Back in time - Colombia's villages are wonderfully delightful and nostalgic. While the Llanos' main attractions are cowboys and wildlife, they still have a few lovely villages to offer visitors. Mules parked outside the 'panadería', loaded with sacks of coffee, grains or bananas, vaqueros passing through on horses or on motorbikes, elderly villagers leaning on their cane, watching the world go by and smiling at strangers toothlessly, lovingly painted window shutters and walls and neat flower beds and banana plants and papaya trees towering from patios and front yards, pebbled streets and the main square with a church, where surely a bench or two invite to have a seat and watch the villagers go about their daily lives - that's a classic when traveling Colombia and must not be missing in the Llanos either.
The extensive tropical grasslands seemed good only for a few things: hunting felines for their fur, capybaras and deer for their meat, raising cattle and catching crocodiles for their leather. The Llaneros, an ethnic mix of European hunters and traders, Spanish Jesuit descendants and indigenous people such as the Sáliva, were very different from other Colombians. Less 'homey' and more 'outdoorsy', robust, independent, stubborn even, practical, skilled and rather nomadic, they did not build cozy delightful homes and villages that appealed to the eye but set up temporary shelters. Their eyes were set on survival. The Llanos were exploited, not populated. However, the trades and growing cattle production along with missionaries, who came to Casanare, slowly led to the departments first fix settlements. Here are our top 5 most beautiful towns in Casanare in no particular order.
2. Orocué - nostalgia on the banks of Rio Meta
Founded by the indigenous group of the Sálivas and a Frenchman in 1850, Orocué means "resting place" in the language of the Sálivas. Sitting on the shore of Rio Meta in the shade of an ancient tree and looking over the ever-flowing gently yellow ribbon, resting is inevitably. It was here in an equal state of tranquility and inspiration that José Eustasio Rivera wrote his famous novel "The Vortex" (original: La Vorágine), a homage to the Llanos and required reading at Colombian schools. Visit the writer's residence, now a little museum, walk around the colourful old town and enjoy a beer at Don Juan's on the malecón during sunset, watch the fishermen unload their catches and a fiery sun dip into the river.
Take a walk up to the viewpoint, return for a fresh masato at the town's prettiest house (photo above), where a lovely and hospitable family resides, also experts on the local history. Ask for the fabrica de chocolate Premium to learn about chocolate production and cacao cultivation in the area.
Have you been to any of these towns? Got more villages to add? We'd love to hear from you.