Situated on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve thanks to its rich biodiversity – lush forests, coral reefs and the world’s tallest coastal mountains, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
One of the most popular things to do in Santa Marta is to take a day trip to the nearby Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. The protected national park covers an area of 150 square kilometres, offering contrasting landscapes of palm-fringed beaches, snow-capped peaks and dense jungles thick with indigenous flora and fauna. You can reach the park by hiking, horse riding or sailing.
There are plenty of picturesque beaches in and around Santa Marta, such as El Rodadero, Playa Blanca and Playa Cristal. Soak up the sun on the soft white sand, or go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Santa Marta is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get your scuba certification, with dive shops in town and in the nearby fishing village of Taganga offering opportunities to discover the vibrant marine life.
For a dose of culture in Santa Marta, you can stroll along its historic centre, admiring the colourful old houses and the whitewashed Santa Marta Cathedral. The city is also home to unique museums, such as the Tayrona Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Tairona) and the 17th-century Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino – a country estate featuring an art gallery and botanical gardens.