English pirates, Dutch smugglers and Spanish pearl hunters have all tried to conquer the Guajira Peninsula – a vast swath of barren sea and sand that is Colombia's northernmost point – but none were able to overcome the indigenous Wayuu people, who wisely traded with, or waged war upon, the invaders. 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, to the surprise of the Spanish, with firearms.
This is a diesel-and-dust landscape with more than a whiff of lawlessness. Its symbol might be a plastic bag caught in a treeless bush. Upper Guajira is where most adventure seekers are headed; here you'll find end-of-the-world paradises such as kitesurfing capital Cabo de la Vela, and Punta Gallinas, an immaculate collision of desert sand dunes and brilliant blue sea that is perhaps the Caribbean coast's most remarkable landscape.