Valledupar

Accordeonist at the Vallenato FestivalThe Valle de Upar was once a Chimila indigenous settlement, conquered by the Spanish and rechristened simply as Valledupar, in a dubious tribute to the conquered chief Upar. The modern city was founded in 1550, and Valledupar has remained close to its indigenous roots - in fact, the major attractions of the city are vallenato music (with its Amerindian heritage), artisan crafts, and nearby indigenous settlements.

Valledupar itself is a bit of a mixed bag - the old town contains a pretty main square and church and is surrounded by several old cobbled streets, but much of the city is fairly nondescript and dominated by quite a few large shopping malls. All you have to do is crane your neck up however to see the real attraction of Valledupar: in a warm flat valley sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serrania de Perija mountain ranges, the city is surrounded by beautiful rivers and mountains. As an off-the-beaten-track Colombian destination, Valledupar has much to recommend it to travellers.

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ATTRACTIONS, VISITS AND ACTIVITIES
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Plaza Alfonso Lopez Valledupar

In the city itself the main attractions are focused around Alfonso Lopez Plaza in the south-east of the city, just one block from Valledupar's best hostel (see below) - this is a large and pleasant square filled with flowers and small food stalls, as well as a dramatic statue known as the 'marching revolution' monument.
There is also a small but interesting shop and gallery focused on the culture of vallenato music on the corner of the square. Just one block up from the plaza is a nice little craft market which sells, amongst other things, an assortment of mochila bags made by the region's native indigenous groups, the Arhuaco and Kankuamo people. Also available are traditional vueltiao hats, miniature accordions, and guacharacas, the scraped percussive instrument that lends it's distinctive sound to vallenato. 

Vallenato music has a strong influence in Valledupar - if you get the chance then visit the city in the last week of April for the annual Vallenato Legend Festival, a multi-day celebration of the genre featuring large concerts from huge artists, as well as smaller stages throughout the city, as Valledupar attempts to find the yearly King of Vallenato. Book well in advance if you plan to visit the city for the festival - if not you can get a taste of vallenato history and culture at the Accordion Museum on Cra. 17 #9a.

Locals taking a dip in the Guatapari River

Another popular activity in Valledupar, especially at weekends, is to flee the city to a river and spend the day swimming, eating and drinking in the sunshine. Most locals head to the Rio Guatapuri on the edge of town (next to a giant mermaid statue!), but more adventurous travellers can jump on a small local bus heading out of the city to Rio Badillo or the dramatic canyons of La Mina. On a clear day the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada can be seen from these crystal clear swimming spots.

Finally, a truly off-the-beaten track experience around Valledupar is to pay a visit to the indigenous villages of Nabusimake (Arhuaco people) and Atanquez (Kankuamo people) - Nabusimake is more inaccessible but all the more rewarding for the journey. Please treat these places and people with respect though: they are not fond of photographs and are extremely reverent towards nature and the environment [NB: at the time of writing Nabusimake has been closed to the public - communicate with local hostels or agencies for updates on the situation there].

...=> Valledupar Travel Guide Part 2: Accommodation, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars, Nightlife, Getting There

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