Are you looking for the perfect Northern Colombia and Santa Marta itinerary? Look no further!
Some may be quick to dismiss this stunning South American city as merely a tropical beach getaway, but there’s so much more to discover.
Don’t be fooled by its warm shores – it has an abundance of hidden treasures waiting to be explored.
But those hidden treasures can be hard to find, if you don’t know where to look.
Therefore I asked Giorgy from G-Extreme Travel to weigh in on this one. She has traveled there and is somewhat of an expert.
She’s here to shed some light on the perfect Northern Colombia itinerary. Giorgy will also tell us how to best explore the region of Northern Colombia from Santa Marta.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
- What is Santa Marta Known For?
- 7 Days Northern Colombia Itinerary – At a Glance
- How to Get Around Santa Marta & Northern Colombia
- Where to Stay in Santa Marta
- Day 1: Santa Marta
- Day 2: Taganga
- Day 3: Tayrona National Park
- Day 4 : Tayrona National Park: Relax and Unwind
- Day 5: Minca
- Day 6: Rodadero and Palomino
- Alternatives to the 7 Days Santa Marta Itinerary
- How Many Days Do You Need in Santa Marta?
- What is the Best Time to Go to Santa Marta?
- Is Santa Marta Colombia Safe?
- Conclusion: Santa Marta Itinerary
- FAQ: Santa Marta & Northern Colombia Itinerary
- About the Author
What is Santa Marta Known For?
Santa Marta, Colombia is known for its rich culture and history. It is also famous for stunningly beautiful beaches.
It offers colonial-style architecture in the city center and lush tropical rainforest just outside Santa Marta. Santa Marta is famous for great scuba diving and it is one of the oldest cities in Colombia.
It is also the gateway to Tayrona National Park – and it does have amazing nightlife.
But what really sets this destination apart is its locals. Locals here are welcoming and friendly. They are eager to share their stories with visitors who are interested in learning more about the area’s culture and customs.
When it comes to making a Santa Marta itinerary, you can trust, that locals have insider knowledge about the best attractions and Santa Marta activities.
Explore a vibrant local market, sip on freshly brewed coffee at a street cafe, or take a day trip out to Tayrona National Park—the possibilities are endless when it comes to exploring Santa Marta and Northern Colombia.
7 Days Northern Colombia Itinerary – At a Glance
Here is Giorgy’s ideal itinerary when it comes to exploring Santa Marta and Northern Colombia:
- Day 1: Santa Marta
- Day 2: Taganga
- Day 3: Tayrona National Park Hiking & Beach
- Day 4: Tayrona National Park Beach Hopping
- Day 5: Minca
- Day 6: Rodadero and Palomino
- Day 7: Santa Marta Beach Hopping
A great way to experience all that Santa Marta city and the area around it is by following this 7-day itinerary.
You’ll start in the beautiful colonial city center, where you can explore its narrow cobblestone streets and get a taste of traditional Colombian cuisine.
From there you’ll move on to Parque Tayrona National Park. There you can go swimming in crystal clear waters or take part in guided hikes through its lush jungles.
During your final days, make sure to explore the charming mountain town of Minca and the picturesque beach town of Palomino.
Before returning to Santa Marta, seize the opportunity to experience an unforgettable night along its vibrant Caribbean coastline.
How to Get Around Santa Marta & Northern Colombia
I suggest getting a rental car for this 7-day Northern Colombia Itinerary from Santa Marta.
This gives you enough flexibility to drive to the most magical spots that I suggest. Public transportation is cheaper, but not always as reliable and flexible.
Alternatively, you can also book guided day tours or private transportation instead of getting a rental car.
Where to Stay in Santa Marta
Day 1: Santa Marta
Visiting Santa Marta City and uncovering the incredible history of this Colombian city is first on our itinerary. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Santa Marta:
Start with a visit to El Centro Historico – Santa Marta’s Old Town. There you can see the colonial-style buildings, vibrant street life, and lots of great restaurants.
Next, make your way to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, home to Simón Bolívar on his last days.
After that, take a peaceful stroll to Santa Marta Cathedral. You admire its intricate facades and beautiful detail.
Later you’ll be heading over to Parque de los Novios for a relaxing break in the park.
If you’re feeling adventurous, Museo del Oro Tairona is worth exploring. They have a unique collection of pre-Colombian artifacts!
As the nighttime approaches, indulge in a great seafood feast at one of the charming waterfront restaurants. There are many nestled in the heart of the historic center.
These lovely places offer breathtaking vistas of the azure Caribbean Sea. It makes for a great dining experience.
Day 2: Taganga
Kick off your second day with a trip outside Santa Marta to the quaint fishing hamlet of Taganga. This charming location is just a short drive away from the city center. It will be a refreshing change of scenery.
Allow yourself to be captivated by the vibrancy of Taganga’s local life. Stroll through the colorful streets, observe the daily routines of the fishermen reeling in the day’s catch. Take a moment to unwind on the sun-kissed beach.
Whether you’re a seasoned diver or prefer snorkeling, the crystal-clear waters of Taganga are the perfect spot. Vibrant coral reefs full of diverse marine life are waiting.
For those with a diver’s certification, an excursion to the renowned Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo is a must, albeit a few hours away.
Round off your day with a seafood dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants. Soak in the relaxed ambiance against the backdrop of a stunning oceanic panorama.
Day 3: Tayrona National Park
Spending a few days in Tayrona National Park is a must on any Santa Marta itinerary.
Prepare yourself for an adrenaline-fueled journey through the park’s jungle trails. This is a remarkable experience that will get your heart pumping. Make sure to bring some good hiking gear.
Once you’ve had your fill of hiking, retire to the park’s unspoiled beaches. They are quite the sanctuary for some relaxation.
Dive into the park’s crystal-clear turquoise waters for a refreshing swim or simply bask in the sun’s warm glow.
As the day winds down, indulge in a serene beach picnic. Enjoy the sun setting over the horizon, its fading light painting the sky with hues of pink and orange.
Day 4 : Tayrona National Park: Relax and Unwind
Your fourth day is all about embracing the calming beauty of Tayrona National Park outside Santa Marta.
Imagine lounging on the immaculate sun-kissed beaches, the azure sea waters lapping over your toes. Tayrona National Park has it all.
Here are some of my favorite beaches in Tayrona National Park:
- Cabo San Juan – Iconic spot. Perfect for swimming and sunbathing (my personal favorite)
- La Piscina – As the name suggests, it’s like a natural pool. Calm waters, great for a dip
- Arrecifes – Beautiful but beware, swimming’s dangerous here due to currents
- Playa Cristal – Less crowded, crystal-clear waters
- Bahía Concha – Another low-key beach, great for chilling
For the more adventurous souls, take out that snorkeling gear again to explore the colorful underwater realm with cute tropical fish and stunning corals.
This laid-back day in Tayrona is the perfect way to recharge before the remainder of your Santa Marta adventure.
Day 5: Minca
Day 5 of this Northern Colombia Itinerary brings you to the enchanting area of Minca. It is tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Minca is a sweet mountain village, renowned for its coffee plantations. Visiting local businesses is one of my favorite things to do on a trip.
Embark on a journey through the coffee’s life cycle, from the seed to the cup. Go to one of the local coffee farms, were you can discover the depth and complexity of Colombia’s pride, its coffee.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample some of the most exquisite brews in the region!
As the day continues, let the breathtaking Cascada Marinka sweep you off your feet. Cascada Marinka is a waterfall near Minca. It’s a popular spot to escape the heat and chill in nature and take a dip.
In the evening, experience Colombian hospitality with a traditional dinner. If you listen closely, you can hear the chirping of the nocturnal creatures of the Sierra Nevada.
Day 6: Rodadero and Palomino
Today get ready for some stunning beaches in Rodadero. You can bask in the sunshine, dip your toes into the warm Caribbean Sea, and try fresh coconut juice or perhaps a tropical cocktail.
Let the morning drift lazily by as you unwind on the beautiful beach. After a laid-back morning, it’s time add some thrill into your day.
Head over to the nearby town of Palomino for an afternoon packed with exhilaration. You can go floating down the Palomino River on a tube, surrounded by the lush greenery of the jungle. You’ll have a great view of the towering mountain peaks.
As the day winds down, return to Rodadero for a farewell dinner at a beachfront restaurant. Enjoy and reminisce about your unforgettable Santa Marta journey over a mouthwatering meal.
Day 7 – Santa Marta – Beaches
Spend this last day enjoying Santa Marta and its beautiful beaches. Head over the the old town for some last explorations or simply enjoy a day on the beach.
Alternatively, you can also add one last day trip to the beautiful surroundings of the city and explore Northern Colombia some more.
Alternatives to the 7 Days Santa Marta Itinerary
If you’re looking for some alternatives to add to your one-week itinerary in Santa Marta I got you covered as well. Consider exploring Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City), seeing Punta Gallinas, or stepping back in time in Mompox.
Whatever you choose, there’s no shortage of exciting experiences waiting for you near Santa Marta!
#1. Lost City Trek
This one is for hikers and thrill-seekers: the Lost City Trek.
This 4-5 day hike in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains isn’t for the faint-hearted. But I found this so rewarding.
The difficulty is moderate to hard. You’ll be walking a lot and the terrain can be tough.
You’ll have to navigate through dense jungles, cross rivers, and climb steeply to reach Ciudad Perdida. The Ciudad Perdida is an ancient city. They think it was founded 650 years before Machu Picchu.
The trek may be challenging, but as you emerge from the undergrowth into the clearing with the city’s stone terraces, you realize, that every step and every drop of sweat, was worth it.
Book an organized tour and save yourself some trouble planning this trip by yourself.
#2. La Guajira
Another spectacular place you can add to your Northern Colombia itinerary is La Guajira.
This place is where the desert meets the sea. That is one striking panorama that will leave you in awe.
You can see the dunes of Taroa meeting the Caribbean, looks like right out of a dream.
Make sure to pay a visit the indigenous Wayuu communities and learn about their customs and culture.
If you want to experience some city life, consider a visit to the majestic Cartagena. This city shows where the colonial past meets modern elegance.
Pastel-colored houses and flower-filled balconies make the city so charming in my opinion. Make sure to explore the historic walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Take a salsa class, try local cuisine and be enchanted by all that Cartagena has to offer.
Mompox offers another perfect detour on your Santa Marta itinerary.
This town has been lost in time. It is tucked away on the banks of the Magdalena River. Observe the traditional craft of goldsmithing, a Mompox tradition dating back to colonial periods.
Mompox is the perfect retreat those seeking a glimpse back in history.
How Many Days Do You Need in Santa Marta?
The number of days you spend in Santa Marta depends on your interests and how much you want to explore.
A week (7 days) is what I would recommend to fully enjoy Santa Marta and its nearby attractions without feeling rushed.
A week in Santa Marta is enough time to enjoy the city’s charm, explore the local Santa Marta beaches, and take a few day trips. It is long enough to venture into the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains.
If you want to add more stops, like the Lost City Trek, Mompox or Cartagena – you might find yourself wanting to extend your stay.
What is the Best Time to Go to Santa Marta?
Here’s a quick rundown on the best times to visit Santa Marta. Of course it depends on your preferences when it will be the best time to visit.
Dry Season (Dec – April): Best weather, but also busiest. Perfect for beach days and outdoor activities.
Wet Season (May – Nov): Fewer crowds but expect rain. Still good for short trips and indoor stuff.
Shoulder Seasons (April-May, Oct-Nov): Fewer people and a mix of weather. Good compromise if you want to avoid crowds.
So, dry season for clear skies and outdoor fun, wet season if you don’t mind some rain, and shoulder seasons for a bit of both. Take your pick!
Is Santa Marta Colombia Safe?
Safety’s a big deal, especially when you’re traveling. Santa Marta, like many tourist spots, has its ups and downs concerning safety.
Crime Rates in Santa Marta are generally lower than in bigger cities like Bogotá or Medellín. Petty crime, like pickpocketing, is common in busy areas.
Drugs exist but are not usually a concern for tourists unless you’re looking for trouble.
What to Look Out For:
- Pickpockets – Especially near beaches and markets. Keep your stuff close
- Scams – Be careful with “too good to be true” offers
- Late Nights – It’s safer not to wander around alone at night, especially in less busy areas
- Taxis – Always better to call one or use a taxi app rather than hailing one off the street
- Neighborhoods – Stick to tourist-friendly areas. Ask locals or your accommodation for advice
So, while Santa Marta isn’t perfect, it’s generally safe if you stay aware and make smart choices. Have fun but keep your wits about you!
Do you need travel insurance in Santa Marta? Yes, travel insurance in Santa Marta is highly recommended. Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.
Conclusion: Santa Marta Itinerary
In conclusion: whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history enthusiast or a beach lover, Santa Marta has something to offer for you.
This unique corner of Colombia has many diverse experiences waiting to be discovered. From the charm of the old town Santa Marta to the beauty of the surrounding beaches, from the thrill of the Lost City Trek to the cultural richness of Mompox, you’re in for an unforgettable journey.
So, pack your bags and set your sights on Santa Marta city – a Colombian gem. My Santa Marta itinerary is filled with adventure, culture, relaxation, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Hopefully, this Colombia travel guide serves as the perfect compass to navigate your journey, and you fall in love with Santa Marta, just as we did. Safe travels, amigos!
Santa Marta is right around the corner from my favorite place in the world, Curacao. Why not check it out next?
FAQ: Santa Marta & Northern Colombia Itinerary
You’d ideally want at least 2-3 weeks to really dive into Colombia’s diverse regions. But if you’re short on time, a 7-day trip can still cover the beautiful area of Northern Colombia around Santa Marta plus some beach or jungle time. The more days you have, the more you can explore!
Yes, Santa Marta is definitely worth going to! Santa Marta’s got a mix of everything: beaches, nightlife, and history. It’s the gateway to Tayrona National Park and a launchpad for treks like the Lost City. Whether you’re into chilling on the sand or hiking through jungles, Santa Marta’s got something for you.
I’d say spend around 5-7 days in Santa Marta. This gives you enough time to explore the city, hit the local beaches, and maybe take a day trip to Tayrona National Park or Minca. If you’re planning on doing the Lost City Trek, add another 4-6 days. It’s a good base for both relaxation and adventure!
Oh yeah, Santa Marta can definitely be a party town if you’re in the mood! The area around Parque de Los Novios is a hot spot for bars and clubs. Taganga, a nearby fishing village, also has its share of nightlife. So whether you’re into beach bars, dancing, or just sipping cocktails, Santa Marta’s got you covered for a fun night out.
Compared to other South American cities, Santa Marta is generally affordable. But, like any tourist spot, it has a range. You can find budget hostels and street food, but there are also fancier hotels and restaurants if you wanna splurge. Activities like diving or trekking can add to costs. So, it can be as budget-friendly or as luxe as you make it!
For the most part, yes, swimming in Santa Marta is pretty safe, especially in popular beaches like Rodadero and Playa Blanca. However, always check for local signs or warnings about currents and water quality. Some beaches, like the ones in Tayrona National Park, can have strong currents, so it’s good to ask locals or lifeguards where it’s safe to take a dip. Swim safe and enjoy!
Walking around Santa Marta is generally safe during the day, especially in touristy areas. Just stay aware and keep an eye on your stuff, like you would in any city. Nighttime is a bit different—better to stick to well-lit and busy areas. Some neighborhoods can be sketchy, so ask locals or your accommodation for advice on where to avoid.
About the Author
Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.
She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.