Santa Marta holds the distinction for being the second-oldest surviving city in South America and the oldest in Colombia. It has a pretty old town and some fascinating museums and galleries, but most travellers won’t want to stay for much more than a couple of days before getting out to explore the surrounding area. So here are the best weekend getaways from Santa Marta, Colombia.
If you’re looking for a break from the sometimes oppressive heat of the Colombian Caribbean coast, then Minca is a perfect weekend escape from Santa Marta. In Minca, a little village in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, you can swim in mountain rivers, go hiking, visit a coffee or cacao farm, or just relax at one of the many lovely hotels and hostels and enjoy the sunset.
Taganga is just around the corner from Santa Marta, in a secluded little bay, and is a favourite spot for many travellers eager to get away from the city for a weekend. It can be quite a party place on weekends too, with hostels and nightclubs hosting buzzing Friday and Saturday night rooftop parties. During the day, you can visit the beach or relax with a fresh juice on the seafront.
Tayrona National Park
Colombia’s most iconic National Park is around an hour from Santa Marta and is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some nature and time on the beach. As a National Park, the jungles of Tayrona are teeming with monkeys, birds, and many other exotic animals, and the white-sand beaches and warm Caribbean waters are ideal for relaxing.
Ciénaga is a small seaside town just down the coast from Santa Marta and is also one of Colombia’s Pueblos Patrimonios, or National Heritage Towns. The town was founded back in 1521, and it is home to some notable Caribbean colonial architecture as well as being the birthplace of many famous Colombians over the years. If you’re looking for more regional history than you can find in Santa Marta, or just want to experience a different side of life in the region, then Ciénaga would make an excellent weekend away.
Just further along the coast from Tayrona is the little beachside town of Palomino, which is perfect for a relaxing beach escape from the city. There are loads of delightful hotels and hostels, miles of sandy beach to enjoy, some top-quality restaurants and seafood, and you can even escape up into the nearby mountains and go tubing in the cool, clear waters of the Palomino River.
This popular surf camp/hostel just to the east of Tayrona National Park is an ideal weekend getaway from Santa Marta, whether you’re a surfer or not. Those who do like to ‘hang 10’ will be able to surf the warm Caribbean waters at will, while those who just want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and friendly atmosphere can sip cocktails at the beach bar and take a dip in the sea.
The ultimate weekend getaway for literature-loving Colombian travellers, Aracataca was the birthplace of iconic Colombian novelist and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is said that Maconda, the fictional town at the heart of his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was based largely on Aracataca, and visitors can pay homage to the master at his childhood home, now the site of a lovely museum to his life and work. The town isn’t the prettiest spot but is largely unchanged from how it was when Gabo called it home, so it’s a great place to experience the Caribbean reality of perhaps the continent’s most beloved author.