Guatapurí River: map, tourism and everything you don’t know about it

The Guatapurí River owes its name to the temperature of its waters, which means ‘cold water’ in the language of the Chimila ethnic group in Colombia.

el turístico río Guatapurí

Map of the Guatapurí River

This mighty river is located in the department of Cesar, on Colombia’s Atlantic coast, from where it flows through a long stretch that includes the famous beach resort of Hurtado in Valledupar (see also Nechí River).

ubicación del río Guatapurí

Location and course of the Guatapurí River

The Guatapurí River rises at an altitude of 4,400 metres in the Curigua Lagoon, nestled between the beautiful mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

From there it flows for about 85 kilometres, descending with an average gradient of 20% until it reaches the Cesar River in Valledupar, where it flows into the river on its right bank.

The Guatapurí basin covers an area of 836 square kilometres, with an average water flow of 11 cubic metres per second, in a torrential trajectory that takes it through a steep canyon surrounded by blocks of igneous rock and other minerals.

trayectoria del río Guatapurí

Along its course it joins the Donachui, the Curiba (see also Zulia), the Los Mangos and the Mamanqueca, among other tributaries, with which it then waters the town of Valledupar in its northeastern part, feeding the local aqueduct, until it reaches the Cesar.

Environmental changes in the River Guatapurí

The Guatapurí River basin has undergone several changes over time, especially in its central part, which, due to its proximity to the capital of the department of Cesar, has been used as large pastures for cattle ranching, first by landowners and then by indigenous groups.

All these human interventions have left the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which already lacked much forest, even more depopulated of trees, with risks of erosion and landslides, which, combined with the lack of water control and constant burning, have maintained a certain instability in the land.

ambiente del río Guatapurí

In its middle and lower reaches, bordering on Valledupar, the Guatapurí River is populated on its right bank by settlements or subnormal neighbourhoods, which have gradually complicated its basin, especially in terms of pollution.

On the other hand, in the urban area, the Guatapurí River is used for mineral extraction, which alters its soils, erodes its bed by adding sediments to the water and alters its natural course.

Tourism on the Guatapurí River

Valledupar, the capital of Cesar, has no sea, but the waters of the Guatapurí River are an unmissable and suggestive source of recreation for those who visit this peculiar and welcoming place.

Bathing, walking through beautiful parks, getting to know the indigenous culture and listening to vallenata music are part of an unforgettable tourist experience in this Colombian region (see also Cali River).

turismo en el Guatapurí

In the northern part of the city you will find the Hurtado bathing resort, one of the most popular places to relax and have fun amidst refreshing waters, typical food and stories of the Andean roads. You can also visit the Pueblito Vallenato and the Lineal Park.


The lush vegetation, spectacular rocks of different shapes, sizes and colours, and the mysterious landscapes of the Guatapurí River region have naturally inspired the imagination of its inhabitants, who over time have created legendary tales and stories.

A prime example is the legend of the mermaid, whose emblematic figure is immortalised in a golden statue that rests on the waters of the Guatapurí River, and which tells of the adventures of Rosario Arciniegas, a girl who became a mermaid because she disobeyed her parents and bathed in the river on Maundy Thursday.

la sirena del Guatapurí

This legend has given rise to another series of tales and stories about her “reappearances”, giving the place a magical and unforgettable aspect, to the lullaby of the song that seems to be heard near the figure of the golden mermaid on the rock.

Song of the Guatapurí River

Just as the unique geography of the Sierra and the Guatapurí River has inspired storytellers, it has also served as a muse for poets and musicians who have composed songs dedicated to their beloved region.

This river is very important in the culture of the Vallenata, as it has witnessed many experiences and anecdotes of the local people, who end up telling emotional chronicles in their songs.

Various composers have alluded to its waters, its stones and its landscapes to evoke romantic, funny and wicked stories, among other favourite themes.

Río Guatapurí, by Alejandro Narvaez, Guatapurí, by Libardo Flores and Siempre te voy a amar, by Julio César Meza, are some of the songs that have inspired this cold but much sought-after stream. One of the most famous, El Rey del Valle, by Nicolás (Colacho) Maestre, won an unpublished song prize with El Hachero.

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