Villavicencio, home of the llanero tradition
In Villavicencio, capital of the department of Meta, the mountains of the Cordillera Oriental give way to Colombia’s expansive Eastern Plains. This stunning, picture-perfect scene is made even more beautiful as the day draws to a close, the sun sinking over the horizon in a perfect “llanero” sunset.
“Villavo,” as the city is affectionately called, is characterized by llanero folklore and traditions like coleo (an event where small groups of llaneros, Colombian cowboys or herders, pursue cattle on horseback) and joropo music, which uses instruments like harps and maracas to get everyone on their feet and dancing the zapateo.
Don’t miss your chance to sample some famous llanero dishes like mamona (a dish based around veal, which is generally either barbequed or cooked over a fire), gallina criolla (a chicken dish), sancocho de gallina (a type of chicken soup), pan de arroz (rice bread), tungos (different types of filling wrapped in a corn or rice dough), beef or fish pisillo (a dish usually composed of salted meat and hogao, a savory blend of onions, garlic, tomatoes, and other ingredients), cachama (a type of fish), mojarra (bream), hayacas (meat filling wrapped in corn dough and steamed or cooked), and cachapas de maíz tierno (a type of pancake made with corn).
What is there to do in Villavicencio?
Villavicencio has many different places of interest to tourists that you can enjoy during your stay, like the Parque los Fundadores. This beautiful park, which covers nearly 15 acres of land, is the largest in the city.
In the park’s plaza you’ll find a majestic monument dedicated to the Founders, created by famed artist Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt. The park also has a plaza with local food vendors and foot paths where you can take a stroll or play sports.
There’s also the Parque La Llanura, previously known as Parque Sikuani, which has areas for playing tennis, squash, basketball, and football.
In the city, you’ll also be able to visit the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, a temple consecrated to the Virgin Mary. This beautiful structure is a popular destination for both tourists and pilgrims.
The Casa de la Cultura Jorge Eliecer Gaitán is another interesting place you can visit. Founded in 1971, it houses a museum dedicated to displaying different cultural pieces from around the city.
During your stay in Villavicencio, you should also make time to visit the Germán Arciniegas Municipal Library. This National Monument is a complex of over 45,200 square feet that includes a main hall for celebrating important events.
In the outskirts of Villavicencio, you’ll find the Mirador Piedra del Amor, an observation site heavily frequented by tourists and hikers who come to enjoy a change of pace. The site offers a peaceful, natural setting and panoramic view of the bustling city below.
To make your trip to Villavicencio truly memorable, dive into llanero folklore and culture. You can start by attending the International Joropo Tournament, which is held between June and July.
The International Joropo Tournament is an annual event that attracts approximately 500,000 national and international spectators.
Throughout the event’s nearly 50 years of history, it has solidly secured its reputation as the best way to truly experience the llanero way of life.
The International Coleo Convention, which is held each October of each year, also takes place in Villavicencio. Coleo requires great expertise and skill working with livestock and consists of riders on horseback pursuing steers and pulling them, often by their tails, in an effort to tip them over. The convention and the accompanying traditional activities such as joropo music and dancing bring in over 200,000 visitors each year, making this event one of the most significant “cowboy”-style event in the Americas.
Activities you won’t want to miss out on
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Villavicencio is cycle tourism. For that reason, there are many bike paths you can use to explore both the urban and natural areas of Meta’s capital.
To fully appreciate the area’s abundant wildlife, we recommend that you visit the Bioparque Los Ocarros, a zoological park located about 2 miles from Villacencio on the way to Restrepo. The park consists of about 13.5 acres and was named for a type of giant armadillo native to South America.
Los Ocarros is home to about 1,200 animals from 193 different species and displays all of the rich, natural beauty of the Eastern Plains.
You can also participate in cultural tourism in the Parque Las Malocas, which has a fascinating trail you can follow to learn more about the myths and legends of the Plains, like the stories of el Patasola, el Silbón, Florentino and the Devil, la Llorona, Juan Machete, la Bola de Fuego, el Ánima de Santa Helena, and la Madremonte.
And, if you’re interested in learning more about the area’s indigenous communities, you can visit Maloca Maguaré, where the HUITOTOS themselves relate the most relevant aspects of their culture.
- Villavicencio has a warm climate, with an average temperature that ranges from about 68 to 109°F. You should bring light clothing; however, the primary source of Villavicencio’s beautiful plant life is its abundant rainfall, so don’t be surprised if you experience some heavy showers.
- It’s easiest to reach the city by land, but it can also be reached by air. There are some Airlines that offer flights to Villavicencio, including ADA, Avianca, Easyfly, and Satena.
- Villavicencio also has a wide range of accommodations available within and in close proximity to the city, including hotels, ranches, hostels, hosting services, resorts, and camping areas.
- If you plan to travel from Villavicencio to more remote areas, we strongly recommend that you verify whether you need to be vaccinated against yellow fever.
With these recommendations, you’re ready to enjoy Villavicencio and its fascinating llanero heritage. Come explore this marvelous destination in the Colombian plains!