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Santa Marta

Santa Marta
Type of Location
About Location

Santa Marta is the capital city of the Colombian department of Magdalena in the Caribbean Region.It was founded in July 29, 1525 by the Spanish conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas, which makes it the oldest remaining city in Colombia (Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien was founded earlier, but abandoned soon after).Located between the Santa Marta Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, the city is a popular tourist destination due to its history, colonial architecture, beaches and nearby nature reserves.Simon Bolivar died at an estate named Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino on the outskirts of Santa Marta on December 17, 1830.The city has been affected to some extent by the Colombian Armed Conflict.

Prior to the Arrival of Spanish explorers, the area where Santa Marta lies was inhabited by Amerindians from the Tairona culture, and its subsequent families: Arhuacos and Koguis, among others.The city was founded on July 29, 1525 by Spanish conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas, accompanied by some two hundred of his men and a few Amerindians.He named the city after the Catholic day for Saint Martha, which in Spain was celebrated with festivities.However, many historians argue that he named it after the Spanish city of Santa Marta de Astorgas, which he had visited.With its foundation, the Spanish colonization also started the conquering of lands from this region, and the set up of administrative functions for the colony, including a maritime port and the construction of defenses to prevent pirate raids.

Temperatures in the city of Santa Marta ranges from 27 to 35 degrees Celsius at sea level, but the Municipality of Santa Marta stretches up to the highest snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and each 100 meter of higher altitude means 1 Celsius lower temperature.Rainfall in this region varies from 12 to 975 mm per month.Tourism has its peak during December 15 to January 15 and another peak during the Easter week.The district of Rodadero is a favorite resort of Colombians together with Cartagena and San Andres.The recently renovated downtown of Santa Marta with its blend of colonial and republican architecture attracts many visitors among them several cruise ships a week.Downtown Santa Marta is also building its own international marina, planned for completion in 2011.In this way Santa Marta hopes to attract international sailing boats, especially during the hurricane season, since Santa Marta is protected from hurricanes by the surrounding mountains. Las Fiestas del Mar (The Festival of the Sea) is an annual celebration during the midyear vacation period.One of the main events in the festival is the jetski show organized by Santa Marta Esqui. There are beauty pageants, parades and parties in the city.The Festival's slogan is "Santa Marta, la magia de tenerlo todo" ("Santa Marta, the magic of having it all").

How to Reach

By Air

The Simon Bolivar airport (same name as the one in Caracas, Venezuela) has non-stop flights from Bogota and Medellin.It is located along the beach, 20 min south of town, but much closer to most of the beach resorts and only 10 min from El Rodadero (main beach).If you get in from abroad check if baggage is unloaded in Bogota even if airlines promise they'll send the baggage directly to Santa Marta.

By Bus

The bus station is all the way out of town on the main highway (15,000 pesos to the beach in taxi, some charge tourists 10,000.To avoid this, you should fix the price before you get into the taxi.

By Taxi

There are also exclusive private transfers by taxi which don't cost a lot more if you are more than one person and if you don't want to wait until the busses have picked up or dropped off anyone else.

By Road

For more comfortable road travel across northern Colombia, a few companies offer air conditioned van services between Cartagena and Santa Marta, with stops in Barranquilla en route.Cochetur seems to be the most reputable of these.Price is 50,000 pesos per person between the main two stops and they will pick you up and drop you off at your desired location in each city.Note: you will likely share the van with 6-8 people including the driver.Tipping did not appear to be expected but a thousand or two goes a long way here.

Key places to visit
Tayrona National Natural Park, Simon Bolivar's Place Of Death, Rodadero Sea Aquarium and Museum, San Fernando Fort, El Rodadero, The Lost City


Places to Visit

Tayrona National Natural Park

Is a protected area in the Colombian northern Caribbean region and within the jurisdiction of the Department of Magdalena and some 34 km from the city of Santa Marta.The park presents a biodiversity endemic to the area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range presenting a variety of climates (mountain climate) and geography that ranges from arid sea level to 900 meters above sea level.The park covers some 30 square kilometres of maritime area in the Caribbean sea and some 150 km2 of land.It was the second most visited national park in Colombia in 2009, with 211.833 visitors. The most visited park was the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park.

Simon Bolivar's Place Of Death

Beautiful and very interesting gardens, lots of iguanas, study the map before getting any further.The guide will tell you only about the buildings and the history of the "Libertador".Entrance 10,000 COP.Take a bus for 1,000 COP or taxi for 4,000 COP.

Rodadero Sea Aquarium and Museum

Is a public aquarium and maritime museum located in the Inca Inca Cove off the Rodadero beach in Santa Marta, Colombia. It was opened in 1965 by Captain Francisco Ospina Navia.The aquarium is part of the National Network of Museums of Colombia and part of ACOPAZOA, the Colombian branch of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.Accessible mainly by motorboat, the aquarium has 13 pools with direct connection to the Caribbean Sea, and 15 glass aquaria that contain over 805 animals that include sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, crustaceans, fishes and seabirds, 98% of which are native to the area.

San Fernando Fort

Built by Spanish conquerors to protect the city from the pirates, it is a fine sample of colonial military architecture.

El Rodadero

Ten minutes by bus to the west of Santa Marta is El Rodadero, Colombia´s most popular resort town located at a beautiful bay with many hotels and a pulsating night life.The beach and the water offer a great variety of activities for every taste and wallet.

The Lost City

For the adventurous traveler, one of South America's most important and enigmatic archeological sites, La Ciudad Perdida -The Lost City- waits to be explored in the dense jungle on the mountain slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.Constructed by the Tayrona people many centuries ago on more than 250 artificial terraces, this city was never found by the Spanish conquistadores and had been forgotten for many years until it was rediscovered in 1976. Even today, the site can only be reached by hiking for 3 days through exuberant vegetation.

Right Time to Visit

December - January
March - April


July - August -> 27(°C) - Winter
December - March -> 35(°C) - Summer


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