As one approaches the northern coast of South America from the Caribbean Sea, a majestic landscape unfurls on the horizon. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, with their lushly forested slopes, form an awe-inspiring backdrop to the city of Santa Marta. The dense jungles are the site of what is famously known as "The Lost City", Ciudad Perdida, the pre-Hispanic, spiritual home of Colombia's Tayrona Indians. Another major draw card is Santa Marta's proximity to the sea. It is one of Colombia's most popular resort towns, with long, sandy beaches, a warm climate, good value Santa Marta hotels and a laid-back ethos. >> Check out our customer feedback and book with us!
While at one time the region's economy was largely dependent on its banana plantations, in modern times it is tourism that is increasingly important. Given the city's vibrant, colourful vegetation, its varied topography and the emerald beauty of the Caribbean, it's not surprising that Santa Marta has earned the nickname, "Pearl of the Americas".
Besides growing in stature as a tourist destination, Santa Marta is also an important trading port. The harbour bustles with the arrival and departure of innumerable cargo ships. In recent years, there are an increasing number of cruise ships as well, docking at the marina, bringing in leisure travellers by the legion. From the beach, there are stunning views of the Caribbean Sea to the west. An enormous rock, big enough to be called an island, juts dramatically out of the water. To the right is the port, tucked away behind an even larger rock. Then there is Santa Marta's city beach - crowded, noisy and fun.
Two city attractions well worth a visit are the aquarium and a grand hacienda where Simón Bolívar spent his final days. Essentially however, Santa Marta is a take-off point for other attractions close by. El Rodadero, to Santa Marta's south is an upscale beach resort. To the north is the picturesque fishing village of Taganga. Further to the northeast is the fabulous Parque Nacional Tayrona. Trips and Santa Marta tours to Ciudad Perdida (the "Lost City"), Tayrona's fabled, pre-Hispanic city are also organised from here and are a must as it is a highlight of a trip to Colombia. You can use our Santa Marta map to choose your hotel in Santa Marta to ensure you stay close to what you wish to see and do on your Santa Marta holiday.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, native Indian groups like the Karib and the Arawak inhabited this territory. Among these indigenous peoples, the Tayrona Indians were the most evolved in terms of social organisation, economy, religion and government. The Tayrona also developed terraced fields and a complex irrigation system that would sustain their agriculture.
Santa Marta's superb natural harbour and splendid views were not the only reasons for the Spanish choosing to build their first settlement here. It was also the irresistible lure of gold. The Tayrona Indians were skilled goldsmiths and Rodrigo de Bastidas, thanks to his prior expeditions, was well aware of the immense treasure to be found here. Today, some of these ancient indigenous works, which escaped getting shipped to Spain, can be viewed in Santa Marta's Museo Del Oro, located in the Bank of the Republic, as part of the Treasures exhibits.
Santa Marta was also a convenient gateway for further Spanish explorations into the Colombian hinterland. In 1536, Jiménez de Quesada embarked from here on an arduous expedition to the Magdalena Valley, to found the city of Bogotá two years later.
Santa Marta has a hot climate. In the evenings though, sea breezes blowing into the coast bring down the temperature, making it wonderfully conducive for the simple pleasure of strolling around the streets, savouring street food, or hanging out with friends at the open-air cafés on the beach front, over beer or a glass of fresh juice.
Check out our Santa Marta hotel listings for a full range of accommodation in Santa Marta. We also offer a range of exciting tours in Santa Marta for travellers to explore this unique destination. We have a range from simple budget Santa Marta hostels through to luxury resorts and hotels in Santa Marta. You can book your Santa Marta accommodation and Santa Marta tours quickly and with confidence through our Santa Marta hotels site.