Cerros de Mavecure, the most beautiful landscape in Colombia?

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Well, here we are. At long last. After long years of waiting. The propellers are turning. We’re on the plane to Inirida, the border town with Venezuela, the border town between Orinoquia and Amazonia, the border town between the material world and the spirit world.

From Bogotá, the 1h30 flight over the plains and Amazonian forest won’t take too long to realize just how lucky we are.

At the end of the runway, at the end of the road, at the end of the river, are the Cerros de Mavecure. From the first images we discovered in 2015 to the release of the (sublime) film “El Abrazo de la serpiente”, this landscape haunted our nights.

A destination that had taken such a place in our imaginations, that after all these years, this departure provoked a certain fear. As we all know, the greater the anticipation, the greater the risk of disappointment!

In this post, we’ll tell you all about our discovery of the Cerros de Mavecure, this mystical landscape located in the Amazon rainforest of the Guaina department in Colombia.

Practical information at the end of the post

Organize your trip to Cerros de Mavecure

At the end of this post you’ll find all the practical information you need to organize your trip to the Cerros de Mavecure. The destination is not yet on the radar of traditional tourist circuits, and you won’t find much information on the subject.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

First day on the Orinoco

Discover the Cerros de Mavecure

Cerros de Mavecure, the most beautiful landscape in Colombia?

We land in Inirida, which welcomes us with its sweltering heat. A motorcycle cab ride later, we arrive at the busy river port.

This is the meeting point for all the indigenous communities who have come by boat from the surrounding area to do their shopping, exchange goods, refuel and leave for faraway lands. Most travel is by lancha on the rivers.

Our guide Fabio welcomes us. He will accompany us during our four days around Inirida. Fabio is an indigenous Curripako. The department of Guainia is 97% indigenous reserves, and the main ethnic groups are the Curripako, Puinave and Sikuani.

We set off on a lancha towards a nature reserve on the Orinoco River, which marks the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The 1h30 journey takes us from river to river: the rio Inirida flows into the rio Guaviare, which in turn flows into the rio Orinoco.

Along the way, we come across numerous boats carrying passengers and supplies of all kinds.

When we arrive at the junction of the Guaviare, Atabapo and Orinoco rivers, a few barges set up like a small floating village welcome boats in need of a little pick-me-up (bar/disco) or staples (small food store).

After a few minutes on the Orinoco River, we pass sublime rock formations reminiscent of the landscapes of Tuparro Natural Park a little further north.

We disembark at the foot of a welcoming palm-roofed wooden building. This nature reserve is a conservation project run by the local operator who is hosting us for these 4 days. And it’s here that we’ll be spending our first night.

After settling in and enjoying a hearty meal, the discussions get lively with our guide Fabio. We have so many questions to ask about the territory and its various indigenous communities. Fabio, like any self-respecting native, is a man of few words.

Over time, we’ve learned several things from the indigenous communities we’ve had the good fortune to meet: not all questions need to be answered, trust needs to be established for tongues to be loosened, and whatever happens, some things need to remain secret.

Today’s activity plunges us straight into the magical realism to which we’ll have to become accustomed during these 4 timeless days. We head for the Rio Atabapo for a swim like no other.

We disembark on a white sand beach and discover for the first time the incredible color of some of the region’s rivers. In this case, a sublime ochre color, because it’s clear and warm!

Smiles are on everyone’s lips. The pleasure is insane. We chat happily with Fabio, who teaches us a few rudiments of Curripaco: Mashia! (Thank you)

Sociological interlude

As our stay progresses, as we talk and try to learn more, the scenery of this forgotten department of Colombia will unfold before us .

The history of successive colonizations and the exploitation of natural resources is discussed, the slavery of indigenous populations and illicit activities are evoked, and the name Sophia Muller is mentioned.

This American evangelical missionary, who arrived at the end of the 1940s, both helped the indigenous populations to emancipate themselves, notably through literacy training, and evangelized the entire department’s communities by banning all ancestral practices, beliefs, music, dance and rituals. To such an extent that today, 99% of the indigenous population are Protestant and have totally abandoned their ancestral culture and cosmogony.

Fortunately, ancestral knowledge of traditional medicine and the use of plants continues to be passed on and has not been banned. Languages have also been preserved to some extent.

But we can assure you that when you arrive in such a remote region of Colombia, where 85% of the population is indigenous, and realize that they have totally lost their original culture, to the point of talking about their ancestors’ beliefs as if they were foreigners, it’s very strange.

But it was also very interesting to come face to face with this reality and try to understand, if only a little, the complex reality of this department.

Contacts to visit The Cerros de Mavecure’s CErros

Ivan, our partner, works with a local operator who practices responsible tourism while offering rates in line with the competition.

Discovering the Cerros de Mavecure

In the heart of Guainia

Cerros de Mavecure, the most beautiful landscape in Colombia?

At dawn the next morning, we were invited for a sporting start to the day, discovering an accrobranche site. To tell the truth, we hadn’t really expected to do this kind of activity when we got here, and we can’t say that it did us much good personally.

Back at camp, we had breakfast before packing our gear to head off in the direction of the Cerros de Mavecure. A 2.5-hour lancha ride on the Rio Inirida to the indigenous community of Venado awaits us.

We know we won’t be welcomed in the community itself, but rather in the tourist reception areas built at the foot of the Cerros.

The lancha ride is an opportunity to reflect on our discoveries and discussions of the previous day. The monotonous forest landscape passes by, the sound of the engine hums and sleep begins to set in. But then, in the distance, the misty peaks of the Cerros appear!

What a thrill it is just to catch a glimpse of these natural monuments that have been awaiting our arrival for so long! As the river meanders, the mountains appear and disappear, playing hide-and-seek with our feelings, until the final bend and the long-awaited climax…

Let’s be clear about this: the landscape is quite different from what we had imagined, and literally exceeds all our expectations. We’re in for a real aesthetic shock, nothing more, nothing less. Shivers, tears, exclamations, it’s all there.

We land at the foot of these stone giants with a profound sense of humility. The place exudes a particular energy, a power that doesn’t say its name, a sensation we’ve rarely experienced on our trips to Colombia.

We are greeted by a member of the Venado community, made up mainly of Puinave natives.

Here, everything is designed to welcome tourists, just as it was the day before: large dormitories with single beds and mosquito nets, an area with large tables for eating, and shared sanitary facilities. And overhead, the majestic Cerros de Mavecure gaze down on us.

We share a first meal based on freshly caught fish, quietly set up our gear, and prepare for a late afternoon stroll around the camp, to a viewpoint over the Cerros to enjoy the suns et (which unfortunately for us this time will be hidden by clouds).

The stone is abrasive and warm, the mood is soothing, and our souls are all focused on what lies ahead: the climb to the summit of Cerro Mavecure.

Mavecure, Mono and Pajarito

The Cerros de Mavecure (better known as Mavecure) are three sacred mountains on either side of the Inirida River. On one side of the river is Cerro Mavecure (170m), which owes its name to the contraction of the words Mavi (Sarbacane) and Curare (Poison) in the Curripaco language. On the other side of the river are Cerro Mono (480m) and Cerro Pajarito (712m).

Curripako legend has it that three orphaned brothers lived on one bank of the Inirida River. The eldest had a passion for birds, the second loved primates, and the third felt bound to nothing and killed with a blowpipe everything his brothers liked and everything nature offered to his venom.

The other two brothers, furious, decided to put an end to this carnage, exiled their brother to the other side of the river and decided to turn themselves into stone to prevent further massacres.

Legends differ as to the symbolic origin of these mountains, but all traditions seem to agree that this place was (still is?) sacred to the indigenous populations, whatever they may be.

More prosaically, the Cerros de Mavecure are part of the famous Guiana Shield, the oldest geological formation on earth (2 billion years), stretching from French Guiana to Colombia. These stone domes are known as “Tepuyes”. They can be found throughout the Amazon rainforest, and have always held a sacred and symbolic character for the original peoples.

Contacts to visit The Cerros de Mavecure’s CErros

Ivan, our partner, works with a local operator who practices responsible tourism while offering rates in line with the competition.

On top of Cerro Mavecure

On the shoulders of giants

Cerros de Mavecure, the most beautiful landscape in Colombia?

It’s 3.45am when the alarm goes off. The night is still dark and coffee is waiting to wake us up. Armed with our headlamps, we head for the foot of Cerro Mavecure.

The initial effort is intense and takes our bodies by surprise, but it’s short-lived. We can’t see much yet, just a rope, our feet and a goal: to reach the summit.

Our guide tells us that in ancient times, climbing the Mavecure on an empty stomach was the test for choosing the best warriors…

Gradually, the first light of day makes itself felt, and as we approach the summit, the peaks of Cerros Pajarito and Mono are veiled by thick clouds. Will this long-awaited rendezvous be spoiled by the weather?

After a 2-hour hike, we finally reach the summit, drenched in sweat, but excited by the panorama that stretches out before us. The wind is blowing a cape of clouds around the summits of Cerro Pajarito and Cerro Mono.

The vision is mystical.

And then, as day breaks, the weather clears and the mountains reveal themselves in all their splendor.

The scenery is breathtaking.

It’s certainly one of the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever seen in Colombia.

Words fail to describe what we see, what we feel. This is a time for introspection and gratitude in the face of nature’s breathtaking landscape.

We’d like to stay here for hours, contemplating this masterpiece.

But reality catches up with us. The Cerros de Mavecure, remote and isolated as it is, is a place governed by the laws of tourism. Groups arrive at the summit according to a set schedule, so that everyone can enjoy the site. Tours can only be booked with a local agency and guides from the community.

But before descending, the local Puinave guide who accompanies us tells us the story of the legend of Princess Inirida, straight from ancestral indigenous tradition. And he tells it as if it weren’t part of his own heritage.

A very strange feeling runs through us. A kind of sadness invades us. A sadness that comes from the depths of the Cerros soul, mourning the loss of their identity.

The return journey is like being on a cloud, out of time. During the descent, Fabio continues to distill bits of indigenous knowledge in small, careful bursts. He also tells us about the medicinal plants to be found along the way, and points out the many orchids that grow there as if by magic!

We finally return to camp, and it’s time for breakfast. Did we dream this moment? It’s been a bit like a dream, where you can’t be sure whether you’re awake or just dreaming.

Princess Inirida

The story goes that Inirida was the name of the most beautiful young girl in the community (Inirida means “little mirror of the sun”).

One day, a man fell madly in love with Inirida. He found a recipe for a magic potion made from puzana (a sacred plant) that would enable him to win her over.

But by making a mistake in the dosage, he overdosed and the effect on Inirida was devastating. Instead of falling in love, the princess went mad, lost all sense of reality, lost track of where she was, ran from place to place and decided to take refuge in Cerro Pajarito.

The young man tried to follow her, but the mountain was impossible to climb – only she could do it. When she awoke, the young woman found herself alone and decided to live far from humans, making the hill her castle where she would reside alone and far from humans forever.

It is said that from time to time, the princess feels nostalgic for her past with humans and lets tears that look like silver embroidery run down the mountain walls. Today, the strongest puzana grows on Cerro Pajarito.

Contacts to visit The Cerros de Mavecure’s CErros

Ivan, our partner, works with a local operator who practices responsible tourism while offering rates in line with the competition.

Paradise beaches (or almost)

At the foot of the Cerros de MavEcure

Cerros de Mavecure, the most beautiful landscape in Colombia?

The day began with an explosion of emotions, but other experiences await us that will gradually bring the cursor back down.

We’re taken on a tour of “Yuca Brava” cultivation. Yuca (Cassava) is a plant with several varieties, including “Yuca brava”, which is naturally toxic to humans. Its processing therefore requires a whole series of techniques to make it edible, and this plant is of particular importance to local indigenous cultures.

On the way back, we are offered the privilege of sailing independently on a traditional pirogue called a “curiara”.

Then it’s time to share another meal based on fresh fish. This time, the fish is cooked in palm leaves and smoked in the traditional way over a wood fire.

In the afternoon, this region of a thousand hidden faces has a new surprise in store for us. We set off by lancha towards the Caño San Joaquin, where we discover a totally unreal landscape: immaculate white sandy beaches on a river whose waters are limpid, but blood-red!

The spectacle is mind-boggling.
The moment is magical.

The heat is intense and we spend all our time cooling off in this incredible water. Also because there’s nothing conducive to napping on the beach with the numerous insects that want to taste our fresh flesh…

The return to the late afternoon light offers us a breathtaking landscape, this red river and these golden hues that illuminate the imposing Cerros de Mavecure, nothing is missing. It’s all there. And once again, gratitude.

In the evening, after our last meal, the sky will be clear, the full moon will shine brightly, and just like in the middle of the day we’ll go one last time to the foot of these magical mountains to thank life, nature (and our profession) for these shared moments of eternity.

The next morning we’re off again at the crack of dawn, due to flight schedule changes. But the 2h30 of lancha between dog and wolf will be enough to create this airlock between the magical world of the Cerros de Mavecure and the return to the harsh reality of life.

Should I use an Travel agency?

The short answer is YES, and we advise you to contact Ivan, our partner, directly via the form below.

In fact, it’s quite possible to travel to Inirida and organize your visit to the Cerros de Mavecure on the spot. The hotels will certainly be able to help.

But in reality, we really advise you to contact a local travel agency beforehand, which will organize all the logistics of your stay on site.

Firstly, because you’ll save time on site (and therefore money) and secondly, because all logistics will be taken care of from the moment you step off the plane (welcome, transport, accommodation, meals, activities) until your return. Giving you peace of mind.

For this trip to Cerros de Mavecure, we called on our partner Ivan, who offers great group trips of 4 days / 3 nights every weekend throughout the year, which also saves you money. He also offers private trips for those who want them (more expensive).

Contact a Local Travel agency

Why choose Ivan?

Ivan, our partner, works with a local operator who practices responsible tourism:

  • attractive group rates
  • ecosystem conservation projects
  • environmental education projects
  • working closely with indigenous communities
  • fair remuneration and honest relationships with local service providers

Contact Ivan

Colombia Oculta Cerros de Mavecure (#66)

To get in direct contact with Ivan and visit Los Cerros de Mavecure, you can use the form below. You won’t pay more, but it will let her know you’re coming from us.

IMPORTANT: If you don’t hear from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAMS first before contacting us.

Our 4D/3N program

Ivan took care of all the organization on site. Only the purchase of the plane ticket to Inirida was our responsibility. The program is subject to change according to local imperatives.

Day 1

  • Arrival in Inirida and airport pick-up
  • Transfer by lancha to a nature reserve on the Orinoco River
  • Discover the intersection of the Inirida, Guaviare and Orinoco rivers
  • Incredible swim in the clear red waters of the Rio Atabapo
  • Overnight in a single bed (with mosquito net)

Day 2

  • Nature activity in the reserve (hiking or tree climbing)
  • Transfer by lancha to Cerros de Mavecure
  • First visual encounter with the three cerros: Mono, Pajarito and Mavecure
  • Reception at the Puinave indigenous community’s tourist facilities
  • Short sunset hike
  • Overnight in single bed (with mosquito net)

Day 3

  • Departure at 4 a.m. to start the hike to the summit of Cerro Mavecure
  • Sunrise with indescribable views of the Mono and Pajarito cerros
  • Discover the Yuca Brava cultivation process
  • Swimming in the clear red waters of Caño San Joaquin
  • Experience navigation in a traditional pirogue
  • Overnight in a single bed (with mosquito net)

Day 4

  • Return to Inirida and transfer to the airport.

How much does it cost

  • Flights to Inirida: between $600.000 and $1.000.000 COP
  • Tourist tax: $82.000 COP for foreigners ($42.000 COP for Colombians)
  • 4D/3N Group Tour with Ivan: $1.575.000 COP

Where to stay in Cerros de Mavecure

When you hire Ivan to organize your visit of the Cerros de Mavecure, all accommodation is included.

In fact, the accommodations offered on site are basics open-air dormitories with single beds (1 person), each with its own mosquito net, and shared bathroom facilities. Don’t expect anything fancy – it’s simple, but clean and comfortable.

The only proper hotels are in Inirida, where there’s no point in spending the night.

How to get to Mavecure

As with better-known destinations such as Leticia in the Amazon or Nuqui on the Pacific coast, Inirida can only be reached by plane.

Flying to Inirida

The only transport you’ll need to arrange is the flight to Inirida.

Flight Bogota – Inirida
Fare: between $600.000 and $1.000.000 depending on season and anticipation
Airline: Satena
Duration: 1h30

Local transportation

All local transport will be provided by our partner.

All transportation is by lancha (motorboat) on the various rivers around Inirida: rio Inirida, rio Guaviare, rio Atabapo, rio Orinoco.

Daily trips average between 1h30 and 2h30.

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Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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