Casanare's image is only slowly catching up with what's it is really like today, a well protected wealthy department of Colombia under constant military surveillance that can be criss-crossed on public transport and by car safely in most parts.
Safety in Casanare has improved significantly over the last decade. In this post we would like to do away with the prejudice that Casanare is a ‘zona roja’, a danger zone in Colombia. It is not.
Even nationals have their doubts about coming to Yopal. Why if it is really as safe as we say?
Yopal and more so Casanare have the image of a once violence struck region for a good reason. Paramilitaries terrorized the local community in and around Yopal until as recent as 2004, cocaine laboratories were uncovered and Guerrilla groups of FARC and ELN controlled large areas along Casanare’s ‘piedemonte’, the foothill of the Andes, and even some of its plains Los Llanos. In and around Casanare’s capital paramilitaries spread fear and panic, shedding blood, confiscating domestic animals, houses, farms, goods and food supplies. That was until 2004 when former president Álvaro Uribe forced paramilitary groups to surrender as part of his initiated national peace process. With this paramilitaries went to court and a traumatized city recovered, even bloomed under its new economic significance.
Casanare’s image, however, is only slowly catching up with its new state. Colombians are well aware of the department’s bloody history and therefore are likely to pull up their eyebrows in a gesture of surprise and warning when one tells them that they are heading for Casanare. Don’t let that put you off.
Not least thanks to Casanare’s wealth in oil, the department today is secured through military forces and continues to receive high attention on an international level. Military forces were able to push guerrilleros far back into the mountains and their ongoing presence keeps them at bay. Travel throughout the region is secure.
Having said this, some remote areas in Casanare remain occupied by ELN terrorists at the time of this writing. These pockets are mostly located in Casanare’s north about 200 km from Yopal bordering with the, indeed, red zones of the department of Arauca.
Traveling to Yopal by land from either Villavicencio or from Sogamoso, Boyacá, is no problem for nationals nor for foreigners. The drive from Sogamoso is spectacular in scenery.
Further travel to the Orinoco region, to some of Casanare’s finest nature reserves and ‘hatos’ (large farms) is absolutely possible, also by public transport.
The lively city center, central park, Unicentro and nearby areas are safe and can be walked after dark. Unlike in the large cities robberies and mugging are less likely while keeping an eye on personal items and guarded parking are recommended.
If you have any questions or doubts, you can email us. Why not take a tour with a knowledgable local guide who will enjoy telling you about Casanare’s history, its dark past and bright future?