Santa Marta was founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas, making it the oldest city in Colombia today. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area was inhabited by the Tayrona people. It is also where Simón Bolivar died. Bolivar played a key role in gaining the independence of South America from the Spanish empire.
Santa Marta is a hub for exploring the Sierra Nevada or heading back along the coast to Cartagena. You can visit Bolivar’s last home and wander around the gardens and museum. You’ll also find La Casa de la Aduana or Customs House in Santa Marta. It’s the oldest house in America. Today it’s used as a museum for Tayrona culture.
For those doing the La Ciudad Perdida trek, the museum has a model of the Lost City. Quebrada Valencia, a waterfall in the jungle, is close by, as are the beautiful beaches of Tayrona National Park. Taganga is one bay around from Santa Marta and is a place to relax on a beach or party in a backpacker atmosphere. Santa Marta has great places for SCUBA diving and snorkelling. You can also go big-game fishing.
You can also head up to Minca or further into the Sierra Nevada. Most treks to La Ciudad Perdida will start here as well, with a drive to the dropoff point. The Cathedral in Santa Marta is the oldest in Colombia.
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Santa Marta Hostels
When you’re in Santa Marta we recommend staying at La Brisa Loca (in English – the Crazy Breeze, which you’ll discover why). It’s run by two brothers from California who were travellers themselves. The hostel is situated inside a restored neo-classical mansion in the heart of Santa Marta. If you’re tired after your trek to Ciudad Perdida they also have a pool to relax in!