So there we were…standing on a beautiful white sand beach while looking at the snow-capped Andes in the background.
We left San Gil on an overnight bus to Santa Marta. This definitely brought us back to our old travelin’ days and of course it was not comfortable but it was the most efficient way to get to the coast without wasting a day of travel. We landed in Taganga, a town that used to be a sleepy little fishing village until travelers started making their way there to access Tayrona National Park. The town is now a full on backpacker ghetto and as Jason puts it a “real dump”. We based ourselves here to do a bit of diving and to explore the nearby national park. The first afternoon we headed out for a two tank boat dive. It was the first time either of us had been in the water in about a year so it felt good to get out again. We realized though once we got on the boat, our dive guide didn’t speak a word of English. This might not seem important when you are underwater, but as he went over hand signals and explained the dive, we were pretty lost. Besides the language barrier, the diving was pretty decent; we saw a few eels, some lobster and lots of colorful fish. For us, it wasn’t so much about what we saw, it was just nice being under the water again.
The next day we headed into Tayrona National Park, which is known for its many nice beaches. To get into the park, you get dropped off at the main gate and then you hike along the coast, visiting all the beaches along the way. There are several places to sleep inside the park and you can walk as far as you want before grabbing a place to spend the night. We decided to stay at the popular Cabo San Juan beach and we made our way there by walking through the lush green jungle and along a few beaches for about two hours. It was a beautiful (and very hot) walk where we got to see some monkeys and a few lizards. When we arrived, we were able to book one of the popular hammocks that swing up in a cabana above the ocean. The cabana holds about 15 hammocks out in the open overlooking the water, it was a picturesque place to spend the night, but turned out being one of the most miserable night sleeps we both had. Sleeping in a hammock might sound like fun, but for both of us, it was extremely uncomfortable and surprisingly cold. But it is all about the experience, right? After a restless night sleep, we headed back out of the park the following day. We met some wonderful fellow Americans in the park and they offered us a seat on their private shuttle back which was a nice way to head back into town.
Wanting to relax a bit, we spent the following day just hanging by our hotel pool before jumping on another bus to make our way to Palomino. Palomino sits on a lovely stretch of sand just a few hours from Taganga. It was much less touristic and definitely more peaceful then where we came from, so we enjoyed a few days here lounging around in hammocks and on the beach. Once of the cool things about Palomino is that while standing at the ocean, you can look behind you and see 20,000 ft snow capped mountains. We have never seen anything like it in the world, but it made for a beautiful backdrop.
With time winding down, we headed back the same way we came and travelled onward to Cartagena. The city is full of old colonial charm and we found it to be a very pleasant place to end our trip. The old part of the city is surrounded by a large fort and inside the walls are wonderfully preserved buildings with stunning Spanish Colonial architecture. The best thing to do there is get lost in the city and that is exactly what we did. We wandered around the blistering hot streets until we couldn’t take it anymore and had to escape to our air conditioned hotel room. As our time wrapped up, Jason asked “what would you tell people about a Colombia?” and we agreed that it is a misunderstood country that is extremely safe and is so diverse with wonderful, warm people and tons of great places to visit. We hope that more people will give Colombia a chance, as you will not be disappointed.
- Floating the river in Palomino straight down into the ocean, we got a little sunburned, but it was a fun way to spend a few hours
- Cartagena as a whole was a wonderful city to spend a few days
- The beaches of Tayrona National Park
- Palominos snow capped peaks, it was one of the most stunning places we saw
- Our wonderful rooms in Cartagena, thank you Dad for the Hilton points, it was a great hotel!
- The horrible facilities inside Tayrona, they make a KILLING on what tourists pay to get into the park and the area is poorly maintained
- Our night spent in the park, sleeping in a hammock is overrated