This humble, inconspicuous, hardworking town in northern Colombia is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. Santa Marta was founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas – the man credited with discovering Panama – and it is now the oldest continually inhabited colonial city in Colombia, and the second oldest in South America (the oldest is Cumaná in Venezuela).
Santa Marta receives its fair share of tourists, but most aren’t here to see the city itself, they are merely using it as a base while exploring nearby Tayrona National Park, or are spending a night in town before starting the trek to la Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City, in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park.
But Santa Marta has its own charm, and it comes without the pretentiousness of Cartagena.
Plaza de la Catedral, Santa Marta
The centre of the historical part of town. The plaza is only one block from Carrera 3, where are all the trekking agencies are situated.
Parque de los Novios, Santa Marta
Once a market square, now a trendy plaza lined with bars and restaurants. It’s a great place to celebrate following a successful completion of la Ciudad Perdida trek.
Paseo de Bastidas, Santa Marta
A sandy beach on the Caribbean Sea. What could be better? Perhaps being located a little further away from a busy shipping port?
Plenty of people swim here though, so the water can’t be that bad. And it’s quite pretty at sunset.
Practical Information and how to reach Santa Marta:
Santa Marta is an easy 3.5-hour bus ride from Cartagena. The long distance bus terminal is located on the outskirts of town, but some intercity buses pass quite close to the historic centre on their route. Ask the bus driver as to the best place to alight. More transport info here.