Highlights and main attractions of Tayrona National Park

An 85 kilometre stretch of this is protected within the Tayrona National Park, both a marine and coastal park, offering a wilderness experience of clearly marked jungle trails and nature walks within Colombia’s most important ecological reserve and amidst some of the country’s finest scenery.

The nearest starting point for visits into Tayrona is the busy colonial market town of Santa Marta, South America’s oldest surviving city, dating back to 1525 when conquistador Rodrigo de Bastildas first arrived to its shores. Some would describe Santa Marta as a more rough and ready version of Cartagena, and arguably more typically Colombian. The national park itself is located 34 kilometres away from the town and covers a total area of 15,000 hectares, of which 3,000 is Marine Park.

What some people may not realise about Colombia is that it has an idyllic coastline lapped by Caribbean waters, punctuated by gigantic granite boulders, with rugged quiet beaches and deserted coves. 

Where is Tayrona National Park?

Exploring Tayrona and some of the wildlife

The nearest starting point for visits into Tayrona is the busy colonial market town of Santa Marta, South America’s oldest surviving city, dating back to 1525 when conquistador Rodrigo de Bastildas first arrived to its shores. Some would describe Santa Marta as a more rough and ready version of Cartagena, and arguably more typically Colombian. The national park itself is located 34 kilometres away from the town and covers a total area of 15,000 hectares, of which 3,000 is Marine Park. 

Characterised by dense jungle that meets undeveloped palm-fringed beaches, the park is part of the wider region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This mountain range reaches altitudes of up to 6,000 metres and contains unique pre-Columbian archaeological sites such as La Ciudad Perdida or the ‘Lost City’ which dates back to 11th Century; an area that also still has indigenous Kogui Indian communities. The topography of the park is wide ranging and incorporates rainforests, mangroves and spiny forests.

The area protects some 65 mammal species, 200 bird species and 50 reptile species, and amongst the most important sightings are the emblematic Andean condor, howler monkeys, eagles and the elusive and mythical jaguar. In the marine park, lobsters, turtles, sponges, sea urchins and a wide variety of fish can also be seen through snorkelling or diving trips, possible from the beach resort of Taganga or Santa Marta. 

Some of the beaches are also turtle hatching grounds throughout the month of May.

There are a variety of accommodation options that are set within the park itself, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in its natural splendour. Ecohabs is one of the best consisting of ecologically friendly thatched and wood cabins perched on the hillside with incredible views out to the coast and the turtle breeding grounds.

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