Santa Marta, a destination full of pleasant surprises
The oldest city in Colombia and the second oldest in South America offers a variety of attractions that mix nature, history and culture
Traveling to Colombia and in space to Santa Marta is an unforgettable experience. Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia and the second oldest in South America. It is known as a tourist attraction, because it is a city that has everything, whatever the plan that a visitor has. Below we share its highlights:
The beaches of Tayrona Park
Without a doubt when it comes to the sea, Tayrona Park is a must. Here is a list of the 14 beautiful beaches that make up this protected area:
The place is ideal for camping and hammocks, since it has a fairly open area. Its entrance is through the Calabazo sector, after passing through Pueblito, the path is quite ascending and with very little flat route. On the way you can see streams and diversity in fauna and flora. In Playa Brava there are simple cabins to stay and the costs vary according to the seasons and its negotiation capacity, there is also a restaurant service.
The entrance is quite demanding, since you have to walk around three or four hours along paths that are not very marked by the lack of pedestrian traffic. It is one of the smallest beaches in Tayrona Park and the area is full of coconut palms. The beach is not suitable for swimming due to its strong waves.
It is one of the few beaches in the park where its calm waters allow swimming. Its waters are crystal clear and its sand is white. The beach is small and has little marine life, but this is replaced by the beautiful landscape.
The Castilletes sector borders Cañaveral beach. In this area the sea is very heavy and strong, for this reason it is not for bathers. It has a large camping area, hammocks and cabin for accommodation in rooms with private and shared bathrooms. It also has a restaurant.
Although it is one of the smallest beaches, it is one of the most dangerous in the park. It has a sector nicknamed La Piscinita, where it is possible to bathe in peace. This sector is in front of the Ecohabs Tayrona hotel, which consists of 14 cabins with an unsurpassed view of the Caribbean Sea. The hotel has a restaurant for better comfort, since near it you will not find another place to buy food.
Cañaveral beach has an almost virgin coral and reef sector, since being one of the park's most dangerous beaches, it has not been much explored.
It is the largest beach that is inside the Tayrona Park. As the name implies, below the water is made up of many reefs and stones that make the waves very strong and dangerous, for this reason it is not allowed for visitors to bathe in the place.
Arrecife is the second beach, after Cañaveral, which is found when entering the park through the entrance of Zaíno. To arrive you must walk 45 minutes through a humid and forested jungle full of cliffs and stones. This beach can only be seen if an arborization barrier that has grown around the shore is crossed. In Arrecife there is a camping area, hammocks and cabins.
It is a small portion of the beach located just 10 minutes walk from Arrecife. Its white and thick sand stands out and, of course, it is suitable for bathing thanks to its waters that are calm and without waves. It is just a passing beach, since there is no food service, bathrooms, camping, etc.
It is one of the few beaches of Tayrona where you can swim with more tranquility. It bears this name since it is surrounded by a rock barrier, which helps to reduce the strong sea waves in this sector, so it physically looks like a swimming pool.
It is a small beach, but this does not take away beauty and attractiveness. There is no camping area or hammocks, so it is a passing beach that is located between Cabo San Juan del Guía and Arrecife.
Cabo San Juan del Guía
Without a doubt, it is the most requested beach by tourists who get to know Tayrona Park. It is recognized worldwide for a famous photograph in which you can see a hill in the middle of the sea and on its top a kiosk in which people can stay in hammocks or rooms with beds.
The beach is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and is characterized by its sea that perfectly combines the blue of the sky and the green that reflects the vegetation. The sand on this beach is thick and golden, which makes it slightly sticky.
In this sector there is a restaurant and a large area for camping. It can be reached by the two entrances of the park, the Zaino and the Pueblito, additional to this can be reached from Taganga taking a boat that lasts 50 minutes.
It is one of the quietest and most beautiful beaches in the park. It stands out for its crystalline waters, its green vegetation in all seasons of the year, its yellow sand that gives it a golden touch like very few beaches in the world. It is also a good place to practice snorkeling or diving for its great underwater life.
Considered the largest bay within Tayrona Park. Its central location allows to be one of the strategic points to know other nearby beaches. Its waves are strong but they allow bathing in two sectors. It is ideal for diving and snorkeling, has a very diverse sea life in corals and fish, a spectacle of underwater life.
For a long time it served the natives as a cemetery, for this reason it is considered a holy field. The surrounding vegetation is 60% dry and another 40% wet forest.
It is located in the middle of Concha Bay and Neguanje. It has a large area of land covered with very fine white sand.
It is a totally deserted beach, so it is recommended only for daily visits and especially for snorkeling or diving, since it has a large barrier of corals, varieties of fish and other marine life.
This beach is reached only by boat and from here you can visit other small ones by means of trails.
Chengue Beach is one of the least crowded in Tayrona Park, since its entrance is by boat or a slightly demanding path. The beach is small, the sand is very fine and white, but it will always be full of tree branches, since the sector is characterized by a dry jungle and a lot of salt water vegetation on the one hand, and on the other hand water vegetation sweet, since in the place you will find a swamp with a lot of life, which is ideal for bird watching and fishing.
Chengue Beach is not recommended for camping or sleeping, since the place is very distant and lonely.
Located just 30 minutes from Santa Marta, it is one of the most visited beaches by tourists and samariums. The bay is surrounded by mountains and its view is very pleasant. Arriving at it, on the right, is the mouth of a stream that makes the landscape more complete.
The beach is quite large and on its shores there is a lot of shade of saltwater trees that are one of its attractions, as it is easier for visitors to hang hammocks or build their tents under them to feel the sea breeze.
Rodadero Sea Aquarium and Museum
The Rodadero Sea Aquarium and Museum is a public aquarium and a maritime museum located in the Inca Inca cove in front of El Rodadero beach in Santa Marta.
Accessible mainly by boat, the aquarium has 13 swimming pools with direct connection to the Caribbean Sea, and 15 glass aquariums containing more than 805 animals that include sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, crustaceans, fish and seabirds, the 98% of which are native to the area.
The aquarium also contains a museum section that exhibits dissected specimens and nautical equipment, as well as an exhibition that focuses on the pre-Columbian culture of the Taironas and their connection to the sea.
Visit to Palafitos villages
It is a cultural encounter with fishing communities that you will live in the palafito villages of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, where the colorful wooden houses and canoes are a vital part of the landscape. The traveler will be able to tour the town of Nueva Venecia, be surprised with its traditions and be able to interact with its people. Undoubtedly you enjoy nature and the multitude of birds that you will find throughout the tour.
Stroll through the historic center of Ciénaga
Ciénaga, an important urban center of the department of Magdalena, has one of the most representative republican influence architectural ensembles of banana splendor associated with the agricultural wealth of this region. Institutional buildings and hacienda houses that reveal the abundance enjoyed by banana business owners stand out.
When crossing its streets the splendor that the municipality had thanks to the banana is reflected; and visiting nearby palafito villages are some activities to enjoy in the area.
Santa Marta and its historic center
The feeling of a glorious past is born in its streets. Santa Marta was not just any city, let alone in view of what its historic center can now be proudly called.
Dark wood balconies edged with waves and shapes that distill good taste. White and colorful facades that make up a visually seductive song. Santa Marta knows how to express what it contains inside: a lot of historical and cultural wealth.
It is not necessary to point out those parks that favor the meeting and the re-encounters, unavoidable stages of a weekend walk. In these places you can enjoy the city in the shade of a tree or an umbrella that offers some terraces of bars in the purest Mediterranean style.
But every walk has its beginning, and the cathedral of Santa Marta must be the starting point of this great urban framework. Considered the first cathedral in Latin America, its construction began in 1765 and extended for more than a century due to the constant attacks of English, French and Dutch privateers.
Simón Bolívar died in Santa Marta and, as a result, the city is known for housing the liberator's remains for a long time. In the cathedral stands a plaque that recalls a solemn parade held on December 20, 1830 from the Customs House (now the headquarters of the Gold Museum) to move the funeral remains. In 1842 these remains were exhumed and sent to Caracas, the hometown of Bolívar.
But the name of the liberator of 5 nations not only resonates around this early building. Following the path of two streets that border it, we discover the exquisite colonial spirit that prevails in the center. And if it is true that some facades reveal the lack of maintenance, the idea of a recent flowering that gradually takes hold of each corner always prevails.
We stumble upon the airs of grandeur of a square that reminds us - again - of the great Liberator: Simón Bolívar Square. The mayor's office, the Gold Museum and the Bank of the Republic are located at this nerve center. The shade of the trees provides a space for rest and a moment to decide on which route to follow: the road to the beach or to explore the center again.
The road to the Plaza de los enamorados, exposes the great gastronomic offer of the city but also hotel. Elegant hostels installed inside colonial houses such as the San Pedro hostel, Casa del Farol or La Casa de Leda alternate with other varied restaurants in a dazzling and entertaining complex.
The road to the beach reveals two reconciled facets of the city: its modern and traditional character. The statue of Rodrigo Bastidas on the seafront takes us to the time of the founding of Santa Marta. The figures of some indigenous people remember the presence of the four ethnic groups of the coast, while the navy in the background discovers the development of recent years.
Fifth of San Pedro Alejandrino
One of the most emblematic tourist sites of Santa Marta for having been the hacienda where the American hero Simón Bolívar spent his last days before he died in 1830. Today managed by the Bolivarian Museum Foundation, it preserves the architectural and landscape characteristics and values of its beginnings , using its extensive lands of centuries-old trees as a botanical garden and its built spaces as museum spaces.
Within the latter, it is possible to visit both the old facilities dedicated to the production and storage of rum and the main house and its dependencies. More modern reforms have annexed the whole, an area known as the Altar of the Fatherland in honor of Simón Bolívar and a Museum of Contemporary Art with a sample that exceeds 200 works by Latin American artists. More information about rates and schedules on the Foundation's website.
An estate of the late Captain Francisco Ospina Navia that was initially destined for exotic flower crops and where they found traces of an ancient Tayrona city, is another attraction. This place has an archeological museum, where pieces of ceramics, stone, quartz and carnelian, axes, ocarinas and funeral urns of the Tajron Indians are exhibited; 10 terraces that were restored, a cansamaría (ceremonial house) of the kogui, four cabins to stay and a restaurant.
The activities offered to visitors are the descent by float or kayak along the Don Diego River, which is born in the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The tour starts from Taironaka or if the person is more adventurous you can walk to the junction of the Don Diego and Don Dieguito rivers.
In the descent they observe migratory birds and howler monkeys, and they arrive at the union of the Don Diego River and the Caribbean Sea, where they remain 20 minutes. They are then transferred by boat to the Taironaka parking lot.