Colombia’s Prehistoric Wall Paintings in Guaviare
Near the northern edge of the Amazon Rainforest, you can find some of Colombia’s most unique archeological sites. Rock wall paintings dating to over ten thousand years ago dazzle visitors and confound historians. Seeing them is a unique privilege. Learn about them, including where you can see them here.
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These rock wall paintings can be seen on a 4-day tour of Guaviare and amazon jungle , which includes visits to two of the sites below.
Where are the ancient rock wall paintings in Colombia?
There are many examples of ancient paintings, often referred to in Spanish as pinturas rupuestres, in the still largely undeveloped areas of the Amazon rainforest that lie south of Bogotá. This area, covered in jungle and intertwined with ancient geological rock formations, was home to prehistoric tribes of nomadic indigenous peoples. They left behind the paintings as a testament to their culture and way of life.
There is some debate amongst archeologists about how old they are, however, the oldest are thought to date to at least 12,000 years ago, and some may even date to as long as 20,000 years ago. Some appear to depict now extinct animals such as giant sloths and mastodons, evidence leading some archeologists to conclude the artists lived alongside and even hunted these giant animals of the past.
Many of these Colombian rock paintings lie deep in isolated areas and remain largely inaccessible to visitors. In fact, as recent as 2017, researchers stumbled upon a previously undiscovered trove of rock wall paintings.
However, those interested in seeing examples of this ancient indigenous art are in luck. There are several sites that are accessible to tourists outside the city of San José del Guaviare, located south of Bogotá and the capital of the Guaviare Department. Read on to learn about each of them.
Guaviare is best reached by plane from Bogotá. See our tour and transportation options in Colombia’s capital here.
Rock Wall Paintings in Guaviare
Located about 2 hours by 4×4 vehicle outside of San José del Guaviare, Cerro Azul is the best example and most visited of the sites where visitors can see ancient rock paintings in Colombia. It’s also the only site with multiple examples as there are two large rock faces with paintings here.
The path to the paintings takes visitors on a hike up the forest-covered hill. After passing by the first rock-painted rock face, you’ll pass through a cave to reach the second. Eventually, you’ll reach a lookout point near the top of the hill that offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see for miles around, including the rivers in the distance.
The hike in total takes 3-4 hours total and is of moderate difficulty (3 out of 5). While some sections are inclined and uphill, they are broken up by flatter, easier sections. Local guides accompany all hikes.
The second example of rock wall paintings in Guaviare can be found at Nuevo Tolima. While there is only 1 rock face with paintings that can be seen here, it is actually longer than either of the walls at Cerro Azul. It is also less visited and usually less crowded.
The hike here is also shorter, only taking approximately 90 minutes round trip. It is also of moderate (3 out of 5) difficulty but is mostly uphill. In addition to the rock paintings, there is also a lookout point where you can take in the cattle ranches below and the forest beyond.
Both Nuevo Tolima and Cerro Azul, as well as several other interesting natural sites nearby, are included on our 4 days Rock Paintings and Amazon Tour. Learn more about it here.
Raudal del Guayabero
There is a third site where you can see pictograms in Guaviare that is accessible, although it is much less developed and a bit more difficult go reach. It is outside the tiny town of El Raudal del Guayabero.
Located past the narrow rapids of the Guayabero River west of San José del Guaviare, this site is only recently opened up to visitors. Like Nuevo Tolima, there is only one wall of paintings accessible here, and it has not been as well preserved as at the other two sites.
The hike here is a bit tougher than the other two as well since there is a section that has to be traversed with the aid of a rope and the incline is steeper. Local guides do accompany all visitors, and there is also an incredible view from the top of the hill.
While Raudal is not part of our standard 4- Day Guaviare Package, you contact us on our Get a Quote Page to see if it is possible to include it on a customizable Colombia trip.
Tips for Colombia’s Rock Wall Paintings in Guaviare
It’s important to remember that Guaviare and the areas around these sites were affected by the Colombian internal conflict. The area is very safe to visit today after the Colombian peace accords. Tourism has in fact been an important alternative to illicit crops. However, infrastructure and tourism are not as developed here as you’ll find in cities like Cartagena, Medellín, and Bogotá. Instead of staying in 5-star hotels, you will have a more authentic experience immersed in nature.
The tropical climate also means you should come well prepared for the elements. Comfortable, light clothes for the heat, including long sleeves and pants to protect from the sun and bugs are good to pack. Rain gear and comfortable shoes for hiking are also necessary.
There are lots more things to see in Guaviare as well, including an example of a rainbow-colored river like what you can see in Caño Cristales, swimming with pink river dolphins, and hiking through unique rock formations. You can read more about them here. You can see many of them on our 4-day Amazon package or on our 12-day historical Colombia tour. Also, if you would prefer to construct your own tailored trip to the Guaviare or multiple areas in Colombia, you can contact us for a quote.
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