Trekking and adventure through Colombia’s hidden jewels | Santa Marta

Whilst Tayrona is what attracts both locals and foreigners to this region, the city of Santa Marta itself is quite an exciting spot for nightlife, markets, shopping, travel agencies and much more

marc_casolani
Marc Casolani
3 March 2017, 7:45am
 I was there long enough to learn that Colombia’s reputation is mostly blown up, outdated and out of context
I was there long enough to learn that Colombia’s reputation is mostly blown up, outdated and out of context
Colombia – the land of conflict and cartels, a place tourists were advised to tread carefully. That’s pretty much what I had heard before I went there for the first time. However after my first visit, I fell in love with the country, have been back twice and would gladly go back again and again. I was there long enough to learn that Colombia’s reputation is mostly blown up, outdated and out of context.

One location in Colombia that caught my attention is the city of Santa Marta. The region is famous for its national park, Tayrona. Whilst Tayrona is what attracts both locals and foreigners to this region, the city of Santa Marta itself is quite an exciting spot for nightlife, markets, shopping, travel agencies and much more. In general it is a vibrant city with a lot to offer and the expenses for accommodation, dining and shopping suitable for every budget.

Stay at the little fishing village of Taganga, which is just outside the city in the next big bay due east
Stay at the little fishing village of Taganga, which is just outside the city in the next big bay due east
Transport to Santa Marta is easy and frequent. Planes fly in daily from most big cities and buses run every couple of hours from terminals across the country. If you have a little bit of money to spend, go crazy with a Cadillac taxi, with suspension that makes the car dance to the Latino beats, that is driven by look-a-likes of Richard “Cheech” and Tommy Chong from Cheech and Chong. Nothing beats the entertainment factor of this ride, which will allow you to forget how much money you had to part with to get into the car! 

Take some well-deserved time off and book yourself in for a camping trip at the beaches of Tayrona Park
Take some well-deserved time off and book yourself in for a camping trip at the beaches of Tayrona Park
Stay at the little fishing village of Taganga, which is just outside the city in the next big bay due east. Even though this area is becoming hugely popular with backpackers, mainly from Israel, it is a quaint village with unique characteristics and a good vibe that will keep you entertained well enough so you never feel the urge to head into the city. You will find a number of small bars and restaurants around the beach and the town also has two outdoor discotheques. Around Taganga there are a number of hiking trails to take you to the inland hills and others to the coastal areas. Access to this area is easy, taxis are well aware of the location and a mini bus runs to and from all major stops around the city every half an hour. 

Access to this area is easy, taxis are well aware of the location
Access to this area is easy, taxis are well aware of the location
Fruit smoothies in this country are amazing and in this little village I personally found them to be phenomenal. 

Some of the highlights that are on the top of the list would be the challenging trek to La Cuidad Perdida, The Lost City, and a four-day camping adventure in the amazing Tayrona Park. Start off with the Lost City trek, which you can arrange with two main companies in Bastidas Street close to the Marina, I recommend Tulcan, though there are smaller agencies for people on lower budgets. What made me choose Tulcan were the experienced and knowledgeable guides as they had once been excavators of the Lost City. The six-day trek is no easy feat, and requires a good level of fitness, however the stops to eat, sleep and swim are definitely worth the journey. Highlights of the trek to the city include meeting local tribes and the rich bio-diversity of the area. 

Around Taganga there are a number of hiking trails to take you to the inland hills and others to the coastal areas
Around Taganga there are a number of hiking trails to take you to the inland hills and others to the coastal areas
The 169 terraces carved into the mountain are believed to be 650 years older than Machu Picchu, founded around 800AD. Only found in 1972 by treasure looters the city has gained reputation among travellers. Though the trails were closed to tourists in 2003 following the kidnapping of eight tourists, the Colombian army now patrol the area making the city safe again.

A mini bus runs to and from all major stops around Taganga every half an hour
A mini bus runs to and from all major stops around Taganga every half an hour
After the physically challenging Cuidad Perdida, take some well-deserved time off and book yourself in for a camping trip at the beaches of Tayrona Park. Stock up on provisions and hop on a bus to the entrance of the park, hike through the coastal jungle and arrive at the first beach, Arrecifes. Stay put or head to the remote paradise of Cabo San Juan. This beach is suitable for camping and is as lush as they get. If you are up for a bit of walking and exploring, you can venture further west to a couple of even more remote beaches where you are guaranteed complete privacy without another single person in sight. 

This beach is suitable for camping and is as lush as they get
This beach is suitable for camping and is as lush as they get
From experience I would recommend travelling between February and April, but whenever you decide to take the trip I do hope you find some time out of your busy schedule to visit this magical spot. 

Marc Casolani is a freelance photographer and a chronic traveler. Bitten by the travel bug...