Riohacha, 160 km east of Santa Marta, is capital of Guajira Department. Formerly a port, today it has the ambience of a provincial fishing town. The city was founded in 1545 by Nicolás Federmann. One of Riohacha's resources of those days were oyster beds, and the pearls were valuable enough to tempt Drake to sack it. Pearling almost ceased during the 18th century and the town was all but abandoned. José Prudencia Padilla, who was born here, was in command of the republican fleet that defeated the Spaniards in the Battle of Lago Maracaibo in 1823. He is buried in the
cathedral, and there is a statue in the central park which bears his name.
Riohacha y Los Indios Guajiros, by Henri Candelier, a Frenchman's account of a journey to the area 100 years ago, is very interesting on the life of the Wayúu.
airport, José Prudencio Padilla, is south of the town towards Tomarrazón and the main
bus terminalis on Calle 15 (Avenida El Progreso)/Carrera 11. It has good white-sand beaches lined with coconut palms and a bustling market. At weekends it fills up, and bars and music spring up all over the place. The sea is clean, despite the red silt stirred up by the waves and it is a good place to take stock before pushing through into the more remote areas of La Guajira.There is a tourist office,
Cortguajira, which is well organized.