Oranje gesteente en cactussen in Tatacoa

Almost a desert – a visit to Tatacoa

Colombia is one of the most diverse countries in South America when it comes to nature. But still, I did not expect something like the surrealistic landscape of the Tatacoa desert. In Tatacoa you encounter an out of this world landscape that gradually changes from red to grey arid landscapes, giant cacti and a clear view of the milky way. The remote desert was a complete surprise to me, compared to all the white beaches and jungle landscapes I’d seen before. So how did I end up visiting Tatacoa?  

The climate in Colombia is extremely hot for a Dutchie like me. Don’t get me wrong, Colombia is a great country to visit. But sometimes I feel like a baked potato. After another long walk with my backpack soaked in sweat, I met another traveller who told me about the Tatacoa desert. A desert? Where it cools off to around 0 degrees at night? Feeling cold of something other than air conditioning is exactly what I need. Not much later, I decide I want to squeeze a visit to the Tatacoa desert in my travel itinerary. 


After a long bus and jeep ride I arrive in the desert early in the morning. I was dropped off in front of an accommodation. This is just a cabin with some lockers and a bunge of hammocks in cheerful colours. I prepare my backpack for the day and choose a hammock. Overly excited for the cold night I lay out my sleeping bag and sweater. 


Because my main objective to visit Tatacoa was to escape the heat, I hadn’t really read into the landscape of Tatacoa. In retrospect, this was actually nice because I was completely amazed! In Tatacoa there is a big contrast between the ‘grey’ and ‘red’ part of the desert with an impressive mountain range in the background. It is almost surreal, just out of this world. I also felt small standing next to the giant cacti. 

A desert is not a good place to escape heat during the day, but still I am looking forward to the night. As the evening approaches I come back to the hostel to pick up my sweater to watch the sunset. There aren’t any people around, and with the screaming goats and cackling chickens in the background I enjoy the sun slowly sinking behind the mountain range. There is little light pollution in the Tatacoa desert which allows you to see the milky way on clear evenings without a telescope. There is also an observation point where you can view the stars with a guide.


After sunset I realised I had been completely wrong… In Tatacoa temperatures barely drop in the evening! Nor can we call Tatacoa a desert because ‘it rains too much’. In Colombia they call Tatacoa a ‘tropical dry forest’. But I wasn’t disappointed, I had a very nice day in Tatacoa and as you can see I was able to shoot some very nice pictures.


Tatacoa is located South-East of Bogotá on the route to Popayan. From Bogotá you travel to Neiva, a journey of approximately five hours, where you change to a bus to Villavieja. An hour later you arrive in Villavieja where transfers by jeep are offered to Tatacoa. The jeep ride is only fifteen minutes and they often drop you off in front off an accommodation. I got the feeling that they were trying to disperse the tourists a little and that is why I had no choice where to be dropped off. But, almost all accommodations offer hammocks for the same price so it doesn’t really matter.

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