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What to see in Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park (Colombia)

Santa Marta (Colombia) is the capital of the department of Magdalena and the oldest city in the country. It was founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas and is located on the Colombian Caribbean coast, 240 kilometers northeast of Cartagena. Santa Marta is not such a popular destination for foreigners, even so it has many charming places and corners to visit. Near the city they are full of places that are well worth visiting. It is usually the starting point to visit Tayrona Park, Minca and the Lost City. Here you will also find beautiful beaches.

In this post I tell you what to see and do in Santa Marta, which places are essential, travel tips and accommodation.


Historic center of Santa Marta

To start getting to know the city, you can take a guided tour of Santa Marta. It is very interesting and will be the perfect starting point to get to know the most emblematic places and to begin to locate yourself in the city.

In the historic center there are many interesting places to visit:

The Monument to Rodrigo Bastidas

In 1928, the sculpture of the founder of Santa Marta, Rodrigo de Bastidas, was inaugurated on the ruins of the Fort of San Vicente. Later the monument was moved in front of Parque Bolívar, right on the boardwalk. It was the work of the Spanish sculptor José Lafita Díaz.

Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta

You will find the Cathedral of Santa Marta located in a square in the historic center of Santa Marta, being one of the most important Catholic buildings in the city.

The Cathedral is Renaissance in style and was built in the 1760s. For 12 years, it housed the body of Simón Bolívar. Since 1953, the remains of Rodrigo de Bastidas have been housed there.

Bolivar Park

In the Bolívar Park of Santa Marta is the statue of the Liberator Simón Bolívar. In its beginnings it was known as the Plaza de Armas. At the beginning of the republic, it adopts the name of Plaza de la Constitución. Finally, due to the proximity to the Customs House, where Simón Bolívar was, it was called Parque Bolívar. There are 2 monuments that you cannot miss in this square: the Fountain of the Four Faces and the Equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar, the work of the sculptor Leone Tommasi donated by the Government of Venezuela.

It is a fairly busy area, with benches and some trees. In the afternoons there are usually children playing ball and ladies gossiping. It is a great area to walk around and have an ice cream.

Boyfriend's park

Another of the parks that you should visit in the historic center is Parque de los Novios. It is one of the gastronomic and tourist centers of Santa Marta, and a place always full of atmosphere.

In the park is the statue of Francisco de Paula Santander and the bust of the politician Manuel Murillo Toro, 2 times president of Colombia.

Carrera 3

Carrera 3 is a street with a lot of atmosphere, local food restaurants, food stalls and bars to have a drink.

It is a very colorful place, each house has a colored facade and the street is usually decorated with pennants. At night there is a very good atmosphere with music and lights.

Diving in Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a popular place to dive because the waters are calm and transparent. In addition, it is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your diving certification. It is also a good place for beginners because the water is very calm. You can dive in the surroundings of Santa Marta, Taganga and Tayrona Park. You can usually see large schools of fish of different colors, coral reefs and turtles and dolphins if you are lucky.

In the center of Santa Marta you will find several places where it offers the possibility of excursions and diving trips.

Rodadero neighborhood

Rodadero is the place where many tourists decide to stay in Santa Marta. It is a neighborhood located next to the beach, 5 kilometers away from the center of Santa Marta. Here you will come across many restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts, shops, nightclubs...

Rodadero beach is not ugly, but it is always very crowded with people and with street vendors that do not let you disconnect. However, it is a good accommodation option. If you are interested in staying in Rodadero you can see availability and prices of accommodation for your dates from this link.

Taganga town

Taganga is a small fishing village about 5 kilometers from the center of Santa Marta. In this town there are many hostels, several restaurants, places to party and diving schools.

The town is beautiful, there are also natural places that you can visit such as the viewpoint, the large beach or arrive by speedboat at Crystal Beach, without a doubt a paradise.

To get to Taganga from Santa Marta you can go by taxi or by local bus.

Excursion to Tayrona Park

Many of the people who come to Santa Marta do so to visit the Tayrona National Natural Park, one of the most popular places in all of Colombia.

Whether you want to visit Santa Marta or you are in Cartagena de Indias, you cannot miss an excursion to Tayrona Park.

In the Park you will find jungle, paradisiacal beaches and places as beautiful as Cabo de San Juan.

You should know that it can only be visited on foot (there is also the possibility of visiting the park on horseback, but I always recommend not using the animals for these purposes, so it is better to enjoy this paradise on foot). Once you pay the entrance fee and enter the park, you can stay as long as you want with this ticket. But you cannot leave the park and re-enter the next day with the same ticket, you will have to pay the ticket again. If you want to visit Tayrona Park for more than one day, you must stay inside. It is worth enjoying this place and staying one night either in the park or nearby.

We decided to spend three nights here. We couldn't find hotels inside the park that we just liked, so we stayed in a hotel near the entrance to the park, right on the beach. Some paradisiacal villas with sea views, with swimming pool, very quiet and among vegetation. They were a few days of relaxation in which we really enjoyed this natural environment!

We bought the entrance to the park one day, and the other two days we did excursions and hiking trails around the park, which are also beautiful.

Our accommodation in Parque Tayrona (5 minutes from the park entrance) Villa Playa Tayrona, Los Naranjos

The Park is located about 15km from Santa Marta, so if you want you can continue staying in Santa Marta and come on an excursion. However, Santa Marta does not have such beautiful beaches nor is it such a quiet area, so if you want to disconnect for a few days, do not hesitate.

If you want to make an excursion from Santa Marta here I leave you a link of the full day excursion (for less than 30 euros/person) all day that includes transportation, guide in Spanish and entrance to the Tayrona National Natural Park.

Excursion to Minca

Another of the most popular excursions from Santa Marta is Minca. It is an area with lush vegetation of the Sierra Nevada where tourists come in search of nature, peace and disconnection. The most interesting visit is to the La Victoria coffee farm and the cocoa farm. There are very cool routes that take you to see the Marinka waterfall and the Blue well.

Visit La Quinta de San Pedro de Alejandrino

The Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is a hacienda founded by Francisco De Godoy y Cortesia in 1608. It has great historical importance since Simón Bolívar spent his last days in this hacienda before he died on December 17, 1830. Inside the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is also home to a hacienda dedicated to the production of honey, panela and rum.

You can also visit the botanical garden and the art gallery.

Excursion to Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is the beach with the clearest waters and the clearest sand that you can find in the vicinity of Santa Marta. It is a good option to spend a day at the beach, enjoying the sun, snorkelling...

If you only have a few days and you have to choose between visiting Playa Blanca or visiting the Tayrona National Natural Park, do not hesitate and choose the National Park, it is more spectacular and the beaches are paradisiacal and unique.

Trekking to the Lost City

The Lost City is one of the most enigmatic places in Colombia. It is an old town of the Tairona culture lost in the Sierra Nevada jungle. It was built in the 8th century and abandoned during the Spanish conquest. It was rediscovered in the 1970s. Today it is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. There is a 4-6 day trek.

If you are interested in knowing more about this trek, you can see more information about the 4-day trek through the Lost City from this link. It has very good references and it is an excursion that I have pending.

Excursion to Cienaga

If you want to visit a nearby city, Ciénaga is a good option. It is a very quiet city, with colonial buildings in pastel colors and interesting places to visit.

Do not miss visiting the Plaza de los Mártiles, the Casa del Diablo, the Masonic Lodge, the Casa Grande, the Casa Riascos Labarcés, the Barcelona theater, the Municipal Palace and the Blue Palace.

The city of Ciénaga is located about 30km from Santa Marta. To get there you can take a taxi or an excursion. In our case, we hired a taxi for the whole day, we visited Ciénaga, we made a stop and enjoyed a few hours in the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, a natural park with lagoons, islets… where you can take boat rides, speedboat rides, take a route kayaking… To end the day we arrived in Barranquillas, our next stop and where we spent a couple of days.


The best area to stay is in the historic center, full of life and with all the places of interest nearby, being able to visit them on foot.

Our choice of accommodation was a new and very nice apartment that was very cheap, we paid less than 50 euros per night. The apartment was huge and with a nice view of the sea.

The Grand Marina Santa Marta apartments. In the same apartment block there is a swimming pool, sauna, restaurant...


I hope you enjoy your trip to Colombia a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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