The distance between Tayrona National Natural Park entrance and the La Guajira Desert is about 144 miles (233 km). To get to the desert area, the first thing you have to do is get to Ríohacha, which is the largest city and main gateway to the La Guajira Region.
There are no direct flights from one point to another so going by buses or colectivos are the only options for public transportation. From Ríohacha, you can reach Uribía or Cabo de la Vela, small villages deeper into the desert. Private transfers are recommended over self-driving, though it can be an expensive option at this distance.
If you have more time and want to hit the highlights of this isolated but beautiful region, consider this 14-day itinerary—it includes beaches, tubing, and relaxation. It includes a visit to the historic city of Cartagena, tubing down the Don Diego River in Palomino. You’ll also explore the beauty of Tayrona National Park before visiting the La Guajira desert to meet the original indigenous inhabitants of the area.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 5 to 6 hours, depending on stops
Transportation options in this region can be complicated, especially if your Spanish is limited. Because of this, you may wish to go for a Private Transfer to Uribía instead. If you go for this option, you may want to take full advantage of the stops and visit Los Flamencos, a protected Nature Sanctuary along the route where many flamingos migrate to.
By Public Bus/Colectivo
Duration: 5.5 to 7 hours
From the Tayrona National Park entrance, you can hail a small bus or van heading to Palomino. Chances are you won’t be able to find a bus that goes directly to Ríohacha, so you’ll have to get Palomino first, which is a city between the two destinations.
From Palomino, take any Maicao-bound or Riochcha bound bus. At the terminal of Riohacha, you can get transportation to Uribía, the next destination where you can find 4x4 trucks that will take you deeper into the desert to Cabo de la Vela.
Alternatively, if your bus is Maicao-bound, ask the driver to drop you off at "Cuatro Vias" in Uribía, where you can take a 4x4 to continue on to Cabo de la Vela. The time it takes to reach the Guajira Desert varies because most methods of transportation wait to depart until they are completely full of passengers before they leave. Usually, it takes 5 and a half to 7 hours to reach the final destination and is often a bumpy and dusty ride.