As if Cabo de la Vela is not remote enough, the virgin sands of Punta Gallinas is pure, arid desert with surrounded by more pure, arid desert. Arriving by boat through the blue shallows, the marsh plants part like a curtain to paradise. Bar a few settlements made of wooden sticks, there is nothing but yellow sand, there is barely even any vegetation. It’s like discovering a new, uninhabited world. As one of the most remote places I have ever been, Punta Gallinas offers nature at its finest – the immensity of the desert, the intensity of an unforgiving sunset on the backdrop of the vast sea. There is little to do but contemplate our inconsequential human existence versus the immortality of nature.
THINGS TO DO
It is impossible to visit Punta Gallinas without a “tour”, which includes transportation and a tour around the viewpoints. I say “tour” because it is not an organised tour as such, rather, locals in Cabo de la Vela who organise the transport and drivers, and there is no guide.Upon arrival to Punta Gallinas, you will have a short break for breakfast before the tour where you will visit Faro de Punta Gallinas in, the Northernmost point of the South America, enjoy the turquoise mirror bay that is Bahía Honda; and gape in awe at the most incredible, monumental Dunas de Taroa, where the desert sand dunes embrace the sea with a sheer 45-degree descent. Running, sausage-rolling or roly-polying down is highly recommended! You will have some time to take photos at each point and then some free time to enjoy the beach and have a wander by the Dunas de Taroa. The tour takes around 2.5 hours and will drop you back to your hostel for lunch, and then you have free time in the afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY
The tour does not include accommodation or food, and you have to stay overnight because the boats and jeeps only leave in the early morning. The boats will land by Hospedaje Alexandra on the Bahía Hondita, where most people tend to stay. The other option is Hospedaje Luzmila, a short drive away which has great views. Don’t expect anything fancy, just basic wooden shacks with a dining area.
Cabanas (Private room)
*Chinchorros are just basically big hammocks, that are about twice the size and more comfortable
If you are on a tight budget, you can share one chinchorro between two – it’s not very comfortable but it is doable!
WHAT TO EAT
There are no restaurants in Punta Gallinas, the only option is to eat at either hostel or bring your own food. The hostel offers typical Colombian dishes served with plantain and rice at prices you would expect for being in the middle of nowhere.
Eggs & arepas
Chicken or fish
(They given you a whole lobster each)
$9USD / £6 / €7
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
How to get from Cabo de la Vela to Punta Gallinas
To get to Punta Gallinas, you can speak to any hostel owner (or just ask a local and they will point you in the right direction) and they will organise everything.
There are two ways to get to Punta Gallinas: by 4×4 (4-5 hours) or by 4×4 (1 hour) + boat (2-3 hours). Either way, you will leave around 5am and arrive at Punta Gallinas around 9am.
Unfortunately, we went post-hurricane and 4×4 was not an option because the roads were closed. From what we have read and heard, you are choosing between the lesser of two evils. By road is a long, bumpy and uncomfortable ride on dirt roads. By boat is a long, bumpy, uncomfortable ride – and if you are unlucky – with waves constantly crashing into your face and soaking the entire boat. Oh and your life is in the hands of some local teenagers. If we had the choice, we would definitely choose road as your chance of survival is significantly higher should there be an accident. Of course, no one in their right mind would choose to go by boat! But, having survived, we can say it was a thrilling adventure even though at the time we were absolutely bricking it. Having said that, another group which arrived the next day were barely wet at all, so it just depends on the weather and how late the boat ends up leaving.
A word of advice – if you’re heading back to Cabo de la Vela, obviously, leave your big backpack with your hostel there and take a small rucksack. Also, make sure anything valuable is safely sealed in waterproof bags!
Returning from Punta Gallinas
For your return trip from Punta Gallinas, your boat or 4×4 will leave at 5am. You have the option of returning to Cabo de la Vela or heading to Uribia – this is included in your tour cost. You can also ask your driver to drop you at Riohacha Bus Terminal for a little extra (we paid $10,000COP each). Either way, you need to let your guy know when you are organising the tour in Cabo de la Vela.
$150,000COP ($53USD / £38 / €43)
$150,000 is the standard cost for a return trip, which includes a tour and transport to and from Punta Gallinas, with the option of returning to Cabo de la Vela or Uribia (even Riohacha for an extra $10,000). Depending on your negotiating skills and how many people there are, it is possible to haggle down to $100,000-$120,000.
Let the guy know if you want to stay one night or two, and the return boat will be ready to leave at 5am. You can arrange if you want to go back to Cabo de la Vela or directly to Uribia (and for a bit extra they will take you to Riohacha)
Budget includes transportation, tour, food and accommodation:
For 1 night:
Tour & transportation
Food (3 meals & water)
$205,000 per person for 1 night
For 2 nights
Tour & transportation
Food (3 meals & water)
Total per person for 2 nights: $280,000COP.
There is no doubt that the trip to Punta Gallinas is significantly more expensive than your average backpacker budget, even without a single beer! To save some pesos, eat vegetarian, or bring your own food and water along. If you are travelling in a couple, pay for a shared chinchorro instead of a hammock each (it’s not so comfortable though!)
How many nights should you stay?
Most people only stay one night, but you don’t get a chance to appreciate the remoteness and peace this way. The first day is an early start, tour, you’ll be knackered and even though you get the afternoon to relax, one night means you have to be up at 4am again… Two nights means you can get some sleep, get up the next day and explore and truly appreciate what Punta Gallinas has to offer!
So is it really worth it?
We had read about Punta Gallinas and there was never any hesitation for us – if anything we almost didn’t make it – the hurricane meant that all the roads to the Guajira were closed, and we had to rearrange our whole itinerary and pray that they would re-open in time, as we had taken the time off work especially for this trip! Lucky for us, they did and it was definitely worth it – even the horrific boat trip we had to endure! If in doubt, think about how few places there are left in the world where there are no sign of people having lived, built roads and houses on, destroying the local environment and natural habitat around us! It is a rare sight and who knows how long it will remain this way! For now, large commercial businesses have no interest in Punta Gallinas but with tourism opening up in Colombia, it is only a matter of time before companies like Decameron want to come a build a luxury resort there!