How to get from Bogota to the Tatacoa desert and San Agustin by car

Last updated on January 23rd, 2021 at 02:20 pm

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My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!

Driving from Bogota to Tatacoa Desert

On May 3, 2017, my co-worker and I set off from Bogota to explore the southern region, looking to test its tourism potential and explore the archaeological sites in Colombia. First, our trip took us to the desert of Tatacoa, which is located about 300 km south of Bogotá in the department of Huila. Due to “Pico y Placa”, a driving restriction for vehicles based on the license plate numbers, we had to pass the city limits before 06.00 am. We started at 5.15 am, but to our astonishment, we were met by a traffic jam almost immediately, despite the early hour. I have to mention that leaving Bogota to head south is always an ordeal and traffic jams are quite normal. Shortly after six in the morning, we finally passed the city limits. The traffic improved, but we were constantly having to bypass trucks on the single-lane roads, which reminded us of a “jump and run” game.

Sebastian navigated us across the back entrance to the desert instead of the main access route. That was much more interesting, albeit much slower. In this area there are fish farms, most of which are exported to the USA. The water used for breeding is diverted from a nearby river, and it was quite impressive to see the temperature rise continuously to 38 degrees. The desert of Tatacoa is not a typical, sandy desert like that of the Sahara; it reminded me more of a kind of lunar landscape, although apparently there are microclimates within the desert. There are even isolated pockets of livestock and agriculture. There is also an astronomical observatory and a desert pool. I really liked the area, but it was too hot for me.

In Villavieja, the closest village, we went in search of local guides, hotels, and tourist attractions. We met a very interesting guide, Ricardo, who introduced himself as the local expert in tourism. Although he did not have any documents providing information on his services, he had an abundance of stories about his past experiences with tourists. He also described himself as a specialist in real estate, car trade, cattle breeding, and many other areas. In the coming weeks, he called us almost daily.

“Unfortunately, his business card disappeared inexplicably during our trip ;-)” (sarcasm).

Driving from Neiva to San Agustin

We decided to continue our journey and spend the night in Neiva, which is the capital of Huila. The heat was there too much, and we had to cool off in the evening with some ice-cold beers. The next day we received some useful information from representatives in the tourism office. Furthermore, there are some interesting hotels in Neiva. Other than that, the potential for tourism here is rather limited. The next day, however, we discovered a beauty pageant, which piqued my interest. Unfortunately, we missed the pageant due to our tight schedule, as we had to continue our journey southwards. I was sad for many days.

About 300 km southwest lays San Agustín, which is known for its archaeological excavation. We arrived in the afternoon and checked in. During the weekend, the town was going to celebrate San Pedro, which I learned upon arrival. Anyway, in the evening hordes of riders rushing around in the village, we did a circuit around the village and drank a lot of alcohol. It was quite a mess but also very amusing. The following day we met a local tour guide. He was over 60 years old and had only learned English a few years ago. He had a lot to tell and quite an agreeable personality. We spent the whole day with him and visited various archaeological sites. Overall, the area was very professional and the had some spectacular stone sculptures.

More information about the sights in San Agustin you will find in our Tourist Information.

I can highly recommend San Agustín, especially for those history lovers! Even for those like myself who are not pros in the area, I still found the area to be super exciting. It is definitely one of the places to go in Colombia. If you are interested in having a unique Colombian travel experience, do not hesitate and contact us. Hungry for more? Check out our Bogota Travel Guide!

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