Tatacoa Desert – Colombia’s Mystical Barren Landscape

Tatacoa Desert - how to visit this jaw dropping natural wonder

When I saw a picture of the Tatacoa Desert, it looked too beautiful to be true. A desert in the middle of Colombia also seemed incomprehensible. Whilst travelling through this beautiful country, I had to visit.

Tatacoa Desert Cactus

Villaveja is the small town near to Tatacoa. Arising early in the morning to avoid the blistering heat, we strolled down the street. Obviously Gringos, we got approached by a friendly local. He offered us a lift for the total sum of $15,000 COP ($4.60 USD). Knowing this was the standard price for an excursion in to the desert, we agreed and got led away to his moto taxi.

It’s hard to comprehend that the desert is only a 15 minute ride from Villaveja. The town is like many other small Colombian towns and there’s nothing to give away the natural wonder down the road.

Shortly before arriving in Cusco (where the Tatacoa Desert trail starts), I cast my eyes upon cacti and glorious hills of sun baked mud mountains. This was special.

It couldn’t prepare me for the awe inspiring view which greeted us on arrival. As far as the eye could see was a red and orange hue. It could have been the Grand Canyon, or maybe even the setting for a Spaghetti Western.

Tatacoa Desert

Heading in to the canyon we set off on the 2km walking trail. Amongst the mud mounds and cacti, we trod carefully so as not to disturb the scorpions and snakes that live here. We met a traveller who had visited the week before and had a scorpion hide out in her bag. Be sure to watch where you put your things!

Not only does the Tatacoa Desert offer beautiful natural scenery, there are an abundance of birds and lizards in the area. We were lucky to watch parrots feeding on cactus flowers. One incredible site we couldn’t have anticipated were two wild goats rutting by the path. Each smashing it’s head in to the other before locking horns, retreating and repeating the battle. It’s crazy what you see in the wild!

Goats Rutting in the Tatacoa Desert

Prior to rutting goats, I noticed how incredibly silent the Tatacoa Desert was. I’ve never heard silence like it. There’s nothing! The silence is only ever broken by a tweeting bird or the creak of cacti bending in the breeze.

As the heat started to pick up, it was time to return. We’d already strayed from the main path and even though it was overcast, the humidity was building up fast.

Of all my experiences after four weeks in Colombia, this was right up there. Surreal, off the beaten path and an experience all to ourselves. If you have the time and a lust for serene scenery, make sure to visit the Tatacoa Desert.

How to get to the Tatacoa Desert

Although not difficult to get to, the Tatacoa Desert is off the beaten track and does take some time.

You will need to make your way to the town of Neiva.

Nevia is on the main route and can be reached from Bogota on a direct bus for 30,000 COP ($9.20 USD).

From Neiva Colectivos make the one hour journey to Villaveja for 8,000 COP ($2.45 USD). The Tatacoa Desert is then a 15 minute moto taxi ride and costs 15,000 COP ($4.60 USD). To return to Villaveja you should be able to catch a passing moto taxi from the snack bar at the entrance. We got a lift back to Villaveja on a motorcycle with the owner of the Tatacoa Desert snack bar!

The cost of visiting the Tatacoa Desert

The Tatacoa Desert is free to visit and you can walk around at your leisure.

Length of time needed to visit the Tatacoa Desert

Allow yourself two hours so you can walk at your leisure and take it all in.

Is a tour needed for the Tatacoa Desert

Tours are available for around 100,000 COP ($ USD) and are easy to arrange in Villaveja. We didn’t feel like we’d missed out by not having one.

What to bring to the Tatacoa Desert

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Water
  • Snacks (there is a small snack bar at the entrance, should you wish to quench your thirst or have a snack)

Where to stay in the Tatacoa Desert

We stayed at ​Merkezi Saray. The owner was fantastic with helpful information and also accommodating with our late check in and late check out. The price is great too!


How to visit The Tatacoa Desert - Pinterest

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