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Santa Marta and Tayrona

Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia, the city has a harbour with a very international feel and a wonderful noted cathedral. The colonial city centre has been improved over recent years, several boutique hotels have emerged and it has become a worthy destination for the mainstream traveller.

The fascinating thing about Santa Marta though is not the expensive yachts nor that it is becoming the playground of the wealthy, rather its attraction is that it is the centre of the pre-columbian Tairona culture. It is the ideal city from which to visit La Ciudad Perdida and El Pueblito, an inhabited Tairona village in Parque Tayrona.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta which rises majestically behind Santa Marta is the world’s highest coastal mountain range. Its peaks Pico Colón and Pico Bolívar are Colombia’s highest peaks at a height of 5700m and at a distance of only 42kms from the sea.

The Tayrona National Park is one of Colombia’s most cherished highlights, idyllic beaches and coastal tropical rainforests await you. The park boasts numerous ecosystems and pristine high energy beaches.

The region has many delightful highlights, such as Palomino, a small hamlet situated directly on the beach, a little further east towards La Guajira there are numerous nature reserves to visit. On a clear day from the park you can also see the now capped peaks of the impressive Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Santa Marta boasts the Rodadero beach, a site that has been embraced by mass tourism, especially at Christmas and New Year, and during the Easter high season. In the low season it is far quieter and you should take that into account when planning your trip, if relaxation is one of your goals.

We recommend an excursion out of Santa Marta to the village of Minca situated further up into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This is the oldest coffee growing region in the country and is blessed with incredible vegetation.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is also the origin of many rivers such as the Pozo Azul, also further up the Sierra Nevada you can find many rare bird species, a true hot spot for birdwatchers. Avid birders should consider a visit to the El Dorado reserve.

You will normally arrive to Santa Marta by aeroplane or by road along the coast from Cartagena. There are numerous daily flights from Bogotá and Medellín.


  • Santa Marta is on the coast and has an equatorial climate unrestricted by the altitude as the Andean regions are. It can be extremely hot, you should take precautions to protect your skin, avoid sun stroke and keep yourself hydrated.
  • In Parque Tayrona the yellow fever vaccination is mandatory.
  • We recommend the use of quality insect repellents and can suggest products available in Colombian pharmacies.


The Santa Marta region will typically fit into your tour plan between Cartagena and other destinations in Colombia such as Bogotá, Medellín or the coffee zone. For an idea of how Santa Marta and Tayrona could fit into your tour around Colombia, take a look at our round trip The Colours of Colombia. If arriving from Cartagena, consider adding a stop at The Mud Volcano of Totumo. For a coffee and beach experience within a limited timescale, you can also consider adding Santa Marta and Tayrona onto one of our short coffee tours.

Based on client feedback, we prefer to offer authentic and family-run accommodation outside of Parque Tayrona. Some with spectacular vistas across the Caribbean and others with accommodation directly on the beach near Palomino.

For those that don’t relish remoteness, we can also offer colonial city hotels in Santa Marta or accommodation in bustling Taganga.

The highlight and main attraction of the region is certainly Parque Tayrona, we encourage travellers to consider this as a full day trip.

Regardless of your accommodation preference, all locations are an ideal launchpad for a 3, 4 or 5 night trek to La Ciudad Perdida.


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