Santa Marta Colombia : Complete Travel Guide

In this article, you will learn everything about Santa Marta. You will discover all the best places to stay in Santa Marta, things to do, where to eat, how to get around and more. So if you plan to travel to Colombia, you will love this new guide. Let’s dive in
santa marta catedral colombia

Table of Contents

Characteristics of the city


Santa Marta is the first city in Latin America to have been created by the Spanish conquistadores.


Located in the north of the country, capital of the department of Magdalena, it is an important tourist, cultural and historical center.


Simon Bolivar, a political and military personality, died here in 1830.




Number of Inhabitants


The city of Santa Marta has approximately 454,860 inhabitants (2010 estimate).






Before the colonial era, the area was occupied by Amerindians.


In 1524, the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas landed in the region.


He founded the city of Santa Marta and developed it as the port and capital of the region.


In 1596, Governor Lope de Orozco restructured the commercial and political environment of the territory.


The town was targeted by pirates in the region and was stormed several times during the 16th and 17th centuries.


Santa Marta is a place of struggle for independence, marked in particular by the Battle of Santa Marta (November 11, 1820), which resulted in nearly a thousand dead and as many wounded and prisoners.


Banana cultivation helped the city to prosper in the first half of the 20th century.


Since then, the region has relied on tourism.






Located on the north coast of Colombia, Santa Marta gives its name to the bay that surrounds it.


Built between sea and mountains, it is located on the Caribbean Sea and has an altitude of between 0 and 5.7 m.


The mountains of Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal massif in the world, dominate it in the southeast.


The highest mountain of the range, the Cristóbal Colón peak, overlooks it with its altitude of 5,775 m.




How to get around the city?


The city of Santa Marta offers a choice of various modes of transport, buses, busetas or taxis.


Buses and busetas: several bus companies serve Santa Marta.


Taxis: Taxis are easy to spot in the streets because of their yellow colour.


Drivers are required to show a document showing the legal prices for each destination.


If the driver does not have one, it is preferable to hail another taxi.




What to see?


The city of Santa Marta has many sights to see.


Visitors will mainly visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the Casa de Aduana, the town hall, the cathedral, the sculpture in homage to the Tayrona ethnic group and the statue of Ridrigo de Bastidas.


The city is also home to several very interesting museums such as the Tayrona Museum, the Bolivarian Museum of Modern Art and the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum.


Lovers of relaxation and natural sites will go to the Rodadero, a very touristic beach of national fame.


Website of the Tourist Office of Colombia.




What to do?


– Take a walk on the Rodadero.


– Relax on the beaches and practice water sports.


– Visit the final resting place of Simon Bolivar, hero of the revolution and major historical figure of Latin America.






The heart of the city is full of shops and small businesses where it is possible to make various purchases.


During a trip to Santa Marta, you can acquire, among other typical products, gold jewelry, various textiles, a ruana (Colombian pancho), Indian pottery and leather goods.




Gastronomy and local recipe(s)


The dishes: fish and seafood, cassava cooked with cheese, fish soup and empanadas (filled slippers).




What to see in the area?


In the surroundings of Santa Marta, there are various tourist sites to see.


The Tayrona National Park; the natural sites of Taganga; the village and the Minca waterfall.






The yellow fever vaccine is highly recommended for the coastal regions and the Amazon, as well as the DTP update.


Vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever and rabies may also be recommended.


Repellents should be used to repel mosquitoes.


In case of emergency, dial 123.




Hospitals in Santa Marta


Hospital Universitario Fernando Troconis


Comuna 4 Santa Marta


+57 4213 698.




Clínica La Milagrosa


Calle 22 # 13A – 09


+57 5 4215850.




Time difference


In summer : – 7h


In winter : – 6h

What to see in Santa Marta


Lanes of the historical centre of Santa Marta.

A visit to Santa Marta takes the visitor to the main viewpoints and places of interest such as the Taganga viewpoint, the Customs House, the “Pibe” Valderrama monument and the “Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino”.

Tayrona Park.

A day’s walk between tropical forest, bays and pristine beaches:

Several possible options:

1/ Classic visit (4 to 6h walking)

Follow an ecological trail through the rainforest up the river, reach the coast and the pristine beaches of Arrecifes and then swim in the crystal clear waters of La Piscina (4h walk, easy level).

You can then reach Cape San Juan de Guia (“El Cabo”), a spectacular bay of white sand, surrounded by huge volcanic rocks.

(2 more hours of easy walking, optional, possibility to return on horseback).

Possibility of snorkeling (snorkeling).

2/ Hike to Pueblito (7h walking)

Follow in the footsteps of the Indians; in the village of Pueblito, the archaeological remains and the meeting with the Kogui ethnic group allow you to understand the ancient Tayrona civilization.

In the heart of this luxuriant nature, your local guide will share his knowledge of local traditions and endemic species.

You go down to Cabo San Juan and return by the classic tour route.

This hike is moderate to difficult due to the difference in altitude and the humid heat.

Possibility to make these visits over two days, spending the night in the cabanas of the Playa Brava.

TREKKING TO THE CIUDAD PERDIDA (The Lost City) in the Sierra Nevada.

Leave for 4 to 5 days of hiking in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Departing from Santa Marta or Tayrona Park, go deep into the Sierra Nevada to discover the mythical Lost City of the Tayrona civilization.

This trek is the opportunity to understand the beliefs of this mystical place and to meet the Kogui people.

During the trek, you will be able to swim in natural pools of great beauty.

Note: Bring good shoes, mosquito repellent and sunscreen.

Attention: It is planned to walk 5 to 7 hours per day with a negative and positive difference in altitude each day.

Note: This tour can be offered privately or in groups.

Please consult us for a French-speaking guide.



For a moment of disconnection with civilization, choose to take a few days in a bungalow in Palomino, on a deserted beach.

Here you are alone to enjoy the ocean rolls and the excellent local cuisine.

Located 1h30 away from Santa Marta, this accommodation guarantees you resourcing and relaxation during a seaside stay far from the crowds.

You can opt for relaxation or nature activities such as :

A buoy descent on the Don Diego river: a contemplative and relaxing walk in the forest.

An excursion to the Quebrada Valencia: in the middle of the jungle, enjoy the natural fresh water pools.



To enjoy the freshness of the mountains, climb in the Sierra Nevada (1h from Tayrona Park and the city of Santa Marta)! In Minca, you stay in a charming bungalow (ecohabs) overlooking the Atlantic coast.

In this green and restful environment, you are lulled by the songs of the multitude of colorful birds.

You go on a day trip to observe the birds, discover natural waterfalls and a traditional coffee finca.

From here, birdwatchers can also discover the exclusive El Dorado Park, famous for its many bird species.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter