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The tourist attractions of Huila are spread in parallel to its geography. Located in the lowest part of Colombia’s central area, this department is characterized by varied agricultural production and amazingly different landscapes that capture the attention of travelers, especially the Desert of La Tatacoa and the Colombian Massif, which are situated at opposite ends of the department.
The Desert of La Tatacoa calls attention by its ochre and ash colored mazes.
Traveling from Bogotá, one of the first surprises along the road is the Desert of La Tatacoa. This 330 km² tropical dry forest, paradoxically, very near the Magdalena and Cabrera Rivers, where the erosion of hundreds of years created an ochre and ash-colored environment, attracts tourists with its forms and mazes.
The Desert of La Tatacoa, a fantastic place under which underground water flows, is located on land that tends to descend. Above it, a usually clear sky unfolds to facilitate study and contemplation from the Astronomical Observatory.
With the fascinating images of this arid zone in mind, the traveler continues his trip to Neiva, the capital of the department.
This city, located at 442 meters above sea level, has an average temperature of 28ºC that seems to rise due to the warmth and hospitality of its people, especially at mid-year during the Folk Festival and National Bambuco Pageant. At this time, the rule is to welcome visitors with affection and kindness for them to fully enjoy one of the most authentic feasts in Colombia.
Neiva stands out for being a port on the Magdalena River and for the typical restaurants on the riverside.
Neiva stands out for being a port on the Magdalena River, as well as for the typical restaurants on the riverside, the Isla del Mohán Park, and the monument to La Gaitana - all close to the pier.
Continuing south, it is a good idea to bathe in the medicinal hot springs of the municipality of Rivera before going on to the towns where the best special coffee in Colombia is cultivated. So say expert international tasters who have savored and given their approval to the flavor of this beverage. Palermo, Tello, Gigante, Garzón, and Isnos are several of the locations where coffee fields burst forth this exclusive fruit.
In 1995, UNESCO declared San Agustín Archaeological Park a World Heritage Site. It is one of the most important symbols in the department thanks to the amazing works left by millenary, advanced cultures that inhabited the region before the Christian era. This majestic legacy is represented by collections of statues, stone reliefs, funerary mounds, cobblestone roads, embankments, and terraces.
Also part of the San Agustín treasure is Alto de los Ídolos Archaeological Park, in the municipality of Isnos. Standing out are the artificial funerary mounds joined by an embankment – an artificial road of sorts filled with soil. Huila’s archaeological legacy is complemented by La Chaquira, La Pelota, and Purutal hills. In the first one, the carved stone figures located at the edge of the canyon of the Magdalena River are amazing. At La Pelota, figures with interesting details are found, the serpent and the eagle among them. In Purutal, the use of wild plants to color stone works is worth mentioning.
One of the sites that most appeals tourists is the Strait of the Magdalena River, where the river is only 2.20 meters wide.
The department of Huila is also an extensive region of natural and water resources that may be reached by horseback or hikes requiring a journey of several days. The main destination is the Colombian Massif, the huge area where the Andes Mountain Range splits into Colombia’s main mountain chains: Eastern, Western, and Central.
The Colombian Massif is a large area shared with the departments of Cauca and Nariño and is considered the country's most important source of water; the Caquetá, Putumayo, Cauca, and Magdalena Rivers originate there.
The Cueva de los Guácharos National Natural Park, one of the first natural areas to be declared (on November 9, 1960) worthy of protection, is located in the vicinity of the Colombian Massif. This 90 km² reserve preserves sub-Andean and Andean forests and paramos and owes its name to the Guácharo, a cave-dwelling, frugivorous bird.
Returning to the topic of the abundance of water in the Colombian Massif, it must be said that it is also the location of the Magdalena Lake, the place where the river by the same name and catalogued as the river of the fatherland is born. A few kilometers downstream is the Magdalena Strait, a beautiful landscape that reduces the width of the river to a mere 2.20 meters.
The force of the water that passes through the Magdalena Strait is used by rafters who like to challenge the river in its narrowest part and, further on, in places like the Isnos bridge and Versalles. And amid the bountiful water of southern Huila, there is also the imposing Salto de Bordones, a 400-meter waterfall that does not cease to astonish travelers.
In every direction, the department of Huila offers the most appealing reasons to tour it meter by meter and reap the benefits of a spectacular, generous nature.