Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
» View Photoset (94 Photos)
The extremely hot city of Santa Marta on the north coast is Colombia's oldest city founded in 1525. I have been here many times - in 2008, 2010,
2011/12/13/14/15/16/17 and have spent over 5yrs living and having fun in nearby Taganga, just 10 minutes away. At the hottest times of the year from June
through to August / September it is usually around 33-35 degrees in the day and drops to about 29 degrees at night. It's not a place that you
struggle to keep warm in. It is not the most attractive of Colombia's cities but there is still some colonial architecture and interesting streets.
Tayrona Indians / The Malecon
The indigenous people of Santa Marta are known as the Tayrona Indians, although you will rarely see any. I have seen the same family about 3 times
in Taganga, they wear white robes. But there are at least 6 monuments of the Tayronas down along the median walkway and park behind the beach called the Malecon.
The Malecon is a fun and busy place especially during weekends when it seems the whole city is spending the day at the beach. There is all sorts
of food being sold including kebabs of meat and vegetables on a stick, shaved ice, rice pudding, shrimp cocktails, ice creams, soft drinks and beer. If you are a foreigner
you will no doubt be asked several times if you want to buy some jewelry or a wristband by the walking vendors. The little island of Morro sits
in the middle of the bay with a lighthouse on top. The port is at the eastern end of the beach and you will often see big ships out in the distance.
The tall monument to Santa Martas founder, Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas
(1460-1527) can be seen from all along the Malecon.
On the other side of the road there are many restaurants and bars where you can sit down under an umbrella and have a meal or cold drink.
Simon Bolivar Park
Simon Bolivar Park over from the malecon has nice trees, flower gardens and a monument to Bolivar riding a horse. Santa Marta is actually the place where Simon
Bolivar died in 1830 at an estate called Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. It is also known of as the Grand Hacienda, tours are possible.
15 minutes from Santa Marta is Playa Blanca beach at Rodadero, there are the usual hotels and restaurants and also the Rodadero Aquarium and Sea Museum,
(in Spanish: Acuario y Museo del Mar del Rodadero). They have dolphin and seal shows plus sharks, sea lions, turtles and a lot more. I believe you can ride the dolphins if you pay extra.
, Santa Marta has a gold museum called Museo del Oro, it's located in a colonial mansion called
Casa de la Aduana. It has gold, pottery and artifacts of the Tayronas and a model of Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City.
Santa Marta Cathedral built in
1766 is on the main street. Also in the city is San Fernando Fort built to ward off the pirates, constructed by the Spanish.
Extreme Sports and Adventure
If you enjoy extreme sports and adventure then you should visit Mamancana Natural Reserve. There they offer mountain biking, wall and rock climbing, zipline canopy and
paragliding, you can go for a nature walk and possibly see some wildlife. It takes 35 minutes to get to the mountain from the city.
The Feel of Santa Marta
Santa Marta is a fun, colorful and lively city on a hot and sunny coast with easy going locals and colored umbrellas. It has a laidback tropical feel,
the people are not afraid to wear bright colored t-shirts and flip-flops on their feet. It is definitely easier to blend in with the locals. Street
vendors sell everything from shoes to yummy cups full of jelly and cream and interesting fruits can be tasted at the fruit stalls. There are several
banks and ATMs in an area between the main street and the sea and big supermarkets (Exito and Olympica) on the main street - a good place to stock up on food and
water for the trip to Tayrona National Park
. I recommend the
supermarket called Olympica Sao if you want decent service (Exito is terrible). I have seen some interesting things while here, like
when out of nowhere a man walking on stilts crossed the road in front of me. He was dressed in blue, orange and red with a white hat and a painted face.
When I stayed here the first time, across the road there was a little shop where the shopkeeper had his pet iguana sitting up on the counter to greet the customers.
Along the waterfront, there is an electronic temperature sign on the road by the sea, it often reads 35 or more degrees. I have been lucky twice now
to have seen the Festival of the Sea parades during July and in 2016 got a press pass to get some photos from the middle of the street! Santa Marta
has some pretty wild nightlife, clubs and bars too!
The Lost City
Santa Marta is the place to organise a trek to Ciudad
Perdida, it's 5 days long and not to be taken lightly, the mosquitos can be quite vicious. It's a 20km trek through rainforest and across rivers.
As you go you will see much bird and wildlife and also meet the locals of indigenous villages. The Ciudad Perdida was only rediscovered in 1975!