Valledupar is a small, organised city in the north-eastern department of Cesar.
It tends to be left off the itineraries of tourists, but those who make the effort to travel to this charming city will find warm people, shady, tree-lined streets and a pretty colonial centre.
Couple this with the fact that the region is the home of Vallenato (a style of music based on the accordion) and it’s hard to believe that more people don’t make it out here.
Plaza Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo
Plaza Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo (photo, below) contains the city's most attractive colonial buildings including the Iglesia de la Concepcion.
The plaza is frequented by locals both during the day and in the evening. On sundays it gets busy with families. Children rent electric bikes and cars and joyfully ride them around the plaza.
There are some nice restaurants and bars in the proximity of the plaza as well.
View towards the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
On the northern edge of Valledupar the Hurtado River carries water down from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and snakes around the city through a rocky, forested area.
On one bank of the Rio Hurtado very close to the road bridge sits a golden statue of a mermaid. Legend has it that many years ago a woman decided to bathe in the river, against the warnings of the townspeople, and was turned into the mermaid.
Hurtado River with the gold mermaid on the left riverbank
For a great boutique hotel try Sonesta. The hotel is located on the northern edge of the city within a few minutes' walk of the picturesque Hurtado River - great place to go and relax.
The hotels features a restaurant, gym and outdoor swimming pool. It is also close to a good shopping mall.
The best backpacker hostel in the city is Provincia Hostal. Offers private rooms and dormitories. It also features a TV room, kitchen, book exchange, free bicycle hire and free Wi-Fi. The friendly staff can help with trips to the surrounding region.
There are lots of good restaurants along carrera 19 many of which offer asados (barbequed food).
My favourite restaurant in the city is Verde Restaurante, located in the east of the city half a dozen blocks from Plaza Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo. They do terrific wraps and pastas. I recommend the cocktails too!
Nightlife in Valledupar is quite limited and only really caters to people who have a taste for vallenato or, er, vallenato.
It is hard to walk more than 10 metres without hearing this music being pumped out from a bar, shop, hairdressers etc; it really is everywhere. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, it of course depends on your taste. It has certainly grown on me over the years.
There are actually a few places that offer something slightly alternative. There are one or two bars along carrera 19 that play electronic music, soft rock and salsa.
The city of Valledupar is synonymous with the music style of Vallenato, a style of music played with the accordion. It is a source of intense pride for the people of Valledupar and the annual Vallenato festival is the city's biggest expression of this pride and passion.
The Vallenato festival is held each year at the end of April and lasts for about 5 days. The majority of vallenato singers come from this region including the famous Diomedes Díaz.
Kids playing Vallenato music
Valledupar F.C. is the city's only professional football club. The team play their home games at Armando Maestre Pavajeau Stadium.
If you fancy playing a bit of 5-aside footy 'El Fortin' has an excellent astroturf pitch aswell as food court, situated in the north of the city.
The city also has a covered Coliseum and a skating circuit.
Roads here are relatively quiet. There are some bus routes within the city, but they are few and are limited to the main arteries.
Taxis are numerous and cheap. A taxi from one side of the city to the other only costs about $6,000 pesos. For the very hard up it is possible to hail 'mototaxis' which charge just a couple of thousand pesos for just about any trip within the city.
The bus terminal is located in the south of the city on Avenida Salguero (carrera 7A) from where you can catch buses to the coast (about 4 hours to Riohacha) and also south towards Santander and the city of Bucaramanga.
The Alfonso López airport is a short distance west of the bus terminal. If you're flying to or from Santa Marta or Barranquilla take a peak out of your window at the stunning snow-capped mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.