San José del Guaviare

Tranquilandia near San José del GuaviareSan José del Guaviare is a small city of around 30,000 people lying on the banks of the Guaviare river, the border between the Llanos Orientales of Meta and the sprawling jungles of Amazonia.

Once at the forefront of Colombia's conflict, the area surrounding San José del Guaviare has become much safer to visit in recent years, and people are beginning to come around to the idea of visiting this thoroughly off-the-beaten-track place, where just a few days travel allows you to visit jungle lakes, vast rock-strewn plains, dramatic caves and waterfalls, ancient indigenous cave-paintings and, perhaps most excitingly, a red-river of the same nature as the iconic Caño Cristales, for a fraction of the price.

The city is also surprisingly well developed for visitors even after so many years off the tourist map - there are plenty of hotels (of varying price and quality), a selection of excellent restaurants, several tour agencies, and a lively nightclub scene at weekends.

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ATTRACTIONS, VISITS AND ACTIVITIES
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San José is surrounded by remarkably diverse attractions, almost too many incredible things to experience in just a few days. The most spectacular site around the town is Tranquilandia, a miniature version of Caño Cristales, just under 10km from the city. The river is bright red and flows through delightful countryside, lying close to the equally spectacular Puerta de Orion, a huge series of rock formations.

=> Tranquilandia's red algae blooms between June and November.

Not far from Tranquilandia is Laguna Negra, a black-water jungle lake that acts as an almost perfectly reflective surface, making for some remarkable photos. A boat-trip on the lake and a walk through the jungles around it yields sighting of many birds, and up to 3 species of monkeys.

Cave Paintings at Cerro AzulA full-day travel loop to the south of the city allows you to experience some of the best that Guaviare has to offer - for 60.000 COP a mototaxi can take you to visit the incredible hidden rock paintings at Nuevo Tolima (a giant rock outcrop overlooking thousands of miles of jungle), the surreal avenue-like rock formations of the Ciudad de Piedra, and the caves and swimming holes of the nearby 'Valley of the Formations'. On the road back to town you can also stop at the deep warm natural pools of the 'Pozos Naturales' for a cooling dip. 

Other possible trips are to the cave paintings at Cerro Azul (with a stunning view over the llanos), swimming with pink dolphins at Laguna la Bruja, and a trip to Puente Nowen, the 1km bridge spanning the Guaviare river, which marks the start of Guaviare department and the jungle. 

...=> San José del Guaviare Travel Guide Part 2: Hotels, Restaurants, Nightlife, Getting There

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