Sometimes a place and you just don’t click. It just doesn’t happen. This can be for various reasons: you’re tired, it’s not what you’re in the mood for, you’re ill, you’re missing home, someone just put you in a bad mood…
Sometimes, however, it’s just the fact that the place simply isn’t that great.
As you’ll all know I write lovingly and often about travel to Colombia, since I think it’s a fantastic destination and an incredibly exciting place to be right now. There are small (and big) things, however, that need to change and improve. Indeed, part of the remit of new and ambitious travel companies such as See Colombia Travel is to help guide and instruct members of the Colombia travel industry – such as hoteliers and tour guides – on just what is expected from the international travel standard.
For the most part these are symptoms of the neglect Colombia has received by the travel industry in the past and therefore I’m optomistic that things will improve (all places, for example, should have toilet paper and a toilet seat). Also, for the most part, the problems are forgotten in the bigger picture of the whole experience, or chalked up as ‘rustic charm’.
Not so in Riohacha.
Riohacha is the first place in Colombia that I have visited and not enjoyed, and there were a variety of reasons for this. First and foremost, there is very little to do in the city itself. The beach is quite nice, the food is ok and, of course, nearby is the stunning La Guajira (an absolutely essential visit). Other than that, however, you’ll find little in the way of nightlife, absolutely no touristic landmarks and precious few hotels.
Accommodation in Riohacha is, in fact, the major problem. The cheapest night you’ll find is in Castillo del Mar, which will set you back $20,000 for not the greatest sleep you’ll ever have. More criminally, the next cheapest I found was $40,000, which got me a tiny room that wouldn’t look out of place in a Noe film. The hotel I stayed in, which was over $100,000, was old, had bad service, and the food wasn’t great at all.
Oh, the food! Firstly, it is hugely overpriced, and you’ll struggle to find anything of high quality for under $25,000 (whereas in Bogota, for example, this will get you a plate of high quality sushi). Secondly there is little choice, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering the region but something beyond fish or fast food wouldn’t be too much to ask, surely?
My final complaints are that the city is littered with garbage and, when you go to get your flight to leave, there’s a $3,600 charge that no-one tells you about. If you don’t have the money you have to get a taxi back into the center of town to use a cashpoint. Ugh.
Riohacha is firmly on the tourist trail since it is the nearest city to La Guajira, where you’ll find Punta Gallinas and Cabo de La Vela. These are stunning destinations that make a night in Riohacha worthwhile, and I highly recommend checking these places out. There are also other great things to do nearby, like visit local villages and local indigenous communities… It’s just a shame that, with all the potential Riohacha has thanks to it’s location, no-one seems to be taking the time to get tourists to enjoy the city, rather than seeing it as just a stop-off. Here’s hoping that changes soon.