Colombia – Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

When hearing ‘Colombia‘ as a travel destination, many people still cringe based on the country’s past. With the drug cartel making Medellin one of the most dangerous cities in the world throughout the 80’s, it’s easy to understand why people may be apprehensive to visit. Luckily, times have changed, and the Colombians are making great effort to transform the reputation of their country, and with good reason.

The Caribbean Coast is undoubtedly beautiful, and Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tyrona National Park, in English) highlights the beauty of primitiveness of this area. Using Santa Marta or Taganga as a base, local buses drop you off in front of the main entrance at El Zaío, along the Santa Marta-Riohacha highway. Before entering, you’ll pay the admission fee ($15 USD), and then wait for a minibus to bring you further. From here you can either hike in to the park (2-3 hrs max) or hire a horse to ride.

Due to the hiking, you’ll only bring a small daypack not forgetting bug spray, sunscreen, and a head torch. No plastic bags are allowed and officials conduct thorough searches as alcohol and drugs are prohibited. You’ll want to hike early due to the heat and humidity and bring your passport (or a copy) to enter the park. Also, with the appropriate ISIC Student Card, students can enter for a fraction of the cost.

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There are three main beaches here and two offer accommodation. The first beach is known as Arrecifes, the next is La Aranilla, and the most popular for backpackers is Cabo San Juan de la Guía. Arrecifes offers budget accommodation and campgrounds with eating facilities, but the beaches here aren’t suitable for swimming. There are swimming spots within walking distance that are much safer. Campgrounds are also located at Cabo San Juan de la Guía. You’ll need to wait in line to get a hammock or a tent to sleep in.

Top Tip: If you can, request hammocks on the mirrador (lookout point) up on the rocky hilltop. There are also 2 private rooms that overlook the ocean, but these go quickly!

There are limited lockers available, so bring a padlock and share with someone. Inside the park food and drink is expensive, but not unreasonable. There are no ATM’s in the park, but the restaurant at Cabo San Juan does accept cards. A meal is around $10 USD and beer is about $2 USD. At the Cabo San Juan campsite, there are only four bathrooms and one shower area that isn’t entirely private, but you can shower in your swimwear! Remember, this is rugged, pristine Caribbean coastline. You visit this place for its beauty, not it’s luxuries!

Photo Credits: Author’s Own

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