvements happened gradually and at different moments in the different regions of Colombia.
Locations such as Ciudad Perdida, Popayan, San Agustin, and the Coffee zone were some of the first ones to recover from the violent past and started attracting tourist from all over the world since a few years ago. Tourism in these areas has been growing rapidly ever since and they are already catching up with the leading destinations.
Later on, in the second wave of Colombia tourist attractions and destinations becoming safe for travellers, were places such as Guajira, The Tatacoa Desert, the Amazon Jungle, Tierradentro, Caño Cristales and perhaps Bahía Solano.
These are gorgeous locations that are now welcoming tourist from all around the world and astonishing those who dare to discover them. Nowadays it is completely safe to visit them and the tourist infrastructure is improving quickly.
The 3rd wave of destinations that are now safe to travel to, is just beginning. Due to the recent peace agreement between the Government and the biggest guerrilla group, the FARC, many places that were no-go zones before, have suddenly become safe.
Some of these destinations are Cerros de Mavecure, Casanare and Guaviare. These places are located in remote jungle areas that have seen very little in terms of development during the last decades. Tourism in these areas was non-existent until very recent.
Those who have dared to visit these destinations during the last couple of years have found paradise. Even though the tourist infrastructure is very rustic and prices are usually higher than other destinations, the many years of isolation also meant that its nature is incredibly well preserved and the locals show a very authentic culture and lifestyle.
At Lulo Colombia Travel, we are in the constant search for new destinations to offer our clients, and the destinations of this 3rd wave have proven to show amazing potential.
We started offering tours to Cerros de Mavecure already 2 years ago. Almost all the travellers that have travelled there with us, have named it as their favourite destination in Colombia. Even above well-established destinations like Cartagena, Tayrona, etc.
One year ago, we started offering tours to Casanare. These tours are like safaris through the Colombian flat-lands and savannahs. The wildlife you get to see there is by far the most impressive of all destinations in Colombia, including the Amazon Jungle. The reviews we have received from those who have travelled there with us are remarkable. For all of them, Casanare has been their #1 Colombia tourist attraction.
Having received such good feedback from travellers in regards to these 3rd wave destinations, we decided to keep discovering new ones and the next one on our list was Guaviare. We recently travelled to this amazing region and found plenty of potential for off-the-beaten-track lovers.
What is Guaviare:
Guaviare is one of the 32 departments of the Republic of Colombia. It is located right in between two regions: The Amazon Jungle and the Orinoquía (flat-lands and savannahs).
Guaviare has a total surface of 53.460 Km2, making it the 8th largest in Colombia. Its average altitude is 300 m.a.s.l. and it has a total population of 115.829 people. It is a warm region with very fertile lands.
During the many years of armed conflict in Colombia, guerrilla fighters found in these fertile lands, their ideal place to grow coca plants for the production of cocaine. It didn’t take long before Guaviare became the biggest producer of coca in Colombia, and maybe of the entire world.
Guerrilla groups such as FARC had found their best source of money in these illegal crops. Trying to protect this “business” from other illegal groups and from the Colombian Army, they made Guaviare their stronghold.
Off course, this meant that tourism was impossible in this area during the conflict. However, the recent peace agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC, suddenly made it safe for travellers and locals are making big efforts to abandon all illegal activities and turning towards tourism as a way of living.
Nowadays, some farmers are happy to receive tourist in their lands to show them how they used to live in between armed conflicts, growing coca plants and producing cocaine to sell to the guerrillas, and how they have changed all that for new, legal and promising crops such as cacao.
What is there to do:
Due to its privileged geographical location and its many years of isolation, Guaviare offers some of the best Colombia tourist attractions for nature lovers. The landscapes are breathtaking and the wildlife-spotting opportunities are endless.
Culture and archaeology lovers will also find heaven in Guaviare due to the many indigenous tribes that still inhabit this region and those who have already disappeared but left their marks as paintings in huge rock formations.
With San José, the capital of the department, as your base point, you can easily visit the following 3 attractions in Guaviare:
During the months of July to November, the creeks and rivers of this small territory, show some underwater plants that change colour throughout their lives and their exposure to sunlight.
These plants, which are the same plants you find in Caño Cristales, give these transparent-water rivers an amazing range of colours, from green to purple. It is as if the river had become a liquid rainbow.
The surrounding vegetation is also gorgeous. A short walk alongside the river offers plenty of birdwatching opportunities as well as incredible landscapes. It is a very unique and special place that is totally worth the trip.
In the surrounding areas, you can find plenty of bigger rivers in which you can swim and refresh yourself. You can also do a hike to some strange rock formations called the Puerta de Orion, from where you will have great views over the entire region.
Guaviare has been home to plenty of indigenous tribes for over thousands of years. Even though many of them don’t exist anymore, they left their best art represented in huge rock paintings in a place called Cerro Azul. An archaeological wonder.
But this place is not only for archaeology lovers. The paintings are gorgeous for everyone and getting there implies an adventure through the amazing nature of the area.
From San Jose, you will take a 4×4 Jeep for around 2 hours through gravel roads. Once the road stops, you will have to hike your way to the rock paintings. It is a hike of around 2 hours following a little path through the jungle.
Birding and wildlife-spotting are great during this hike and once you arrive at the paintings, the views over the savannahs are unforgettable.
Laguna de Nare (or Laguna Espejo as it is sometimes called), is a little lake created by the overflooding of the huge Guaviare river during the rainy season. It is a gorgeous lake surrounded by dense jungle with plenty of wildlife.
The main reason why people visit this lake is because it is the best place in Colombia to spot the amazing pink and grey river dolphins.
It is true these dolphins can be seen in many parts of Colombia, Brasil, and Peru, but in Laguna Nare, you will be able to see them from closer than anywhere else. And not just see them, here you will be able to play with them, something that is not possible anywhere else.
For a strange reason, the dolphins who live in this lake, are very playful. Tourists are brought by boat to the middle of the lake and given life vests so that they can float freely in the warm waters. After just a few minutes in the water, some dolphins will come close to the tourists and start swimming around them showing them their gorgeous head, back, and fins.
Additionally, some of them might softly touch you underwater and play with your legs. It is an amazing experience that can only be lived here.
We are sure that travellers looking for unique nature and archaeology experience in this country, will find heaven in Guaviare. For us, it is one of the top Colombia tourist attractions.