Caribbean fishing town Santa Marta has exploded into a traveler’s nirvana with white-sand beaches, a lost city and a forested national park.
The provincial capital of Santa Marta has rapidly developed into a traveler’s treasure on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The country’s oldest colonial city has white-sand beaches and pleasant warm weather. Nearby, Tayrona National Park attracts visitors throughout the year. The pervasive salsa and vallenato music keeps the town alive with the sounds of the Caribbean.
Spend several hours at Rodadero Sea Aquarium and Museum southwest of Santa Marta to see its majestic sharks and dolphins. Swim in the warm seawater at nearby Playa Blanca (White Beach) or work on your tan against a backdrop of coastal cliffs. Dine at local beachside restaurants and stay overnight in a cabin. Head to the Quinta of Saint Peter of Alexandria, a 17th-century house and garden, now a museum dedicated to military leader Simón Bolívar, who led many South American countries to independence.
Hike to Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), formally Teyuna Archaeological Park. The ancient Indian city was founded over 700 years earlier than Peru’s Machu Picchu. Plan for about three days each way for the 27-mile (44-kilometer) walk. Cross rivers, streams and waterfalls and pass small Indian communities as you cover the remote terrain. You may see jungle animals too: jaguars, tapirs or condors. Climb 1,200 stone steps to reach the entrance to the city where an indigenous tribe once lived.
See natural wonders in Tayrona National Park via a tour or taxi from Santa Marta. Rent gear in the city and then scuba dive or snorkel at the beach. Hike to Cabo San Juan and rent a tent or hammock in a cliff-top cabin overlooking the ocean.
Fly to Santa Marta from Bogotá. The airport, just south of the city, is easily reached by public bus. To the east of Santa Marta, visit the mountain range known as Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park. Discover remnants of the Tayrona culture and other indigenous tribes. Enjoy views of snow-capped mountains for a dramatic change of scenery from the Caribbean coast.