Before I begin to tell you about my amazing day at Parque Tayrona, I must admit that I skipped one stop: After we left the pleasure hell of the beaches of Cartagena, we made it to Santa Marta, a city by the sea. A little colonial, a little touristy  (again: Semana Santa!), a little average, but very unpretentious. Healthy mix of good crowds.

Too bad that scenic outposts always have to be way up high. But we are still smiling. 

We came by bus. Special tourist bus, door to door service. Do these drivers drive smoother than others? ¡Hell no!

I got my drivers licence at the age of 25, practiced the art of driving for two years, never felt very comfortable. Then I gave away my car, went to Jamaica for a couple of months, and never sat behind a wheel again. So I’m certainly no driving expert. But I know for sure: what these people are doing, is not right!

There is for instance the overtaking at blind curves – way up high on serpentines.
We have the overtaking at spots marked with two continuous lines  (not there to give the road a fancy touch or make it look slim).
Overtaking on the right side of the car  (just to be clear: in Colombia you are driving on the right side; or at least you’re supposed to).
Another charm is simultanious overtaking by two cars – so if you’re lucky, there are four cars side by side – the two cars overtaking the third one and another one in the opposite direction; in a spot with a continuous line (advanced course: at blind curves; way up high on serpentines).
And if you are in a rush (Colombians are in a rush as soon as they sit in a car), you go straight; on a very curved road. Also known as cutting a curve.
And since the trips are long, drivers get bored just driving so they talk on the phone or even type WhatsApp-messages.
Yesterday the cab driver wrote down my phone number with a pen on paper while driving  (no, we won’t go on a date, he’ll take me to the airport on my last day).
On our way from Salento to Medellín over the Andes we had to sit next to the bus driver because Mimi tends to get travel-sick. Well, although the road was very windy and quite bumpy, she did not get sick. She was far too scared.
Never will I sit next to the driver again and see – I think ‘witness’ might be the better word – what he’s doing. I let him – and Him (remember: Semana Santa) – do his job without watching.

Parque de los novios at Santa Marta. But at the many bars people other than novios are allowed to hang out, too.

Anyway, back to why I’m skipping Santa Marta for now: We’ll be back for a couple of days after our weekend excursion.

Taking only a small backpack with us, we spent the Easter weekend further East (no pun intended) beginning at Parque Tayrona, a national park that stretches more than 20 miles along the Northern caribbean coast and attracts nature lovers not only because of its impressive flora and fauna but also by reason of many secluded, unspoiled beaches.

Getting sneak peeks at the cool, blue ocean is very encouraging. Like the carrot dangling in front of a mule.  

Secluded means – once again – hiking. It starts harmless on straight wooden walkways, but this bliss doesn’t last.

This is how they suck you in: The first part is an even wooden walkway.

Soon you have to climb up and down quite steep stairs and dirt trails and it’s really hot and humid. At the same time the jungle is magnificent and you get to see majestic birds, exoticly glittering lizzards, huge butterflies in bright colors and even monkeys.

I can see ¡the beach!

Yes, it’s a great place, but when we finally reached the beach after only  90 minutes, I was much more exhausted than after our five hours hike in the mountains of Valle Cocora. ‘Mountains’ is key here: There it was relatively cool, here it’s a frigging hothouse! So once we got to the first of many beautiful beaches, I took a dip in the cristal clear ocean and simply crashed in the shade of one of the lush trees. Until it was time to make it back.

Like an enchanted forest: Not every creature makes itself visible. We also heard something gallop in the underwood – no clue what it was.

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The Parque Tayrona – what can I say: Enchanted trails in a lush jungle. Exotic birds, bizarre critters, huge butterflies in bright colors, and curious monkeys. Halfmoon bays with turquoise waters.

Sneak peek from the jungle trail at the ocean.

To get a foretaste of paradise, just take the local bus to El Zaino, the main entrance to this protected garden Eden on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

The park is a protected area on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. There are various ways of visiting – and visiting you should definitely do.

Taganga, a dull. suburb-ish town about 10 minutes from Santa Marta, is actually already the Parque’s southernmost point. This gives you an idea how close you already are once you reach lovely Santa Marta.

Taganga – basically a dumpster, but a good stop for reaching Parque Tayrona by boat.

There is a public bus leaving the stop next to the Central Market on Calle 10 with Carrera 9 where any cab takes you for as little as US$1,50.  From here, there goes a local public bus towards La Guajira. You can just tell the driver where you want to get off – we went to the main entrance El Zaino in Cañaveral, but if you are more adventurous, it’s also possible to enter the park at Calabazo.

As we planned on going further east to Palomino the following day, we booked a hotel next to the main entrance to spend the night. It also came in handy since we where able to leave everything we didn’t need for the visit to our room; later, you’ll understand why this is a big advantage.

There are also accommodations at the park, but they are either quite rustic – like hammocks, tents, beds without real walls – or pretty expensive; whereby the open air beds are quite costly, too. On the other hand, if you spend the night at the park, you have to pay the entrance fee of about 15 $ only once; so you need to do the math yourself according to your interest.

It’s important that you have your documents with you, i. e. an ID or, even better, your passport. Yellow fever vaccine is not indispensable but recommended.

Like an enchanted forest: Not every creature makes itself visible. We also heard something gallop in the underwood – no clue what it was.

Don’t forget to use sun protection and take more with you. Repellent is optional – probably recommended if you spend the night.
Good sneakers or preferably hiking shoes are crucial – this is a national park, a jungle, not an English garden.
Clothing should be sensible and hardwearing and fast-drying.
At least for the first two hours, you should have enough drinking water with you. Again, although this is not an expedition, the climate makes a visit really demanding.

We visited the park only for one day, but to make the most of your visit, I would recommend at least two or three.

It’s starting harmless on a straight trail of wooden planks. What’s the big deal?! But soon, you’ll start to climb up and down quite steep stairs and dirt trails.

This is how they suck you in: The first part is an even wooden walkway.

You are hiking through a really impressive jungle with some rough and mountainous parts to secluded, unspoiled beaches which is very nice, but in the heat and humidity exhausting. The variety of the flora and fauna is amazing – some of this biodiversity is even endemic to this region.

Hiking from bay to bay.

Coming from El Zaino, the first beach, Playa Cañaveral, looks very inviting – especially after the exhausting hike, but do yourself a favor and take the warning serious: The waves and the undercurrent here are really dangerous. Just clench your teeth and postpone your dip till you reach the following bays – you’ll enjoy it so much!

I can see ¡the beach!

As always, the way back seemed much easier – also because it was later in the day hence cooler.

One might think that at night you’d have the chance to get a better look at the wildlife; thus while we hiked back, loud Salsa and Reggaeton was blaring from the campground, so I’m not sure in how far that actually attracts wildlife.

Like I said, you can also enter the park at Calabazo. Then, you’ll have to walk much longer to reach the beaches, but you hike the hills covered by a lush rainforest. It’s nice, but really hard – with a capital H.

The easiest way, however, is to come by boat from Taganga: You hop on a boat and after about 40 minutes, they drop you off on one of the beaches. However, you still have to buy an entrance ticket.

Behind all the green is some amazing blue.

Best place to sleep:

The Recuerdos del Tayrona guest house is about three minutes walk from the El Zaino entrance. The rooms are rather simple and rustic, but clean and the owners are super-friendly and welcoming. It’s a great place to leave everything you do not urgently need for your visit to the Parque.

Check out the availability and their prices.*

Best place to eat:

To be honest, there aren’t that many options where to eat so that the best place was not difficult to pick – and we picked Restaurante Las Acacias.

However, food was good – and the seating on their terrace next to the river was nice.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia? 

Then go to the main post and take your pick!

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