Santa Marta

T

he difference between Cartagena and Santa Marta in my opinion is, that in Cartagena you have more to see in the city itself and on the nearby islands, but not so much in the neighboring area, but in Santa Marta it seems the other way around. Once you conquer the city’s main attractions, you have extremely wide specter of places to see and things to do around the city.

When you meet people with different culture and customs, I think it is important, that you try to become one of them. Because if it wasn't for them and for that secret ingredient, called adventure, I probably wouldn't do it anymore or at least not so often.

Cascais Lighthouse At Night

Santa Marta, founded by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1525, is the oldest remaining city in both Colombia and South America. It is the capital of the Department of Magdalena, which is also the name of the main river. Santa Marta with its rich and unique architectural heritage represents also the second most important colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast.

In the city centre, in front of the Palace of Justice, there is a pedestrian zone and a charming square Parque de Santander (Parque de los Novios), which was once the first public market in town.

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Right there two nice restaurants are placed next to each other: the first one we went to was The Hemingway and the second was named Ouzo with delicious Mediterranean cuisine, which I love. I absolutely adored their fresh fruit drinks with all the tropic tastes and there are two kinds: with milk (frappe) or with water. They both were so delicious, that we became their regular guests for as long as we stayed in Santa Marta. During the day, when it gets really hot outside, I would recommend them with water, because they are really cool and refreshing.

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I noticed that Santa Marta has some good shopping options. There are a lot of street vendors with fresh fruits, a lot of boutiques and the thing that you might find useful: the food, the drinks, the clothes, the souvenirs - almost everything was cheaper than in Cartagena. After walking around the city center and some souvenir shopping we got exhausted, so we jumped into the water right at the city beach. Probably because of the port being located nearby, the sea had this greasy feeling on the skin, but it was the only solution for a quick refresh, because in the afternoon it gets really hot (in the middle of December it was around 31 degrees Celsius).

What I found the most interesting about Santa Marta, was that we planned to stay there just over night. In the end we prolonged our visit there for five nights, simply because there are too many great sites in the surrounding area worth visiting, but beware: they are not so close, actually the distances are huge, so make sure you have enough time for the sight-seeing and you won't be dissapointed.

Places, worth visiting around Santa Marta ...

The mountain range Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is separated from the Andes chain. The highest peaks in Colombia are Pico Cristóbal Colón (5.700 metres or 18.700 ft) and Pico Simon Bolivar, which got its name after Christopher Columbus.

Rodadero beach is beautiful and it is located further south, just 10 minute-drive away from Santa Marta.

Guajira desert: further east towards Venezuela it is situated the city of Riohacha, which is known for the Flamencos Nature Sanctuary and even more to the east it is located The Guajira Peninsula with beautiful Guajira Desert and Cabo de La Vela.

Minca – The Aromatic Coffee Haciendas

For all of you coffee addicts, Colombia is the right country to visit, because it is the third largest producer of coffee in the world, right after Brazil and Vietnam. So, we thought it would be a shame to be there and not to experience one of the most famous coffee growing fields in Colombia – The Minca.

We arrived to Minca from Santa Marta in about half an hour with our rent-a-car. It was only a one-day trip, because we had to return to our hotel in Cartagena (we needed about five or six hours to drive back). In the village we luckily bumped into the moto-taxi drivers. Obviously they were waiting for the tourists right on the road, so we rented two of them for the price of 50.000 Colombian Pesos (around 17 USD) to our first destination ...

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While driving we were lucky to finally see a monkey by the road, so keep your eyes open.

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We drove for half an hour through the rural area to the top of the hill, where we visited the coffee factory and plantation Hacienda La Victoria. We listened to a short presentation of cultivation and production of grain and after that we were offered the real Colombian coffee.

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We tasted Arabica style coffee, which was very strong, dark and aromatic. In hacienda you can buy three types of coffee. It is also possible to purchase grounded/roasted or whole beans packages of organic coffee. We took five packages with us.

It is funny, that I drink it at home every now and then, because I am actually not a coffee addict, but it still smells so good and reminds me of Minca ... Similar thing happened, when I came back from Argentina and I had a few months obsession with drinking their famous Mate tea at home.

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The next site we wanted to see in Minca was Casa Elemento. In order to go to Casa Elemento, we had to return from Hacienda La Victoria to Minca (about half an hour ride) and there we had to rent another moto taxi service, because 'our guys' had a group of tourists already booked. When we came back to the village, we found a tourist office / a small coffee shop, where we met a very kind French lady, an expath in Colombia. She gave us a few useful tips, offered us a cup of coffee and also called a moto taxi service. So, we waited at the coffee shop for about 15 mins, till they came. 

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To Casa Elemento we drove up the hill for approximately 30 mins. The road was steep and quite muddy, but worth every minute, because the landscape was spectacularly green with an amazing ecosphere.

The problem with the one-day trip was, that in December days are shorter and that it got dark around seven o'clock p.m. We were a little dissapointed, that we didn't go to Casa Elemento right away, so we would have more time to enjoy and take some more photos during the day. We would probably have time to go hiking to Marinka waterfall as well.

P.S. On the photo our tiny silver rent-a-car is parked behind me - I didn't see it before!

Casa Elemento is something I would definitely recommend, because it offeres not just the accommodation facilities and a pool, but also the amazing views and not to mention: the world's biggest hammock (I don't know if they told us the truth). The air up there is great and the best thing is that humidity is lower than at sea level.

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Tips: I advise you to withdraw the money at the ATM machine before you go up, because in the middle of the jungle that would be impossible. They take only cash in Casa Elemento.

Minca offers many picturesque trails. I would suggest you to wear something comfortable, but not too much fancy (keep in mind, that you can get really dirty), so don't wear new snickers, like I did. I bought them in Santa Marta, because we were told we would need them for trekking, but then we didn't go trekking. So, in that case you can easily wear flip-flops as well.

The Colombian people didn't dissapoint us, although we had some situations, that we will probably remember (but just in case, so that we learn for our next traveling adventures). Generally we liked them. Most of them were very helpful, nice to us and easy-going. I admire the ones who have absolutely nothing in material sense, but are still able to be nice and to smile at strangers, especially the kids, who were absolutely beautiful, so pure and adorable.

That is the thing with traveling: you have to be able to get flexible and to adjust to different cultures and customs. I think it is important, when you meet people of a different culture, that you try to become one of them. If it wasn't for that and for that secret ingredient, called adventure, I probably wouldn't do it any more or at least not so often.

The following photos are from the road, when we traveled back from Santa Marta through Baranquilla to Cartagena ...

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I hope you liked my Colombia blog. Take care till next time, my voyageurs and enjoy your trips! Hug!

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