Published: December 28th 2011December 28th 2011
A short five-hour ride east of Cartagena by collectivo
(a small mini-bus accommodating 8 to 10) lies Santa Marta, reputedly the oldest city in South America. Like Cartagena, Santa Marta's also along the Caribbean; much smaller it has its own vibe and similar climes, though the heat is drier. In mid-December, temps averaged anywhere from 28 to 31 degrees Celsius during the day, and 17 to 20 at night.
While in Santa Marta we took in the sites, including the oldest church in Colombia, and enjoyed seeing the city all decked out for Christmas. Santa Marta's a place made for wandering. It's also a jumping-off point for local day trips, including Taganga with its laid-back beach attitude, and Parque Nacional Tayrona (Tayrona National Park), a true Colombian gem supposedly 45 times larger than NYC's Central Park. While most people “do” Tayrona on their own, it’s not something I’d advise. Even with a guide we were pushing to get through the forest as weather conditions changed rapidly, taking us from one beach to another through thick mud and a washed-out trail. Along the way, we saw giant red ants, a wild wombat, and a hunter snake (thin and wiry in the
trees, not venomous and thankfully slithering the other way). While waiting out a heavy rainstorm, we also stopped for a delicious lunch of fried red snapper, plantains and tomato/onion salad. Muy bueno!
Our final destination in Santa Marta? The Santa Marta airport, SME, where we boarded a flight to Medellin, though not before enjoying the picture-perfect ocean views from the open-air terminal with a sandwich and a cerveza.
There are more photos below