Last updated on July 30th, 2021 at 08:14 pm
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
In absolutely every corner of Colombia there are magical places, full of nature and unforgettable landscapes. Palomino is one of them and a little tourist gem. It is surrounded by the Palomino, San Salvador and Don Diego Rivers. In addition, the village is located directly on the Caribbean Sea.
Palomino is ideal for hippies and alternatives, for nature lovers, surfers, backpackers, bird watchers, hikers, and everyone who loves spectacular nature. Palomino has become very popular and grown in recent years. As a result, there are now many different accommodations and a large selection of restaurants and bars.
But here’s a short anecdote: A German customer of mine really wanted to visit Palomino. I explained to him that it was a more alternative destination and that I wasn’t sure if he would like Palomino. 10 minutes after arrival he called me and wanted transport back to Santa Marta. After a short and calming conversation, we agreed to talk again in 2 hours. The customer then stayed in Palomino for 2 nights.
Palomino is a small town in the department La Guajira. The area around Palomino used to be very dangerous and tourism was a foreign word. But thanks to its incredible landscapes, majestic rivers and beautiful beaches, Palomino has seen a real boom in recent years.
Palomino is one of five villages in the municipality of Dibulla and is located around 80 km from the city of Santa Marta. The village is mostly inhabited by farmers and members of the indigenous communities Kogi, Arhuaco, Wiwa, and Kankuano. Today’s indigenous tribes descend from the Tairona, who formerly settled this area. It was the Tairona who built millennia-old structures such as Pueblito, located in Tayrona Park, and Ciudad Perdida, a settlement even older than Machu Picchu.
For many years this area was the battlefield of a paramilitary group called Resistencia Tayrona and what was once the most famous and feared guerrilla group in Colombia, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Because of this, few people dared to visit Palomino. Only scientists interested in the biodiversity of the place and the occasional backpacker. Fortunately, the violence in Colombia has greatly decreased and Palomino has become a tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners.
It is important to mention here that although the FARC no longer exists since they were demobilized in 2018, some dissidents from this organization are in sectors near Palomino. However, we would like to make it clear that there is currently no risk in the Palomino region. Nevertheless, we advise against going alone as a tourist in the areas of the Sierra Nevada.
However, there are many tours that take tourists safely to the various attractions. The temperature in Palomino is high and there is rainfall throughout the year. October is the month with the most rainfall. Palomino is only 14 meters above sea level.
How to get to Palomino
To get to Palomino you have to travel either via Santa Marta or Riohacha. The bus connections between the two capitals sometimes do not stop in Palomino, so you should choose the right bus. Santa Marta and Riohacha have an international airport. The journey time from both cities is around 90 minutes.
What to do in Palomino
Palomino is characterized by its spectacular nature. Not only are there various rivers, but the Sierra Nevada also rises majestically into the sky and offers an incredible panorama.
Beaches in and around Palomino
Palomino is located directly on the Caribbean Sea and also has sandy beaches. The beaches of Palomino are surrounded by a green, overgrown landscape. The beaches used to be almost deserted, but the increasing tourism in recent years has brought many more visitors. As a result, there is a huge amount of waste. During my travels, I notice again and again that national tourism, in particular, is not showing any awareness in this regard.
There are also some good beaches for surfing around Palomino. Depending on the season, the waves are bigger and stronger. Therefore there are different surf schools in Palomino. You can rent equipment and of course, take lessons.
- Waves and currents can be very strong. There may also be mortal danger.
- The Caribbean sun is strong, use sun protection and appropriate clothing.
- Please do not litter.
Without a doubt, this river is one of the region’s greatest attractions. The river has its source in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is characterized by its clean and crystal clear water. Furthermore, tubing has established itself on it.
Tubing is a relaxing activity that involves floating yourself down the river on a tire. There are vendors on every corner in Palomino. Usually, a trip takes around 2 hours. But be careful, I got the sunburn of my life there.
- You can drift down the river on your own, but it’s more fun in a group.
- It is essential to use sun protection.
- Please do not litter.
- Choose the time well, a river full of people is a different experience than a solo ride.
San Salvador River
Another natural wonder is the San Salvador River. It takes around an hour to walk from Palomino. However, when you arrive at the river mouth, you will be rewarded with a scenic spectacle.
- Always take enough water with you.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
- Please do not litter.
This waterfall can be found around 30 minutes from Palomino. The water comes directly from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is therefore pleasantly fresh and clean.
Workshop for Arhuaco Indigenous Backpacks
As already mentioned, the whole area is inhabited by indigenous cultures. So what could be more natural than to learn something from the local people and thus support the local industry? The starting point is the Eco Hotel La Jorará (I’ll talk about this later in the travel guide).
From there, it’s a 30-minute walk to a place where several indigenous people of the Arhuaco culture live. Here you learn the process of making the backpacks with the necessary materials and learn a little more about this indigenous group.
You can attend the workshop alone or in a group.
- 1 person: $ 130,000
- 2-8 people: $ 99,000 per person
- 8-16 people: $ 89,000 per person
Don Diego River
The third river that we find near Palomino is the Don Diego. This body of water is characterized by a calm current in some places, where you can swim perfectly. The river is about 16 km from Palomino. You can arrive either by bus or by private transport. After that, it’s only a short walk of around 10 minutes.
Tubes can also be found in Don Diego. The standard route here takes around an hour. Other activities that can be enjoyed here include paddle boarding and kayaking. Other attractions of the place are the howler monkeys, which can be seen or at least heard in the Higueron trees.
- Although the river has a calm current, one should be able to swim.
- Bring sun protection.
- There are no shops or vendors on the river.
- Please do not litter.
In the vicinity of Palomino, there are also some settlements of the Arhuacos and the Kogis. Some of the settlements can be visited as a tourist. One of the most popular tours is the Seydukwa. This beautiful settlement of the Arhuacos is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
To get to Seydukwa, you have to hike about two hours from Palomino. In the village, you get to know the way of life of the local residents and can interact with them. A variety of activities are also offered. For example, you can learn how organic cocoa is grown and harvested.
- Some tours to Seydukwa are suspended due to COVID-19.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes, plenty of water, insect repellent, and sunscreen.
- Remember that this land is sacred territory for the indigenous people.
- Please do not litter.
Tayronaka is a large open-air museum and is definitely worth a visit. A drive from Palomino takes around 20 minutes. It is said that Tayronaka was once inhabited by the extinct Tairona culture. Nowadays this place is a hotel and also a place for bathing and tubing in the Don Diego River as well as other activities such as bird watching.
Some of the activities that you can do in Tayronaka are:
Visit the Francisco Ospina Navia Museum
A visit is ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about the Tairona culture. In the museum, you will find more than 300 archaeological objects that belonged to the now-extinct culture, e.g. seals, poporos, pots, etc.
Yes, even if it sounds surreal, you can get married in this place. Although it is important to make clear that this will not be done the traditional way. There is an indigenous Cansamaría in the Tayronaka. One can reserve an indigenous Mamo Kogui (spiritual leader of the indigenous people) and hold a wedding ceremony.
Note: You can inquire about a wedding via the website.
There are over 700 species of birds in the Sierra Nevada. During the tour, you will be accompanied by a local Kogui who will explain the local natural treasures to you. Some of the more well-known species of birds are toucans, jays, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
Activities on the Don Diego River
Local guides can be hired at the hotel. They accompany you for tubing and paddle surfing to the mouth of the Don Diego River. You can also stay at the Tayronaka and rooms can be reserved through the website. There are iconic bungalows to choose from.
- Even without an overnight stay, a visit is worthwhile and all activities can be carried out.
Los Flamencos Flamingo flora and fauna reserve
Price: Entry is free.
Note: Some natural parks in Colombia are closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We recommend consulting the National Park website before visiting.
Los Flamencos is an ideal place for nature lovers and bird watchers. Located about an hour from Palomino, the park is one of the most iconic places in La Guajira. Here you can observe various animals, among which of course the beautiful flamingos stand out.
These animals come seasonally (there are more of them between November and March) and create an incredible pink spectacle in the area. The park consists of 4 swamps, namely the Ciénaga de Manzanillo, Laguna Grande, Ciénaga del Navío Quebrado and Ciénaga de Tocoromanes. In addition to the flamingos, other birds such as gulls, pelicans and white herons can be found in this habitat.
We recommend a tour with a local guide. One of the ways to get to Los Flamencos is to take a boat from the town of Camarones (an hour from Palomino).
Tours in Palomino
Thanks to the tourist growth of Palomino, more and more activities are being offered. We explain some of them below.
Tour to visit Seydukwa
This tour, already described, takes around 8 hours and the start and endpoint is Palomino. The tour is offered by various providers for around 300,000 pesos. In addition to visiting the Seydukwa constructions, you can also learn everything about the Arhuacos.
Tour to Los Flamencos Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary
The tour, also explained in advance, can be booked in Palomino for around 200,000 Pesos per person.
Hotels in Palomino
In Palomino, hotels close to the beach are particularly popular. Here are some of our recommendations:
This heavenly hotel is located 1 km from the center of Palomino. The property has a private beach, free WiFi, a private bathroom and some of the rooms have balconies with sea views. Bicycles and surfboards can be rented at the hotel. The hotel is ideal for snorkeling.
This beautiful hotel is characterized by its modern architecture and spacious rooms. Villa Eden has a swimming pool, free WI-FI, and private baths.
However, the property is around 1 km from the beach.
Just 500 m from the beach is the fantastic Palomino Sunrise. This property is characterized by its bungalows. The hotel has a swimming pool, private bathroom, and business center.
The hotel has a swimming pool, private beach, free WI-FI, and some of the rooms have garden views. In the hotel, you can take part in various activities, such as the indigenous backpack workshop and you can even get married to your partner in a traditional ceremony or in an indigenous ceremony performed by a Mamo Kogi.
Nightlife in Palomino
Due to COVID-19, there is not much going on at the moment.
Munchies Palomino Bar and Food
This place is without a doubt the most famous bar in town. Here you will not only find a large selection of spirits and cocktails but also delicious food in general. The bar serves Colombian and Spanish food and the best dishes are ceviche and wok.
The Nómada bar is quite cozy and serves a variety of drinks, including cocktails. This is also very popular in the evening.
Los Manguitos PUB
In this pub, you can enjoy a refreshing beer and different types of cocktails. There is also something going on here at night. Traditional dishes from the region are served.
A small but cozy bar. It is ideal for having a good time with friends or travel companions.
Where to eat in Palomino
You can now find a wide variety of restaurants in Palomino. On the streets, you can get delicious and traditional empanadas and arepas. But there are also good restaurants where the fish is served directly from the sea.
Hands down one of the best Palomino restaurants. They specialize in international food and serve delicious American hamburgers and a dish called Laing.
One of the quirkiest and tastiest restaurants in the area. The restaurant specializes in Ecuadorian food.
Here you can get delicious pizzas and incredible hamburgers, among which the shrimp burger stands out. There are also vegetarian options.
Tiki Hut Restaurant
This restaurant is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Palomino. Although pizza or hamburgers are also served, the fish is clearly its strong point. Dishes include ceviche and tamarind-glazed octopus.
Possibly the best pizza in Palomino. However, this restaurant mainly serves Argentinian food. Try the traditional Argentine empanadas.
Transport in Palomino
Since Palomino is a small town, don’t expect as many transport options. The most popular form of transportation in Palomino is the motorcycle taxi.
This mode of transport takes you to most of the interesting places in and around Palomino. For example, to get to the Palomino River, it is common to get around on the pillion passenger.
The best time to visit the Palomino
Palomino can be visited all year round. However, April and November have the most rainfall. It can also rain for a long time due to hurricanes. During the high season, in the middle of the year, in months like December and January, and on special dates like Easter, Palomino is sometimes very crowded.
What I like and don’t like about Palomino
The region around Palomino is a special kind of natural spectacle and the possible activities are numerous and varied. There are now good offers such as hotels and restaurants.
Due to the emerging tourism, however, there are also issues such as waste that have not been resolved. Palomino also has the reputation of being the new Taganga, which I have called the Sodom and Gomorrah of Colombia on various occasions.
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