La Guajira Peninsula
The Guajira Peninsula, the vast swath of sea and sand that is Colombia's northernmost point, is home to the indigenous Wayuu people, who historically repelled invaders – including English pirates, Dutch smugglers and Spanish pearl hunters – for centuries. The Wayuu's complex and autonomous political and economic structures meant they were ready to mount a staunch defense of their lands – on horseback and with firearms.
Head east and you'll fall upon the end-of-the-world paradise of Punta Gallinas, an immaculate collision of desert dunes and crashing waves.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout La Guajira Peninsula.
Pink flamingos inhabit this tranquil, 700-hectare nature preserve in great numbers: up to 10,000 in the wet season (usually September through December). Groups of up to 2000 birds can usually be seen in one of the park's four lagoons. If you want to see the flamingos you'll need to take a canoe trip (COP$30,000 for one to three people; COP$15,000 per extra person). The reserve is in the town of Camarones, 25km from Riohacha.
Pilón de Azúcar looms over the eponymous beach and provides the area's most telescopic viewpoint, with the whole of Alta Guajira displayed before you and the Serranía del Carpintero mountain range in the distance. A statue of La Virgen de Fátima, erected here in 1938 by Spanish pearl hunters, stands at the top of the viewpoint as the patron saint of Cabo.
Playa del Pilón, far and away the most beautiful beach in Cabo, is a vivid orange-sand beach lapped by surprisingly cool waters and framed by low, rocky cliffs. Spectacular at any time of day, the colors are especially impressive at sunrise and sunset. In the wet season add lush desert flora to the mix and the whole scene is rather cinematic.
This exceptional and extremely remote beach at the very northern tip of the South American continent is La Guajira's highlight. Massive sand dunes drop off dramatically into the Caribbean, forming an ethereal landscape that's a pleasure to slide down and swim at.
This gorgeous bay has several islands, to which boat trips are often made on tours. A large colony of flamingos also calls the shallow waters of this breathtaking place home, and flamingo-watching boat excursions run by the nearby posadas are a popular activity.
This remote-feeling and craggily beautiful crescent-shaped dark-sand beach is bound by 5m-high cliffs where iguanas roam. The beach gets its name from a small freshwater pool that was discovered here, a deeply sacred site for Wayuu. It's less popular than other beaches in the area and has no facilities but enjoys a far wilder feel, with pelicans diving for fish offshore. El Faro lighthouse is a short walk away.
Wayuu and tourists alike head to El Faro, a small lighthouse at the edge of a rocky promontory, for stiff winds and tangerine sunsets. The view is stunning. It's a 3.5km walk from town, or you can wrangle a ride with a local for COP$30,000 or so round trip. Take plenty of water, insect repellent and a hat.
Built in 1937, this impressive wooden pier is lovely for a stroll late in the day.
This large public square in the center of town has benches and some much needed shade.