Beth Meyer was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. She spent seven years working in event marketing in California before quitting her job in 2012 and setting off for a year around the world with her best friend. Beth is currently based in London and is looking to settle there for a while, hopefully with a job that combines her passion for travel with her event marketing background. You can read more about Beth’s worldly adventures on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @bemeyer and on Instagram @bethmeyer.
As a traveler, you always dream of visiting some undiscovered paradise. A paradise that only exists to a small few. A kind of place described by Alex Garland in The Beach, and shown to us by Leo in the 2000 movie. A Koh Phi Phi Leh-like (pre-hoards of tourists) heaven.
When I read my first reviews about Punta Gallinas in a tattered hostel copy of Lonely Planet Colombia it sounded like just that – difficult to get to, but a rewarding journey for the committed.
Punta Gallinas is the northern most tip of the South American continent located in the Guajira region that runs right along the Venezuela border. It is a Matriarchal society comprised of 101 clans yielding a total of 498 people.
I tried to find other travelers to take the journey with me, but came up short. Luckily, I was able to find a tour that ran out of Riohacha. We packed up our 4×4 and our group of 3, plus our driver, set off north driving through the desert along some very questionable roads.
Before reaching Punta Gallinas, we stopped for a night in Cabo de la Vela. We arrived around midday and spent our time lounging on the white sandy beaches, swimming in the Caribbean and taking a drive to watch a kite surfing competition. We closed out the day with a pretty spectacular sunset.
The trek to Punta Gallinas continued the next day with a 4:30am wake up call, followed by an hour drive to a boat that would take two and a half hours to reach our destination. Being slightly prone to motion sickness, I took a Spanish-labeled Dramamine-type medicine I had purchased at the pharmacy. The drowsy kind, apparently. Oops. The good news is that for the first part of the boat ride, which was horribly, god-awfully choppy, I was in a drug-induced haze. The bad news is that I almost fell asleep sideways, and subsequently, almost fell out of the boat. Worse is that for the entirety of our journey, ocean water was constantly being sprayed in my contacts. When the medicine fog lifted, I realized just how badly my eyes burned. (Note to self: wear diving mask)
“Feel, for a minute, like you’re one of only a handful of people that exist in the world, in a place of pure, unfiltered beauty.”
We arrived to our rancharita, Hospedaje Alexandra, where we would be staying for the next two nights. Sleeping would be done in the most comfortable, hand sewn cotton hammocks. The main industry in Punta Gallinas is fishing, but they are working to create a handicraft business in order to more widely distribute Guajira handicrafts (hammocks, bags, shoes, etc).
Hospedaje Alexandra, run by the charming Ignacio, is the second largest of three accommodations available in Punta Gallinas. To give some context on tourism, in 2012, there were a total of 857 guests that visited our rancharita. The fact that less than 2,500 people visit annually makes Punta Gallinas one of the most ideal places to escape to and enjoy the beauty of the world without distractions.
The journey was definitely worth the reward. The unique landscape of Punta Gallinas is like stepping into a painting. A place that exists to visit and experience the true wonder and amazement of this world of ours. Raw. Untouched. The top of a continent where the desert, quite literally, meets the ocean.
Reaching the edge of a continent kind of makes you feel like you’re at the end of the earth. On our first night in Punta Gallinas, we ventured to the spot that is considered the most northern point of South America. While listening to stories and facts shared by our guide, we sat and watched the sun slowly melt into the horizon.
At night, we sat around sipping on Venezuelan beer, Cerveza Polar, practicing Spanish (well, I did), listening to Ignacio tell stories of Colombia, Venezuela (and futbol!) and taking in the stillness under millions of twinkling stars.
Two days and nights was not nearly enough time. I could’ve lounged around on the deserted beaches reading books, sleeping in hammocks, eating meals of fish, arroz de coco and patacones and chasing around the most adorable children (painfully cute!!) for weeks. No cell phone service, no makeup. Bliss.
Go and experience this magical place. Feel, for a minute, like you’re one of only a handful of people that exist in the world, in a place of pure, unfiltered beauty.
Words and photos: Beth Meyer