A short bus ride from Cartagena took us to Santa Marta, a city mostly known for its proximity to the famous Tayrona National Park. We chose to stay in the city of Santa Marta, however if I knew then what I know now, I would have chosen to stay in the actual park for a little more adventure. The city itself was nice, but mostly just a city. There’s the main street along the beach lined with restaurants and cafes, however during high season it can seem a bit over-crowded. The streets were lit up with beautiful Christmas decorations and the buildings a colourful display of colonial architecture known to Colombia.
Since we are total beach bums, we couldn’t resist a day at the beach! We took a local bus to Taganga, which is a small fishing village on the edge of Tayrona National Park. A quaint town bustling with tourists strolling along the main road, sipping cocktails on a patio and enjoying the sunshine at the beach. We took a short boat ride around the main strip of Taganga to small beach on the other side of the town where the beach was quieter. There were no shops or roads, just a small stretch of beach with a couple of restaurants and cafes. When it was time for lunch we asked a waitress for a menu, and to our surprise she brought out an entire tray of freshly caught fish for us to choose from! Definitely the most visual menu I’ve ever seen! Of course the fish was delicious and we had a perfect, chill day mixed with some tanning, kayaking and some cocktails of course!
After a day at the beach, it was time for our trek through Tayrona! The beautiful hike took us through winding trails and forests, up and down muddy paths, over large rocks and along majestic beaches and lush mountains. Walking through the quiet forest, we would suddenly emerge from the peaceful sounds of the jungle into the loud roaring of the ocean. We welcomed the long stretches of beach as we were sweating and covered in mosquito bites. Removing our sweaty shoes as quickly as possible, we walked along the cool, refreshing water as it soothed our bites and cooled us off. Though watch out for critters when walking barefoot in a jungle as I experienced my very first bee sting! We also encountered many beautiful butterflies, ant farms and other exotic birds and creatures unknown to us Canadians. Had we known that it was super easy to stay the night in the park itself as they had many little lodges and hammocks, we would have planned to do that - to hang out in the peaceful forest at night and wake up to the sound of the exotic birds and lapping waves of the ocean.
Our stay in Santa Marta brought us to the end of our stay in Colombia, which was a truly wonderful and memorable experience - a country that is definitely at the top of my “must see” list! White sand, crystal clear water, lush mountains, fresh seafood, cheap beer, delicious coffee...the people, the energy, the beat of the drums...it's true what they say: "Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay!"