Santa Marta is a busy colonial town on the shore of the Caribbean with quiet shady plazas and a bustling local market. The town is the gateway into Tayrona National Park and treks into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We based ourselves at the popular backpacker haunt La Brisa Loca in Santa Marta where they provide secure lockers and storage to stash your valuables and big backpacks while you head out into the wild. It was the perfect place to organise the next 12 days of our adventure and gather supplies.
We had decided after a very long arduous discussion not to do the famous six-day Ciudad Perdida, Lost City Trek to the ancient Tayrona ruins hidden deep within the Sierra Nevada. It was a hard conclusion to come to as we have only heard great things of this trek, but decided that after doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Amazon Jungle and the Cotopaxi Volcano climb we would be pushing our budget too far to do another expensive walk. Instead we chose to spend more time exploring the diverse range of beaches along the north coast including the spectacular Tayrona National Park and the eerie Cabo de la Vela in the desert further afield.
There are a number of different campgrounds and places to swim in the park. Some of the beaches though are too dangerous to swim at, like Arrecifes where many unwitting backpackers have met a perilous end. La Piscina and Cabo San Juan are certainly the most popular offering pristine beaches to swim and relax – and if you walk a bit further a secluded nudist beach to get your kit off and remove those nasty tan lines. While Tayrona may be a very busy park to visit, what makes it so great is that everyone is spread out in the forest and the numerous beaches scattered along the coast. In the afternoon after the last boat load of noisy backpackers from party town Taganga have gone home you feel like you have the beach all to yourself and can enjoy quiet beers on the sand as the sun begins to set. There are no roads within the park helping to retain the tranquillity. Easy hiking trails with a few vigorous uphills connect the beaches and campgrounds. We suggested leaving your big pack back in Santa Marta though, in the hot tropical heat you will thank yourself for packing light.
Click here to view our photo gallery of Santa Marta and Surrounds.
Next Stop the inhospitable desert of the northernmost tip of South America to the seaside ghost town of Cabo de la Vela…