Santa Marta is a wonderful city at the Caribbean coast of Columbia and a real tourist hotspot. A lot of locals come here to enjoy some sunny days at the ocean but also explore the surroundings. By fact Santa Marta is the oldest and first city in Columbia and was founded in the beginning of the 15th century by the Spanish conquistadors. Unfortunately there is no real colonial style city center like in other cities, as here in the conflicts of the centuries it has been destroyed. nevertheless the historic center of Santa Marta is nice to explore and has the typical venues like parks and churches to see.
Besides the city itself there is a lot in the surroundings to explore: the big Tayrona national park with wonderful beaches and great hikes or the mountain village of Minca with its great opportunity to go bird watching. The amazing lost city of the Tayrona culture is also in the area and can be visited after a multi day hike through the jungle.
This is the bigger upper park in the historic center and is dedicated to national hero Simon Bolivar.
Parque de los novios
The a little smaller park is dedicated to the new center and the surrounding streets with bars, restaurants etc. The main nightlife of the city is taking place in that area.
Cathedral der Santa Marta
The cathedral of the city is based quite in the middle of the historic city center.
Cemetori San Miguel
The small cemetery is on the lower right side of the historic center. It has also a nice park in front of the main entrance where older people are enjoying their time,
The upper beach front of the city has a very nice promenade sidewalk. The beach itself isn’t that nice, to be honest and also the view to the right side onto the big container harbors and the patrol tanks is not supporting the vibe either. Anyhow the beach promenade is really nice to hang out and there is a lot of activity usually going on there.
The lower end beach is a little nicer but don’t expect too much here either. Although the sun set pic is quite nice in general I recommend not to rely on the beaches in Santa Marta itself but rather check out the once in the surrounding areas like Tayrona or Tatanga.
Minca is a small village in the surrounding mountains and a typical day trip destination from Santa Marta. Besides if you enjoy a more relaxed and peaceful environment, this could also be a good alternative for a longer stay. Enjoying the wonderful nature during a hike through the jungle is the typical activity. Additionally the place is also a very popular venue for bird watching. I was not taking a special tour for that, but also saw quite some wildlife during my stay.
Tayrona national park
The Tayrona national park is a big protected area just 30km away from Santa Marta city. It is very popular for its beautiful beaches or its hikes through the jungle.
Playa Cinto is only accessible via sea, so probably the at least crowded beach. The shore line is rather long and is fun to walk. Here the water is a little darker and also not so much wildlife to see.
Playa Crystal is one of the popular beaches in the park and has to offer this typical white beach, crystal clear water feeling. It is also a great place for snorkeling.
Playa Concha is again very different from the other two’s with its more greenish color water. I was also snorkeling here but the visibility is really bad and not much to see here.
Lost City (Ciudad Perdida)
The lost city is an old ancient ruin of a city built by the Tayrona people around 700 year A.D. The size and also the architecture of the hundreds of terraces built into the mountain is just amazing. Only a small piece of the entire complex is today available for a visit and has been expelled but there is much more still covered by trees and plants. Like many indigenous sights, this has also just been re-discovered in the 70s and in the 2000s made available for tourists . To get to this place isn’t that easy as it requires a multi-day hike through the jungle. Myself did a 4 day trek which brought me on the 2nd day to the archeological sight. I was also able to sleep the night at the camp next to the sight which was just amazing. There are many operators offering the 4 day lost city trek, but I can just highly recommend you wiwawalker. Be prepared for some sweating days in the jungle, but they are definitely worth. You will also meet the descendants of the Tayrona people, still living in that area, following their old indigenous way of life, which I encourage you to encounter with respect.