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.

 

History, beauty and tourist importance, are words that help us define the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta. The Quinta is an ancient big farm (hacienda) where the liberator Simón Bolívar died. Today the surroundings are also a large botanical garden, with its art museum that exhibits the works of artists from ‘bolivarian’ nations, those liberated by Simón Bolívar. The Quinta is an oasis within the city of Santa Marta and it is worth visiting every corner. You can visit it accompanied by a tour guide who are hired (by a voluntary donation), in the same place.

How to get to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Taxi. The easiest way to get there is to take a taxi. The taxi fare will depend on where you are, it could be from $6,000 to about $10,000 COP or more if you are in a very remote part of the city.

Bus. If you decide to take a bus to get to the Quinta de San Pedro, what you need to know is the route that take you there is any that goes to Mamatoco. No problem if you are in Taganga, the Historical Center or El Rodadero, just ask at the front desk where you can take the bus. The bus fare is $2,000 COP or $2,050 on sundays and holidays for the regular buses. For the new ones the fare is $2,100 COP and $2,150 on sundays and holidays. The time from El Rodadero to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is about 45 minutes, from the Historical Center or Taganga it will take about 30 minutes.

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino entrance fees

The entrance fees for the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino depend on the origin and age of the visitor. They keep the same fees all year round. The admission tickets are sold at the ticket office at the entrance of the Quinta. All prices here are in colombian pesos (COP).

  • Colombian adult: $17,000
  • Foreigner adult: $23,000
  • Children: $15,000
  • Colombian adult older than 65 years old: $15,000
  • Foreigner adult older than 65 years old: $21,000

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino hours

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino opens at 9:00 am and allows entrance until 4:30 pm in low season, in high season they allow entrance until 5:30 pm. It closes at 5:30 pm in low season and at 6:00 pm in high season.

The cafeteria and souvenir shop is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The only days in which there are important changes in the time schedule at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino are December 24th and 31st, in both cases they open at 9:00 am and close at 1:00 pm. The only day of the year when they do not open is January 1st.

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!

 

The best time to do the Lost City trek is the dry season. In this region this season runs from January to July with a minimum increase of the precipitations in April and May. The most popular periods for doing the Lost City trek are August, the last week of December and the first week of January. In this article we want to show you what you can expect each month of the year. We take into account the weather and the flow of people. (The weather station in Santa Marta collects data from some points of the territory, the data we analyze here corresponds to those of the Tayrona Park in view of the fact that they are the closest to Ciudad Perdida and with the most similar climate).*

Precipitation and weather Tayrona Park
Annual Precipitation and temperature.

The Lost City Trek month by month

January – February

By January, the rainy season has ended totally. December, January and sometimes February are windy months. The nights are cooler than others during these days. In January continues the holiday season in Colombia, so the first days of the month could be very crowded.

February is similar to January. The windy period known as “La Loca” ends. Other info: In February the Tayrona Park is closed but it does not affect the Lost City Trek.

March, April, May, June

By March, the previous dry days are so evident in the level of water of the rivers and the mountains around the urban area. The flow of people goes down until its lowest peak in May – June. This is the best moment to do the trek if you care about crowds. Just remember when is the Holy Week, this short period of time has an increase of local tourism, but even that, the campsites are not going to be so busy. From April on you will have some rainfalls, in some cases there will be a refreshing drizzle or the clouds will just cover the sun.

July – August

So similar to April and May, during July and August there is an increase in the flow of people and rainfalls. In recent years, August has been really wet.

September (The Lost City is closed)

Remember, September is the month when they close the Archaelogical Park. The companies restart operations by 29th September (This date cannot be guaranteed. Please contact us to get more info about it).

October – November

The rainiest month of the year is October. If you do the trek during this month, or November, be ready for the toughest and most challenging version of the Lost City trek.

December – January

By December, the rainfalls stop gradually as the breezes increase. The last week of the month can have days really crowded as so the first week of January.

Flow of People 2018 - 2019 - Lost City trek
Flow of People 2018 – 2019 – Lost City trek

Extra things to take into account

  • This article is intended as a guide, not a weather forecast.
  • The humidity in the mountainous region is high all year round (higher than 80%).
  • Whenever you do the trek be prepared for surprising rainfalls or drizzles. But do not bring thick raincoats or you will cook yourself wrapped in it. Check our Lost City Packing List out for more information.
  • No matter what season it is, when it rains it is almost always in the afternoon. This offers a double advantage: first, you will be arriving at each campsite by the time it starts raining, and second, the Lost City is visited in the morning, so the weather will not be a problem.

* Notes: Other points such as San Lorenzo (2,200 m.a.s.l.) have a totally different climate and those located in the urban area record higher temperatures, less humidity and less precipitations. For that reason we consider the Tayrona Park or Guachaca as the most accurate references.

Surely, you will agree with us, that you cannot photograph whatever you would want while traveling, there are privacy, copyright and/or security issues. But talking about the lost city, are there any limitations on the pictures you can take there?

The answer is yes, but it is a matter of the native’s privacy. Here we tell you all you need to know before shooting your camera.

1. Do not take any photos of the natives without their authorization

This is a basic rule, before taking any photo of the indigenous, please ask your guide if it is possible to do it, he can talk to them and get their permission, in most cases they will accept.

2. Photos of children are totally forbidden

The reason is you need permission from their parents, but in most cases the kids are playing outdoor and their parents are not right there. It happened tourists did not have the chance to get their permission and just photographed them freely. Now to avoid any inconveniences they have prohibited taking pictures of children.

3. Aerial footage by drones are limited just to some areas

Specifically, the area that belongs to the peasant community and the Lost City Archaeological Park Area, in other words, you cannot fly a drone over the indigenous reserve area, which means you cannot get any footage of the Mutanyi village, nor any house that belongs to the indigenous community. If you bring a drone, the guide will let you know where you can fly it or not, but just to remark, the Lost City and its surroundings can be recorded using drones and/or other devices, the only points where it is not allowed to do it, are any within the indigenous reserve area.

Respectfully…

The main thing to keep in mind is these communities are sharing their space with us, and we can enjoy this adventure and respect their privacy at a time. An analogy that can help you understand this point of view, is imagining somebody in your neighborhood flying a drone over your yard, or even worst, in your living room! (As it happened in a native’s home) or just taking photos of your children without you even knowing it! In Mega Sierra Tour we are commited to the development of the communities, that is why we believe the first step is having a deep respect for them while working hand in hand.

Even when we are sharing these rules with everyone, you can find online footage that do not comply with them since they started recently, or see some tourists breaking them (because they ignore them or just do not care). The point is you can commit too with the essence of responsible and community tourism while having a lifechanging experience!