Scouting trip to The North (II) – Santa Marta and Tayrona Natural National Park

As you probably remember from our previous post, a few members of the Uncover Colombia team went on a scouting trip to the north of Colombia a few weeks ago. These poor souls had to endure two excruciating weeks of radiant Caribbean sunshine, a wide selection of sandy beaches, incredibly nice sea food and an almost relentless stream of party and entertainment, courtesy of the local inhabitants of several Colombian coastal towns and cities, possibly among the happiest folks in planet Earth. The scouts took one for the team, it was hard work but someone had to do it. We salute them and thank them for their chivalry.

Tayrona Natural National Park - Colombia

Tayrona Natural National Park – Colombia

Joke aside, it is fair to say that the guys did a great job and we have enough contacts, activities and destinations to include in our product offering.

We are getting ever closer to the final shortlist of tours that will be included in our official company launch in a few weeks’ time (details to be announced soon). We have captured your feedback (and continue to do so) and we have combined it with our local knowledge of the available destinations in Colombia to produce a product offering that, we believe, comprises the right mix of famous sightseeing destinations and hidden gems that can easily be missed by other visitors.

Tayrona Natural National Park - Colombia

Tropical rainbow – Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia

But, why travel with Uncover Colombia?

As most travel companies, we want to differentiate ourselves and we thought the best way to achieve this was to identify those values that we really felt passionately about. Very early in the product development phase, we identified two key principles that had to be imprinted in our tours:

1) Travelling to Colombia must be first and foremost an interactive experience

Local transport (Chiva) - Santa Marta, Colombia

Local transport (Chiva) – Santa Marta, Colombia

Colombia is a vibrant destination. We want to offer travellers a chance of experiencing, rather than just witnessing Colombia. This means that our tours will be focused on offering people opportunities to get involved and interact with the real Colombia. If you expect to be seated on a mini-bus watching through your window while a tour guide describes the outside world for you, you might want to use a different travel partner. On the other hand, if you are willing to touch and feel as well as watch, we will do our best to offer those opportunities to you along the trip.

2) Travelling is about people: the traveller and the local

Music band - Santa Marta, Colombia

Music band – Santa Marta, Colombia

Travelling is a people business and we believe this covers not just the traveller and the travel company but it also extends to the local communities that inhabit the places we visit; after all, without the locals, the trip is just a collection of photographs of landscapes and some days at the beach. We want our customers to have a great time so they can recommend us to their friends and family, but we also want the people who live and work in the destinations we cover to end up better off as a result of hosting our visitors.

What does this mean? It means local restaurant instead of food chains; it means local hotel or guest house instead of chain hotel; it means local guides. Whilst it’s logistically difficult to guarantee a tour that is 100% sourced from local suppliers, we have used this preference as a guiding principle and a differentiator wherever possible. So, as a traveller you might not always have all the facilities that a big hotel can offer but in return you will have a chance to spend the night in a more authentic place knowing that your money will go to the local community.

But let’s get back to our scouting team. Following their trip to La Guajira, the guys continued south to the Tayrona Natural National Park and onto Santa Marta.

Local fauna - Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia

Local fauna – Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia

Much has been written already about Tayrona and after a time where it was not safe to visit, it is now becoming an established destination for most visitors to Colombia because of the immense natural beauty, the highly diverse fauna and flora and also because, due to its natural reserve status, it remains relatively unspoiled.

As a result, don’t expect to find any 5-star resorts in Tayrona. Accommodation is basic but comfortable and the available activities are mostly about trekking around beautiful corners of the park and enjoying the beach.  The park is a place to get closer to nature, relax by the beach and enjoy an unpolluted environment surrounded by the amazing wildlife.

Tayrona Natural National Park - Colombia

Tayrona Natural National Park – Colombia

For the most adventurous traveller, the park is the starting point for the 6 day trek up the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the Ciudad Perdida archaeological site. The team decided to pass on this challenge this time and instead they pressed on to the city of Santa Marta, looking for a more urban experience.

El Rodadero Beach - Santa Marta, Colombia

El Rodadero Beach – Santa Marta, Colombia

Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia (it was founded in 1525 by Don Rodrigo de Bastidas). It is a popular destination for those looking for beach, party and also a bit of history and Spanish colonial architecture.

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino - Santa Marta, Colombia

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino – Santa Marta, Colombia

One of the main historical points of interest in Santa Marta is the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. This house was the place where Simon Bolivar stopped to recover his strength on his way to Europe from Bogota. Bolivar had been commander of the patriot army that expelled the Spaniards from Colombia in 1819 and he went on to liberate what today are the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Panama, reuniting them under a single new republic called La Gran Colombia.

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino - Santa Marta, Colombia

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino – Santa Marta, Colombia

By the time Bolivar reached Santa Marta in 1830 he was already gravely ill of Tuberculosis and his dream of La Gran Colombia had been chattered by the inflight among local leaders from the different regions that only recently had achieved their independence.  Bolivar never managed to gain his strength back and he died in Santa Marta on December 17th 1830. La Gran Colombia was dissolved in 1831.

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino - Santa Marta, Colombia

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino – Santa Marta, Colombia

From Santa Marta it is also possible to visit the town of Aracataca, the birthplace of Nobel Prize winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is said that Aracataca was the town Garcia Marquez had in mind when he created the fictitious Macondo, featured in his award-winning novel 100 years of Solitude.

The team continued their journey along the coast to the beautiful iconic city of Cartagena de Indias. But this, dear reader, will be another story.

Finally, this is the time for us to elicit your opinion:

–          Have you been to Santa Marta and/or Tayrona?

–          Did you enjoy your time in this area?

–          If you haven’t been, would you like to visit?

We’d love to have your comments below.

Until next time,

The Uncover Colombia team

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7 thoughts on “Scouting trip to The North (II) – Santa Marta and Tayrona Natural National Park

  1. I just adore Parque Tayrona. You’re absolutely right about it being an unspoiled paradise… I imagine it will be built up quite a bit in the next few years (meaning travelers should head there ASAP!). Thanks for the mention in related articles!

    • Hi Meghan, Thanks for your comment. Tayrona NNP is a natural reserve protected and managed by the Colombian government’s National Parks department. We all hope they will continue to do their job to protect this beautiful area and maintain its natural habitat for the benefit of the native species and the park’s visitors for years to come. Happy travels!.

  2. Pingback: Scouting trip to The North (Part 3) – Cartagena de Indias | Uncover Colombia

  3. Pingback: Uncover Colombia Interview: A 180 degree change in perception | Uncover Colombia

  4. Pingback: Explore Colombia with Uncover Colombia: Check our new tours | Travel, Discover, Experience

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