Half marathon in Tatacoa desert

Red desert sunrise hdr magic
From the city to the desert

Once in Neiva we jumped onto the back of a pick up truck that runs all day to and from Tatacoa desert for less than 5euros each. The journey took us 1 hour and that was at a Lewis Hamilton speed. Luckily they dropped us directly at our camping spot, Noches de Saturno. We arrived in the desert at night, we put our head torches on and we pitched our tent.

Tatacoa sign post

Welcome to Tatacoa!

Mars, Saturn and the stars
Tatacoa desert is home to a small astronomical observatory which does tours every night until 9:30pm. Since it was a clear night we joined another couple and walked 10 mins to the observatory. 10,000CPO each to see Saturn and Mars through a telescope and a 15 minute crazy fast introduction to the constellations. He spoke so quickly we didn’t get anything even though he was speaking English! Luckily we got him on his own later and he went over everything again because we asked so many questions. Result! A long day travelling but pretty fun. We spent our first night camping in Colombia, in the desert, and in was bliming hot, a change from Bogota.

Our tent in the middle of the desert

JM’s first desert

Tatacoa is famous for both its grey desert and its red desert. We wanted to see both! The red desert was situated only 200m from our hostel and the grey 6-7km away. There were tours available but cost a fair amount for what was on offer and we’d read people’s blogs where they’d walked to the grey and back quite easily. At each desert there was a small walk and map at the entrance showing the route. We just needed to find then and then off we go.

Let’s go!

We woke at 5:30am just before the sun came up and left as soon as we were ready. The bizarre thing was it rained all night? In a desert?!! We’d be told only a few hours earlier that it hadn’t rained in 6 months. Anyway…. the air was cool and the soil a little darker than expected but it was perfect walking in the desert weather. We walked for an hour and 20 minutes and crossed absolutely no one as the sun came up. It was beautiful.

Early selfie

Tired eyes!

Road to the grey desert

Road between the camping and los Hoyos

Los Hoyos sign post

FOUND IT! The ‘in detail’, ‘to scale’ map at the entrance of the grey desert.

Great sense of direction!

We arrived at the sign for Los Hoyos, the grey desert, took a photo of the map and started out on the short walk. As expected in a desert all things seem to look the same……, we walked and walked and walk and basically were lost! We walked all the way back (2 hours in total) and tried to find it again. The areas where we were walking were definitely grey and interesting but we definitely weren’t on the right path. Frustrated we gave up.

Swimming pool in the desert

A swimming pool in the middle of the desert!

Grey desert
Grey formations

Cool rock formations

Grey rock faces
Desert cairns

Cairns everywhere, but no tourists in sight.

Nice viewpoint
Although we’d been in and around the desert we were just worried we’d missed something incredibly special! Instead, on the way back, clouds still saving us from the heat of the sun, we went a little off course again to try to get a nice viewpoint up high over the grey desert. We found a nice spot and just had a time out before heading back to the hostel the ever increasing temperatures!
Soph stretching

Half marathon stretching break

Soph looking
Grey desert panoramic

Panoramic of Los Hoyos

Grey desert hdr

Nothing but desert!

After the grey, the red!

We arrived back at 11ish, showered, had a very early doors cold beer and went in search of some food, hoping to find something more interesting that a huge piece of meat and rice. Unfortunately that was the dish of the desert and everyone served the same.
Later in the afternoon we decided to go to the red desert for the sunset.

JM red desert

Where’s JM?


Desert = Cactus!

Cusco sign post

Red desert map!

Like the grey desert the total area of each of them is smaller than expected. Some people we met were actually disappointed. The desert is vast but the grey and red areas small. We walked almost all of the red in 1 hour and that was posing for a lot of photos! We planned to go back the next morning for sunrise so we did rush around a little. During that time we actually managed to lose each other for a few minutes in the middle of it, even after I just said how small it was! It was actually more scary than expected. Shouting at the top of your voices does not work in the desert crevasses!

Heart attack over we yelled at each other, and blamed losing each other, on each other and then carried on very relieved as if nothing had happened!

The day was fun, the scenery stunning and the highlight; walking to the grey desert at sunrise.

Red selfie

Selfie in the desert!

Red desert panoramic

No one but us.

Cracked soil

6 months without rain…. until we arrive!

Desert shadows

Canyon crevasses everywhere, and they absorb sound very well.

Another 5am start!
Another early morning to catch another sunrise, this time the red desert.

Another early start!

The skies were clear, no rain overnight and the sunrise beautiful. We ended up spending another hour and a half walking around, not getting lost or losing each other! We’re officially professionals in the desert now! The red colour first thing was spectacular and there was absolutely no one. Piece and quiet except from some local animals and a stunning sunrise set us up for a good day.

Morning landscapeRed valley desert
Red desert sunrise zoom
Sun in the cactus
Red desert sunrise hdr cactusBye Bye Tatacoa, et merci!
When we got back to our hostel we’d already been up for hours as others were slowly getting out of bed. We had breakfast packed up the tent and off we went back to Neiva and onto San Agustin, home to Colombia’s most important archaeological sites.

Red desert sunrise blueskyJM red rock

Soph red rockRed desert sunset hdr natural Red desert sunrise hdr

Red desert panorama magicJM and soph shakas

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