Article first published as Colonial Colombia: Santa Marta and Taganga on Technorati.
Traveling north of Cartagena along the Colombian coast you reach two towns, Santa Marta and Taganga, jewels of the Caribbean coast. We went one way by Marsol, van transport and back by public bus. Because George is fluent in Spanish from his years in the Peace Corps, I am not sure how hard it would be to travel with no language skills, but we found Colombians to be very friendly and helpful. Many were thrilled to meet Americans traveling in their country.
From the Lonely Planet Colombia, we learned that, “Santa Marta is South America’s oldest surviving city and the second most important colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.” It is experiencing a revival and many of the parks and plazas are being refurbished; we heard there are plans for an upscale marina.
We enjoyed the children playing and people strolling in Parque Santander and Plaza de Bolivar. The Gold museum in the library was an interesting small exhibit. We did not see El Rodedero, but that is the beach where upscale Colombians hang out!
In December 17, 1830, Simon Bolivar died in Santa Marta; a claim to fame for this town! Another great claim is the fantastic hostel, La Brisa Loca. Not only a great place to stay full of friendly staff who have a tremendous amounts of information to share, but they also organized to gift giving to 60 local children on December 23, for the holiday.
It was wonderful to see the smiling children enjoy soda and sweets while receiving personal gifts. Next door, we found the best Mexican restaurant, Agave Azul on Calle 14 – make reservations, they are both popular! This area is the stepping off point for the famous hike to Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) and for Parque Nacional Natural (PNN) Tayrona.
One of my favorite spots was our hostel in Taganga, Hostel Techos Azules; perched on the side of the mountain with beautiful blue roof tiles. You can eat at Las Velas on the main beach or in town with the friendly team at the Casa Holanda.
For Christmas Eve, with rain from 6pm til midnight, we sat in hammocks while Corrodo from Italy grilled fresh Barracuda for our large and international group. Near midnight with the rain falling in sheets, a dozen of us strolled down the hill, along the cliff edge to town to the roof of the Sensation Dance Club.
Nearby Playa Grande can be reached by boat; your 6000 pesos ($3.00) includes life jackets and a quick ride to the very organized beach with lounge chairs shaded by large trees, not too many hawkers, banana boat rides and snorkel guides showing the lion fish, ray, schools of small fish and some coral bleaching. Fresh fish lunch and fruit shakes are available at Viviano Cafe, and the owner, Will, not only checks on you, but also will your valuables while you snorkel.
On Christmas Day, we were shocked to see a Police boat racing in towards the beach with sirens blaring and then happily suprised to hear Spanish, “Hola a todos. Un buen feliz navidad” “Hello to all. Merry Christmas. Enjoy yourselves!” Colombia is a great travel destination and I hope you are lucky enough to travel there soon! Enjoy all your travels in 2011!