Travel article: Tatacoa Desert

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: Discovering The Americas in 6 months!

Image for blog article: Tatacoa Desert

Tatacoa Desert, Villavieja, Huila, Colombia

Colombia 3 days - April 2018






Finally our second last stop in Colombia took us to another type of desert : Tatacoa.


From Bogota, it takes 6 hours to reach Neiva and then 2 hours to reach Tatacoa Desert.

We decided to take a shortcut and it was probably not the best idea we ever had... we stopped in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road at Aipe and walked 30 minutes under 35 degrees with our big backpacks to find a boat to cross the river and then 10 minutes to find a tuktuk to drive us to Tatacoa. I was already not feeling well due to a cold caught in Mongui, this clearly smashed me and for the next 3 days I had to handle a 40 degrees temperature ...

We stayed in the desert in a little cabana with electricity only 3 hours a night and a limited choice of lunch/dinner. Basic but clean and with a shower ! We got used to minimal comfort in 6 months :)

Florie tried sleeping in hammock but she got bitten by mosquitos all night long. Unlucky as we loved sleeping in hammocks in La Guajira.


There are two types of Deserts in Tatacoa: the red and the grey one.  

Considering it was really hot and I didn’t feel well we took a tour in tuktuk with other backpackers to go to the grey one called los Hoyos. This desert grew millions year ago when the ocean disappeared. until 500 years ago, the valley was still wet but suffered from heavy erosion and has dried up.  First stop , a lookout where we saw stones with the shapes of a chicken, a dragon, turtle and a crocodile ! Florie found a bone, scary!

It’s nice but doesn’t feel authentic with the resort and swimming pool built there…

Tatacoa means snakes and the locals keep calling their wives by this name when they are angry !

Surprisingly it rains quite often in this desert.  


We walked for an hour under blazing sun , looking at arid vegetation and discovering we could eat little fruits coming from the cactus plant.

Second stop: the red desert and a big canyon. Not the size of Chicamocha Canyon but still impressive. We felt like Indiana Jones walking in between big stones shapes! Beautiful part of Colombia again.


I spent the afternoon sleeping still having high temperature. At night we contemplated stars and constellations as there is no lights and no light pollution in this region. There is an observatory but unfortunately still feeling weak I surrender and went to bed ...


Some recommandations:

# It takes 6 to 8 hours from Bogota to reach Neiva (25,000 pesos) and then 1 hour of collectivo to Villavieja (5,000) and then a Tuktuk to Tatacoa desert (15,000 for the tuktuk)

# you can rent a bike to go to the grey desert but it’s hot so be careful!

# you can stay in hammocks, tent of cabana. 70,000 pesos for the cabana

# we negotiated the guide 100,000 pesos for 3 people but price started at 50,000 each !


Leave a comment

Paul Mérouze
Jul 8, 2018 - 08:32 AM

toujours aussi intéressant votre voyage, continuez à nous envoyer du rêve.


Christelle & Cedric
Jul 8, 2018 - 09:39 AM

Merci ! Quel est votre prochain voyage ?


Bruno Berthier
Feb 9, 2019 - 06:20 PM

C'est vrai qu'il fait vraiment très chaud mais je pense que ça vaut le coup d'y passer une journée pleine. C'est petit mais les paysages sont très chouettes, surtout dans le désert rouge. Et j'ai toujours adoré les cactus :-)


Christelle & Cedric
Feb 12, 2019 - 02:12 PM

Cela nous a fait penser aux canyons americains!


Sibyl Harriet
Dec 14, 2023 - 08:51 PM

Dear admin, You always provide clear explanations and step-by-step instructions.


Margo Canning
Dec 26, 2023 - 05:59 PM

Dear webmaster, Thanks for the in-depth post!