Los Llanos

The vast plains that unfurl eastwards towards Venezuela like a green carpet from the mountainous folds of central Colombia make up almost a quarter of the country. These are the Llanos, comprising the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Vichada, Guainia, Meta, Vaupes and Guaviare - a land of cattle ranches, cowboys, música llanera, and spectacular sunsets. For many years this area has been at the heart of the guerrilla war and a centre of drug production. Much of it still is, but certain parts are beginning to open up thanks to increased security. In particular, Villavicencio and its immediate surroundings are safe and many Colombians take their holidays on the numerous cattle fincas that have been converted into very comfortable rental homes. With the construction of a new tunnel down the mountain from Bogotá, 'Villavo', as the locals call it, is a convenient 1½-hour drive from the capital.

The people are warm and hospitable, great horsemen with a touch of the Wild West. Once you hear the music of the llaneros, you will never forget it.

Ins and outs

If driving, plenty of reserve gasoline should be carried as there are few service stations. Also take food and plenty of water. Fishing tackle could be useful. Everybody lets you hang up your hammock or pitch your tent, but mosquito nets are a must. Roads are only tracks left by previous vehicles but are easy from late December till early April and the very devil during the rest of the year. More information on the
can be obtained from the office of the
Gobernación del Departamento de Meta
. We recommend you take good advice from reliable sources before driving around the Llanos independently.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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