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The wild eastern plains are home to the Colombian cowboy’s cattle ranches. Tropical green plains stretched out for as far as the eye can see, snaking rivers that rise in the dramatic climate, beautiful sunsets over savannas and bursting with wildlife, Los Llanos offers a large array of things to see and do.
Whether it be enjoying the beautiful natural parks, watching a typical Colombian rodeo, heading out to the wild plains to watch blazing sunsets, encountering incredible wildlife or heading down the river in a white water trip and embarking on some excellent rock climbing, Los Llanos will give you fantastic outdoor and cultural experiences.
Villavicencio is the capital of the department Meta and is also called ‘the gate to los llanos’ due to its geographical position within the vast savanna plains between the Andes Mountains and Amazonian jungle.
The llano people are a long line of fiercely strong horsemen, who for decades have roamed the wild and lush savannas, moving their cattle to higher grounds when the rivers start to flood in the wetter months and back down during the drier periods.
As soon as you are in Villavicencio this Colombian-cowboy culture is evident, with people dressed in ponchos and cowboy hats and boots.
A fantastic way to know more about the Llano culture is through their park Las Malocas, set up for teaching and showing visitors their history, traditions and culture.
There are two major parts of the Llano culture; one is through their own version of a Rodeo called El Coleo, where horsemen chase cattle down a dusty runway trying to pull them down with a specific technique.
The other is the culture of the Joropo, an expression of traditional dance and music. The dance consists of the women twirling their large colorful skirts to the beats of the men’s stamping feet and to the music of maracas, four string guitars, a harp and a bandola (an instrument similar to the mandolin).
Another fantastic park not to be missed while in Villavicencio is El Bioparque Los Ocarros, a large zoological park that is home to many of the typical animals found within this region and which shows the biodiversity of this part of Colombia.
Some of the animals that you can see are armadillos, anacondas, pumas and jaguars, crocodiles, speckled bears, anteaters, and Titi monkeys just to name a few, which is a true testament to how diverse and abundant los llanos plains are in wildlife.
Don’t miss passing by the monument of the three harps (Monumento A Las Arpas) in representation of the musical roots in Meta. The three large harp strings are flowing water, and are especially beautiful to see at night when it is lit up.
86 km from Villavicencio is Puerto Lopez an important port town on the Meta River and also known as the ‘bellybutton’ of Colombia, situated in the vast plains, where you can witness amazing sunrises and sunsets.
Merecure is the largest ecological park in South America and full of exciting activities to partake in. Here you can work your way around a number of different places within the park for different activities such as Caserio Llanero, with a number of houses, shops and restaurants in typical Llanero river-side buildings with river-reed thatched roofs.
The lake Tucunare (Lago Tucunare) offers great sport fishing or paddle in a canoe out over the lake for sightings of crocodiles and monkeys along the banks. On land hire a bicycle or quad bike to explore the surroundings.
For swimming and sunbathing the park has a natural pool called Cachiveras and for water sports such as Jet skiing, banana boat or cruising on a speedboat go to Playa Merecure where you can also play volleyball or football, in both destinations there are restaurants and bars in which you can eat or drink along side the waters edge.
The park also has a zoo, where you can see many species of regional animals.
Accomodation in Merecure – The Merecure Park has accommodation available through either camping, or different types of rooms with private bathrooms or shared. Ask Mantaraya for more information.
Due to the humid weather take light cotton clothing that you will feel comfortable in, as well as waterproof clothing, hat and covered shoes or boots for walking.
By plane - Satena, Aires both have flights to Villavicencio (the capital of the Meta department) from Bogota By bus - There are many daily buses departing from the Bogota bus terminal to Villavicencio. By land within the city – Within Villavicencio, taking a taxi is the easiest way to get around however make sure to ask about the price first as fares can vary. Within the Merecure park, by foot or bike are the best ways to see everything, or if you have a certain type of tour arranged you can see any of the above via automobile.