Tatacoa Desert and Villavieja

Laberintos del Cusco, Tatacoa DesertIf the diversity that can be found in the extreme environments of Leticia, La Guajira and Parque Los Nevados isn´t enough for you, Colombia offers up its own (much smaller) version of Arizona in the form of Desierto Tatacoa.

Situated halfway between Bogota and San Agustin, Tatacoa (named after a now extinct species of snake) has been getting increasingly popular in recent year as a destination for travellers looking to get off the beaten track and experience the full range of landscapes that can be found in Colombia. The scorched area of land is a little out of place in the surrounding region – it is said that the desert was formed as a result of a lake that dried out. In its place today is a very different ecosystem where you can find snakes, scorpions and a variety of cactus.

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VISITS AND ACTIVITIES
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Los Hoyos near Sunset Tatacoa Desert

There are several sites to visit: El Cusco and the Observatory, Ventanas and Los Hoyos.

The best site and the easiest to get to is El Cusco (also called the red desert), it is located at the main entrance of the park when you come from Villavieja, near the observatory. El Cusco offers the best landscapes in the Tatacoa desert and on most days you will be on your own walking down the canyons of the Laberintos del Cusco. It will take you an hour or two to visit the area by foot.

Tatacoa Red Desert, El Cusco=> Tatacoa can reach up to 45 degrees in the day – a sun hat and sunscreen are advised! If you´re looking to spend just 1 night aim to arrive around 3 or 4pm; this will give you chance to enjoy the desert in the late afternoon/ early morning and avoid the worst of the heat.

One of the ´star attractions´ of the desert is the lack of light pollution from nearby cities; this results in Tatacoa being an ideal spot to view the night sky. The observatory is run by the local astronomer Javier Rúa and each evening he gives a fascinating talk in Spanish (7-9pm, 10,000 Pesos) where he discusses the solar system, points out various constellations and gives you the opportunity to gaze through telescopes into space.

Javier Fernando Rua Restrepo
Tel: 310 465 6765 and www.tatacoa-astronomia.com

The Observatory Tatacoa Desert=> Each July there is an annual “star party” held in the desert, where budding astronomers and astronomy societies from all over Colombia come to view the stars, learn about the desert, host presentations and share their love for the night skies. The 3 day event is open to all and costs 50,000 Pesos.

4 Kms past the observatory, you can stop at Ventanas for nice views of the desert and the surrounding mountains. 5Kms later, you get to Los Hoyos or the grey desert. It is really worth to get there and spend a few hours wandering the grey canyons and dipping into the natural pool.

Natural Pool Los Hoyos Tatacoa

You can arrange a guided tour of the desert through the tourist office at VillaVieja or just ask at your hotels or camping site to call a motorbike taxi (up to 3 people) to take you to the 3 sites above. Price is about 20,000 Pesos. You can also walk between the sites but you will not find shelters or water to sell so get ready for a tough walk under a scorching sun.

...=> Tatacoa Desert Travel Guide Part 2: Accommodation, Hotels, Getting There

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