The Guajira peninsula is the northern most point in Colombia and South America spanning an area of 20,848km2. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the North, Venezuela to the East and to the West and South the Colombian Departments of Magdalena and Cesar respectively. 

This peninsula that makes up the Department of the Guajira is divided into three sections: the lower and south, where the departmental capital of Riohacha is located, it was founded in 1545 as Nuestra Señora Santa María de los Remedios del Cabo de La Vela; Mid Guajira borders Venezuela and Upper Guajira is the dramatic collision point of deserts; and the upper where the ocean creating paradisaical locations such as Cabo de La Vela and Punta Gallinas.

The Guajira is a place that never ceases to surprise due to its extreme contrasts: the brilliant white of the vast salt flats of Manaure – small mountains of white salt glistening beneath the merciless sun -, pink ibis with white and black flecks color the sky in cacophonous flight between the lagoons in Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary and then there is the deep black of the coal extracted from the mine at El Cerrejón. Aside from salt and coal the Guajira is bathed by a crystalline sea that laps onto beaches of desert sand. The cacti that grow enhance the justifiably savage imagery and the long rises of the sand dunes are a reminder that this is an inhospitable land of myths and legends. 

The Wayúu indigenous people of the Guajira and their legends make this territory all the more intriguing. They are nomads who live autonomously across the porous border that divides Venezuela and Colombia with no concern for national frontiers. The Wayúu are a matriarchal society organized into clans and that place supreme importance in their traditions, in particular that of the “palabrero” who is designated to resolve conflicts between the clans. Wayúu men are polygamous but before entering into a marriage the man has to reach an agreement with the bride’s family regarding a dowry of goats and precious stones. The Wayúu live in what are known as “Rancherias” small communities made up of family members that dedicate their time to fishing and weaving. This region is renowned for producing colourful handmade hammocks and “mochilas” of resounding beauty and artistry.  

Visiting the Guajira is an immersion into a local culture rich in traditions, simplicity and native customs. Things here in Colombia’s “wild east” are tough but the basics are done well making one’s visit pleasant and unforgettable.