How to Visit the Mystical Cerros de Mavecure Hills in Guanía, Colombia

The Cerros de Mavecure, or Mavecure Hills, are located in the department of Guanía, Colombia are one of Colombia’s most unique natural wonders.

Isolated and rising mystically above the landscape, it’s no surprise they were sacred to the indigenous populations in this still sparsely populated area of Colombia.

They are also a great nature and adventure destination for those looking for something unique and off the beaten track. It is one of the neatest trips Susana and I have done, and it was really special to see these majestic hills.

Read on to learn all about visiting the Cerros de Mavecure Hills near Puerto Inírida in Guanía, Colombia.

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Photo of the three Mavecure Hills above the Rio Inírida in Guanía, Colombia.
The three Mavecure hills seen from a distance. Read on to learn all about visiting them yourself.

Guanía and Cerros de Mavecure Travel Guide – Contents

  • Why Visit Puerto Inírida and Guanía, Colombia?
  • What to See in Guanía – The Mavecure Hills and More
  • Packing List
  • Best Time of the Year to Got to the Cerros de Mavecure
  • Going with a Tour vs Going on Your Own to Guanía
  • How to Get There
  • Where to Stay
  • Is It Safe to Visit Guanía?
  • Practical Tips for Visiting the Cerros de Mavecure
Photo of a small canoe on the river Inírida with the Cerros de Mavecure in the distance in the background.
Guanía literally means land of lots of water, and you’ll have to head upriver from the tiny town of Puerto Inírida to reach the Hills of Mavecure. It’s an adventurous but very doable trip.


Why Visit Puerto Inírida, Guanía and the Cerros de Mavecure?

The main attraction to visiting Guanía and Puerto Inírida, Colombia is the see the Cerros de Mavecure, or Mavecure Hills nearby. These are undoubtedly one of Colombia’s most unique and awe inspiring landscapes.

If you’ve seen the Colombian film El abrazo de la serpiente (Embrace of the Serpent, definitely recommended and available in the US on Amazon Prime Video), then you’ve seen the hills of Mavecure in the climatic and moving closing scenes of the film.

In the film, a mystical plant grows here, reachable only by a long journey.

Photo of two of the Guanía hills with clouds in the sky.
The Mavecure Hills are truly otherworldly and mystical looking.

While the story of a mystical plant growing on the hills is fictional, it is a fitting location.

The place is certainly mystical! The hills look almost like something otherworldly.

And getting here is a bit of a journey in real life too.

Susana and I visited them in December 2021, and we were definitely impressed. It is up there with the Rainbow River of Caño Cristales, Punta Gallinas, and Guaviare as some of the neatest places we have seen in Colombia, not to mention one of the most adventurous.

Photo of the Pajarito Hill.
The largest of the Cerros de Mavecure in Guanía.

Besides the mystical hills, there are some other things to see near Puerto Inírida, Guanía, including visiting nearby indigenous communities and seeing the union of several rivers that ultimately flow into the Orinoco.

It’s a truly great trip to disconnect and see a place that still feels very wild.

If you have been convinced to visit Guanía, the Cerros de Mavecure, Puerto Inírida, and the surrounding area, read on to learn about our experience and tips for planning your own trip to see the fascinating Mavecure Hills.

It is probably worth noting that the climbs up the hills are physically demanding.

Photo of people climbing up a rope in Guanía with the river and the hills of Mavecure behind them.
The hikes up the hills are fairly tough, with some very steep inclines.

They are relatively short (2-3 hours), and you don’t necessarily have to hike to the top to enjoy this trip. However, you’ll get more out of a trip to the Mavecure Hills if you are in reasonably decent physical condition.

For what it’s worth, Susana and I are not mountaineers or even particularly avid outdoors people or hikers, so it’s not like you have to be getting scholarship offers to do this either.

The hikes up were a bit of a struggle for us but they are doable, just keep it in mind that it is walking up steep inclines.

Photo of a man looking at the Cerrod de Mavecure across the river Inírida.
The views make the hikes up the Cerros de Mavecure more than worth it though!

What to See in Guanía

If you ended up here, probably your main reason for coming to Guanía, Colombia is to see the Mavecure Hills, and that’s going to be the overwhelming focus of this guide.

However, there are a few other things to see that are great added bonuses to visiting the Cerros de Mavecure.

Here, I’ll cover all we got to do and see in Guanía as well as mention a few things we didn’t get to do but could be added on if you have some extra time in the area.

The Cerros de Mavecure

The Mavecure Hills, sometimes also called the Cerros de Mavicuri or Cerros de Mavicure, are a series of 3 hills located along the Inírida River, upriver west a couple hours from Puerto Inírida.

The three hills are named Pajarito, Mono, and Mavicure.

Photo of the Pajarito Hill.
Pajarito towering over the river.

Pajarito is the tallest at 712 m (2,366 ft) high, followed by Mono at 480 m (1,570 ft) high, and Mavicure is the shortest at 170 m (560 ft) high according to Wikipedia.

Pajarito is imposing and has an interesting shape with multiple slopes and ridges. “Little bird” feels like a misnomer!

Mono looks like an almost perfectly formed dome.

Honestly it looks like it could have been a meteor or something. Years of rain falling down have carved these eery looking lines down it.

It’s fascinating to me that these two are side by side but look so different.

Photo of the mono hill.
Mono as seen from about halfway up Mavicure.

Meanwhile, Mavicure looks a little more like it belongs on Earth.

It has a wide section about halfway up and then a monolithic summit rising out of the forest that grows on its slopes.

Mavicure is also the one that is (relatively) easy to scale (more on that below). The other two are I imagine theoretically climbable with proper ropes and equipment, but not for the general public.

Photo of the Mavicure hill above the river.
Mavicure, the baby of the bunch.

Our guide the day we scaled Mavicure told us the indigenous legend of the origin of the hills, which I should have taken better notes on, but I’m going to do my best to recount it.

The three hills were brother spirits or gods that settled on this bend of the river.

Pajarito and Mono conspired to force their brother into exile across the river one night, supposedly because he was evil. The next morning, they all woke up turned to stone, apparently cursed for their fighting.

Photo of a girl sitting and looking at the Mavecure hill of Mono across the Inírida River.
Susana admiring Mono, the middle of the brothers or hills of Guanía.

Geologically, scientists aren’t entirely sure the origin of these rocks.

They are part of the geological formation of the Guiana Shield, a 1.7 billion year old Precambrian rock formation that stretches across this small part of Colombia, southern Venezuela, a small part of northern Brazil, and of course the Guyanas of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

It’s stunning just how old these hills are, dating to more than a billion years before the dinosaurs (if you’re a dino-nerd like me, you’ll love the fossils in the town of Villa de Leyva, Colombia, by the way).

It’s also striking how they have stood for so long without eroding with a river running between them and much of the surrounding area being lower grasslands and forests.

The geography is certainly unique as you would expect to either find a canyon here or the hills to have been eroded down closer to the level of the surrounding terrain by the river, but that’s not the case.

In short, they are truly mystical looking arriving above the forests and river.

Photo of the Pajarito hill in Guanía, Colombia.
I like this angle of Pajarito, captured on approach by boat.

Arriving to the Cerros de Mavecure from Puerto Inírida

The hills are located aboout a 2 to 2 and a half hour speed boat ride from Inírida.

I recall getting our first glimpse of them off in the distance not long after leaving Inírida. It was neat watching them get closer and larger as they went in and out of view around bends of the river.

There are lots of neat views of them towering over the trees of the forest as you wind along the river.

Photo of the Mavecure hills in the distance up river.
Even from a distance, Pajarito is imposing.

Climbing the Hill of El Diablo

The day we arrived, we stopped at the community of El Remanso, where we would spend our first night.

El Remanso is just across the river from Mavicure and in the shadow of Pajarito.

I found myself hardly able to take my eye off it towing above as we walked through town. The rocky face dotted with spots of green and the veiny like lines of a billion years of rain water flowing down are truly fascinating looking.

Photo of 3 houses with the Pajarito hill behind them.
El Remanso sits in the towering shadow of Pajarito.

After the two plus hour boat ride from Inírida, we were all ready for a good mea and had some tasty fresh fish.

We would need that fuel!

After lunch, we set out to scale the hill of El Diablo.

Photo of the Diablo hill with trees growing on it and some people hiking up it.
View of the hike up El Diablo.

This shorter hill lies behind Pajarito and Mono and can be hiked up for a great view of the plains below and the sunset beyond the two larger hills. According to legend, an eagle would take its prey to eat here.

Shorter is definitely a relative term!

After the initial walk to the hill on mostly flat terrain, the hike up the rocky incline of the hill itself was tough. In fact, there was a moment I was so out of breath I thought I might not finish it.

Photo of the rocky and vegetation covered hill with people hiking on it.
If you look closely at these two photos you can see some of our group ahead, and if you look really closely you can see two little specks of people at the top.

Most of it is a walkable rocky incline, with just one part where there is some rope for a steeper incline. It is pretty much constantly up though once you start at the base of the hill.

Reaching the top after the breathless last section, I have to say it is well worth the effort.

After taking a minute to get my breath, I marveled at the amazing view!

Pajarito and Mono can be seen with the tree covered plains around them. In the distance, you can see other hills that are part of the Guiana Shield.

Photo of a man climbing up a rock face using a rope.
This angle probably makes it look steeper than it is but there is a pretty tough section where you’ll want to use that rope to scale El Diablo.

The colors of the clouds around the hills as the sun sets are gorgeous.

This really was the perfect first day activity and a preview of the hikes and views to come.

There were a couple guys selling beers at the top, a nice reward for the hard hike up. They were pricey at $15,000 COP a piece, but well, I couldn’t imagine hiking up there with a cooler full of ice and beer so the premium seems pretty fair.

We actually saw these guys heading down at the same time we did, much faster and without needing to use the rope, pretty impressive.

Photo of a girl standing with the Pajarito hill behind her.
Pajarito is impressive from just about any angle.
Photo of a couple sitting with two Mavecure hills behind them.
Susana and I atop El Diablo with Pajarito and Mono behind us.
Photo of two people sitting and looking at the Mavecure hills.
A couple from our group enjoying a well earned beer with the view of Pajarito and Mono from atop El Diablo.

Climbing Mavicure

El Diablo was just a warmup for the tougher hike up and more impressive view atop Mavicure the next day.

Our group was given the choice of waking up early before sunrise to see the sun come up over the hills or go a bit later and have breakfast first.

Seeing sunrise was an easy and consensus choice.

However, it poured rain most of the night.

The rain did finally break around 6 am, so we set out on the short boat ride across the river where we met our two guides to take us up the hill.

Photo of a floating barge that says El Remanso with the hill of Mavicure across the river behind it.
Mavicure was just a short boat ride across the river from El Remanso.

This hike was in some ways tougher than El Diablo and in other ways easier.

The first section is perhaps the toughest, as you head up a steeply inclined rock face to a plateau above that marks more or less the halfway point. For much of it there is a long rope to help manage getting up the steep incline. I would say this is a good couple hundred yards and is, more or less, constantly up.

Our guides told us that in years past, a rite of passage for the local teenage boys was to run up the first section to the plateau with no rope. Being able to reach the top meant you were now a man.

Luckily today there is a rope and no one is expecting you to run!

Photo of people climbing up a rope on a rock face with the river and one of the Cerros de Mavecure in the background behind them.
Running up this slope with no rope seems like it would qualify you not just as an adult but a bad mother for sure. This happens to be one of my favorite photos from our visit to the Cerros de Mavecure as well.

Once we got up to the plateau, the rain started again.

The rest of the hike is somewhat easier as there are some flat parts mixed in with walks up hills within the forest covered higher parts of the hill. There were definitely a few sections I still found myself needing to take a moment to get my breath though.

There are also some rickety ladders made from tree branches along the way, but they look scarier than they actually are when you’re on them.

Apparently before these were built, people climbed up using tree roots, which sounds way sketchier.

Photo of a series of small ladders in the forest.
These ladders look sketchier than they actually felt.
Photo of a girl climbing a ladder.
See, piece of cake.
Photo of a guy climbing a ladder.
This is just before the summit.

Eventually, you come to a short ladder that puts you on the last rocky incline to the summit and the amazing view of the river and two larger hills in front…

Well, actually, unfortunately, the rain continued even after we made it to the top.

Along with the rain, it was super foggy.

In fact, upon reaching the top, there was next to no visibility through the fog of the two hills across the river.

We waited through some small breaks in the fog and periods of harder and lighter rainfall for several hours. We even climbed back down a bit and sheltered in a small cave for a while to get out of the rain.

We never really had the sun properly come out, but the fog did break a few times for a chance to enjoy the view and snap some photos.

The hills across the river are really imposing, particularly Pajarito. They certainly make you feel small.

Also, finding the bright side of a foggy, rainy morning, seeing the rain flow down the hills was pretty neat looking.

Photo of two of the Guanía Mavecure cerros with fog around them.
This was the best shot I managed of both hills from the top of Mavicure.
Photo of pajarito with fog around its middle section and a plant in the foreground.
I like how this one of Pajarito came out as well.

There’s another interesting legend about Pajarito.

It says that there was once a beautiful princess named Inírida who spent much of her time climbing the hills and marveling at the surrounding nature.

She refused to marry, preferring to live in the wild.

However, a prince who wanted to marry her gave her a potion known as “semen of the hills” made from herbs that grow on the hills. However, this potion drove her mad, and she sought refuge hiding inside the hill for perpetuity.

There’s a few versions of this story that you can read more about here (in Spanish).

On the way back down, we also got some good views and photos as we climbed out of the fog covered heights. There’s some neat views of the river and plains below from the plateau area about halfway back down.

Photo of the river Inírida running between Mavicure and Mono.
We did get a better break in the clouds and rain on the descent.
Photo of the Mono and Pajarito Mavecure Hills in Guanía Colombia.
One of the better photos I got. If only that cloud had moved a little further to the right!
Photo of a group of people with two of the Mavecure Hills behind them.
Group shot with the fog mostly clear.

La Ceiba

After finally descending Mavicure and heading back to El Remanso, we had our very late breakfast, followed shortly by lunch.

Our group did miss out on a visit to the San Joaquín beach nearby where you can swim and see the hills towering over the river. Because we had waited so long near the top of Mavicure due to the rain, we didn’t have time to do this. But if you have better weather, you should be able to see this other neat perspective of the Cerros de Mavecure while enjoying a dip in the river.

After lunch, we set out for our next destination, the community of La Ceiba, roughly an hour boat ride back downriver towards Puerto Inírida.

After dropping off our bags, we headed out in canoes to look for river dolphins, known as Toninas by the locals.

I appreciated in this tour that we had to do the rowing ourselves, haha.

After heading a bit upriver and glimpsing some close views of the toninas, we stopped on a small sandbar in the middle of the river for a swim and to enjoy the pretty sunset over the river.

Photo of people in a canoe on a river with the forest in the background.
Canoeing along the river.
Photo of people in a canoe with a river dolphin to the right.
Paola from our group managed to snap this shot of a tonina surfacing.
Photo fo people swimming in a river with part of a rainbow in the distance behind them.
Swims with rainbows in the background are always nice!
Photo of a canoe next to a sandbar with sunset over the river behind it.
This sunset was gorgeous!

The next morning, after breakfast, we did the Ruta de miel, a short tour of the bee hives La Ceiba cultivates to produce honey.

They have 7 different types of bees, all without stingers.

Honestly, I didn’t know there were even that many types of bees, or any without stingers at all for that matter. So it was neat to learn a bit more about them and sample little bits of raw honey directly from the hives.

You can also buy honey or artesanías from the community. The rage in our group though was actually the tasty, spicy, powdered pepper they make we had enjoyed with dinner the night before.

We pretty much bought all they had to sell!

La Estrella Fluvial and Reserva Natural Moru

After stocking up on ají, we headed back downriver.

We made a brief stop in Inírida for gas, then headed further down river towards the Orinoco and the border with Venezuela.

On the way, we first passed where the Inírida River flows into the Guaviare. While it’s hard to see from the water level, you can see the two different colors of the river coming together (and aerial photos of this are amazing if you want to Google it).

We continued down the now larger Guaviare, which also marks the border between the departments, or provinces, of Guanía and Vichada.

Our guide told us that the Vichada side of the river has much more fertile soil and was largely settled by Colombians coming from the interior, referred to as colonos.

You can also see the neat looking Ceiba trees growing along the river bank.

Photo of a Ceiba tree along the river bank with other trees around it.
A Ceiba tree seen opposite the Guanía side of the river in Vichada.

Meanwhile, the Guania side, which has soil that makes it near impossible to cultivate many crops, remains almost exclusively inhabited by indigenous communities, a sad legacy of an area that was ravaged by colonialism and the rubber trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and which Embrace of the Serpent heavily references.

A short distance from the union of the Inírida and Guaviare, the Guaviare flows into the Atabapo, which runs along the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Then it, quickly flows into the Orinoco.

The area where these rivers meet is known as the Estrella Fluvial or Fluvial Star of the South, named by Alexander von Humboldt during his explorations of this area.

It’s a pretty stunning sight!

I always find traveling on rivers like this captivating. It really makes you feel small.

Our final destination, Reserva Natural Moru was just past the Estrella Fluvial with a great view overlooking the river.

We even saw some toninas pass by.

Photo of a wide stretch of river with an island in the distance in the middle and some rocks around it.
The view of the Orinoco from Moru.

After lunch at Moru, we headed back upriver to a neat set of giant rocks on the banks of the Atabapo for a swim.

There is an abandoned former army post here, a legacy of the Colombian internal conflict and kind of an eerie but neat place to wander through.

We got rained on here but did get manage to get a short swim in the river. According to our boat captain, Jesús, when the river is lower, there is a large beach area here.

After our swim, we headed back to Moru for dinner, taking in the gorgeous sunset over the river and sharing some beers and rum with the group before a good night’s rest.

The next morning, after waking up early to see sunrise, we did some tree climbing and canopying on the reserve. We had done this once before in Leticia, and I wasn’t able to climb all the way up the tree.

Photo of clouds and sunrise over a river.
Sunrise over the river.

This climb is really all about form and coordination.

It isn’t easy but you want to make sure you are putting your effort into standing up in the harness, not pulling yourself up with your arms. Also, be sure to slide your upper hand as you stand. Getting all the way up the tree was a nice piece of redemption and personal satisfaction for me.

After being in the treetops and repelling down, we packed up and headed back to Inírida to prepare for our flight back to Bogotá.

Overall, this was a great trip, with no shortage of great exercise and adventure, even with the cloudy and rainy weather.

Photo of a girl climbing up ropes to the top of a tree.
Susana scaling the tree, 20 m up.

Other Things to See in Guanía We Didn’t Do

Everything above was part of our tour package (more on doing it with a tour vs on your own below).

However, one couple in our group couldn’t get a flight back the last day, so they stayed for a few more days on their own, and were nice enough to share some of the things they did.

You can see ancient petroglyphs in the community of Coco Viejo, also well known for artisan crafts. They also visited the Laguna de la Brujas, a pretty lake located just outside of Inírida.

Finally, they also visited the community of Rincón Vitina.

Another thing it is possible to do for the truly adventurous, is to head further down the Orinoco (7 or so hours from Inírida) to the Raudal and National Park of Maipures where the Tuparro River enters the Orinico. If you Google pictures of this, it looks pretty impressive.

You could also go in hunt of the Flor de Inírida. This is a really neat looking flower but is extremely rare and can’t be cultivated. Supposedly a couple hours walk from La Ceiba you can find it, and they sometimes do this on tours instead of the Ruta de Miel. I’m sure there are other areas as well.

Photo of a canoe on the river with a barge flying the Colombian flag behind it, in front of the forest on the river bank.
There are a number of other things to see in Guanía that we weren’t able to do.

Packing List for Guanía and the Hills of Mavecure

You’ll want to come well prepared for the hikes with good shoes, preferably hiking shoes or boots with good grip for the walks up the rocky hills.

Also, comfortable clothes and rain gear are a must, as our experience can attest.

The area is very humid, rain or not, so also quick dry stuff is a good idea. Although, if you have rain multiple days like us, forget about anything drying out due to the high humidity. It’s a good idea to take some extra changes of clothes for this reason as well.

Finally, the bugs were not too bad at El Remanso or La Ceiba, but we all got eaten alive by mosquitos and chiggers at Moru. My bites itched for a good week plus afterwards, so be sure to bring along some strong bug spray.

Below are a handful of ideas for stuff you can get before hand. If you need to get any of this type stuff in Colombia, the store Decathlon, of which there are several in Bogotá is a good place. We stocked up there after we went to Guaviare ill prepared.

General Travel Gear

  • Susana and I both have the Osprey Porter 46 backpack. It’s just small enough to fit in most overhead carryon compartments and holds a good bit, probably more than you need here to be honest. For something smaller, you could consider the Osprey Farpoint 40.
  • A good daypack is also good to have. I love my Roam Backpack. It easily folds up and packs in a larger bag. I can carry my camera bag, a jacket, bathing suit, water, towel, and snacks in it. (Read my review of it here). Taking along a backpack rain cover also a good idea.
  • Take along a good refillable water bottle. Takeya’s bottles are great. For something easy to pack, you could take along a collapsable water bottle or combine the last recommendation with this one and take along a Camelback. While clean water was available at the places we stayed for free, if you want something with a filter, a Grayl water filter bottle or Steripen can also be useful here and in much of Colombia.
  • You will also want a good travel towel for drying off after dips in the river and showering. A Rainleaf microfiber is a good option.
  • A good portable first aid kit would come in handy if you suffer any cuts or scrapes hiking.
  • Some Pepto Bismol is never a bad idea when traveling in rural areas either.
  • Also, again, some bug spray is good. Better if it’s natural bug spray.
  • Finally, no visit here is complete without some great photos to remember it. Some of the photos on this page are off of Susana’s or other people in our group’s phone, but many were taken by me with the FujiFilm X-S10 with the XF-16-80 lens. This has been a terrific first “real” camera for me. I had never had more than a simple point and shoot. So if you’re thinking about a camera upgrade and haven’t had a nice one before, it’s a good choice.

Clothes to Pack for Her

  • Comfortable clothes that hold up well and dry quick if it rains are what you need. Colombia’s outdoor shirts are perfect. For something more casual, long sleeve athletic shirts work well too.
  • Quick dry long pants or hiking pants are a good idea as well, since they will protect your legs from any underbrush and bugs while hiking but aren’t as bulky as jeans.
  • Good shoes are a must, and it’s better if they will prevent you from slipping and are waterproof. Therefore, a good pair of hiking boots is well worth investing in before traveling to Guanía.
  • A comfortable swimsuit that wears underneath your hiking clothes is also a necessity to enjoy swimming in the river. A pair of easy to carry water shoes isn’t a horrible idea.
  • A lightweight rain jacket that is easy to carry is also necessary, given the tropical climate. If it does rain, you’ll be very glad you had it. A packable poncho is a good, cheaper alternative.
  • Finally, you will want to take along a good hat if the sun decides to shine on you more than it did us. An athletic cap works well.

Clothes to Pack for Him

When is the Best Time to Visit the Cerros de Mavecure?

Supposedly, December to February is the dry season and it normally doesn’t rain. This is usually considered the best time to visit.

We were there December 17-20. So firmly in the “dry” season. However, as you know, we got rained on a lot.

Our guides said it has become less predictable due to climate change. In fact, they said the river was still several meters higher than normal for the time of year.

January and February are maybe the best options if you can swing it to a bit surer you have a lower river and less chance of rain.

While, obviously, we would have liked better weather, this was still a pretty remarkable experience. I suggest going prepared to get rained on and be pleasantly surprised if you get sunshine.

Should I Do a Tour to the Cerros del Mavecure?

Similar to Caño Cristales, this is the type of trip that I recommend most travelers do as part of a tour package.

That is coming from someone that doesn’t generally book packages.

The area is quite remote and there’s a lot of benefit to having a prearranged itinerary and accommodations taken care of before hand.

Our Experience with a Package

We went with Awake, which works through local agency and nonprofit Aroma Verde. Our package included our flights, all the activities I mentioned we did above, boat transportation to all the sites, drinking water, and all meals except for lunch the final day.

It came in at a little under 2 million pesos a person (keep in mind prices may vary depending on season and number of people in the group). Not cheap, but not outrageous when you factor in it being all inclusive and including the plane ticket. Your itinerary may vary slightly as well (ie, you might go to Moru first, for example), but generally all the tour agencies sell fairly similar 4 day tours that include all the things we did.

I think for 90%+ of travelers, this is the best option.

Photo of some plants growing on a rocky ground with a hill in the distance.
Another small hill off in the distance. I do think this trip is possible to do on your own, but for most people a tour is the easier option.

Can I Visit the Cerros de Mavecure without a Tour

Yes.

It is definitely possible to visit Guanía without a tour package. I would say it is only recommended for the adventurous, patient, flexible, and those comfortable speaking Spanish and navigating Colombia.

Since we didn’t do it this way, I can’t offer a ton of advice or ideas of price, but I imagine it’s relatively easy to negotiate transportation from the port at Inírida to El Remanso or the other community near the hills named El Venado.

I would probably suggest planning to spend a night in Inírida upon arrival to get your bearings and arrange.

Of course, doing this on your own will allow you more flexibility to go at your own pace and to wait out the weather if you get rain like we did, instead having to head somewhere else later that day to stick to a the itinerary.

I can’t speak for sure how much more cost effective it would be, but I would imagine you would save some pesos, especially since if the river is low enough you can camp on beaches near the hills.

If you’d like to do this on your own, I recommend checking out this guide from the always great Chris Bell over at the See Colombia Travel Blog (all of his stuff there is great for DIY travel to off the beaten track places in Colombia).

Photo of small boats, a tuk tuk, and people standing around by the river bank.
The port of Inírida. I imagine it’s possible to arrange transportation on your own if you don’t come with a tour, but you should plan on being flexible.

Getting to Inírida

If you do a package, you can skip this and the next part on where to stay.

Inírida is located in the very isolated far southeast of Colombia, near the border with Venezuela. I imagine it’s theoretically possible to arrive here by voyaging down the Guaviare River. However, I imagine that is quite the journey, tough to organize, and possibly unsafe.

So, the best way to travel to Inírida is by plane.

Charter airlines and Satena fly here from Bogotá and Villavicencio. Prices on Satena can vary quite a bit based on demand and only go a few days a week, so be sure to book in advance. This is another advantage of going with an agency by the way as they can help you get tickets.

We just barely managed to get them. In fact, we were the last two tickets available.

Photo of a small jet on a runway in Puerto Inírida Guanía Colombia with people climbing out.
The small jet we flew in on, actually bigger than I expected.

I was a bit surprised that we went on a small jet rather than a tiny prop plane like the one I took to go whale watching in Nuquí.

The flight wasn’t bad at all and took a little over an hour. The landing on the small runway is a bit abrupt.

Once in Inírida, you can take motorcycle Tuk-Tuks into town, and you will have to ask around for boat transportation to the hills.

Photo of the wing of a plane with a river and trees on the ground below.
View from the plane on the way into Puerto Inírida, showing just how wild the mostly underdeveloped area is. Notice the pockets of rain off in the distance too, a harbinger of what awaited us on this trip.

Where to Stay

For staying near the hills themselves, you have 3 choices.

First you can stay at El Remanso where we stayed, which has a handful of basic rooms and hammocks.

You could also opt to stay at El Venado or camp nearby on the beaches along the river bank.

Again, I’d probably suggest planning on a night in Inírida. There aren’t a ton of hotels in town with info online, but the Toninas Hotel looks relatively nice and has good comments.

For other ideas, you can check out this post on Tripadvisor (in Spanish, look for the review from Santiago P if it doesn’t show at the top) that has some good info on costs and contact for staying in the communities as well as costs of arranging transportation on your own. It is from April 2020, so relatively recent but always worth keeping in mind that prices are subject to change.

Photo of a couple in front of a sign that says I love Inírida.
There are a few hotels in Inírida.

Is it Safe to Visit Guanía?

Yes, Guanía is safe to visit.

It’s worth noting that it was once a conflict area, but due to the peace accords and demobilization of las FARC as well as an increase in tourism, the area is quite safe to visit today.

It is true that some of the FARC dissidents that rearmed are thought to be hiding nearby across the border in Venezuela where they are conducting illegal mining activities, but their MO is not nor has ever been, for that matter, targeting tourists.

The Colombian Navy does patrol the area and will probably stop your boat when approaching the border area of the river.

It’s always worth double checking the security situations in these remote areas of Colombia before traveling, but you should feel generally feel safe about traveling to Guanía.

I wouldn’t recommend going on your own without guides anywhere or off into the jungle by yourself, but this area is likely to continue to grow as a destination and safety conditions should only get better.

Photo of an abandoned building and three posts on top of a rocky ground above the river.
This abandoned military post where we swam in the Atabapo is a reminder that Guanía was once a zona roja, but is fortunately safe to visit today.

Practical Tips for Visiting Guanía

  • As noted above, the hikes here are fairly tough. You should be in reasonably good physical condition to visit here. one of the hikes are longer than about 3 hours but they are uphill with lots of steep sections.
  • This area is also extremely isolated, so be sure to bring any needed medications.
  • I am not entirely sure if there is an ATM in Inírida itself. According to Google Maps there is one Servibanca, but my experience with Google Maps in rural Colombia is hit or miss. My experience with ATMs in rural Colombia is they also frequently go down or run out of cash, so it’s probably best to bring plenty of cash. You certainly won’t find any ATMs out in the communities along the river. Even if coming with a tour package, bring along some extra cash for sodas or beers and if you want to buy any artsenías, honey, or hot chili powder.
  • Do note that, while our accommodations were actually better than I expected, these certainly aren’t 5 star hotels. Bathrooms and showers were all communal and we found spiders in one of our rooms. Come with an open mind and know that your accommodations are part of the adventure of coming to a place like the Cerros de Mavecure.
  • In the Remanso and La Ceiba, all of our food was fish. Due to the difficulty of cultivating crops on the land and remote nature of the area there wasn’t much in the way of fresh fruit or vegetables, although tour agencies may be able to arrange vegetarian menus and we did get chicken at Moru.
  • Spanish is a second language for the indigenous peoples, so keep that in mind. Some of the communities, as well as some of the residents in each, have more experience with tourism and others very little. o again, keep an open mind, and understand you may not get the most amazing tour guides, but they are locals and much of the tourism to the Cerros de Mavecure does in fact contribute to the greater good of the communities.
  • There is also no wifi in these communities (well there is one you can pay for in Remanso), and mostly spotty cell service, even in Inírida, so take advantage of the opportunity to disconnect.
Photo of a couple with their hands raised with the Cerros de Mavecure behind them.
I really recommend this trip to anyone looking for one of the more unique adventures in Colombia.

Travel Guide to the Cerros de Mavecure and Guanía, Colombia

There you have it, a full account of our experience in Guanía.

This is truly a still largely undiscovered and wild destination in Colombia, although I don’t think it will remain that way forever.

While remote, it’s a truly fascinating experience to see these prehistoric hills and a good chance to see a hidden gem and place that not all that many people have, all that while taking some time to disconnect.

If you do decide to visit yourself, I hope you found this guide useful. Even more importantly, I hope you have a great time.

Cheers and Happy Exploring!

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