My experience in Punta Gallinas, Colombia

experience in punta gallinas colombia

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Travelling to Colombia is an adventure you definitely have to experience to understand what every traveler who has ever been there is talking about. In this post I’ll tell you about my experience in Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of Colombia and South America, and what the tour to Punta Gallinas is like. A place that seems to be from another world and one of the most beautiful experiences I have had in Colombia, my country.

This country offers so many different points that I assure you that if you want to live different experiences in the same place, traveling to Colombia is one of the best decisions you will ever make in your life.

Why I decided to live the experience in Punta Gallinas

I’ll give you some context. A few years ago I left Colombia without really knowing what the country I had grown up in was like. Not knowing more than its capital, Bogotá, and a few places near it.

I guess like many of you, I always thought that being there and having everything close by, I could visit later. However, I decided to get to know it when I missed it.

I returned to Colombia for a holiday after almost two years in Europe. I set out to get to know the country in depth, not only to learn more about my place but to know what I was talking about when I was asked about it.

So that you can see that I want to tell you the truth, I’m going to talk about the good and the bad, although I assure you that the bad was nothing compared to all the good this trip has given me.

enjoying some hammocks at the punta gallinas tour

Route to Punta Gallinas and what we saw on the way

To get to Punta Gallinas we had to travel by a long way. We flew from Bogotá to Santa Marta, the oldest city in Colombia and in all of South America, to stay one night there and leave early for Rioacha. Santa Marta is the departure point for other tours to Lost City (which I also highly recommend you visit) and the Tayrona National Park.

On the way we picked up two girls who were staying in hostels further out of town, one Dutch and one German. There were four of us, along with my Italian friend.

Manaure Salt Flats

Once in Riohacha we met up with other groups, had breakfast and went to Manaure to see the salt harvesting process (the salt flats are worth seeing! 😉 ).

manaure salt flats in colombia

Then they drove us to a small village to buy water, because there wouldn’t be much where we were staying. After buying some water and some snacks, we drove into the La Guajira desert.

La Guajira desert

With the excitement, the way we were dressed, and the scenery around us, we felt like we were on an Indiana Jones adventure.

It was amazing to see how the vegetation transformed so many times and how drastically. We had just been in a salt flat, then a road surrounded by trees and bushes, and suddenly, in a huge desert. .

It was amazing to see how the vegetation transformed so many times and how drastically it did

I was happy and very excited. Jumping into the 4×4 truck that left a trail of dirt and sand in its wake. Meanwhile, my friend, exhausted from all the early mornings and the things we had already done, let his neck move to the rhythm of the truck as he slept. I’m sure his back didn’t enjoy that moment of our Punta Gallinas experience as much as I did.

Biking in the desert

Another thing that also caught our attention was to see how the Indians moved across the desert on bicycles, covering seemingly endless distances. Often in twos or even threes per bike. They would greet us, always with a smile.

biking through the guajira desert in colombia

Rancherías in El Cabo de la Vela

We arrived at a Wayuu lodge or what they call a ranchería, where we were staying. It was right in front of the sea, overlooking the kitesurfers who I never imagined would be there. It had a few little huts and just the right stuff.

beachfront hut in El Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

When we arrived we were served a very generous plate of typical Guajira food, with fish, rice (which is never lacking at a Colombian table), and patacones. The latter, made with pieces of green banana that are flattened and then fried, it was very good! Nothing to envy to the typical Peruvian food or to the Ecuadorian gastronomy.

typical food on the tour to punta gallinas
Photo by Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel

Sunset at Pilón de Azúcar

After lunch, we went for a swim at Pilón de Azúcar, a beautiful beach nearby. The water glistened in the sun and I remember that, once in, my friend screamed in fright because he felt something touch his feet.

A Wayuu boy, an expert swimmer, dived in to tickle the tourists. He came out of the water laughing, and we laughed with him.

Pilon de Azucar Beach in Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

To end the afternoon we climbed up to a lookout point near our lodge. This is where we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, with the Atlantic Ocean right in front of us.

sunset at cabo de la vela in colombia

We had dinner and went to bed early because we had to get up early the next day and wait… because, here comes one of my favourite parts…We slept in chinchorros!

Chinchorros, the best place to sleep

The chinchorros (hammocks), taught me the art of sleeping anywhere and not dying trying. It’s best not to sleep lengthways but rather diagonally, to keep it as warm as possible and try not to move.

At night it’s not cold and the truth is that being wrapped up in it, you sleep very comfortably. Sleeping in a bed would certainly have detracted from the excitement of our experience at Punta Gallinas.

hammocks to sleep in Punta Gallinas tour

The tolls on the way to Punta Gallinas

On the way to Punta Gallinas there were many things that surprised me. One of them was that, although we were going at high speed, you had to be very alert because when we passed near some ranchería, the families would put up something like a toll.

Two people would hold a rope, one on each side, so the car would have to stop and buy gas or give them something. Anything.

The drivers knew that we had bought some snacks in the shop at the beginning. One of them said something about it but we didn’t quite understand him. My friend and I had bought several biscuits, so we handed them out every time the car stopped. I didn’t expect this, so I think it’s important that you know about it!

The Taroa Dunes

One of the best moments of the trip was when we arrived at the Dunes of Taroa unknowingly. After parking and getting out of the cars in the middle of nowhere, the drivers just told us to walk up.

We were in a desert where the only thing it was there, was sand dunes. We climbed the highest dune to see everything from the top, and without imagining it, once we got to the top, we found the sea. It was very striking to see the unexpected contrast and the endless blue ocean.

dunes of Taroa in Punta Gallinas tour

The Lighthouse of Punta Gallinas

Finally we visited the Punta Gallinas Lighthouse, “the northernmost point of Colombia and South America”. There were a small building and several stones piled one on top of the other, which other travelers had left along the beach.

Our last stop was our second ranchería, located very close to the “Los Flamencos” reserve, which we also visited. A paradise full of flamingos and shells, the kind where you’re supposed to be able to hear the sea.

flamingos reserve in Punta Gallinas, Colombia

What felt in my experience in Punta Gallinas

We couldn’t believe it was the last day. We had done a lot of things and even though we might have felt sick during the night (because yes, it’s quite possible to do that), we didn’t want to leave.

Travelling to Punta Gallinas has been one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. It is a magical and out of the ordinary place. A place with an impressive variety of landscapes, a community that despite the fact that it is so different opens its arms to you and teaches you about itself, and a space for reflection where you can disconnect.

I think experiences like this make for very valuable cultural exchanges and that, especially in my case, contribute to the balance and identity of a country as large and varied as Colombia. A country that unfortunately still struggles against a negative image and seeks to show the world and its own citizens all that it has to offer.

Are you a little envious of my experience and would you like to experience it? 🙂


Lily is happy with a backpack on her back. Every year she travels through one country in Latin America and has repeated several times, especially Peru where she says she feels at home (although she says the same about Argentina, Chile and Bolivia).

She loves ceviche, hiking and Sunday picnics with her friends, although whenever you ask her, she's always planning her next destination.

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