MY DIARY
Gigante + Tatacoa Desert…unique landscapes in Colombia
“Hence my extreme confusion when I was presented with a credit card auth slip for 1,963,500 Colombian Pesos [aka ~$514].”

Me, my friend, and her boyfriend took a last minute road trip to GiganteTatacoa Desert, and Jagua in Colombia.
We rented a car, drove 22 hours in 3 days, made a few wrong turns, shared belly laughs, + created memories we’ll never forget.

Huila | Tatacoa Desert
  • Car Rental | Localiza
    • You need to rent a care to get here.
    • There are multiple Localiza locations throughout Bogota. We needed an early start, so we chose the airport location.
    • Travel Tip | Opt-in for the car wash option at pick-up. Strange. I know. But, we learned this one the hard way, because Localiza charged us a premium to wash it after the fact. Because, we got it dusty from off-roading.
    • Car rentals are relatively new in Colombia. So be prepared. It’s expensive and the process isn’t straightforward. Luckily, my Spanish speaking friend was with us. Specifically, Localiza temporarily authorized my credit card for 5x the rental car amount aka the cost of totaling the vehicle. Hence the extreme confusion when I was presented with a credit card authorization slip for 1,963,500 Colombian Pesos [aka ~$514]. Upon returning the vehicle safe and sound, they charged my credit card for the original amount.
  • I don’t recommend going to the Tatacoa Desert alone.
  • Driving in Colombia is like the Wild Wild West. 
  • It’s HOT AF and there’s zero hot water in hostels or hotels.
  • Definitely download the entire Google Maps region to your phone before you leave. You don’t want to use all your data on navigation. Plus, cell service can be spotty in areas.
  • One thing to note, Bogota [population: 8-9 million] traffic is INSANE. The last number on the license plate dictates what days of the month people can drive. It’s called Pico y Placa [aka Road Space Rationing]. For example, license plates ending in even numbers are allowed to drive on even days of the month and vice versa. Even still, accidents in Bogota happen all the time. Annoyingly, Google Maps completely re-routed us, causing a 2 hour detour when I had a flight to catch to Medellin. So, we tricked Google Maps by mapping to a location right before the accident and prayed the accident cleared up in time. Thankfully, my Spanish speaking friend followed the Bogota Transito Twitter feed for updates.
  • The turn off from the highway to Tatacoa Desert is super tricky + unassuming. Again, my friend asked a man [in Spanish] sitting on the side of the road for help.
  • Be prepared, the last part of the drive is a very bumpy dirt road.
    • Fortunately, Lil Bebita [we named the car] ate up all the bumps like a champ.
  • Hike the Red Desert + book a planetarium tour while you’re there.
  • People were horseback riding, but we saw a horse collapse right in front of us with a woman on it. Not good. 
  • Desert Hotel | Hospedaje Payande Tatacoa
    • We booked this place through Airbnb. 
    • The staff was really nice, the breakfasts were quite tasty, but it was super rustic.
    • Mosquito nets are a must, and there’s zero hot water.
    • Oh, and the goose tried to charge me at one point.
  • Desert Resort | Bethel Bio Luxury Hotel
    • We didn’t stay here, but some friends said it’s really nice.
    • The nightly prices are pretty expensive, but they said to get a day pass for $40 USD, hang by the pool, + the amount gets applied to your food + drink order.
  • Restaurants |
    • The food and restaurant selection was super limited, and I didn’t enjoy any of the places we went. Therefore, I can’t make any recommendations.
Huila | Gigante
  • Huila | Mirador la Mano del Gigante
    • Giant wicker hand hanging off the side of the mountain.
    • Definitely catch it at sunset.
    • There’s a nominal fee to hike up + an additional fee for a truck to drive you up.
    • The hike takes approximately 40 minutes. I encourage you to get your sweat on.
    • After visiting the hand, make your way to the very top to chill in the weaved, colorful nets. Someone said it was only a four minute hike to the top. That’s a lie, but regardless, it’s totally worth it.
    • Grab an artisanal popsicle in the main area before heading back down. I double fisted Strawberry and Tres Leches. So good!
    • We opted to ride back down in the truck, since it was dark out.
Huila | Jagua

Overall, our last minute trip to Gigante + Tatacoa Desert was one of my fave parts of my Colombia trip.
Question time! What’s the sketchiest place you’ve ever driven?
Do you have an all time favorite last minute trip?
Comment your answers below. I’ll be reading!

Leave a comment