Santa Marta has a fairly varied offer of places to stay, do you want a place with a view of the sea or the mountains? do you want to save money on accommodation or is that not your main concern? do you want to be close to everything or in the middle of nowhere? As you can see, it all depends on your tastes and budget. In this article we will talk about the different tourist sectors in Santa Marta and see the advantages and disadvantages of staying in each one (We will not recommend any hotel or hostel). Just in case, we have an article for those who are doing the Lost City trek and want to know how is the pickup or the dropoff depending on the place you are staying.

Historic Center of Santa Marta

Parque de los Novios at twilight time
Parque de los Novios at twilight time

The historical center of Santa Marta has options for any budget, in this area you can get from backpacker hostels to boutique hotels. As you might expect, many of the accommodations are buildings from many years ago. Most of them have the style that prevailed in the first decades of the 20th century, are in excellent condition and have plenty of services and amenities.

The city’s commercial, financial and administrative activities are concentrated in the historical centre, so you will have everything close by if you stay in this area: ATMs, restaurants, travel agencies and/or airline offices, discos, bars, exchange houses and tourist attractions such as the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), the Cathedral or the Parque de los Novios, among others.

On the other hand, as you are within the urban area you will not have limitations with the mobile coverage and depending on where you stay, you could even count on quite fast internet connections, something very important if you are a digital nomad or simply cannot be offline for any other reason. The disadvantage of staying in the historic center is that the city is still barely developing the offer of tours and activities that can be done in the same area.

El Rodadero

El Rodadero developed as a result of tourism, which is why it has a wide range of hotels, restaurants and other things to do, but bear in mind that the offer has revolved around Colombian tourism. For this reason, if you ask a Colombian where he could stay in Santa Marta, he will surely recommend El Rodadero, but if you ask a foreigner, he will most likely not even mention this part of the city. This is because there are other more attractive places for a foreign tourist like the historical center, Taganga or Minca.

If you have any interest in the resort of El Rodadero, Playa Blanca or others further south in the city, staying in El Rodadero will be an obvious advantage. On the other hand, in El Rodadero you will find everything you need to enjoy your stay in Santa Marta, similar to what happens in the Historical Center. As a disadvantage we could cite the congestions that are so common especially in the high season of tourism in Colombia.

Taganga

View of the Taganga bay
View of the Taganga bay

Taganga is a small fishing village surrounded by hills and with a horseshoe-shaped bay, only 15 minutes from Santa Marta. It is well known for its relaxed atmosphere that attracts backpackers from all over the world. You may be surprised to see the occasional advertisement written in Spanish, English and Hebrew, as Israeli tourists have preferred this destination for several years.

Taganga is a diving resort, offering low cost and excellent quality places for this activity. It is also the point of departure and arrival of boats from and to different parts of the Tayrona Park, in this regard it is worth clarifying that although taking a boat for example to Cabo San Juan del Guía is faster by this means, remember that going by boat on the high seas is not for everyone.

Although this destination is quite popular, it has a limited infrastructure and although its bay offers a beautiful view, perfect for enjoying the sunset while relaxing, it is not very attractive for swimming in it. Fortunately, there are better beaches nearby that can be reached by boat in a very short time.

Minca

View of the mountains from a hostel in Minca
View of the mountains from a hostel in Minca

The town of Minca is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is known as the gateway to the Sierra, because it is a starting point to different tourist destinations such as Cuchilla San Lorenzo, Cerro Kennedy and others. While the urban area of Santa Marta is surrounded by dry tropical forest, Minca is in a more humid area of forest and mountainous landscapes 45 minutes from the center of the city. It ranges from the 600 meters high and will take you away from the heat of the city as you go up the mountain. Near the town you have birdwatching hotspots, waterfalls, hiking trails, coffee and cacao plantations and interesting food alternatives.

In Minca and its surroundings you can find Among the cons of staying in Minca, depending on you are staying you could have some connectivity limitations or none at all. Get informed very well if being offline is not an option for you.

Tayrona Park and surroundings

With the exception of the camping zones and the ecohabs, inside the Tayrona Park there are no accommodations such as hotels or hostels (although there are some private properties, which offer accommodation services).

The Tayrona Park is quite extensive, so when we talk about the surroundings of the Park we mean the area that is on the opposite side of the reserve zone around the Zaino entrance. Here, most of the hotels are located near the road that goes from Santa Marta to La Guajira, and have a lodge-style in view of the fact that they are not on the coast but in an area of tropical forest in the lower part of the Sierra Nevada, where there are also several rivers and streams. You can find from simple accommodations to cabins and hotels with all the amenities.

Outside the reserve, the strip of land that goes from one side of the road to the other until Palomino has an excellent offer of hotels, especially on the beach, where you can enjoy surroundings like those of the Tayrona Park. A beautiful beach line, full of coconut trees and vegetation.

Even if the beach is not suitable for swimming and you are in the middle of nowhere, there are many things you can do nearby such as surfing, horseback riding, hiking, paddle surfing, or just relaxing. As they are far away from the city, you can enjoy starry nights while listening to the sea waves and the breeze passing by, or have a good time with friends at the bar or the restaurant of your accommodation.

As in Minca and other areas on the outskirts of the city, there are limitations to mobile coverage.

As you can see, Santa Marta is full of options for all tastes and budgets. We hope that we have helped you to choose the sector or sectors of the city where you are going to stay on your next trip to our city.

 

*The accommodation services in the ecohabs are suspended while there is the process of change of administration of the Tayrona National Natural Park.

 

Santa Marta is known locally as the “Pearl of America” for its beaches, mountains, forests and others. This attracts many visitors from all over the world, and a destination they cannot miss is the Tayrona National Natural Park. Nonetheless, from some months ago the management of the National Park is passing through a transition that has changed the way you can get the entrance tickets. We bring you an article about where to buy your entrance tickets for Tayrona Park and the entrance fees, so you can save time while planning your visit to this destination.

Tayrona Park Entrance Fee

For buying your tickets you have to take into account two things, age, nationality and tourist season. According to age: children up to 5 years old, older than 5 up to 25 years old, older than 25 years old up to 65, and older than 65 years old. According to nationality: colombians, foreigners that live in Colombia, and foreigners that come from any country that belongs to the CAN (Comunidad Andina de Naciones, those are: Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) are all in the same category, that we will call here colombians. Foreigners that do not live in Colombia or do not come from Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador are in another category, that we will call here foreigners, for simplicity.

  • Any children (colombian or foreigner) younger than 5 years old does not pay entrance fee.
  • Any adult (colombian or foreigner) older than 65 years old does not pay entrance fee.

Tayrona Park Low Season Entrance fees

  • Colombian (6 – 25 years old): $ 18,500 COP
  • Colombian (25+ years old): $ 25,000 COP
  • Foreigner (6 – 65 years old): $ 55,500 COP

Tayrona Park High Season Entrance fees (1 december to 31 january, 1 june to 1 july, Holy Week, long weekends and from 3 to 12 october)

  • Colombian (6 – 25 years old): $ 21,500 COP
  • Colombian (25+ years old): $ 29,500 COP
  • Foreigner (6 – 65 years old): $ 66,500 COP

A mandatory insurance is required for you to visit the Tayrona National Natural Park

Everybody before entering the National Park needs an insurance policy that covers any accident within the Natural Reserve, and it is mandatory. If you are taking the tour to the Tayrona Park with us, this insurance policy is included. If you buy the entrance tickets by yourself you get the insurance policy right there, but remember it is an extra charge.

Where can you buy entrance tickets for Tayrona National Natural Park?

Up to this date, the only way to buy tickets is at the entrance ticket offices located in each sector of the Tayrona Park open to the public: Zaino, which is the entrance to visit Cabo San Juan del Guía beach and Palangana, the entrance to Neguanje beach and Playa Cristal.

What about to buy the entrance tickets for Tayrona Park online?

From March the 1st on there is no way to buy the tickets online, as it was done a couple of months ago. We will update this information as soon as you can do the purchase online.

Operating hours of the Tayrona Park and closures in 2020

The Tayrona Park operates 9 hours, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, everyday. Which means the ticket office is accepting people entering or leaving the park between this span of time. When you return from Cabo San Juan del Guía, we recommend you to do it before 2:30 pm, that way you have enough time to leave the park before they close. Remember the hiking takes 2 hours approximately, from one point to another.

The Tayrona Park has three closures in 2020: 1st – 29th February, 1st – 15th June, 19th October – 2nd November. If you are doing the Lost City trek in those days remember the closure of the Tayrona Park does not affect the operation of the Lost City.

The beaches of the Tayrona Park are great destinations to see in Colombia do not miss the opportunity to enjoy them. We hope this information can help you to set a budget and plan your trip to the Tayrona Park. In case you want to visit these beaches in a hassle-free plan, Mega Sierra Tour can be in charge of all the logistics, tours to Playa Cristal and the Tayrona beach of Cabo San Juan del Guía are waiting for you!

 

Santa Marta is a great spot to do several things that cover a wide range of activities. It has a response for those who love beaches, history, culture or nature. What can you do before or after the Lost City trek? Let’s see what most tourists do and where they stay.

Taganga

In Taganga, a village of fishermen just 15 minutes from the center of Santa Marta, you can find many dive schools that will provide you a combination of high quality service and affordable prices. From the village you can hike to nearby beaches too, or just relax. If you will stay in Taganga before and/or after the trek we will arrange the pickup and drop off with you.

Tayrona Park

Tayrona Park

The National Natural Park is named after the Tayrona indians who inhabited this region. It is now a well-known park by its white bays, coconuts palms and the tropical forest. The most iconic beach of the park is Cabo San Juan del Guía.

Tayrona Park before the Lost City trek: Wait for the car at the entrance (Zaino), we are picking you up by 10:00 AM, anyway, we will confirm you the time of the pick-up.

Tayrona Park after the Lost City trek: We can drop you off at the entrance (Zaino), by 2:30 to 3:00 PM.

Minca

Located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, it is perfect for relaxation, hiking, birdwatching or visiting coffee and cacao farms. Recently, Minca has become a great place to enjoy organic food and innovative preparations. If you will stay in Minca before and/or after the trek we will arrange the pickup and drop off with you.

Palomino

It is located in La Guajira department. Nonetheless, this town is so related to Santa Marta because Palomino is a hub from where many tourists come to Santa Marta to do different activities, what includes the Lost City trek. Palomino is the right beach resort. It has a relaxed atmosphere where you can enjoy long walks on the beach or enjoy the sunsets. Palomino has great options for relaxation and partying.

Palomino before the Lost City trek: Wait for the car in La Aguacatera, we are picking you up by 10:30 AM, anyway, we will confirm you the time of the pick-up. To get to La Aguacatera from Palomino you can take a bus that goes to Santa Marta and in less than 20 minutes you are arriving at there. Click here to see the location of La Aguacatera on Google Maps.

Palomino after the Lost City trek: We can drop you off at La Aguacatera from where you can take a bus that goes to Palomino or Riohacha.

The Lost City trek is a must-do while traveling Colombia. Nonetheless, it is possible that due to accesibility, affordability or time reasons, you can not have the chance to do it. And during September, when the site is closed to the public.

In that case knowing that there are ‘sister’ ruins of the Lost City can be very helpful. Here are three alternatives to the Lost City you should know.

Alternative to the Lost City number 1: Ciudad Antigua

With the same architectural structure to the Lost City, Ciudad Antigua (‘Ancient city’) is the most similar site to Ciudad Perdida that you can find open to the public. The site is located on the western face of the Sierra Nevada, in the rural area of Ciénaga, a city near Santa Marta. Pros: Visiting the ruins takes only 2 days, you will arrive there the same day of the departure. There are different activities to those done in the Lost City. Private tours with small sized groups. Cons: As a private tour, the fewer the people the more expensive the tour per person. Recommended if you want to see the archaelogical ruins and do some farm activities.

Alternative to the Lost City number 2: Taykú (A settlement similar to Pueblito Chairama)

Tayku
Tayku

Within the boundaries of the Tayrona Park you can find an indigenous settlement called Taykú. Just a couple of years ago, the most famous ruins in the Tayrona Park were those belonging to the Pueblito – Chairama sacred site. Now, Pueblito is closed to the public and Taykú took its place. While the structures of the lost city were designed to create flat terraces in a steep terrain, those of Pueblito or Taykú are not so impressive since they are on a flatter area. Pros: Full-day tour. Visit a Kogi indigenous community, Cabo San Juan Beach and a do a less challenging trek. Cons: The remains of the Lost City site are quite bigger than those in Taykú. Recommended if you want to have an approach to the indigenous community and visit the most famous beach of the Tayrona Park the same day.

Alternative to the Lost City number 3: “Teyunita”, Mini Ciudad Perdida

The Mini Ciudad Perdida is a group of terraces and stonepaths located on a hill in Paso del Mango. There is no any tour taking people to the site, but if you are going to stay in Paso del Mango you can ask if the Mini Ciudad Perdida is close and the way to go there. This site is perfect for a hike and maybe imagine a little how the ancient inhabitants of this region could live. When you reach the top of the hill you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surroundings. This small archaelogical site is an authentic Tayrona settlement that has not been restored. Pros & Cons: It is not a tourist attraction, what can be considered an advantage and disadvantage at the same time.

For 2020, the 4 indigenous tribes that inhabits the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have requested three breaks for the Tayrona Park. As the indigenous communities also have control over the trail to the Lost City and the archaeological site itself, does it affect the Lost City tour operation in any way?

Tayrona, Sierra Nevada and Teyuna Ciudad Perdida: Three different things

In Santa Marta area, we have access to both National Natural Parks: Tayrona and part of the Sierra Nevada too. In the case of the Tayrona Park, it has some of its beaches open to the public, but the tourist carrying capacity is controlled by National Natural Parks of Colombia, that is why they require an entry ticket. On the other hand, Sierra Nevada is just a protected zone that has no box office, so you can find yourself anywhere there, without paying any entry ticket.

Finally, Teyuna Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) is an archaelogical site within the boundaries of the Sierra Nevada Park area, but, as it is an Archaeological Park, it is administered by ICANH (Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, from its Spanish initials), and an entry ticket is required too.

As you can see, there are different administrations for each park, but in all of them the indigenous community has decision-making powers. The closure of the Tayrona Park has a cultural and spiritual reason. Ecologically, we understand that these breaks let the environment to recover, and every year, while there is a spiritual cleaning a physical occurs as well.

When is Tayrona Park closed in 2020?

1st – 29th February

1st – 15th June

19th October – 2nd November

A closure of one park does not affect others

Here goes the answer. The Lost City continues in fully normal operation during the closure of the Tayrona Park. In addition, up to the moment of writing this article, the dates of the Tayrona Park closure do not coincide with the closure of the Lost City, which is closed throughout the month of September (unless there is a change. We will be announcing the exact dates of the last tour before its closure and the start of operations).

All in all, pack for your adventure in the Lost City, we are always ready to go!