Holidays in Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and it’s arguably Colombia’s most beautiful stretch of coastline. Stunning bays with pristine beaches; coral reefs and mangroves; all backed by jungle-shrouded mountains containing the ruins of ancient pre-Hispanic cities... doesn’t it sound just awful?
Oh and we almost forgot to mention that a holiday in Tayrona also give you year-round perfect weather, great seafood and a chance to see Santa Marta, one of Colombia's prettiest colonial towns. Tough, huh?
Prehistoric Tayrona Tours
Tayrona takes its name from the people who inhabited the area until around 500 years ago when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Although the Tayrona people are long gone their cities and villages have remained and they’re remarkably well preserved. A short hike from the bay of Cañaveral takes you to Pueblito, where it is believed that a community of at least 400 indigenous people lived in the pre-Columbian period. These sites still have cultural significance to the Koguis, Arhuacos and Arsarios peoples living in the area today, who are all descended from the ancient Tayronas.
Pueblito is an easy three-hour hike from the beautiful Cañaveral bay , but you can also walk to some of Tayrona’s many other beaches from here as well: Arrecifes, La Piscina, Cabo de San Juan and Castilletes are all just a short walk away. Each beach offers something different, some with still blue water, others with turbulent surf and thick with vegetation but they all make you feel as if you’ve been transported to another world. Our recommendation is probably to head to Cabo San Juan, where a promontory topped by a circular beach shelter separates two beaches: one in a sheltered bay with crystal-clear water, and a café with hammocks and cold beers, and the other much wilder, with great waves for surfing or just for getting knocked about by the ocean.
Holidays in Tayrona are also perfect for nature lovers, as part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, (a mountain range extension of the Andes) passes through the park and forms a unique ecosystem. Due to the biodiversity of the area a huge number of animals can be found here, including more than one hundred species of mammals, two hundred types of birds and dozens of types of reptiles.
The base for visits to the Tayrona National Park is the town of Santa Marta, just to the south-west. Founded back in 1525, it's actually Colombia's oldest town and the centre has a smattering of nice colonial buildings, some of which have been transformed into excellent boutique hotels. Most of Santa Marta's bigger hotels, however, are further out in the suburbs of Rodadero and Pozos Colorados. Some people also choose to stay in the town of Taganga, just along the coast to the north. Originally a fishing village, it sits in a dramatic bay and has some of the best sunsets in Colombia.
Climate and Weather in Tayrona and Santa Marta
Located squarely on the Caribbean, the weather in Tayrona is always hot, rarely dipping below 30°C at any time of year. The rainy season runs from roughly May to November, but it tends to mean brief downpours rather than steady rain, and these do help to reduce the humidity so there's no reason not to plan a holiday to Tayrona at this time.
Transport: Getting to and from Tayrona
Santa Marta's airport has regular flights throughout the day to Bogota and also has daily flights to Medellin. A good road links the city with Barranquilla and Cartagena further along the coast to the west. You can also drive overland to the east into neighbouring Venezuela, reaching the city of Maracaibo via Riohacha.
To get into the Tayrona National Park from Santa Marta, you'll either need private transport or some Spanish to negotiate with a taxi driver or to catch one of the regular local buses from Santa Marta which pass by the park entrance. Either way, the journey is around an hour to the entrance, but you will then have about an hour's walk (or you can hire horses or get a ride in one of the shuttle vans) to the beaches. So long as you don't mind the walk, it's a great way to start your holiday in Tayrona so unless you're really weighed down with gear, we'd recommend it.
Of course, it's also possible to take one of the regular tours of Tayrona National Park which run from Santa Marta most days - many of the outlying hotels also organise their own Tayrona tours as well.