We are Lucas & Maira from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nice to meet you and thanks for checking out our La Guajira article! Before we reveal the secrets of this incredible hidden gem of Colombia, allow us to share our journey with @adiantes and how we got started traveling the Americas in our car.
Our passion for travel came, first of all, through the influence of our parents who always encouraged us. In 2012, we took our first trip together as a couple to Ilha Grande with nothing more than a backpack and a roof tent.
From those hardships in the rain, through dense forests, long hikes and all the wrong gear – our relationship went from strength to strength! After this experience we knew that we could count on each other through future adversities in life, in addition to the many trips we still intended on taking.
After some journeys in Brazil and Europe, we decided to visit Asia and Africa in 2019. At the end of these two life-changing trips, we left with a bold plan written on a sheet of paper: travel across South America by car!
Our Road Trip Across South America
The American continent seemed like a great option for discoveries on land, and we dreamt of having new and genuine experiences in an adapted car along thousands of national highways. Inspiration can come in many forms and, for us, it was through inspiring photos and stories. Today, four years later, we use these tools to have the same type of impact on other travelers.
So, where did our adventure begin? Well, we started in the southeast of Brazil in the states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro – and then headed along the Sao Francisco River (with a length of more than 2,800 kilometers) and connected up with the northeast part of the country.
We explored our own country for over a year, visiting practically every state. After Brazil, we left for other South American countries – and since then have been to Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
On this trip we achieved one of our goals: visiting the four extreme points of South America (Punta Gallinas in Colombia, Ushuaia in Argentina, Ponta do Seixas in Brazil and Punta Parinas in Peru). In total we traveled for 1,000 days, covered 100,000 kilometers and visited seven different countries!
Unforgettable Encounters in Colombia
Traveling by car through Colombia means experiencing a constantly changing landscape, rhythm, cuisine and culture. There are many diverse experiences on offer: from the Caribbean beaches, through the mountains of the Coffee Axis, the history and architecture of the great metropolises, to the wide range of fauna and flora of the Amazon rainforest.
That being said, exploring Colombia by car is not exactly an easy task. The altitude is always changing – there are lots of tolls, taxes and insurances to be paid – and the highways and roads are constantly under construction.
But what makes up for it are the unforgettable encounters like the coffee “fincas” in Salento, the walking tours of Medellin, the collection of flavors in Bogota, the blue of the Caribbean beaches and of course one of the greatest adventures we’ve ever experienced: crossing the La Guajira desert!
What La Guajira is Like as a Destination
Exploring the La Guajira desert is experiencing the unprecedented, the natural and the uncertain. One of the most isolated communities in the country shows you, right away, the inequality of opportunity that is common in South America. Yet, the smiles of the children with a piece of candy or bottle of water in hand is real, sincere and pure!
In La Guajira, nature is exuberant and untouched. Our goal was to reach the northernmost point of South America but the path there taught us more than we could’ve imagined. We passed by immense dunes, inlets by the sea, indigenous communities, train tracks and kitesurfing paradises. We didn’t really know what to expect from such an inhospitable region!
The accommodation of La Guajira is simple and rustic, but offers many of the basic amenities: safe sleeping, delicious food and the most beautiful nature. The bathrooms of the inns have salt water, both in Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas. It’s important to prepare for wind, heat, hammocks and dozens of stops at local communities. For us, it was worth it!
6 Amazing Things To Do in La Guajira
1. Go Kitesurfing in Cabo de la Vela
Considered one of the best kitesurfing paradises on the planet, Cabo de la Vela has the perfect combination of wind and calm waters to enjoy the sport. In fact, it’s the birthplace of the kitesurfing national champions in Colombia and it offers structure to practice the sport all year round.
2. Watch the Sunrise at Las Dunas del Taroa
In this remote part of the world, the day starts much earlier than normal. So there’s nothing better than being able to experience the immense sand dunes blanketed in golden light than through a peaceful morning walk!
3. Witness the Sunset from Punta Gallinas Lighthouse
Celebrating our arrival at the northernmost point of South America was special for us and the sunset tones were perfect for such a moment. The energy of the wind, waves and rocks is strong – and worth witnessing.
4. Enjoy a Fish Lunch at a Local Restaurant
For seafood lovers, there’s nothing more special than tasting fresh fish from a local fishing community in La Guajira. In addition to the unique flavor of the fish, the coconut rice and delicious “patacones” (mashed and fried plantains) that get served alongside it are true gastronomic delights.
5. Have a Beach Day in the Calm Caribbean Waters
La Guajira is home to the Caribbean Sea and it’s the perfect invitation for a refreshing swim. The different colors of water on display are impressive, as is the calm serenity of practically all of the accommodations in the area.
6. Engage with the Local People of La Guajira
Apart from the main tourist attractions, socializing with the locals is special and it left a deep impression on us. A sense of simplicity and purity exists in everyday life here, and the quality of the produce is outstanding, so our tip is to book a guesthouse and try something new at every opportunity.
Tips for Your Journey in La Guajira
- Do your shopping in Riohacha, the capital and entrance point to the La Guajira peninsula. Make sure this is done properly before you journey further north. For anyone traveling by car, this tip is extra crucial!
- Bring at least two liters of water per person for each day. Access to drinking water in La Guajira, especially the more isolated communities, is greatly reduced. Being in the desert can also make you more thirsty!
- Buy lots of snacks (fruit, cookies, chocolate, etc.) for both you and the people you might meet in the local community. It’s a special feeling being able to give the kids something as simple as a piece of candy.
- Hire a local guide to accompany you along the way. By doing this, you won’t get lost in one of the many alternative paths that exist in the desert. A tour guide can also share local knowledge about La Guajira.
- Tours to the desert with tourism agencies normally leave from Riohacha or Palomino, two cities that are located in the state of La Guajira. The Simon Bolivar International Airport, also known as Santa Marta Airport, is the closest you can get by plane and is located in Santa Marta.
- Prepare for intense heat and wind in La Guajira. The days are hot all day, and the winds arrive in gusts and can interfere with the assembly of your camping, drone flights, or even a simple hike or day at the beach.