Colombia (Republic of Colombia)

Languages: Spanish

Currencies: COP · Colombian peso ($)

Capitol: Bogotá

Continents: South America

Borders: Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama

More useful information

Area: 1,141,748km2

Population: 50,882,884

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +57

Timezones: UTC-05:00

Last updated on July 15, 2024

How to get to Tatacoa Desert?

Tatacoa was a nice destination after the cold altitudes of the Colombian Mountains. The glowing air gave us an extremely nice feeling, just until the heat started to be exhausting.. Tatacoa desert is one of the most surreal places I’ve seen around the world. The area consists of two bordering deserts: Desierto Rojo – the Red Desert and Los Hoyos Desierto Gris – the Gray Desert. There are a few ways to get to Tatacoa Desert, which is located 38 km from Neiva.

Tatacoa Desert is most famous for its surreal landscape of rocky canyons and labyrinths. It’s also a noise-free area, which covers 330 square kilometers. Tatacoa red and even more magic grey desert is a paradise for stargazing, hiking and wildlife watching. It’s an absolute must to visit in your Colombian itinerary.

How to get to Tatacoa desert by a local transport?

Getting to the Tatacoa Desert is already an adventure. Tatacoa Desert is located in the Huila region of Colombia, the desert can be reached via several transportation options. Getting to the Tatacoa Desert is very easy with local transport. 

If you are going from Bogota – you need to reach Neiva (whether by bus of a flight) and from Neiva transport yourself to Villavieja – the closest town to Tatacoa Desert: Bogota – Nieva – Villavieja.

How to get to Tatacoa Desert from Bogota?

Getting to tatacoa Desert from Bogota is very straightforward. You can either:

  • take a local bus from Bogota to Neiva – 5 hours drive
  • take a flight from Bogota to Neiva (30 minutes flight) – check for best deals.
How to get to Tatacoa Desert in Colombia?

How to get to Tatacoa Desert from Neiva?

  • You can take a local bus from Neiva to Villavieja town and then take a tuk-tuk to your hostel,
  • Recommended option: From Neiva station, you can travel directly with a local van/truck to Hostal de Saturno for only 15 000 COP! The van drive was the greatest fun ever! It’s like driving through the wild wild west! I would just recommend taking a scarf/or a hoodie, as it gets really windy on the back of the truck.
How to get to Tatacoa Desert in Colombia?

Getting to Salento from Armenia.

Buses Armenia – Salento runs every 20 minutes. One of the funniest situations once they see you in Armenia’s terminal with a backpack – everyone roars ‘Salento bus there’ and points to the exit! 😉 So don’t worry you won’t miss the bus! You don’t even have to ask for the bus 😉 

Bus drive from Armenia to Salento takes about 2 hours and the mountain landscape on the way is stunning. The road is going up and is formed into hairpin turns. It might get a little scary when the bus backs up a few times to take a turn.

Where to stay in Tatacoa Desert?

The best place to stay in Tatacoa Desert is near the Astronomical Observatory, which is located 6 kilometers from the closest town – Villavieja. It gives you quick access to the Red Tatacoa Desert, which is on the other side of the main road. We stayed in  Hostal Noches de Saturno (on the photo), which was the most popular stay a few years ago. 

The best Tatacoa Desert Hostel options near the Observatory (Villavieja town)

You can decide to stay in Villavieja Town and organize transportation to Tatacoa Desert. There are tens of accommodation options starting from basic stay up to wonderful villas with outdoor pools, check on for the best prices. 

Hostal Noches de Saturno - How to get to Tatacoa Desert in Colombia?

Tatacoa Desert on a tour.

Since there is no local transport taking you around the Red and Grey Tatacoa Desert a lot of visitors would prefer to book a tour, which is a great option for exploring both deserts with a local guide, along with Magdalena River and desert night sky with the below tour options.

Hostal Noches de Saturno.

A few years ago there were one or two hostels near the Red Tatacoa Desert and Hostal Noches de Saturno was the most recommended and wanted place to stay.

The hostel is a very convenient location for exploring the area. A colorful parrot will greet you at the entrance – the bird is free, no cage, no leash.

I still think the place was great, we met amazing people and an American guy who drove from US to Tataco Desert on a motorbike. These were the best stories I’ve heard. The place is friendly organized and offers good dining options.

Tatacoa Desert Observatory.

The Astronomical Observatory Tatacoa is located only 600 m from the hostel. The red desert is easily accessible from the hostel – it’s just on the other side of the road. To get to the grey desert you need to drive 9 km further but you would not find any hostels there. Ask your hostel to organize transportation to the grey desert.

The observatory offers stargazing experiences and what’s best it provides a unique opportunity to witness the night sky free from light pollution.

Tatacoa Observatory – entrance sessions start every day at 7 pm (hours depend on the season). The desert sky is flooded by stars. It’s a great session about our planet, stars and witnessing the cosmos through a telescope – Saturn looks unbelievable! The lecturer is very friendly and with a great sense of humor. Take a mosquito repellent, otherwise, they eat you alive!!!

How to get to Tatacoa Desert in Colombia?

Tatacoa Red Desert.

Hiking the Red Desert is easy, it goes along a visible trail, which can be accomplished in 2 hours. Starting point for the red desert is located just on the other side of the road from Hostal Novhes de Saturno. 

We met an amazing French guy who accompanied us on hiking adventures. We were all so madly fascinated by the surrounding landscape that decided to walk 9 kilometers toward the grey desert! Madness in 40-degree heat! Luckily after 15 min walking a van stopped and offered us a lift. 

Best things to do in Tatacoa Desert?

We spent a few days exploring the area and surreal landscape of the Tatacoa Desert. Once you know how to get to Tatacoa Desert, I would recommend allowing yourself to enjoy this beauty of nature. With its striking red and grey terrain, the desert is a photographer’s dream.

There are many great things to do in Tatacoa Desert:

How to get to Tatacoa grey desert?

The pick-up truck dropped us at the main road, near a small bar with a visible road sign for the Grey desert. Hiking loop takes about 2 hours but it’s up to you how far you want to explore the desert. The place is so surreal that we spent 3 hours wandering and exploring the desert’s labyrinthine canyons.

Hiking Tatacoa Grey Desert.

The grey canyons are fascinating – it’s a hidden treasure of Colombia. Condors are flying above your heads. It’s a noise-free area, just silence and nature. 

Walking back to our hostel took us around 3 hours. I was exhausted after all day of hiking and being exposed to the sun for most of the day. It just knocked me out of my feet. But I managed to wake up for the evening observatory session. 

Some people skip the grey desert. I found Tatacoa Grey Desert phenomenal! Besides it is less touristic and very unique.

Things not to miss in Tatacoa Desert:

  1. Boatch Tatacoa – red and grey deserts!
  2. Tatacoa Observatory for stargazing,
  3. Take a bike tour, there are lots of bike rentals around the area.
  4. Visit Villavieja – the small charming town near the Tatacoa desert. There are plenty of hostels in the town.
  5. Watch the desert sunrise or sunset.
How to get to Tatacoa Desert in Colombia?

Safety hints for Tatacoa Desert:

  • Wear trekking shoes for several reasons – it’s a desert, you might step on a spider, snake or scorpion and watch out for cactus thorns when walking the desert!! It’s a canyon walk, it’s more convenient wearing hiking shoes.
  • Take plenty of water (2-3 liters) if you plan to walk toward the grey desert and do some trekking (the loop takes at least 2h). There are two small bars near the main road just at the starting point for the grey desert.
  • Sun lotion filter 50.
  • Cover your head, the sun can be very aggressive,
  • Take insect repellent.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Headlight (if you plan to get to the desert for the sunrise or sunset).
  • Camera 🙂
green parrot at Grey Desert

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Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!

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