Situated right in the centre of Colombia where the Andes Mountains meet the Los Llanos plains is the city of Villavicencio. It lies around 125 kilometres south-east of Bogota and is known as a centre for the traditional cowboy sport known as“coleo”, as well as “joropo” dancing.
Villavicencio sprawls along the southern banks of the Rio Guatiquia, with its city centre clustered around the main square of Liberator’s Park. Our Lady of Carmen Cathedral lies on its northern edge, originally built in 1845 and reconstructed following a fire in 1894. Nearby Parque del Hacha is named for the prominent axe sculpture at its centre, designed to honour the agriculturalists who colonised the land here. Also of note is Las Malocas-Catama Park which lies to the east of Villavicencio and showcases the culture of Colombia’s eastern plains. The unique landscapes of this region are exhibited, together with the local cultures, customs and myths. Villavicencio is an excellent place to witness the traditional sport of coleo which is similar to a rodeo, with cowboys on horseback pursuing cattle through a narrow pathway at high speeds. Traditional joropo performances are also frequently held, with this folk style of music and dance originating across the plains of Colombia and Venezuela.
La Vanguardia Airport is situated just across the Rio Guatiquia from Villavicencio and has regular flights to Bogota, La Macarena, Mitú, Puerto Carreño and Puerto Inírida. Public buses are the main means of getting around the city, although it’s relatively compact and easy to explore on foot.
Villavicencio was founded in 1842 but remained a frontier outpost for most of the following century due to its geographical isolation by the Andean Cordillera. During the early years of the 20th century, it emerged as the principal urban centre of Los Llanos and the gateway to what were referred to as the “Eastern Lands of Promise”.