The imposing Sierra Nevada mountains that overlook the city are Santa Marta’s most iconic feature. The Sierra Nevada is the world’s highest coastal mountain range, with its foothills in the jungle and its peaks in the snow. It’s no wonder UNESCO has designated the Sierra Nevada both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
Tayrona National Park is a natural marvel too and it’s right on Santa Marta’s doorstep. This 12,000-hectare stretch of glistening biodiversity throbs with the very essence of Colombia’s tropical flow. Tayrona is a haven for animals such as monkeys, deer and wild cats. It’s one of the world’s most rewarding places to go birdwatching, with more than 350 species including elusive condors, eagles, parrots and hummingbirds.
The waters that nourish Tayrona, both its rivers and streams and the sea that laps at its shores, are just as diverse. Visitors may spot fish, turtles and even dolphins playing amongst its coral reefs. Scuba divers should head for the nearby fishing village of Taganga and explore beneath the surface of its peaceful natural bay.
Seafood is, of course, at the forefront of Santa Marta’s cuisine. Platters of fish in creamy sauces are served alongside the region’s beloved coconut rice and crispy fried plantain. Seafood cocktails with their mouthwatering blend of shrimps, crayfish, octopus and oysters are a popular choice too. When it comes to dessert, Santa Marta swings between the sweetness of its tropical fruit, with delicacies such as tamarind balls, and its naughtiest indulgences, such as its fresh coconut candies.
With so much biodiversity and opportunities to rest and recuperate, it would be a shame not to sample Santa Marta’s legendary nightlife. Visitors who really want to get under the city’s skin should go dancing until dawn to champeta, vallenato and reggaeton.
Santa Marta is a city for all senses. It’s an incredible blend of natural wonder and pristine beaches, delicious seafood and a sense of fun. Why not experience the city’s vibrant rhythms for yourself and be amazed that such a paradise really does exist.