Colombia’s northernmost point, Guajira Peninsula has a hostile desert climate that has kept it largely isolated since colonial times. As a result it’s one of those special places where independent travellers can still feel as if they’re leaving fresh tracks. Some 240km long and no more than 50km wide, the barren peninsula is empty except for the semi-nomadic Wayuu, a beguiling mix of desert and sea, a smugglers’ haven that English pirates once tried to conquer. More challenging to explore than the rest of the Caribbean coast, the Guajira Peninsula rewards those who make the effort with the end-of-the-world feel of Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas. Cabo de la Vela is a remote Wayuu fishing village, 180km northwest of Riohacha, the capital of the Guajira Peninsula that in itself is 175km northeast of Santa Marta. On the journey to Cabo you pass through a landscape of sand, baked mud huts of the Wayuu and goats grazing under the sparse shade of the acacia trees.
A dusty one-street settlement strung out along an aquamarine bay, CABO DE LA VELA’s main draw is the spectacular landscape: a long sliver of beach, rocky cliffs and cactus-studded arid plains. In December and January the village is inundated with holidaying Colombians, but the rest of the year it’s a tranquil spot for sunset viewing, particularly from the westernmost hill at the far end of the bay, El Faro, kitesurfing and lazing on the sand.
If Cabo is insufficiently remote, then perhaps Punta Gallinas will suffice. Consisting of a turquoise bay fringed by what is perhaps Colombia’s most beautiful beach, home to a large colony of pink flamingos and around sixty Wayuu, Colombia’s northernmost tip is only reachable by organized tour. Contact Kaí Ecotravel in Riohacha (311 436 2830, www.kaiecotravel.com), a reputable operator that also runs trips to Cabo.