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Places close by Santa Marta to visit:

Tayrona National Park


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 María la Antigua del Darién 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.

Simón Bolívar 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.

During the Colonial times the city started losing its importance as maritime port to nearby city port of Cartagena.

During the mid-19th century, French, English and North American immigrants along with some locals started to introduce industrial ways of productions and founded trade associations among industrials and the farmers. As a result they built railways which would connect productive networks.

In 1871, the University of Magdalena was founded, initially with two faculties: law and medicine.

During the 20th century the city served as a main port for massive exports of bananas and coal, produced inland with the assistance of major multinational corporations.

In 1968 the government decentralized the Port Authority, leaving Santa Marta with its own Port Authority (Capitania de Puerto).

In recent years, Santa Marta has attracted large numbers of people displaced by the paramilitary groups operating in the area. The warm climate and the possibility of occasional work serving the tourist industry has increased the city's population drastically.

Get in

The Simón Bolívar airport (same name as the one in Caracas, Venezuela) has non-stop flights from Bogotá and Medellín. 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.

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;-). Mini-bus 1200 Pesos. Bus rides are available from:

Cartagena (3.5 hours).
Barranquilla (2 hours).
Medellín (12 hours).
Bucaramanga (8 hours).
Bogotá (16 hours).

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.
Green Path TransfersGPT Santa Marta is a new transportation net focussing on low emissions. Now they are also operating between the cities of Santa Marta, Barranquilla and Cartagena, La Guajira, Airport and Tayrona Park transfers.

Get around

Streets are numbered the beach can be considered "Carrera 1" or 1st St., and the first street is usually "Carrera 1A" or 1A St. The next street after the first row of buildings is Carrera 2 or 2nd St. Calles are streets running from north to south. Unlike bigger cities in Colombia, taxis do not run on a meter. payments range from 3500 pesos for a "lift" (usually a ride no more than 10 minutes) to upwards of 20,000 pesos, depending on where you go. If you meet someone who 'knows' a taxi driver, this can be a good opportunity to negotiate a price to your next checkpoint in Colombia. Some drivers will take you as far as Barranquilla, although you have to negotiate.


Plaza SantanderMuseo del Oro, Calle 14 No.2-67 (on plaza Bolivar). Displays a collection of precolumbian pottery, a nice collection of gold and a scale model of Ciudad Perdida. Free entrance. edit
Simon Bolivar's place of death, (Take a bus for 1,000 COP or taxi for 4,000 COP). 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.


The nearby coral reefs provides good possibilities for scuba diving. Call Quique 315-7275234 and Tomás if you want the best service and if you are worried about safety. Quique is a very caring person who makes sure you feel comfortable with the whole scuba diving experience. Both Quique and Tomás are certified instructors and are very reliable. They provide all the equipment and years of experience so that you make the best out of scuba diving at very affordable prices.

On the beaches, you can usually rent a jet ski in increments of 10 minutes. If you are not comfortable operating one, you can usually ask for a ride around. Life jackets are provided.

Academia Latina, professional language school in Santa Marta. Learn Spanish with excellent skilled teachers in a inspiring environment. Good prices for private classes! Volunteering programs available (free of charge) and family stay. Free grammar list and after school activities, like salsa lessons. See

Visit Santa Marta's most beautiful natural places by day toursSanta Marta Day Trips
Birdwatching at the world famous El Dorado bird reserve above Minca ProAves.

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