Imagine snow-covered mountains in Colombia emerging next to the crashing waves of its Caribbean Sea – creating a mysterious ecosystem that weaves a web of ancient traditions and incalculable biodiversity.

This is the reality of the rich and mystical Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and its perennially snow-capped coastal peaks.

The tallest mountains in the Sierra’s range, the twin peaks of Simon Bolivar and Cristobal Colon, soar to 5,770 meters above sea level and yet the shores of the Caribbean Sea are just a stone’s throw away.

This vast mountain range covers more than 383,000 hectares along Colombia’s Atlantic shoreline and is both a famed Biosphere Reserve and a culturally diverse UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

It is also the world’s tallest coastal mountain system.

Here we examine what makes the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta natural national park such a unique and unmissable stop on any visit to Colombia.

You may also be interested in: Santa Marta: An Old Historical City Bathed by the Sea

<H2> Be grateful for the culture of the “older brothers” <H2>

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the cherished home of various indigenous peoples, including around 30,000 members of the Kogi, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, and Wiwa indigenous communities.

These groups refer to themselves as the park’s “older brothers” and focus on protecting it and ensuring the continuation of its valuable biodiversity. Many hikes and activities in the park can only be undertaken with their accompaniment and permission.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is in the far north of Colombia and stretches into the departments of Magdalena, La Guajira, and Cesar. It is also the site of the Teyuna Archaeological Park, known as the ‘Ciudad Perdida’ (‘Lost City’ in English) which can be reached following a rewarding multi-day hike through the jungle.

Research, recovery and conservation efforts are constantly carried out in the park to protect and study its valuable ecosystems. Hikes and bird-watching that take into account its historic and cultural legacy are two pillars of its tourism.


Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural Park



The site is bordered by ecological and interpretive trails, and has a meteorological observation station and research and educational facilities that promote environmentalism and biodiversity. You may also be interested in: Blue Flags in Colombia: Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Tourism


How to get to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta?


The best way to access the Sierra Nevada and its many activities is to approach it from the city of Santa Marta, which has excellent connections with the rest of Colombia and can be reached by air, land, and sea. Hikes to the ‘Ciudad Perdida’ can be organized with tourism agencies in Santa Marta, as well as other ecotourism activities.