Sunday, 23 April 2017

COLOMBIA: Interesting Places To Visit

Birdwatching in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The tallest coastal mountain range in the world and highest summit in Colombia are found in Colombia’s Caribbean region. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Martareaches altitudes of 5,700 meters above sea level. The Sierra Nevada is located in the departments of Magdalena, Cesar and Guajira and borders with the Atlantic Ocean to the north and with the Colombian Caribbean lowlands to the south, east, and west.

The Sierra is tremendously complex in terms of geology, fauna, and flora due to the fact that all neotropical habitats are present and that it is complete isolated from the Andes Mountains.

The Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa, and Kankuamo Indian communities make their home on the Sierra Nevada. The city of Santa Marta is located at its base. Although the Sierra was declared a Biosphere Reserve, most of its territory belongs to a natural national park, and it possesses the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo IBA, the threats to its natural habitats still persist.
Birding in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

A total of 635 bird species have been recorded in the Sierra Nevada de A total of 635 bird species have been recorded in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, accounting for an impressive 35% of the whole Colombia avifauna in only 1.48% of the national territory.

The Sierra is the most important endemism center in the world with 36 species (and 55 subspecies) of birds restricted to it. Sadly, 18 of its species face a risk of extinction at a global level and 22 at a national level. One hundred and thirty-two migratory species have been recorded in the area.

Birdwatching is carried out entering from Santa Marta to Minca and San Lorenzo, where most of the endemics can be spotted: thSanta Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata), the Coppery Emerald (Chlorostilbon russatus), the Streak-capped Spinetail (Cranioleuca hellmayri), the Santa Marta Antpitta (Grallaria bangsi), the Brown-rumped Tapaculo (Scytalopus latebricola), the Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant (Myiotheretes pernix), the Yellow-crowned Whitestart (Myioborus flavivertex), the White-lored Warbler (Basileuterus conspicillatus), the Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus melanogenys), and the Santa Marta Brush-Finch (Atlapetes melanocephalus), among others.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta offers the best birding option in Colombia… absolutely rapture!

Ciudad Perdida: The Gateway to the Past of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Ciudad Perdida Archaeological Park, also known as Teyuna, is located on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta at the edge of the Buritaca River. Ciudad Perdida means “lost city” in English.

Ciudad Perdida is reached by crossing forests full of exotic fauna and flora, hanging bridges, mountains, and waterfalls. In the midst of a tropical forest and 40 and 50-meter tall trees are found the ruins of the great Tayrona empire, characterized by a sophisticated integration of nature and civilization and splendid stone architecture.
The Discovery of Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1975 by an informal digger. The finding was confirmed in 1976 by the Instituto Antropológico de Bogotá.

The Architecture of Ciudad Perdida

The habitations in the Lost City were built out of stone in a circular shape five to eight meters in diameter. They are situated on stepped terraces.

According to anthropological research, Ciudad Perdida was built approximately in the year 700 AD and was the most important urban center among the 250 Indian settlements discovered so far on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Its population ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants.

Ciudad Perdida was made up of over 250 terraces distributed in eight sections, each of which was a space for living, working, and performing religious celebrations. The various sections of the city were joined by a network of cobbled paths and stairs located on the slopes. Roads and stairs also joined the cultivation fields. Houses were built on tiered terraces made from stones that formed rings with diameters of five to eight meters.

Part of the success of the Tayroma architecture consisted in preventing the rain falling on these slopes from eroding the land. Additionally, a network of rainwater allowed the effective control of water. Also for preventing erosion, the Tayrona Indians built 12-meter high retaining walls to support the multiple paths that crossed.

Santander Means History, Adventure, and Unlimited Thrills

Whenever you have the chance to visit the department ofSantander, in northeastern Colombia, you will realize why one of its sites was nominated as one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World: the Chicamocha Canyon, an extraordinary place worth watching from land, air, and water.

The Santander region has been thriving as a major tourist attraction thanks to this superb canyon that fractures the mountains of the Eastern Range of the Andes. In addition to amazing landscapes, it has deep cultural, historic, and architectural meaning to the towns in its area of influence. Motivations to travel the region are varied and interesting. Its beauty is evident in every kilometer, so it is suggested to travel by road and, preferably, from the department of Boyacá.

The people of Santander are characterized by their strong character, for keeping their word, and for an immense pride for their land

Santander is made up of 87 municipalities grouped in 8 provinces and, although each province has specific interests, the province of Guanentá concentrates most of the tourist sites and may be considered as representing the entire department. Because touring the province means learning about the fascinating story of the department as narrated by its own inhabitants and as reflected in buildings from past times that speak about the existence of the valiant and courageous Guane men and women who took the first steps in pro of the country’s independence from Spain.

Aside from its beauty and grandeur, Santander’s natural environment is wild and challenging. The Chicamocha Canyon, streams, brooks, rivers, mountain ecological paths, royal roads, and tropical forests attest to this fact.

All this diversity of landscapes has catapulted the destination as one of the most important in Colombia - if not the most - for engaging in adventure sports, in the midst of lavish forests, gushing waters, copious rivers and waterfalls, dark caverns, and ravines along the roads between hills.

t is important to know that Santander’s villages and natural attractions make it easy for trips that, aside from unforgettable, are dynamic, amusing, thrilling, and enriching from a cultural point of view. With adequate information and the advice of Santander people, it is possible to extend the journey to the maximum and truly enjoy the experiences offered by this lovely land.
San Gil and Its Surroundings: Pure Adrenaline and Beautiful Landscapes

The epicenter of a journey through Santander could well be San Gil, the capital of the province of Guanentá and equidistant from historic municipalities and adventure sites. If you decide to come and get acquainted with this splendorous region, with no remorse for what you could have done and did not do, bear in mind that you should have available at least four or five days.

Devote one day to San Gil for strolling its colonial streets, touring the emblematic El Gallineral Park, rafting down the challenging Fonce River, and enjoying coffee in any of the bars that frame the central square. You may want to increase your dose of adventure on your second day by rappelling at the Juan Curí Waterfalls on the road to Charalá and then going deep into the Cueva del Indio, in the municipality of Páramo, to explore the cave for two hours, equivalent to two and a half kilometers.

After such intense thrills, a pause on the third day is suggested in the tranquil, ochre-colored village of Barichara, considered one of the most beautiful villages in the country for its rammed earth houses and the harmonious complex of streets covered with the typical yellow stone that is also used for artisan sculpting. Very close to Barichara is Guane, an equally beautiful Indian village reached by road or by one of several royal paths that still remain amid the exuberant geography of Santander.

The Majestic Chicamocha Canyon

To resume this subject, it must be stated that the Chicamocha Canyon is the indispensable visit and tour during an expedition in Santander. So, the fourth day is for experiencing the fascination that rises when we begin to see its majesty from the road that takes us there. Coming from San Gil and crossing the village of Aratoca, the road takes us from the highest to the lowest part of the canyon. After a descent of a couple of hours one reaches Pescadero Bridge and the bed of the Chicamocha River.

This is why this part of the trip implies several stops, whether to admire the beauty of the landscape or to take off on a paragliding wing and live the indescribable adventure of flying over the canyon. The stop is also at the mountain’s summit, where madness became reality in the form of the National Chicamocha Park (Panachi, by its Spanish acronym), an ingenious challenge to nature for feeling and being captured not only by the canyon, but by the dauntless lands of Santander just as they were immortalized in several songs.

The park’s attractions leave no doubt that Santander is synonymous with adventure. In a very short time, the aerial tramway that crosses the canyon, the buggy track, the enormous monument to Santander pride, and various mechanical attractions turned Panachi into an emblem of Santander and one of the best theme parks in Colombia.

Girón, Piedecuesta, and Floridablanca, Other Towns to Visit in Santander

If you have more time available, the fifth day could be devoted to towns in the metropolitan area. Girón, Piedecuesta, and Floridablanca are important for their history, architecture and contribution to the region’s economy.

Due to its diversity, the department of Santander is one of those places in the country that become embedded in people’s memories, with their amazing beauty and the thrills it offers.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural Park: land of wise people

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is located in the northern part of Colombia, in the departments of Magdalena, La Guajira, and Cesar. The Teyuna Archaeological Park, also called “Ciudad Perdida” (lost city), and the cradle of the country’s most monumental Indian civilization is located entirely on the Sierra.

This majestic mountain range is the tallest seaside mountain system in the world and possesses Colombia’s two largest mountains. At present, around 30,000 members of the Kogi, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, and Wiwa Indian communities, known as “older brothers”, live in the park. UNESCO declared the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta park a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Recovery, research and conservation efforts are carried out in the park permanently. Hikes through various places through historic and cultural paths are the main tourist activity at the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Characteristics

Its area covers 383,000 hectares.
It is the best known and most accepted ecotourism region in the country by both nationals and foreigners by virtue of its beautiful landscapes and multiracial composition.
The Sierra Nevada central core is composed of the Simón Bolívar and Cristóbal Colón twin peaks. Both have an altitude of 5,770 meters above sea level, and are thus considered the tallest seaside mountains in the whole world.

Access to Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The city of Santa Marta may be reached by air, land, and sea. From Santa Marta, it is necessary to travel 42 kilometers on a dirt road, first to the township of Minca, then to Cerro Kennedy, and on to the San Lorenzo Experimental Station, approximately a one and a half hour ride.
Communities

At present the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is inhabited by the Kogi and Ijka Indians. The latter are also known as Arhuacos. Both conserve their myths and traditions. Two traditions from the past deserve to be highlighted: the job of the mamos and the coca ritual. The mamos, or mamas, are the priests and wise men of the community, who inherited the wisdom of their elders and exert religious power.
Fauna

Jaguars, tapirs, páramo deer, condors, curassows and the Sierra parrot are found among the fauna.

Flora

The biota of the massif (warm, cold, páramo and sub-páramo thermal floors) has a notable affinity with that of the Andes, especially the Eastern Mountain Range of Colombia.The flora of the park is quite varied: mastres, caracolíes, ceibas de leche, and wax palms stand out as gigantic trees.
Activities

Cultural contact
Birdwatching
Mountain climbing
Observation of wild fauna and flora
Archaeology
Hiking
Research and environmental education activities

Attractions

Several interesting sites for nationals and foreigners are visited in the course of the year:

Teyuna, or Lost City, stands out as the most important archaeological and historical finding in Colombia.
San Lorenzo Experimental Station.
Intepretive paths.
Dozens of waterfalls.
The Bolívar and Colón Peaks.
Indian settlements.
Cities: Santa Marta (Sea Feasts in July), Ciénaga (Caiman Feasts in January), and Valledupar (Festival of the Vallenata Legend in April).
The Banana region (The Macondo of García Marquez).

Santa Marta: a colombian Sun and Beach Destination

Santa Marta has one of the most lovely bays in America. It is a peaceful place, full of natural charm, sea breeze, and pure mountain air.

Santa Marta and Sierra Nevada is a tourist destination that provides contact with nature, an excellent hotel infrastructure, and perfect sites for water sports, all in a relatively small area. The locality of El Rodadero, only five minutes from the historical center of Santa Marta, has beaches of very white medium-grained sand (the kind that does not stick to the skin) and a clean, calm blue-green sea. Here the sea poses no dangers for bathers and its pleasant temperature contrasts with the warmth of the sun. It also lends itself to the practice of all water sports.
Tayrona National Park

The Tayrona Park starts just half an hour away from Santa Marta where the ridges of the Sierra Nevada extend their arms into the sea giving shape to a complex system of coves and rocky cliffs. It is here that the paradisial Tayrona landscape is born.

The Park has quite a number of ample beaches. The best-known ones are Bahía Concha, a lovely spot for swimming; Neguanje, and Cañaveral. The latter two have camping grounds and beautiful beaches in the midst of luscious vegetation.

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy: the fusion of the sky and the mountains of Colombia

Colombia is a striking mixture of colorful landscapes. This time, it is about the white peaks of the snowy mountain range of El Cocuy, some of which, aside from beautifying the scenery, are points of reference for the challenges of mountain climbers and tourists who wish to become acquainted icy places in Colombian geography.

Some peaks are inaccessible to man; for example, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, on the Caribbean Coast. Others likeEl Cocuy, or Güicán, Snowy Mountain Range constitute a permanent goal for travelers and ecologists who spend most of their time on the heights, far from the din of the cities, and close to the silent landscapes, in a state of full tranquility.

The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is a 306,000 km² protected area from which rise 23 snow peaks surrounded by waterfalls, lakes, páramo vegetation - frailejón (Espeletia) is a good example - and several species of fauna, among them, tapirs, spectacled bears, Andean condors, eagles, and páramo deer.

It is possible to walk to many of the splendorous places that make up the Sierra, as long as the tour is done under the guidance of expert guides who provide their services through companies legally incorporated in Bogotá or the Boyacá towns of El Cocuy and Güicán. This way it is much easier to reach one of the most spectacular environments in Colombia, a place where the hope of delaying or avoiding the ravages of global warming is still cherished.

It is necessary to devote at least a week to achieve the best possible experience of body and spirit. And, naturally, during the dry season. During the rainy season, access is impossible and visibility is extremely poor. Although here, as in other parts of the world, the climate has changed in recent years, two seasons have been identified as the best for conquering this landscape: from July to August and from December to February. In any case, during any vacation period it is possible to travel to the nearby municipalities of El Cocuy or Güicán to wait patiently for the right time to climb the mountain.

Interesting sites on the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

The list of sites is extensive and varies according to whether the mountain climber is seasoned or not. Must-see attractions are Plaza and Grande de la Sierra Lakes, the blanket of snow that covers Devil’s Pulpits, Pan de Azúcar Glacier, the Toti, Cóncavo, and Portales snow peaks, and of course, the most imposing of El Cocuy summits: Ritacuba Blanco, at a challenging 5,330 meters above sea level.

Reaching the top of these mountains is best left to professional mountain climbers. However, approaching its slopes and becoming a part of the enormous panorama of Sierra del Cocuy Güicán is a dream within reach of any adventurer enchanted by nature. It is only a matter of obtaining the necessary information beforehand and following the recommendations given by the local guides and the offices of the Dirección de Parques Nacionales (Department of National Parks).
How to get to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy Güicán

From Bogotá, it is necessary to take the Autopista Norte (Northern Highway) to the town of Duitama, in the department of Boyacá (240 km). From there, the trip continues on the road that crosses the northeastern sector of the department and passes the towns of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, Cerinza, Belén, Susacón, and Soatá. The latter offers two options: The first leads to Capitanejo, in the department of Santander. The second, which is more advisable due to better roads, crosses Soatá, Boavita, La Uvita, San Mateo, Guacamayas, Panqueba, El Cocuy, or Güicán.

El Cocuy and Güican offer four routes that lead to different mountain sites on the majestic Sierra Nevada. All of them include a ride on a 4-wheel drive vehicle over an unpaved road, horseback rides, and hiking for at least an hour before reaching the snow.

Route 1 (south) Lagunillas – Púlpito del Diablo – Pan de Azúcar
Route 2 (center) Laguna Grande de la Sierra – Los Cóncavos
Route 3 (north) Güicán – Cabañas Kanwara – Ritacuba Blanco (highest peak on the Sierra and the Eastern Mountain Range)
Route 4 Tour of the Sierra. Done in a south – north direction beginning in El Cocuy, or in the opposite direction beginning in
Güicán. Either journey lasts between five and six days, whereas Routes 1, 2, and 3 allow the possibility to return on the same day to the cabins in the Natural Park or to the nearby municipalities.

Recommendations

The minimum altitude reached during any expedition to El Cocuy is 2,750 meters. Thus, previous acclimatization is a priority, especially for people who arrive from sea level and the hot country.
Touring El Cocuy Güicán Mountain Range involves great physical effort. Thus it is essential to be in good health. It is not recommended for people with a cold or the flu or respiratory or cardiac conditions.
Follow the instructions of the park rangers and guides.
Take warm, water-proof clothing, shoes for walking on the snow and steep terrain, sun glasses with UV filter, sun block, containers for collecting natural water, and sturdy tents. Make sure to pack foods that provide energy and calories, such as chocolate bars, bocadillos (guava paste sweets), peanuts, and whole cereal cookies or crackers.

El Cocuy: Extreme adventure in perpetual snow

From the window of an aircraft, the Sierra Nevada de El Cocuy looks like a strand of very white pearls shining in the Andean sunshine. El Cocuy National Natural Park is located in the central-eastern section of the eastern Andes mountain range, under the jurisdiction of the departments of Boyacá, Arauca, and Casanare. The Sierra is a chain of over 25 snow peaks along an extension of just 30 kilometers. Most of this beautiful, majestic range - the greatest mass of ice in Colombia - may be explored on foot.

For many, many years the Sierra, also known as Güican and Chita, has been a favorite destination of international and Colombian mountaineers and climbers, a fact which has made it possible to spread the message of this natural and protected area. The Sierra is the ideal place for lovers of rock, ice, and snow, and fans of hiking and camping. It is possible to admire mountains and páramos, and the forests that cover the valleys nestled among the snow peaks. For all of the above, El Cocuy is sure to delight the most daring adventurers.
Characteristics

It is a valuable water reserve.
Its extension is 306,000 hectares.
Its peaks range between 600 and 5,330 meters above sea level.
The park encompasses the Sierra of El Cocuy, Chita or Güicán; and the highest peaks of the eastern Andes mountain range.
It has 18 snow peaks and glacial lakes.
Mean temperature ranges from 24º C to - 3º C.
The main rainy season goes from January to March. There is a rainier season from May to June.
The biomes of six thermal floors are represented in the area: hot, warm, cold, páramo, super-páramo, and snow.
The fauna is characterized by its great variety: tapirs, corn monkeys, all of Colombia's registered felids, and a great number of birds.
The Tunebo Indian community inhabits the foothills of the Sierra; occasionally members of other tribes arrive from other reserves.

How to get there

From the southwest: by the Tame - Sacame route (2 hours).
From the northeast: the trip takes one hour from Curabá to El Chuscal (U’wa Indian Reservation).
From Bogotá: through the Carretera del Norte to Tunja. From there, the Duitama - Belén - Boativa - La Univta - San Mateo - Guacamayas - Panqueba - El Cocuy road.
From Bogotá: through the Carretera del Norte to Tunja. From there, the Duitama - Belén - Tipacoque - Capitanejo - El Espino - Panqueba - El Cocuy road (between 11 and 12 hours).

Attractions

High mountain hiking.
Rock and snow climbing.
Ritacuba, Pan de Azúcar, El Castillo and Púlpito del Diablo snow peaks.
Lakes like Los Verdes, Grande de la Sierra, La Isla, La Plaza, and El Avellanal.
Hot springs in Güicán.
Fauna: spectacled bear, páramo tapir, royal eagles, and pumas.
Flora: frailejones and timber trees, such as amarillos, cedars and totumos.
U’wa Indian reservations in the northeastern part of the park.

San Andres island: a four-day plan for tourists of the world

Slightly over 720 km separate this archipelago from the Colombian coast, making it Colombia’s northernmost insular region in the Caribbean. It is known, among other things, for its seahorse shape and the spectacular seven shades of its sea, which may be seen from the aircraft, the beach, or even better, from the hill by the name of “La Loma”, the most authentic section of the island.

Thanks to its geographical position and natural environment,San Andres island is one of the most strategic locations for the influx of Colombian tourists and many foreigners captivated by what they have heard about it. For the ocean, the ecosystem, the Antillean music, and the beaches, San Andrés is like a stage where many natural and cultural elements are blended to make it one of the most visited Colombian destinations throughout the year – by Colombian residents and by visitors from Spain, Mexico, France, the United States, Sweden, Peru, Belgium, etc.

Many people beyond our borders decided to begin their acquaintance of Colombia with this northern region. Others, already visiting the mainland, inquired about the country’s many paradises and did not hesitate to come to San Andrés. Regardless of their expectations, they ended up with visions and experiences to treasure for a lifetime.
Tour San Andres island in four days

Like many couples, Claudia Milena Cano and her husband decided to honeymoon on this Colombian island for its natural beauty and shopping possibilities. During four days, she carefully planned her time so as not to miss any of its charms. Her recommendations are similar to the ones of other travelers who lived the marvelous experience:

Day 1

Usually, a visit to Johnny Cay, an islet of white sand, with a natural aquarium for snorkeling and taking delight in the splendor of the multitude of marine species. On the beach, friendly natives enliven the day with good reggae and calypso music and the delicious taste of typical food. The tour begins at 10:00 am and ends at sunset.
Day 2

A 32 km tour takes visitors around the island along the ring road by taxi, private car, bicycle, motorcycle, or golf cart. Stops include Morgan’s Cave, The Cove, The Blow Hole, Big Pond, West View bathing site, and La Piscinita, a cove of sorts inhabited by various kinds of mollusks. If time allows, another stop is La Loma sector; if not, it is left for the following day.

Day 3

It is usually devoted to visiting the traditional La Loma sector, where the cultural values of the islanders converge. There is a lot to be learned that will be remembered forever. The afternoon and evening may be spent in the San Luis sector, a good place to learn to dance the Caribbean rhythms the islanders are more than willing to show and teach.
Day 4

Supposing that this is your last or second to last day of a short vacation, it would be well spent on visiting the downtown shopping center to purchase home appliances, liquor, perfume, jewelry, crystal articles, and, naturally, legally recorded autochthonous music to play at home while reminiscing about the days spent in San Andrés.
Experiences of Foreigners in San Andrés

American David Kramer, a professor and ecologist, remembers the time when he worked in a school in Cali and his colleagues talked to him about the island. San Andrés became the opportunity to obtain a diver certification thanks to the courses offered on the island and the extraordinary visibility and rich flora and fauna of the crystal-clear sea. As a nature and marine sports lover, David says that the Colombian island will always be one of his best experiences.

Other citizens of the world, the Spaniards, for instance, frequently visit the island – several of them for the bonds or friendship with our compatriots. Clara Pinar, who married a Colombian, spent a week in this Caribbean landscape. “Everything was spectacular; the hotel, very good; the people, pleasant; the Caribbean beaches, very pretty; the inhabitants, very extroverted; they seem sincere and kind…” This is the impression of Clara, who was also captivated by the San Andrés Aquarium, where she met a group of fellow citizens who had decided to escape to the island, with no contact with Colombian people.

Argentinian María Beatriz Correa decided to arrive by the multicolored sea. She has a keen eye for detail during all her tours – from arrival to return. She got to know discos, beaches, music, musical instruments made from jaws of animals; she ate delicious lobsters and sailed on glass bottom boats specially built for admiring the submarine world.

Yet there’s a crucial moment in her trip that she described as follows: “…I think that visiting Johnny Cay and Rose Cay is an experience that will remain forever in my decreasing memory. I would return to San Andrés for this reason. You must be patient because we all leave and return at the same hour. They call you to board in order of arrival. If you don’t have one, it is indispensable to buy a pair of those little shoes for walking in the water, around the hedgehogs, corals, and other marine flora and fauna.”

María Beatriz felt flattered by the friendliness of the islanders and the respectful adjectives they use to call the women who visit: queen, pretty, precious. Our traveler complemented her description by stating, “In San Andrés, you understand why the waters of the Caribbean were called “the queen’s gardens” by Christopher Columbus. It is a true fact that the sea has seven colors, you feel like staying there for good…”

These were the sensations of a person who, all of a sudden, found herself in the midst of tropical San Andrés, at the mercy of the spell of the sea, music, good food, the stories of the legendary Pirate Morgan, and a total reverie brought forth by the colorful horizon of splendid nature and courteous, festive natives, true connoisseurs of the land in which they are fortunate to have been born and live.

San Andres island: a colombian Sun and Beach Destination

Its beaches, bathed by a seven-color sea made placid and safe by coral barriers, are the main attraction.

The following are worth mentioning:

Bahía Sardina (Spratt Bight) located in the northern part of the island, near the main hotel and tourist sector. It is a city beach with white sand shaded by palms and a nice view of the Johnny Cay Island.

San Luis Beach is located only ten minutes by car or bus from downtown San Andres island. This is an option for resting on a beach with a more isolated and tranquil atmosphere.

Santa Marta: An Old Historical City Bathed by the Sea

Summarizing the features of a destination like Santa Marta is pleasant per se, but more so in this case in the light of the many factors it combines. There are more than enough reasons to exalt this tropical city and its surroundings as one of the most important destinations for foreigners and nationals. Thanks to these reasons, the Colombian Constitution of 1991 declared Santa Marta a tourism, cultural, and historical district.
A Tour of Santa Marta

Well known as possessing the most beautiful bay in America, Santa Marta is projecting itself as a modern city thanks to the infrastructure being developed and planned for the coming years. With it, there will be a harmonious interconnection among the port of Santa Marta, the historical center, and the beaches at El Rodadero.

Santa Marta is famous for having the tallest seaside mountain in the word, a place where the charms of a very old natural reserve join the wisdom of the ancestral peoples that make it their home and take care of it.
Enjoying Sun and Beach in Santa Marta

Along the Santa Marta beaches, the sea is calm because of the protection provided by the mountain range. Experts say that the wind passes by without affecting the area; it is safe from the hurricanes that affect other coastal areas of the Atlantic. It’s true! The Santa Marta beaches have never suffered from that natural phenomenon.

With the tranquility provided by those white sands and gentle waves, Santa Marta and the landscapes that border the Caribbean please tourists who seek the sun and a warm, happy atmosphere. Enthusiasm is evident in sectors like El Rodadero, one of the better-know tourism complexes of the region on account of its hotel, restaurant, disco, and shopping offers.

Motorboats depart daily from El Rodadero to El Acuario and Playa Blanca, the latter a peaceful site for snorkeling. However, there are more beaches near the city, each one with its own features. Examples are: Bahía Concha with its forest landscapes; Taganga, a typical fishermen’s village where several diving schools have their headquarters; and the beaches that are part of the Tayrona National Natural Park, the main ones being Arrecifes, Cañaveral, and San Juan del Guía.
Santa Marta’s Green, Exuberant Nature

The enjoyment of the beaches and small coves that border Santa Marta is just one of the things to do in this paradise-like destination. The best reference many people have on the area is the Tayrona National Natural Park and, naturally, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with the superb nature and spiritualitly that is perceived on its slopes by virtue of the aboriginal families that inhabit it - people for whom respect for flora and fauna is sacred.

Aside from its pretty, solitary beaches, it has sites for diving safely, camping sites, and ecological trails replete with trees, over 200 bird species, and other species like monkeys, deer, and skunks that, in the end, are its main inhabitants.

Again in reference to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it is said that it is the region’s icon for its imposing 6,000- meter height at the sea’s edge, the inspiration it elicits, and the mysticism of its inhabitants. Kogi, Arzario, and other Indian families explain the wisdom and legacy passed from their Tayrona ancestors in locations embedded in the jungle, such as Pueblito and Ciudad Perdida.
Santa Marta Is Ancient and Historical

Santa Marta emerged amid attractive beaches and bountiful nature in 1525 as the first city on Colombian territory. It is also one of the oldest cities in the American continent. The historical center is romantic, colonial and very well preserved. The Cathedral, the Santo Domingo Convent, the Tayrona Gold Museum, and the Consistorial House stand out as historical, traditional sites.

In the township of Mamatoco, at a distance of five kilometers from downtown Santa Marta, lies the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the house of the hacienda lent to Liberator Simón Bolívar in 1830 and the place where he spent his final days. Simón Bolívar passed away in this country house that preserves important documents and objects from his life and works.

The capital of the department of Magdalena is the sum of locations, details, and features to which a devoted reference must always be made. Santa Marta - the railroad, land, and maritime port - is not far from the banana plantations and the town of Aracataca, the land of prodigious Gabriel García Márquez, the unparalleled chronicler of the city and the region.

Ciudad Perdida: The Gateway to the Past of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Ciudad Perdida Archaeological Park, also known as Teyuna, is located on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta at the edge of the Buritaca River. Ciudad Perdida means “lost city” in English.

Ciudad Perdida is reached by crossing forests full of exotic fauna and flora, hanging bridges, mountains, and waterfalls. In the midst of a tropical forest and 40 and 50-meter tall trees are found the ruins of the great Tayrona empire, characterized by a sophisticated integration of nature and civilization and splendid stone architecture.
The Discovery of Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1975 by an informal digger. The finding was confirmed in 1976 by the Instituto Antropológico de Bogotá.

The Architecture of Ciudad Perdida

According to anthropological research, Ciudad Perdida was built approximately in the year 700 AD and was the most important urban center among the 250 Indian settlements discovered so far on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Its population ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants.

Ciudad Perdida was made up of over 250 terraces distributed in eight sections, each of which was a space for living, working, and performing religious celebrations. The various sections of the city were joined by a network of cobbled paths and stairs located on the slopes. Roads and stairs also joined the cultivation fields. Houses were built on tiered terraces made from stones that formed rings with diameters of five to eight meters.

Part of the success of the Tayroma architecture consisted in preventing the rain falling on these slopes from eroding the land. Additionally, a network of rainwater allowed the effective control of water. Also for preventing erosion, the Tayrona Indians built 12-meter high retaining walls to support the multiple paths that crossed the city.

Santander Means History, Adventure, and Unlimited Thrills

Whenever you have the chance to visit the department ofSantander, in northeastern Colombia, you will realize why one of its sites was nominated as one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World: the Chicamocha Canyon, an extraordinary place worth watching from land, air, and water.

The Santander region has been thriving as a major tourist attraction thanks to this superb canyon that fractures the mountains of the Eastern Range of the Andes. In addition to amazing landscapes, it has deep cultural, historic, and architectural meaning to the towns in its area of influence. Motivations to travel the region are varied and interesting. Its beauty is evident in every kilometer, so it is suggested to travel by road and, preferably, from the department of Boyacá.

Santander is made up of 87 municipalities grouped in 8 provinces and, although each province has specific interests, the province of Guanentá concentrates most of the tourist sites and may be considered as representing the entire department. Because touring the province means learning about the fascinating story of the department as narrated by its own inhabitants and as reflected in buildings from past times that speak about the existence of the valiant and courageous Guane men and women who took the first steps in pro of the country’s independence from Spain.

Aside from its beauty and grandeur, Santander’s natural environment is wild and challenging. The Chicamocha Canyon, streams, brooks, rivers, mountain ecological paths, royal roads, and tropical forests attest to this fact.

All this diversity of landscapes has catapulted the destination as one of the most important in Colombia - if not the most - for engaging in adventure sports, in the midst of lavish forests, gushing waters, copious rivers and waterfalls, dark caverns, and ravines along the roads between hills.

t is important to know that Santander’s villages and natural attractions make it easy for trips that, aside from unforgettable, are dynamic, amusing, thrilling, and enriching from a cultural point of view. With adequate information and the advice of Santander people, it is possible to extend the journey to the maximum and truly enjoy the experiences offered by this lovely land.
San Gil and Its Surroundings: Pure Adrenaline and Beautiful Landscapes

The epicenter of a journey through Santander could well be San Gil, the capital of the province of Guanentá and equidistant from historic municipalities and adventure sites. If you decide to come and get acquainted with this splendorous region, with no remorse for what you could have done and did not do, bear in mind that you should have available at least four or five days.

Devote one day to San Gil for strolling its colonial streets, touring the emblematic El Gallineral Park, rafting down the challenging Fonce River, and enjoying coffee in any of the bars that frame the central square. You may want to increase your dose of adventure on your second day by rappelling at the Juan Curí Waterfalls on the road to Charalá and then going deep into the Cueva del Indio, in the municipality of Páramo, to explore the cave for two hours, equivalent to two and a half kilometers.

After such intense thrills, a pause on the third day is suggested in the tranquil, ochre-colored village of Barichara, considered one of the most beautiful villages in the country for its rammed earth houses and the harmonious complex of streets covered with the typical yellow stone that is also used for artisan sculpting. Very close to Barichara is Guane, an equally beautiful Indian village reached by road or by one of several royal paths that still remain amid the exuberant geography of Santander.
The Majestic Chicamocha Canyon

To resume this subject, it must be stated that the Chicamocha Canyon is the indispensable visit and tour during an expedition in Santander. So, the fourth day is for experiencing the fascination that rises when we begin to see its majesty from the road that takes us there. Coming from San Gil and crossing the village of Aratoca, the road takes us from the highest to the lowest part of the canyon. After a descent of a couple of hours one reaches Pescadero Bridge and the bed of the Chicamocha River.

This is why this part of the trip implies several stops, whether to admire the beauty of the landscape or to take off on a paragliding wing and live the indescribable adventure of flying over the canyon. The stop is also at the mountain’s summit, where madness became reality in the form of the National Chicamocha Park (Panachi, by its Spanish acronym), an ingenious challenge to nature for feeling and being captured not only by the canyon, but by the dauntless lands of Santander just as they were immortalized in several songs.

The park’s attractions leave no doubt that Santander is synonymous with adventure. In a very short time, the aerial tramway that crosses the canyon, the buggy track, the enormous monument to Santander pride, and various mechanical attractions turned Panachi into an emblem of Santander and one of the best theme parks in Colombia.
Girón, Piedecuesta, and Floridablanca, Other Towns to Visit in Santander

If you have more time available, the fifth day could be devoted to towns in the metropolitan area. Girón, Piedecuesta, and Floridablanca are important for their history, architecture and contribution to the region’s economy.

Due to its diversity, the department of Santander is one of those places in the country that become embedded in people’s memories, with their amazing beauty and the thrills it offers.