What to do in San José del Guaviare
San José del Guaviare is simply a paradise. If you are a nature-lover and appreciate the many forms of nature, this could be a dream come true for you. Let’s talk about what is there to do in San José del Guaviare.
It seems that due to a volcanic erruption millions of years ago created rocky formations that are truly breath-taking: stone cities, bridges, the Door of Orion, natural pools, a rosy river, a black lagoon, prehistoric pictographs (or, cave paintings) that date back more than 7,000 years whose rocky walls recount stories of the enigmatic and great cultures that flourished here.
Numerous kinds of flora and fauna that call this region home: a staggering diversity of birds, snakes, monkeys, pink dolphins, and many other animals. The people are charming, with their gastronomy rich in fish and their folk festivals. Let’s just say that after reading about everything that San José del Guaviare has to offer you, you won’t want to stay home thinking about where to go on your next vacation, because this is the place for you!
San José del Guaviare is the capital of Guaviare. It has a humid, warm climate, and its people are friendly and very open to the prospect of tourism, given that 10 years ago this was a red zone controlled by Guerrilla or paramilitary groups. (Read more about the weather and current security situtation in San José del Guaviare).
Despite this, today this is a safe place that is visited by hundreds of tourists, mostly Colombians, that travel to this gorgeous city to relax and enjoy its natural setting. This capital city is especially popular on the weekend.
What to do in San José del Guaviare?
The Port: in the center of San José del Guaviare, you can can enjoy a spectacular view of the sunset on the banks of the river, and, at the same time, have a refreshing chilled beer in one of the “miradores” (little boats in the river that serve as bars).
Food: San José del Guaviare has a rich gastronomic diversity: you can enjoy regional and traditional Indigenous dishes such as Muquiado fish wrapped in plantain leaves, and also plantain lasagna and other international dishes.
Celebration and partying is very important for inhabitants of San José del Guaviare, so don’t worry if you’re looking for a night of fun since there are clubs, bars or billiards halls on almost every street corner.
Culture: if you’re more interested in the cultural side of things, San José del Guaviare is also rich in diverse Ethnic communities. For example, you could visit the Maloca of the last nomadic tribe in Colombia, the Nukak Maku, or you could enjoy a spectacular evening in the Tucán del Oriente community.
Festivals: the season with the most tourism in San José del Guaviare is during the summer festivals, which are celebrated in February. There is also the Yurupari festival, which consists of celebrations of the folklore of the Colombian plains with “Joropo” (traditional music and dance from the Orinoquia region in Colombia).
What to do outside San José del Guaviare?
You would not believe the number of things that you can do close to San José del Guaviare. This really is a hidden gem of Colombia that is full of things to see and do that we feel will definitely become popular with tourists in the near future.
Tranquilandia y Caño Sabana
One of the most popular tourist attractions in San José del Guaviare is unquestionably this magical river. You may have heard of the 5-coloured river Caño Cristales – this river is just as breathtaking but much less touristy and expensive. The pink colour of this river is due to an endemic plant called the Macarenia clavigera.
This marvelous plant, exclusively found in Colombia, only grows between June and December, making these the best months to visit the river. From the center of San José del Guaviare it only takes about 20 minutes, and there are plenty of tourist agencies that offer guided tours; you can also take a taxi, if you would prefer to travel on your own steam.
Door of Orion
This incredible stone is 12 meters in height and can be found quite close to Tranquilandia, so you could combine a visit to both places in one trip. From this vantage point, you can look through this Door and see a beautiful panorama of the savanna. This natural setting is really peaceful. The only thing is that the path to get to the Door of Orion isn’t very well marked, so it may be better to go as part of a guided tour.
Las Delicias Waterfall
A beautiful waterfall hidden between caves. This is a suitable place for lovers of hiking, since it takes at least an hour of walking to get there. You can take a taxi to a certain point (about 20 minutes), and you must pass through a farm where you will be charged 1 dollar per person, and then continue walking on the left to get to Las Delicias Waterfall.
The same road that brings you to Tranquilandia also takes you to the Recebera Farm, a little further on. From there, you can start on the path that will take you to the Natural Pools, a magical place full of what look like the traces of tiny meteorites. These pools are filled with water containing minerals that change the colour of the water to yellow, terracota orange and even black. The largest pool is deep enough for you to dive from a tall rock on the lip of the pool. So, if you’d like to relax on a hot day, don’t forget about these wonderful pools that are located in such a memorable setting.
City of Stone
The same road that brought you to the Natural Pools also takes you to the City of Stone, about 20 minutes further on. This is an enigmatic site that almost looks to be the ruins of a great and ancient city, but no, according to experts, these ruins are actually natural rock formations that date from the Precambrian era. The City of Stone offers an almost surreal experience that has been described as an ideal location for meditation, thanks to the complete peace that reigns in this beautiful place.
Bridges of Stone
The Bridges of Stone are also natural formations of rock that are impressive. This is also the easiest place listed so far to visit from San José, as all it takes is a visit to the Pica Piedra restaurant on the same road entering San José. There, you can enter for less than 1 USD, take a refreshing bath in the stream and, of course, follow the path that takes you to the spectacular Bridges. This hike takes about 30 minutes.
There’s no question that the Black Lagoon is a must-see. This adventure requires that you take a taxi ride of 20 minutes (about 7 USD) to a house where they operate a transportation service on the river to the Black Lagoon – don’t worry, your taxi driver will know where this is! The Black Lagoon reflects the sky in a unique way that on particularly quiet days, is heavenly.
The name “Black Lagoon” is due to its black colour, or, as some locals say, because of a supposedly high number of “guidos” (constricting snakes) that live in the lagoon (though this may just be a visual effect of dry leaves that have accumulated on the bottom of the lagoon. Regardless, this rumour hasn’t stopped locals and tourists alike from enjoying a swim and hang out, and – why not? – get some free ichthyotherapy from the many littel fish that will nibble the dead skin from your feet. This is also a great spot for fishing.
Pictographs of Cerro Azul, Rapids of Guayabero River, and others
San José del Guaviare could be one of the places with the most cave paintings in the world, and you can see them in person. There are more than 8 sites, such as the villages La Pizarra, Nuevo Tolima, Cerro Azul, Los Alpes, Raudal del Guayabero, and others in the province of Guaviare, such as the famous Chibiriquete mountain range. In this text, we’ll discuss some of the closest and most visited of the above-mentioned villages.
Cerro Azul (or, “Blue Mountain”) has to be one of the most popular places to visit near to San José del Guaviare, despite its difficult access and expensive cost. First, the road is not in good condition, so if you don’t go with a travel agency, you should hire a car that can handle such roads like a Jeep; this will likely cost you 80 USD or more, and takes about 2 hours. Once you’re in Cerro Azul, you’ll have to pay the entry fee and hire a local guide, since otherwise you won’t be allowed to enter. In 2019, the price for a guide was 20 USD, plus 4 USD per person.
But is it worth it? It definitely is, especially if you are a lover of archaeology, pictographs and hiking – after all, it takes about an hour of walking on the mountain, passing by a stupendous bat cave. You will find more than 3 sites that are more than 1,000 years old, although unfortunately some of them have deteriorated somewhat due to campfires or the hands of some recent visitors. Even still, when you see these cave paintings you will surely ask yourself how such art can have lasted for so long, which is due in part to a pigment that was created using seeds of the Achiote plant. The view from above will leave you breathless!
The pictographs of Raudal del Guayabero are perhaps the most ‘important’ paintings of the region, and can be found a mind-boggling 20 meters up on the stone walls. From San José, you can take a taxi for only 5 USD to Puerto Arturo. From there, you can take a motorboat for 40 minutes, during which time you may see turtles, many birds, monkeys and other wildlife! Once you get to Raudal, you can bath in a natural pool and waterfall, and once you’ve finished that, it is only one more hour to get to the pictographs.
You can also climb up to the top of this rock to see the immensity of the jungle and the Guayabero River, both of which are a delight to see and contemplate.
Lagoon of the Damas del Nare
Also called the Lagoon of the Toninas (the name of these fresh-water dolphins), this particular lagoon offers to visitors a chance to see and interact with charming dolphins – this is actually one of the few places where these fresh-water dolphins approach humans.
It can be found 68 kilometers from San José, and there are plenty of ways to get there. The fastest option is to take a tour that costs about 150 USD that departs twice a week, in which case it would be necessary to sleep in El Nare. You could also hire a heavy-duty car (think “Jeep”!) for a 2-hour trip, though it might take more time depending on the conditions of the road.
El Retorno Hotsprings
These rejuvenating and lovely hotsprings can be found three hours from San José del Guaviare. The warmth of these waters is because the water flows deep underground, and their healing properties make this a perfect place for those who want to say “ciao” to stress, treat their skin and cure other aches and pains. What’s more, you can find the waterfall Los Chorros nearby.
So tell me, after reading about all these lovely things to see and experience, are you going to head down to San José del Guaviare? I guarantee that you will have an unforgettable experience among the oldest geological formations in all Colombia, and all that for a cheap price.
Leave us a comment about your best experiences in San José.