5 x must-do’s in Santa Marta, Colombia

by Deborah Durrfeld

You can spend a nice day in Santa Marta, but you mainly use the city as a base for a trip to the Tayrona National Park, the mountain village of Minca or the trek to the lost city “La Ciudad Perdida”. But what to do when you spend a day in town? This is my list with things to do in Santa Marta.

Welcome to Santa Marta!

Santa Marta, located on the Caribbean Sea, at the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is the capital of the Magdalena department and one of the oldest cities in Colombia. The city was founded at the beginning of the 16th century by the Spanish. Because of its strategic location at the sea, it has always been an important trading and harbour city in Colombia.

1. Discover the colonial center

The colonial center of Santa Marta is worth a visit. It’s nice to walk through the old colonial streets with the many coloured houses and observe daily life. The architecture is beautiful, it reminds me to the outskirts of Havana, only in a more luxurious way. You will also find some very cool street-art.

2. Stroll along the seaside

Santa Marta is hot (actually extremely hot) most of the year and local people are looking for a cool spot along the coast. Even though the beaches are not particularly beautiful, taking a walk along the coast and observing local life is a good thing. Street-vendors sell their goods, fishermen are working, and in the weekend many locals enjoy the beach with a lunch or bbq.

3. Make a stop at the Parque de los Novios

Parque de los Novios (the park of the lovers) is a lovely square. Have a drink at one of the terraces or choose a bench and have a chat with the locals. Salsa lessons are often given on weekends.

4 Visit the Gold Museum “Museo del Oro”

A small all but interesting museum, especially when you are interested in pre-columbian civilizations, including the Tayrona Indigenous people. The museum explains about this civilization, their way of living and their habitat, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. You will find many gold and pieces of art. If you are planning to do the trekking to la Ciudad Perdida, the museum is highly recommended. Lots of background information can be found, including a model of this magical place.

For all the art lovers, read more about Colombian art in this article.

5. Visit La Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino

Anyone who has read anything about the history of Colombia and Latin America has come across the name Simon Bolivar. Simon Bolivar is the independence fighter who liberated many parts of Latin America. He therefore played a very important role in the history of the Latin American continent. You will find him throughout South America, as a statue on a central square. And many cities have a street or square named after him. In Santa Marta he spent his last days in Quinta San Pedro de Alejandrino. Nowadays you can visit this old villa. It is a museum with a botanical garden. If you are interested in a bit of history, it is interesting to take yourself into the world of this independence hero. Quinta San Pedro de Alejandrino is located 4 km outside the colonial center. It is best to go by local bus or taxi.


Looking for the best places to eat and drink in Santa Marta? Check out the hotspots here.


This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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