Tayrona Park and Santa Marta: A great blend of nature and history.

If you are planning to do a tour to the Caribbean coast of Colombia and want to include in your itinerary a good combination of eco-tourism, sandy beaches and a bit of Colombian history, you should consider Tayrona National Natural Park and the historic city of Santa Marta.

Much has been written already about Tayrona National Natural Park and after a time where it was not safe to visit, it is now becoming an established destination for most visitors to Colombia. It is a place of immense natural beauty, highly diversity of fauna and flora, and 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.

At the park, you can spend a day hiking along its rain forest eco-system and sandy beaches. You will see amazing plants and animals, and have the opportunity to swim, or practice snorkeling at some of the beaches where is safe to do it.

You will start your journey at Zaino, the main gateway of the park. From there, you can walk to the beaches in Cañaveral and then to La Piscina (the pool), a deep bay with quiet waters making it reasonably safe for swimming and snorkeling. From there, you can take another 45-minute walk to Cabo San Juan, a beautiful cape with a great beach, and by far the most popular area of the park. If you want to carry on exploring this beautiful park, take the scenic path uphill to Pueblito. This path will take you to an archaeological site where you will see small fragments of the stone paths and houses built by the Tayrona civilization.

Tayrona Natural Park Beach

Tayrona Natural Park Beach

Usually the starting point for a trip to Tayrona Park is Santa Marta. Most people will travel to Santa Marta just to take transport to Tayrona Park without even spending a few hours at this historic city.

Santa Marta is the Colombia’s oldest city and was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1525. So, it is worth spending at least a few hours or one day doing a tour  around its historic area to visit some of its beautiful colonial buildings such as the Cathedral and the Customs House, the oldest city’s building, where the Gold Museum is located.

Santa Marta Historic Centre

Santa Marta Historic Centre

Santa Marta Cathedral

Santa Marta Cathedral

You can also visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, one of the most important historic sites of the city. 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 infighting 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.

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.

We hope this article gives you a general idea about these two great destinations in Colombia and you decide to include them in your itinerary.

Happy travels!

The Uncover Colombia team

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