After a week in Medellin, we headed to the North, to spend our last weeks in Colombia.
We got a 25-hour bus from Medellin to Santa Marta, where our original plans were to visit Tayorna Part and hike the Ciudad Perdida.
After hearing the stories of people who did it and their negative reviews, we decided to skip the Ciudad Perdida trip. While we didn’t see much of Santa Marta, but we based ourselves there to visit other places and we had a lot of fun here.
Things to do and see in Santa Marta:
- Spend a day in Tayrona Park
- Go on a day trip to Minca
- Chill on Bahia Concha
- Stay in the Dreamers Hostel
Tyrona Park is a natural reserve located between the Sierra Nevada and Caribbean Coasts. This place is famous for the palms, the lagoons, the crystal water and the wildlife. A must-see in the North of Colombia.
You can visit the park in one day or sleep in there for a night (or more). We went back to the hostel on the same day, but, if I could go back, I would spend a night in the reserve.
Organising your visit
Despite what it looks like in the pictures, Tayrona Park is far from an unspoilt beach you can enjoy all to yourself. This destination is extremely popular not only among tourists and backpackers, but also among local people and visitors from all over the country. For this reason, it is easy to find information online to organise your trip.
Getting there: You should leave your hostel very early in the morning. Our shuttle bus left Dreamers Hostel – where we were staying and who organised the shuttle for us – at 7.30 am. Once you get dropped off at the park entrance, you are asked to watch a video about the park and then queue to buy your ticket. Entrance fee is 48,000 COP for non-Colombian residents. It is important to bring your passport or a copy, or they won’t let you purchase a ticket.
After buying the tickets, you have two options to get to the trail head. You can either get a short bus to it for 3,500 COP or walk. I would recommend getting the bus, as it saves you at least one hour.
Once in the park: The hike isn’t particularly hard or steep, but if for the first 30 minutes you will be walking on wooden platforms, the rest of the trail is extremely muddy and there are some ups and downs. It’s also incredibly hot, so make sure you bring plenty of water with you.
During your walk, you can stop at several viewpoints, to enjoy a view of the beaches from above or simply stop to look at the wildlife- we saw so many monkeys!
It took us approximately 2.5 hours to complete all the rail and get to the very last beach, Cabo San Juan, where we stopped for a couple of hours to swim and relax.
Sleeping in the park: Although we didn’t sleep in the park for time reasons, we heard it’s an amazing experience. There are no hostels in the park, but you can rent a tent or a hammock. There is a main hammock area or only approximately 15 hammocks on a rock that overlooks the beach, which are unfortunately almost always booked out. The maximum cost to sleep in the park is of 25,000COP.
Before Tayrona, we visited other places around Santa Marta. Bahia Concha is a very popular beach here and, while it isn’t the best beach in Colombia, it is a nice way to spend a day. As a bonus point, you can go snorkelling in a safe and eco-friendly way – in small groups, so that the guy can make sure you don’t dive and touch the fish/corals – and for only 30,000COP.
Another day, we went to Minca, a very relaxed off-the-beaten-path village near Santa Marta. Some people spend a night here, simply to enjoy its vibes, but we did it as day trip. To get there, you can either get a collective for less than 10,000 COP or a taxi for 40,000COP. We got a collective there and back and it worked okay for us.
The main reason to visit Minca is to go on a hike and see its waterfalls. As you can imagine, the weather is hot a humid, which makes the steep hike hard. Eventually, you should get to a waterfall called Cascada Marinka. However, apparently there is an alternative trail that brings you to a different waterfall, Pozo Azul. Whatever trail you take, swimming in the freezing water is extremely refreshing.
Finally, if you are looking for a place to stay, we had an amazing time in Dreamers Hostel. This hostel is big and very clean, and it offers a different activity every night, from salsa classes, beer pong, karaoke, movie night, and more. You also need to try their pizza!
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