More than just the HOTspot for Vallenato music - Colombia
I found beautiful pictures on the internet of the Cesar department in northeastern Colombia and I absolutely wanted to visit this place!
I took the bus from Santa Marta and 4 hours later I arrived in Valledupar, capital of the Cesar department, where I was surrounded by the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serriania del Perija. Valledupar is THE hotspot for the Vallenato music! In April, people from all over the world come to the annual festival ‘Vallenato Legend Festival’, which is celebrated in the park of the Vallenato Legend, where participants compete on the 'Compai Chipuco' stage for the title of best accordion player, best vallenato song and give their best in piquerías (a battle among singers).
I wasn’t there in April but in August so I went looking for other interesting things. I found the Plaza Alfonso Lopez in the center, very cozy with its Spanish colonial buildings and peaceful atmosphere. In the carrera 9, I found some restaurants but for vegetarians there was not much choice ... . However, there were numerous markets with typical souvenirs (cll 16 # 7-18, Galería Chico Ruiz: cra 5 # 13b and at Casa de las Hamacas: cll 17 # 6-44).
The next day I went to the mountains because I wanted to go swimming in the La Mina-Badillo rivers. It was amazing, I was all by myself! It was about 45 minutes from Valledupar; I took the taxi (collectivo) at cra 7a # 18b-37 and the ticket cost me 6.000 cop. The Badillo river is the first you encounter, coming from Valledupar, a 5-10 minutes taxi ride later you're in La Mina (here is also a restaurant). The rivers were nice and fresh with clear water and big rounded rocks all-over - ideal for a picnic and chilling.
About 15 minutes further by taxi, higher up into the mountains, there was the peaceful village Atánquez.
Only a few years ago this area was suffering and had very serious problems with the Colombian civil war. Fortunately, those times are over, the government invested in this area and also lay out new roads to connect Valledupar and those mountain villages smoothly. During the day there are no buses (only early in the morning and later in the afternoon) but there were taxi collectivo’s which were driving the whole time up and down. It´s better to depart from Valledupar or higher up because the collectivos sometimes were already full of passengers. Fortunately Colombians are very creative and they had an extra fifth seat for me and I could sit between the driver and the passenger on a pillow, almost on the gearstick. The return trip cost me 7000 cop.
The Guatapuri river I visited with the bike from the hostel ... incredible, there were even well maintained cycle paths. Nice one!
Unfortunately I could not go to Nabusimake, an Arhuaco village, situated higher up in the mountains on an altitude of 1200 meters (3.912 feet). It is only accessible from Pueblo Bello through an off-road track (about a 2.5 hour drive). I didn´t have the time to go, but hopefully next time.* When you want to go, leave Valledupar early in the morning!
Why is this regioin so interesting? Indigenous tribes such as the Arhuacos, Kankuamos, Koguis and the Wiwas live in this region. Close to the Venezolanian border, in the Serrania del Perija, live the people of the Yupka. The Kogi ‘s live especially on the northern side of the Sierra; the southern part of the Sierra, on the side of Valledupar is mainly the habitat of the Arhuaco people. Cesar has five ecoregions: the Serrania del Perija mountain range, the valley of the Cesar River, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, the valley of the Magdalena river and the Cienaga Zapatosa swamps complex. Ideal for biking, hiking, bird watching and swimming!
Where to stay in Valledupar? Well, check this out via this link under accommodation!
Santa - Marta - Valledupar = 4hrs, 25.000-28.000 cop / pp.
Valledupar - Barranquilla = 5hrs, 25.000-28.000 cop / pp.
Pueblo Bello - Valledupar = 1.5hr, 7.000 – 8.000 cop / pp - good road.
Pueblo Bello - Nabusimake = 2.5hrs, 15.000 cop / pp - off-road.
Taxis between Pueblo Bello - Valledupar driving back and forth (return ticket costs = ±14000 cop / pp).
*They do not want tourists in their sacred precincts all the time, so the best is to visit this interesting place with a guide (find more information about tour operators here). The village itself and the surrounding area can be visited with due respect for the culture, the traditions and the natural environment. It may be possible that the Arhuaco people, on the day you want to visit them, not allow you to enter.