Tatacoa , Colombia

The Tatacoa desert which lies about an hour North-East of the city of Neiva is a spectacular landscape and a stark contrast to the lush vegetation which covers the rest of the region. Accessible from the village of Villa Vieja, this makes an enjoyable detour on the Bogota to San Agustin route or as part of the Popayan, San Agustin, Tierradentro circuit.

Named after a now extinct, deadly snake, the Tatacoa offers quite a varied landscape. Turning a bend in the road, the traveller is suddenly faced with rippled, rusty coloured slopes, cacti up to 7 metres tall and bizarre rock formations jutting out of the red soil. With the racing Rio Magdalena only just out of view and the snow topped Nevado de Huila on the Western horizon, it seems a very strange place for a desert!

The first and probably most popular site is El Cuzco, where the earth is a rich red colour and jagged, natural formations shape the surroundings. This is where the observatory can be found and demonstrations of the night sky can be arranged for 4,000 - 5,000 Pesos per person. There is also a cafeteria and small shop selling jam and boiled sweets made from cactus juice.

The other sites have grey sand and are a bit further away and visitors may consider taking a motorbike tour to visit the natural pools or some of the more distinctive rock formations.

The desert is a great place for camping as the authorities don't charge campers to sleep out under the clearest, starriest sky in the country and by waking up at sunrise, visitors can make the most of the cooler parts of the day. Temperatures regularly rise to 40'C at midday.
Hostels...
La Casona
Calle 3 No 3-60
Villa Vieja, Tatacoa
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