We spent the first few nights up north in the city of Santa Marta at Dreamers Hostel. Santa Marta is the gateway for trips into the Tayrona National Park - one of Columbia’s most popular national parks and a must do for travellers. Having read and heard how beautiful the park is we were very excited to see what all the fuss was about. On arrival at the park we were asked whether we were planning to on walking to the beach or if we would like to hire horses. We decided to go for the less time-consuming and more exciting option of horses - my god was it an experience. The journey to the beach was a rocky ride, having not ridden a horse since about ten years old we were shocked at the conditions we were riding in - lets just say there was a lot of mud and rock climbing! However, despite the conditions the columbian jungle was beautiful and a great highlight of the ride was reaching the beach ... cantering through the sand is an incredibly liberating feeling!
At Tayrona one of the main things to do is to visit Cabo San Juan beach, it’s where people camp and visitors spend most of the day probably because of the iconic view... it honestly looks like the scenery from Jurassic Park. The beach is separated into two parts and a beautiful place to swim. However, we would recommend watching out for salt-water crocodiles, to our surprise one was spotted in the sea whilst we were on the beach. Having just spent the afternoon in and out of the sea we were pretty lucky!
We spent one night up in the hills of Minca at Casa Elemento, the hostel with the largest hammocks in the world! The journey up was an adventure in itself, we were taken up the roads (if they can be described as that) in a Jeep for about 2 hours, and everyone looked pretty green by the time we got up there. There’s also the option to ride motor bikes up, but with Christie’s bag weighing 19.5kg we thought that was most likely a bad idea. The location of the hostel is incredible, and the hammocks give you the perfect spot to look out on the hills and also see Santa Marta from above.
The weather often clouds over by the afternoon so waking early to chill in the sunshine is 100% a good idea. The hostel itself was cool - they had plenty of activities such as cocktail making classes, salsa dancing, and also a high ropes course through the jungle. We only spent one night here which was enough, it’s pretty secluded and the main attraction is the hammocks which are do-able in one day. We headed back down the rocky road where you can stop at a waterfall on the way down provided the weather stays dry, ready to get to Palomino beach. All the tourist areas in the north are close by, so local buses are definitely the easiest and cheapest way to get around.
Arriving at Palomino was very refreshing after spending a few days in Santa Marta. The muddy stretch down to the beach houses a lot of cheap eats and great spots for local cuisine and healthy smoothies. One restaurant to mention is Sua Palomino, the menu is very diverse and offers a delicious mix of healthy dishes - the ceviche here is to die for. When in Palomino we were told that tubing was the thing to do, we sadly didn’t do this due to having booked it at El Rio hostel but others we had met told us it was like floating through the Jungle Book - definitely a must.
Having enjoyed our stay at the Dreamers hostel in Santa Marta we decided to also stay at the one in Palomino. The hostel is situated just off the beach and looked a lot more like a swanky resort than a backpackers hostel. It was lovely spending a few days here around the pool and enjoying the facilities. One key highlight of the hostel was the delicious brunch offered each morning and the general quality of the food - we would highly recommend the carbonara and homemade pizzas. They also had yoga classes twice a day and a beautiful big pool right in the middle.
El Rio hostel:
El Rio so far has to be one of our favourite hostels in Columbia. The hostel is run by two English boys who have just got it really right, the whole place has been throughly thought out and the setting surrounding the hostel is beautiful. To get to the hostel we got dropped of by the local bus at the El Rio drive and then walked for around fifteen minutes to the entrance. One thing to note when travelling to this hostel is there are a lot of Mosquitos, DEET is a 100% must. We hadn’t pre-planned and got attacked on the walk there! We had heard about this hostel from many fellow travellers and were told that it has some of the best parties in Columbia on a Saturday and so therefore booked for then. We were extremely happy with this decision as the party didn’t disappoint and travellers came from all over just to be apart of the Saturday night antics at El Rio.
The north of Colombia is a great place to spend a week or two, there is a vast range of different things to do and its definitely worth getting a week of sunshine in before heading away from the beach. Next we’re off to Medellín to do some more Colombian exploring, and hopefully find out some more about the culture and history of the country.