Colombia has two coastlines, the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the north-east. Due to lack of time and also some security concern we decided to skip the Pacific and focus on the Caribbean. It turns out this was a fantastic choice! 🙂 We had an amazing time in Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca and the Tayrona National Park. (For a more detailed look at colorful Cartagena see post here).
Apart from all the beautiful places we saw (more on that below), it was also incredibly interesting to learn a bit more about the Caribbean region. The population here is a mix of various different influences and thus quite diverse. People here mainly descend from native inhabitants, Spanish colonialists, Africans that came here as slaves as well as European migrants who came in the middle of the 20th century. This mix is obviously also reflected in the food which includes European and African influences.
Several years ago backpackers discovered this quiet place, located a 45 minute bus ride away from Santa Marta. Right in the middle of endless cacao and coffee plantations, this is the perfect getaway from the stress of Colombia’s bustling cities. We ended up staying two nights in a Finca located another 45 minutes above Minca. Getting there was the first highlight since being “picked up” from Minca actually meant riding a horse to the Finca. It was absolutely worth it though since the place was in the middle of nowhere, hidden away between cacao and coffee. We even got a free tour around the estate from a 62 year old farmer who told us everything about it. We also got to hear countless stories about the area during the long lasting crisis.
Tayrona National Park
After relaxing in Minca for a bit we were ready for the next adventure. Tayrona National Park! Just one hour east of Santa Marta we entered the park, torn between staying outside watching the Soccer World Cup final and entering the park early to get a nice camp spot…. 🙂 We ended up watching a few minutes while waiting for a colectivo (public bus) but then went inside. We walked a few hours to our final destination, a camp site called Cabo San Juan. The hike was incredible as the landscape and surroundings changed completely every few minutes. It actually took us a lot longer to reach our destination for the day since there was just sooo much to see on the way. Gorgeous views of the sea, monkey, ants, trees, palm trees, huge rocks, more beaches, more beautiful trees… simply stunning nature! After cooling off in the see (first swim ever in the Caribbean!) we arrived a the camp site in the beautiful afternoon sun.
Most tourists come here for its convenient location since Santa Marta is the perfect hub to explore places like Minca and the Tayrona NP. The touristy part of the town is literally limited to two or three streets. Still we had a great time and enjoyed spending some time in touristy but quite nice cafés and restaurants.
Practical tips – accomodation
Santa Marta: Rua Hostel is an incredible place with a nice vibe, super friendly staff and even a pool on the roof terrace!
Minca: We stayed in Finca San Rafael, a beautiful, slightly remote place about 45 min walking distance from Minca in the middle of coffee and cacao plantations
Tayrona NP: Inside the park Yuluka seems to be the cleanest camp ground. Just outside the park we stayed at Yuluka EcoHostel and had a great time there. Super friendly staff (we got invited to the owner’s birthday party) and a great atmosphere. Plus they have a free shuttle to the NP in the morning.