When you are in Colombia, of course you want to see the highlights of Colombia. Well, then Parque Tayrona is not to be missed. As one of the top destinations, this is also the most famous as well as the most touristy natural park in Colombia. The bus from Santa Marta to the park is scorching hot; we sit on top of each other like a bunch of sweating sardines. Next to me are two Indian women, dressed in white robes. We are approaching the park. I am curious about what I will find here. In fact, the Colombians themselves are completely lyrical about it. Rightfully or not?
Parque Tayrona: a tourist paradise
Known for its blue sea, hight rocks and white beaches, Parque Tayrona is a major tourist attraction. So major, in fact, that a few years ago the army was even deployed to keep all the visitors in good order. So touristy, that we had to pay a ridiculously high fee to enter. From entry, we spent at least another 2.5 hours getting to the campground.
We strolled under the burning sun through the heat toward the sea for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Our backpacks went on a horseback. I don’t like the heat at all, all that sticking and smearing. And then the mosquitoes: terribly irritating. But when we finally catch the first glimpses of the blue sea, my heart leaps. It’s beautiful up here! The rocks, the palm trees, the beach, just everything. The heat and mosquitoes were momentarily forgotten.
Staying overnight in Tayrona
We leave this beautiful place and walk on. Because we are not there yet. The most popular thing to do in Tayrona is to stay at a campsite. There you can sleep in a tent you brought yourself, in a cabin or in a hammock. Instead of walking on to the most famous campsite Cabo San Juan de la Guia, we stop at the first campsite we come across: Arrecifes. The horses have also arrived by now. Note: Arrecifes is located directly on the beach, but due to the strong stream, you cannot swim here. For that, you have to go to Cabo (see below). Check here for hostels and hotels in and around Tayrona.
Camping with that heat and all those mosquitoes is not really fun for me. But there’s not much of an other choice, so we pitch our tent and pump up the airbed.
Due to its remote location, there are no restaurants here. At the campground you can buy something small to eat and water, but it is all extremely expensive. At the end of the day, I walk on my flip-flops to the showers with my toiletry bag and towel. Only 4 showers for a lot of women. In line. And this is still low-season. Once it’s my turn it turns out there is no roof on the cubicles. Only a tap with refreshing cold water, and two walls. No door. It takes some time getting used to, but showering under the beautiful starry sky has something beautiful.
Hiking in Tayrona
As soon as the sun rise, we decide to walk while it is not yet too hot. The view from the tent is beautiful. But it gets even better. We walk along the beach, along the sea, to Cabo San Juan de la Guia. The most famous part of Tayrona. Before we plop down on the beach here, we will first take a hike up the hill to an old traditional Indian village: Pueblito.
Enjoying the view in Cabo
Once back down in “Cabo,” we climb the rock with the wooden hut. Gee, how beautiful it is here! Those views! We stand there for a while looking at all the beauty, when suddenly we are surrounded by a bunch of bright green and gray large iguanas. For me amazing animals, for the Colombians normal.
Swimming in Tayrona
Jimmy would like to swim, lie on the beach. Call me deranged, but I really don’t like swimming in the sea, nor sunbathing or lying on the beach. Just give me a nice chair, shade and I’ll have fun watching all those people and views. Of course I do go with him, and actually it is quite of a nice refreshment. And I wasn’t eaten by a fish, so that makes a difference, too.
Parque Tayrona: a must-see
The next day we leave the park, on horseback this time. I think back on these three days and despite the downsides, it’s still great. The beaches, the surroundings, the mountains, the trees, the iguanas…. all beautiful. Especially if you’re there alone, or with a few other lost backpackers. But unfortunately, that picture is long gone. Therefore, stay away especially during high season and weekends and prepare for high costs, heat, lots of mosquitoes, at least 2 days, crowds and a long trip to the sea and back. When you get through that, you enter another world, where Colombia surprises again. The beauty of this country never ceases to amaze. Like paradise and one of the rightful highlights Colombia.
Parque Tayrona is located on the Caribbean coast and can be reached by boat or via the main entrance from Santa Marta. In Santa Marta, ask for the bus to Tayrona and get off at the entrance. Here you will pay the entrance fee of 38,000 pesos, and you will have to take another van to the real entrance of Tayrona. There you can walk to the beach on foot to find a campsite (about 40 minutes to the first campsite) or you can pay for a horse. It is also possible to walk by yourself and have your luggage go on horseback. There are several sleeping options in the park: a hammock, a cottage, a rented tent or a tent you brought yourself. Due to extreme crowds in high season, it is best to visit Tayrona between February and November. And don’t forget to get a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days in advance, it is required! Altough not always asked for. Also take plenty of DEET with you, as there are many mosquitoes and other insects.
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