Tatacoa Desert – A Hidden Gem of Colombia’s Huila Region
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Adventure Tours

Tatacoa Desert – A Hidden Gem of Colombia’s Huila Region

5 min read

Apr 17, 2018


By Izabela Zielinska

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Last updated on January 25th, 2021 at 10:11 am


In this Tatacoa Desert article, we cover:

– How to get to the Tatacoa Desert

– Where is the Tatacoa Desert

– See a Tatacoa Desert Map

Thing’s to Do at Tatacoa Desert

When to Visit the Tatacoa Desert

– and view a dream Tatacoa Desert Tour!

Let’s begin our tour of the Colombia Desert gem known as Tatacoa Desert. Let’s start with…


How to Get to the Tatacoa Desert:

To get to the Tatacoa Desert, you need to take a mini-bus or private transfer van from Neiva. The trip takes one hour. Most of the tourists that visit Tatacoa stop in a nearby city of Neiva (approximately 1h car drive from the desert). I would recommend staying in a small village of Villavieja which is just 15km from the desert. This small, colonial village is the best starting point to see the desert. You can rent a car there, or hop on a bicycle or motorbike – perfect for moving around the desert. The layout of Villavieja is prepared very well for tourists. You can find nice small hotels run by local families, true mansions with nice gardens and pools. You can try great local food like lechona (roast pig stuffed with rice and veggies). There is no entrance fee to access the desert. One road from Villavieja village will lead you to the main areas of it. The best time to visit is in the morning since the sun is not that strong. Around noon it can get really hot so please don’t forget your sunscreen! Another good time to go would be in the evening. It’s perfect time to visit the observatory for stargazing at night (in Tatacoa sky you can observe 88 constellations and if you are lucky – a meteor shower!) There are local travel agencies that offer ecological hikes, geological tours or if you want something more relaxed there is even a natural spring which fills a pool in the middle of the desert!

Where is the Tatacoa Desert:

The Tatacoa Desert located in the Huila Region of Colombia is a semi-arid desert. Located just outside the city of Neiva Colombia, it has an incredible amount of fossils, minerals, and colored rocks and is becoming an incredibly popular spot for tourism in Colombia.  tatacoa-desert-1 It is no wonder that many well-traveled individuals have not even heard of the Tatacoa Desert. Traveling in Colombia is like traveling through at least three or more countries. You can find so much variety here that you start to wonder how one country can be blessed with so many different treasures. It has mountains, lakes, two coasts, beaches, the Amazon and apart from that deserts, too! Most of the tourists travel to La Guajira region to see the desert but not all of them know that Colombia hides a different place they call a desert. It’s Tatacoa desert in the heart of the Colombian region Huila – 7h by car south-west of Bogota. The same region that is famous for archeological ruins of San Augustin.

Here is a Tatacoa Desert Map:


Here is a Tatacoa Desert map in Colombia. As you can see it lies just north of Neiva and is easily accessible from Bogota or Cali.


Thing’s to Do at Tatacoa Desert:

Once you visit Tatacoa you will notice that there is actually no dunes or a lot of sand which is typically common for all deserts in the world. The truth is that Tatacoa is not a typical desert. It’s more a dry tropical forest. Ages ago it was a green area indeed with lush vegetation, flowers, and animals. All that during long years dried up converting into the deserted landscape. Now the only form of life you can observe are numerous cactuses and some snakes, scorpions, and lizards. tatacoa-desert-animals In general, the unique landscape of the desert is divided into: 1) Cuzco – a red region that has a lot of labyrinths great to walk around and take some photos of big red towers of even 11 meters high. Popular pop star Shakira filmed one of her first music videos right there. 2) Los Hoyos – this one is known for grey colors and natural pools. The fact that this area of the country is still not that well-known is because of its dark history – years of domestic war, violence, and drug trafficking. Now that the war is over, the Colombian government is investing more and more money in developing tourism infrastructure to attract visitors from abroad to Huila department. Some time ago this area was not even known for its coffee culture. Most people think that the Coffee region is just the areas close to Armenia, Pereira, and Manizales. And according to last years results, it’s the Huila province that produces over 18% of Colombian coffee. Someone may ask how is that possible that with such great climate to cultivate coffee you can have a dessert at the same time? Well, this is what is so special about the Tatacoa desert. It’s right there where you don’t expect it to be. This second largest dry area of Colombia covers only 330 km2 of land however it’s still quite a spectacle resembling Martian landscape.

When to Visit the Tatacoa Desert:

The best part about a Tatacoa Desert Tour is that you can visit the Tatacoa Desert year-round!

Tatacoa Desert Tours:

TATACOA-DESERT-TOURS-CUSTOM-FORM Explore our dream Colombia Tours. From Medellin City Tours, Cali City Tours, Neiva City Tours, Colombia Jungle Trips, and beyond. A Colombia Trip Package can be combined with a multi-country South America tour including stops in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and more. Popular stops along a Tatacoa Desert Tour include Machu Picchu, Inca Trail Treks, Patagonia, The Galapagos Islands, and more. The Tatacoa desert is probably one of the most underestimated treasures of Colombia. It’s certainly worth a visit if you are looking for something authentic and not that touristy. It’s hard to imagine that centuries ago it got called „The Valley of Sorrows” by one of the conquistadors. Today it catches attention because of its unique landscapes, tranquility and amazing starry skies.

Love Staying Up-To-Date With All The Latest South American News? Visit Our Blog!

Want to plan your own Tatacoa Desert Tour to South America? 


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Last updated on January 25th, 2021 at 10:11 am

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