Colombia’s oldest town was founded by the Spanish all the way back in 1525. The first thing you’ll notice is the picture-perfect coastline. Cue ice-white sands and glass-clear waters backed by South America’s second-largest mountain range. Away from the beach, the town’s colourful houses and lively reggae bars offer up plenty in the way of Latino spirit.
• For a dose of history, pay a visit to La Casa de Aduana – South America’s first ever house, which has been turned into an interesting little museum.
• Tayrona National Park showcases some of Colombia’s most spectacular scenery. Think footprint-free beaches, delicate corals and sea-sculpted boulders. Keep an eye out and you might even spot some monkeys.
• Take a look around the former home of South American liberator, Simón Bolívar, and check out the monument in his memory.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
The History, Gold and Colour of Santa Marta►
You’ll be an expert on Santa Marta after this tour. It begins at the city’s Gold Museum, which showcases shiny stuff hailing from pre-Colombian indigenous cultures. Afterwards, you’ll enjoy a stroll around the city with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll get a good look at the varied architecture, which tells of Spanish colonial and Republican reign. Plus, you’ll amble through sunny squares like Bolivar Plaza, where ladies lunch under the shade of leafy acacia trees. You’ll visit Colombia’s oldest church, and check out Parque Santander, a park full of mimosa trees on the outskirts of the city. La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is the final stop of the day. This 17th-century hacienda was once the home of Simon Bolivar, a freedom fighter who led Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru to independence from the Spanish Empire. The period artworks and furniture are real eye candy, and the garden, with its native flowers and family of iguanas, is even better.
A Taste of Santa Marta►
You’ll explore mesmerising Santa Marta on this driving tour – South America’s oldest surviving city. It’s a place of contrasts and, between high-rise hotels and glossy shopping malls, Spanish colonial buildings line up in squares shaded by acacia trees. You’ll be transported around all the big sights by coach, pausing to admire Colombia’s oldest church, and the Bolivar Plaza, a hive of lunching locals and camera-toting tourists. Your driving tour comes to a close at La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, a 17th-century hacienda that once belonged to Simon Bolivar. Bolivar led Colombia’s fight for independence, and was celebrated for freeing several South American countries from the Spanish Empire. You’ll enjoy an access-all-areas visit, checking out the impressive artwork and furniture that remains since the freedom fighter’s death in 1830. The garden is the star of the show, though – it’s full of blooms, as well as a small population of iguanas.
The Wild Beauty of Tayrona National Park►
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country on earth, so there’s a lot of flora and fauna to discover. Today will see you touring Tayrona National Park, a protected area that covers more than 37,000 acres. Most of it’s covered in rainforest and white-sand beaches, and the wildlife count includes 100 types of mammal, 200 species of birds and 50 different reptiles. You’ll enjoy a guided walking tour through the jungle, before being transported to the Ecohabs Hotel, a peaceful retreat hidden in the cliffs above the forest. Snacks and cold drinks will be served on the property’s outdoor terrace, which offers up some of the best views for miles.