Santa Marta is a charming colonial city with a pedestrian zone which comes alive in the evenings as the whole city seems to come out for a night of dinner and drinks.

tayrona national park

 

Cartagena’s ideal location on the north coast of Colombia makes it a great jumping off point for a variety of different excursions. Although you can visit some amazing beaches on day trips, with a little bit more time and planning, you can find yourself hiking in one of Colombia’s most beautiful national parks.

 

Tayrona National Park lies east of Santa Marta which is about a 4-5 hour drive from Cartagena. Santa Marta is a charming colonial city with a pedestrian zone which comes alive in the evenings as the whole city seems to come out for a night of dinner and drinks.   It is a bit quieter and cheaper than Cartagena so it is a great place to spend a few nights.

 

It is very easy to get to Tayrona from Santa Marta. There is a direct bus that leaves from the market and drops people off roughly an hour later at the park entrance.

 

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tayrona national park

 

 

The entrance to the park is pretty steep (approximately $20) and it is mandatory to buy health insurance at the front gate before entering (roughly $2).  However, you can maximize your time there by spending the night. Hammocks and tents are available to rent at campsites throughout the park. There have been some complaints that it can get very noisy at night so this may not be the best place for a night of solitude but you do get a chance to see how Colombians like to camp!

 

The most common trail runs from the front entrance of the park to the famous Playa…. The hike takes about 2 hours each way and it takes you across wooden walkways, sand beaches and up and over the rocky hills and boulders that hug the coastline. The main beach has a campsite and plenty of food options for people who want to buy food rather than carrying their own in.

 

 

For people who are really ambitious, you can also do the Lost City trek which is Colombia’s version of the Inca Trail.  You can book your tour in Santa Marta and it should take about 4-5 days to complete the trek.

 

To get back to Santa Marta and Cartagena, you simply need to backtrack. If you have the time, make sure to visit Minca, a small town up in the hills above Santa Marta.  There isn’t a huge amount to do in the town itself but it is the starting point for many short treks in the nearby forest where you can find waterfalls, beautiful views and coffee farms.

 

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