Tatacoa Desert, San Agustin and Tierradentro

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I did this road trip with my family. We started in Bogota and went back so we did it in the following order: Tatacoa Desert, San Agustin, and Tierradentro. Many tourists who want to continue their trip towards the south of Colombia or other countries  (Ecuador or Peru) will do Tatacoa Desert, Tierradentro and then San Agustin.

Key Places

Tatacoa Desert

A tour guide is extremely useful to get from one place to another without getting lost. In the desert there are some places with red sand and others with grey sand. The guide will take you to the different places.

The observatory is a must. Here you will see and learn about the stars and the moon. The observation starts at 7 pm on point.

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San Agustin

Parque Arqueológico de San Agustin: this park was declared an UNESCO World Site in 1995. Here you will find many sculptures each one unique in their own way. The park is divided by sections called “Mesitas”, it has a forest with more sculptures and a museum. Be sure to visit every single place inside the park because each one has new information and different types of sculptures.

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El Tablon: Here you will find a small museum that is not worth it plus about 4 sculptures. The sculptures are worth it.  You will pass this place on your way to La Chaquira. Generally it is accessed by horse or by foot. I recommend horseback riding so you don’t take so much time. You can rent the horses for 20.000 pesos. Entrance: free.

La Chaquira: I loved this place. You will get there after El Tablon. This place has an amazing view of the mountains, the river, and some waterfalls. Here you will also find beautiful carvings in the rocks. There are four. They are in the rocks in the mountain almost at the bottom of the path. All in the same rock except for one, search for them because they are not signalized. Entrance: free.

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La Pelota and El Purutal: This place is mostly accessible by horse or by foot after El Tablon and La Chaquira.. I recommend getting there by horse because it is far away. Here you can find the only two sculptures that have been found with color plus others that were found in the place. This one is a must. The colourful statues are beautiful. Entrance: 4.000 COP.

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El Estrecho del Magdalena: this is a place where the Magdalena River is only a meter wide. The view and rock formations are beautiful and you should definitely visit. Entrance: free.

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Salto de Mortiño: this one is a beautiful waterfall. You can see the waterfall from a distance. Entrance: 1.000 COP

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Alto de los Idolos: this is the second official archaeological park. The entrance you pay at the first one will get you into this one also. Here you can see the tallest statue they have found (5 meters). There are lots of different statues in this park. Do not miss out on this one.

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Alto de las Piedras: here there are more statues that you shouldn’t miss. To get there you have to take an open road but it is still accessible. Entrance: free

Salto de Bordones: this one is a beautiful cascade more far away than the other places but if you have time go. It is beautiful and surrounded by a forest. It is about 30 minutes (by car) away from San Agustin. You should go after Alto de las Piedras since it is in the way. When you get there you’ll find a hotel, go down through the path so you can get a better view of the waterfall. Entrance: freeSalto de Bordones waterfall

Tierradentro

Segovia: here you will find the famous hypogea of Tierradentro, you will have to walk to get there but everyone is capable. Be careful when you descend the stair into the hypogea. Tip: ask the guard which are the best hypogea to see because there are a lot and you do not want to get tired looking at ones that are not worth it.

View from the inside of a hypogeum

El Duende: keep walking after Segovia and you will find more hypogea at El Duende. Again, ask the guard for the best ones to see so you don’t get tired.

El Tablon: in this same walk we continued to El Tablon were you will find statues. These statues are different from San Agustin’s but they are still made out of stone. Visit them to understand the differences between the two places and their cultures.

One of the sculptures found at El Tablon

La Pyramid: This pyramid sort of shape was found by our guide. It has tunnels underneath and remains a mystery to archeologists. The view from this place is amazing so if you have time definitely go. Entrance: tip the kid at the entrance about 4.000 COP.

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Alto de los Aguacates: here you will find more hypogeum that are each unique in their own way. The view during the hike is also amazing. Do not miss out on this one. You will also find one hypogeum with salamanders and moons, something you won’t see in other hypogea.

Alto de San Andres: this place had my personal favorite hypogeum because it had the most decoration and color. Although it was touched, it still maintains the original figures. It was absolutely stunning. Do not miss out on this one!

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Itinerary

Day 1

We started the road trip at 5 am and got to Villavieja at about 12. The road is in perfectly good conditions for any kind of car. Villavieja is a small town just outside the desert. That same day we began our tour of the desert with a guide we had previously contacted. We went by car and did two walks each of about 45 minutes.

We stayed at a hotel in Villavieja but I know there are small hostels inside the desert that are a cooler option. Although our hotel may have been more comfortable, sleeping in the desert gives you a greater opportunity to see the stars at night and have access to a unique experience.

That night we went to the observatory. This is a must in the desert. The guy who owns it knows a lot about the stars and constellations and you will be able to view the moon and the stars through powerful telescopes.

Day 2

After sleeping in Villavieja, we started our road trip to San Agustin. Again, the road was in great conditions. This trip took about 8 hours because we made the mistake of stopping at the Betania Dam but it was not worth it. It will just make the trip longer and it doesn’t have anything special. That day we just walked around the town and got to know and understand the area. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called “Da Ugo”. It was really good an apparently it is very known in the pale because many people had recommended it.

Day 3

On the third day we visited the Archeological Park of San Agustin. This is really close to the town (about 5 minutes). The ticket you buy is valid for two days in which you can access this park and the one in San Jose. Here we got a guide so we could learn about the culture and get a general idea of what we were looking at and would find in the next days. The guide is not necessary to get around the park, you can get around by asking other tourists or guides that are also wondering around. I do recommend the guide just to understand the sculptures a little more in depth and to guarantee that you will not miss any information. The tour of the entire park took about 4 hours.

After we had lunch in town we grabbed the car and went to the Estrecho del Magdalena. To get there no guide is necessary. In the Estrecho you will find the Magdalena river, which is one of the greatest in Colombia, to be just one meter wide in that specific spot. The rock formations and view from this place is amazing so if you have time, be sure not to miss it. After this we went to Obando but this was a definite waste of time. There is no need to go, it has nothing special and it is too far away.

Day 4

The fourth day we took everything slowly because we had extra time and the parks were closed. Be sure to check when the parks are closed when you come. In the morning we rented horses. You can rent them near the Italiant restaurant “Da Ugo” I mentioned before. This trip consists of three places: El Tablon, La Chaquira and La Pelota/El Purutal. Do not hire a guide for this trip since the horses are very tame and mostly know the way. You’ll find your way asking other people and with the signs that are posted around. I don’t recommend a guide so you can go at your own pace. Not having a guide allowed us to have a long conversation with one of the locals who explained to us his own version of the excavations. The rest of the day we walked around the town and had lunch. The whole trip took 4-5 hours but it could be done faster if needed (about 3 hours).

Day 5

Woke up early (5AM) to start our trip to Tierradentro. We got to Tierradentro at 10 am and started the tour with the best guide. He was present and helped with many of the excavations you will see so he will explain how they found them. I will give you his contact information below. This day we did the long walk through Segovia, El Duende, and El Tablon. We then had lunch and went in a car to the Pyramid.

Day 6

Again we walk up early to start a long walk. This was perhaps the hardest hike of the entire trip but it was completely worth it. We went to El Alto de los Aguacates and come back through Alto de San Andres. That night we spent some time with our guide who showed us his book collection, introduced us to his family, and told us stories about his life. This was a very valuable experience because we formed a connection with him.

Day 7 

We left the town early and that night we slept in Neiva because we were tired of the drive

Day 8

Headed back to Bogota.

Hotels

Villavieja (near Tatacoa)El Oasis. This hotel is very comfortable. Has TV, private bathroom and shower, comfortable rooms, and AC. Even though I liked it I would have preferred staying at one of the hostels inside the desert even if they weren’t as comfortable.

San AgustinAkawanka Lodge. Very comfortable and beautiful. Really nice decorations and gardens. It is ideal for when you want to rest in a nice place after a long day but you don’t want to be inside a room. It has private bathroom and showers with warm water, WiFi, and a goos breakfast.

Tierradentro: Hotel El Refugio. Comfortable but you can find cheaper options that are probably worth it because you won’t spend a lot of time in the hotel, you will be walking around most of the time. Email: hotelalbergueelrefugio@gmail.com Phone: +57 321 811 2395

Tour Guides

Tatacoa Desert: Huiltur Agency

Phone: +57 3115959588

Email: huiltur@hotmail.com

San Agustin Archeological Park: Orlando

Phone: +57 3134152086

Tierradentro: Arcadio. I strongly recommend him. He helped in many of the excavations of the hypogeum so he knows a lot about them and can tell you great stories about who and how they found them. He only speaks Spanish.

Phone: +57 3212725164

If you have any questions, doubts, comments, etc. comment down below. I hope this travel guide was helpful!

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