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Santa Marta
Travel Guide


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Santa Marta at a glance

Santa Marta is the oldest known Spanish settlement in Colombia and the second oldest in South America. Situated on a stunning Caribbean bay, Santa Marta is one of the most popular beach destinations in Colombia and is also the jumping off point for visiting the spectacular Tayrona National Park, named after the indigenous population that inhabited the area in pre-Columbian times. Santa Marta benefits from a refreshing coastal breeze, making it perfect cocktail-sipping weather all year round. Santa Marta is a city with deep ties to South American independence from Spain, and it was here that Simon Bolivar, known as El Libertador, perhaps the most important figures in the liberation of vast swathes of South America from Spanish rule, died in 1814. He was also buried here before his remains were moved to his native Venezuela, and anyone with an interest in South America’s colonial history and subsequent independence can visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino estate where he spent his final days. Santa Marta’s historic center also has a wealth of colonial mansions, parks and plazas to visit, including the Casa de la Aduana (Customs House), Bolivar Park, Parque de los Novios, San Juan Nepomuceno Cloister, San Juan de Dios Convent and Morro Santa Marta or San Fernando Fortress, many of which were scenes of historic chapters that defined Colombia’s past.

Santa Marta Bucket List - What not to miss!

  • Hike to Pueblito
  • Tayrona National Park Cañaveral
  • Cultural Santa Marta

Experiences around Santa Marta

What not to miss

Although Santa Marta is a destination in itself, many use it as a base from which to explore Colombia’s famous Tayrona park, an area of unparalleled natural beauty just 21 miles (34km) from Santa Marta. If you are looking for a beach holiday, take advantage of Santa Marta’s idyllic location on the Caribbean coast and head for El Rodadero, an iconic seaside destination just 5km from the city that is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. If isolation and wilderness is more to your taste, spend a day in Taganga, a quaint fishing village known for its spectacular views of the Caribbean from the hills surrounding a small bay, and its leisure activities, such as snorkelling and scuba diving.

Hike to Pueblito

You will travel to Tayrona National Park to a little town called ‘Calabazo’ You will begin the hike along a pathway that leads to “Pueblito” through foothills offering spectacular views with immense rocks and exuberant vegetation. Upon arrival to Pueblito there’s the feeling of being at the heart of Tayrona’s civilization. The tropical flora and eerie silence seem appropriate here amongst the ruins of terraces, homes, bridges and stairways that lead to the beach, past witnesses to Tayrona civilization. From here we walk for another 2 hours to Cabo San Juan de Guía Beach, where we enjoy some time at the beach. Optionally you can stay in San Juan del Cabo (rent a tent or hammock), or make your way to the Tayrona administration entrance (another 2 hour hike) and take the transfer back to Santa Marta.

Tayrona National Park Cañaveral

After breakfast you will be picked up from your hotel in Santa Marta for a full day tour in the Tayrona National Park. Tayrona National Park covers 15,000 hectares and is full of unspoiled beaches, coral reefs, verdant flora, mangroves and mountains. The tour begins with a 45-minute eco-tourist walk through a tropical jungle from the beautiful beach of Canaveral to Arrecifes beach. Along the way you’ll be able to see all types of flora a fauna including monkeys which are just some of the 108 other species that live within the Tayrona National Park. After relaxing at Arrecifes beach you’ll set off on a 20-minute hike that leads you to La Piscina, a natural pool where you can bathe in the warm, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. You can then decide whether to spend the rest of your day relaxing on the deserted beach of Cabo San Juan del Guia or take the optional and adventurous 3-4 hour hike to the archaeological site of El Pueblito. Sitting high up in the mountains of Tayrona, you will be able to enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the jungle. The Tayrona civilization was one of the most advanced pre-Columbian cultures and El Pueblito was one of the most important cities. As one of the most important archaeological sites in Colombia, you will explore the bridges, canals, stairways, agricultural terraces and ceramics that will shine a light on the Tayrona culture. Your local guide will on hand to share their knowledge of the site, its history and unique culture of the Tayrona people.

Cultural Santa Marta

Your local guide will pick you up from your accommodation and take you on a cultural adventure through the past and present of Santa Marta. This cultural tour will introduce you to the authentic highlights of Santa Marta, starting with the center of the city where you’ll be able to admire some of its oldest colonial buildings and Cathedral. As South America’s oldest surviving city and the oldest city in Colombia, dating back to its foundation in 1525, the architectural offerings of whitewashed houses and churches are breathtaking. Situated near to Tayrona, you’ll have a chance to visit the Tayrona Gold Museum where you’ll feel like you’re on the trail seeking out El Dorado. You will also visit one of Colombia’s most significant sites at the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, which was the final home of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar, before he died in 1830. In this magnificent colonial quinta, you will not only learn about Simon Bolivar’s life and death but also about daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Following your cultural tour of Santa Marta you’ll have some time to spend soaking up modern day Santa Marta in El Rodadero, which is famous for its beaches and lively atmosphere.

Fast Facts on Santa Marta

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Santa Marta.

When to go

Santa Marta can be visited all year round, as can the stunning Tayrona Park. Days in the city are usually hot, but the refreshing night breezes that come in from the sea and down from the mountains make up for it. Overall, Santa Marta benefits from a balmy climate, and temperatures usually sit between  77°F (25°C) and 86°F (30°C), depending on the elevation. High season in the area runs from June to September, meaning there is a large volume of tourists in Santa Marta and the park. Two rainy seasons take place in May and June and from September to November, with monsoon conditions hitting the park in the last two months of rainy season, so it is common to get stuck in a midday shower or storm. Visit the area in July and August to experience the Sea Festival, which celebrates all aspects of Colombian Caribbean culture.

How to get there

Visitors to Santa Marta will arrive at the Simón Bolívar airport, which receives domestic flights to and from Bogota and Medellin. It is located less than 10 miles (16km) south of Santa Marta, and all regional and domestic flights and transfers will be organised for you as part of your itinerary. To get to the Tayrona National Park, a bus goes from Santa Marta to the park entrance and takes about one hour. Alternatively, we can arrange a private transfer for you, just speak to one of our travel advisors and they can assist you with this.

Infrastructure

Santa Marta’s popularity has been growing in recent years as Colombia has become safer to travel in, and as such there is no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation in the city. Whether you are looking for boutique hotels, luxury resorts or an intimate B&B, we can assist you with booking your accommodation. Taxis are a good way to get around Santa Marta, but make sure and fix a price before you get in the car or use a recommended driver who you can negotiate a price with for the duration of your stay. Alternatively, we can arrange private transport for you, just speak to one of our travel advisers. Seafood is high on the menu in Santa Marta, and the region’s cuisine is heavily influenced by local flavors such as coconut and banana.

Tour Packages to Santa Marta

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