Santa Marta is a little unknown destination that many may not even think to visit when heading to Colombia, but it’s a surprisingly beautiful vacation hotspot with beaches and gorgeous views of the Caribbean sea.
Santa Marta was home to indigenous tribes for thousands of years until the 16th century. The city was officially established in 1525 when it was conquered by Spain, making it the first Spanish colonial city in Colombia and the second oldest city in South America. It was a major port for Spain throughout the colonial period and in the 20th century, the city exported large quantities of bananas and coal. Interestingly enough, Santa Marta is the same place where Simon Bolivar died in 1830—the man who freed Colombia as well as Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela from Spanish rule.
Today, Santa Marta continues to bring in tourists from all over the world to bathe in its beauty and architecture. So for those who are planning a trip to Colombia, we recommend you take a few days to explore one of its most beautiful cities.
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
There are so many spots where you can enjoy a day in the sun, and Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona is one of them. Situated on the coast, it covers about 58 square miles of land full of gorgeous views. You’ll encounter various mammal and bird species living in the park, of which there are hundreds, but that’s not all there is to see. The park has phenomenal beaches, lagoons, tons of palm trees, coves and a rainforest. You can spend an entire day here exploring, basking in the sun and swimming in the ocean.
If you’ve been to Lima, you may have made your way to Machu Picchu, but do you know that there’s an archeological place near Santa Marta that’s older than Machu Picchu? Known as Ciudad Perdida, this ancient city dates back to 800 CE and is located in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta—a mountainous area separate from the Andes in Colombia. Ciudad Perdida can only be reached via foot, and it takes about 4 to 5 days to get through the jungle and mountains to this historical place. You can book a private or group tour to trek up to the ancient ruins, and in addition to the views, you will get to meet Kogi tribesmen along the way. They are an indigenous group that has been living in the area before Santa Marta was colonized by Spain. Nonetheless, it’s an unforgettable experience that is perfect for anyone over 12 years of age.
Parque de los Novios
Parque de los Novios is a daytime and nighttime park full of locals that come here to not only enjoy each other’s company but also explore the various cafes as well as restaurants serving traditional Colombian cuisine. Some are cheap and others are more pricey, but almost all offer delicious meals. If you’re looking for places to eat around the area, we recommend Ouzo Restaurante, Hemingway or Patio Querido for lunch/dinner or Lulo for breakfast/brunch. Aside from eating around the area, you can also find a variety of vendors and musicians playing live music in the park in the evening—it’s a lively atmosphere all around!
Although Bogotá is one of the most popular cities to visit in Colombia, taking a break from the capital to Santa Marta may be just what you need. We hope this city guide will help you discover the best of this coastal destination and make your trip even more memorable.
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