Tag Archives: Female Travel in Colombia

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Well, I had already seen the coasts, the forests, the rivers and the meadows full of sky-high palms, so why not see what the Colombian desert had to offer? This was essentially my reasoning when I decided to head down to Desierto de la Tatacoa on my way to Ecuador. It was a short, hot, dry, dusty trip, but the sunset and sunrise over the red desert lands alone were worth it.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

While traveling in Tierra Dentro I had met a swiss couple and they had spoken very highly of Desierto de la Tatacoa, so when I noticed it was en route towards the southern boarder I thought it would make a good pit-stop. I took a Magdalena night bus from Medellin to Neiva, leaving the city around 7pm and pulling in to the desert-like region around 6am. I caught a struck of luck as I walked through the station and found a van “camioneta” filling up outside of the station. I was the last seat, and for 15,000 pesos I loaded my bags into the back and sat down next to two other female travelers, one from Spain, the other from France.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

“Where did you two meet?” I asked. They both looked at me and laughed. They had only just met. We were all solo female travelers, embarking into the great unknown of the harsh, hot, desert. The 40kms flew by as the French traveler shelled out details on places to go in Ecuador, my next destination.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Our Cootrana van driver stopped at a convenience store, where he told us it was a good idea to buy supplies, especially water because we couldn’t drink it in the desert. I hadn’t heard this, but it didn’t surprise me. The French girl had recently had her debit card stolen while on a bus, so she was short on cash and she opted out of buying water, but I took his word and bought a few big bottles. This turned out to be a lie. The water is available and absolutely drinkable in the desert.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

As we arrived to Desierto de la Tatacoa I caught my first glimpse of the red rainbow ridges of dry, crumbling earth which make up the labyrinth-like desert. It was so beautiful it gave me goosebumps. There was a flurry of excitement in the van. We were here!

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The driver took us to a place called Hostal Noches de Saturno, which he proudly told us “had a swimming pool”. The owner was kind, and after trying to charge us triple what we were willing to pay, he reduced his prices to 10,000 pesos each for a tent, and 6,000 pesos for me with my personal hammock. I ended up sleeping slung up under a roof nearby all the goats and pigs and whatever other animals were there. The food was not great, but it was not bad, and it was reasonably priced, considering we were in the middle of nowhere. We paid 5,000 pesos for a breakfast of eggs, arepa, coffee, hot chocolate and bread.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

After eating, the five of us from the van set off to explore the desert. We embarked on what we thought was the trail into the red desert, but it wasn’t the correct trail, and we ended up getting extremely lost, walking through a field full of cows and cattle, and asking a farmer for directions back to civilization. The two girls who did the talking started to lead us, but immediately they diverted from his directions. Being as Spanish isn’t my native language, and the other two were fluent, I figured maybe I had heard wrong, but I was nearly 100% sure the farmer had told us to stay left after crossing the stream, and that if we went right we were goners. When I voiced my opinion the girls shrugged it off. I decided it was better to stick together than to separate. Two hours later we were still doing circles in nasty desert brush, full of cactus spikes and thorny plants.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The only saving grace was that the sun wasn’t fully out. As we finally saw the beacon Observatory glimmering in the distance I again started to enjoy the walk, knowing that we were kind of close to where we needed to be. The landscape was indeed beautiful, full of pink blooms on small round cactus plants, and we even startled two wolf-like creatures, black, gray and white, with bushy tails that reminded me of a raccoon.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Walking in the desert is intense. I was happy I had both a hat and sunglasses, and I smothered on 30spf before taking off, so thankfully I was not burned. I used my hiking sandals, and because we went off the beaten path I had to be extra careful for thorns and debris. For anyone embarking on this hike I would recommend close-toed shoes with a thick sole. One of the girls stepped on a cactus spine and it lodged right through her shoe and into her heel. As you can imagine it was not pleasant.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When we emerged onto the road, we came out through a very simple restaurant and hostel called El Tigre, and they kindly filled our water bottles before we continued. We had emerged about a 30 minute walk up the road from Saturno, and we ended up stopping at another hostel El Cabrito to refill our bottles again. The owner was making sweet arrequipe balls, and offered us one each to try. This place was totally chill,  with plants and birds and a hammock for each private room.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When we came back to Saturno, we all crashed. I slept so hard that when a dust storm brutally blew through I could barely be bothered to lift my head. After a solid afternoon nap, I woke up to take a blissfully cold shower, and got dressed to set out for sunset.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The same group from the morning set off towards the Observatory, and this time we found the “Cusco Loop” as it is called, which was located by an apparently nameless restaurant on the side of the road, with plentiful outdoor seating and a “parqueador”. This is the true path through the exquisite red desert. We sat above it all, soaking in the view and letting the warm desert breeze caress our skin.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The sunset was magnificent, playing with shadows and light on the already diverse shades of red which stretched out before us. The dark blue shadows of mountains floated in the distance, and the silhouettes of cactus speckled the skyline.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

For dinner, we ate at the lone white restaurant across from the Observatory. Your options were chicken (pollo), beef (res) or vegetarian (vegetariano), and it came with salad, rice, fried potatoes, fried yuca, and juice. It was delicious, and cost 12,000 pesos with meat, or 8,000 pesos without. There was ice cold beer for 3,000 and it was a treat to be savored.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

We heard the Observatory was absolutely worth a visit, if the sky was clear, but unfortunately it was mostly cloudy. After dinner we spread out and marveled at the stars we could see, until the clouds swallowed them up. I did, however, happen to turn my head just at right time to catch an amazing shooting star as it soared across the sky. I’ll let you know how the wish turns out.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

We called it an early night, and as I settled into my hammock I was hot, but was so tired I fell asleep instantly. The next morning I woke with the noises of the animals, before the sun, around 5am.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

I decided to get up and considered walking to the “Gray Desert” which was located 8km in the opposite direction of the “Red Desert” which we had seen the night before. A small group from Saturno was planning to go there by motorbike, a 30,000 peso tour offered by the hostel, but in the end I decided to go back to the beautiful red desert on my own. Two skinny dogs accompanied me, and were playful companions throughout my morning sunrise walk.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The Cusco Loop was absolutely beautiful and I was happy I was able to experience it. I took my time, exploring off the beaten path, but always coming back to it, as I had learned the day before that I have zero sense of direction in the lands of the desert.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

On my way back to Saturno’s I decided to have breakfast at a hostel called El Posada del Sol Verano or Doña Lilia’s place. It was delicious, and the place was gorgeous. I would definitely recommend staying there. Doña Lilia was a sweetheart.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When I finally walked back up to Saturno’s I arrived at the same time as two police officers on 4-wheelers. They were rolling up to take a police report. The Spanish girl had taken a morning walk to the Gray Desert and had been robbed at knifepoint by a young kid on a motorcycle. He had stolen her money and her cell phone. I was instantly grateful for my four legged companions who had stayed by my side the whole morning, barking at every motorcycle or bicycle or car that approached us. Apparently robberies are not common, but you just never know.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

All in all, I was happy to visit Desierto de la Taticoa as it was beautiful, and the one-day, one-night time frame was just right. If you have visited Arizona, New Mexico or Utah in the United States you have had the opportunity to see some spectacular red deserts, but if you have never experienced a desert, or if you love the hot, dry, deserted landscape that comes with a desert, then a trip to Desierto de la Tatacoa is recommended.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

10 Reasons to Come to Colombia

When I first came to Colombia I had no idea what to expect. I knew that it would be my gateway to traveling South America, and I had a few sights on my “Amazing Places” list that resided in this country, but after a month and a half of traveling this spectacular country all I have to say is: Pack your bags and make Colombia your next destination! It is amazing.

Colombia is a country that should not be missed, and after reading this list of 10 reasons to come to Colombia, you will understand why…

1. The scenery 
Colombian scenery is breathtaking, no matter if you’re walking around a colorful old colonial town, hiking in the jungle, relaxing at the beach, or simply driving from one city to another through the layers of mountains.
Santa Barbara Colombia

2. The people 
Colombians are some of the happiest, friendliest and most attractive people I have met in all my travels! Try speaking a little Spanish with them and it will get you a long way…Otherwise, just smile, and they will smile back at you. English is still developing here as tourism starts to kick off, so you will benefit greatly if you brush up on the basics of Spanish before you visit. Try using an app like DuoLingo, or read this article for more tips on learning a language.
Silvia Market

3.There is always something to celebrate 
In one month I witnessed at least three “holidays”, which always fall on a Monday to give people a long weekend. I absolutely love that concept! The funny thing is, a lot of the time people don’t even know what the holiday is- they just know that they have the day off work, so why not live it up and celebrate? I like that concept too… Happy EVERY Day in Colombia! Santa Elena Feria de las Flores

4. The fresh fruits are phenomenal 
I thought that I had been exposed to plentiful exotic fruits after two years of living in Costa Rica, but Colombia raised the bar to my standards once again. You can indulge in delicious fruits morning, noon, and night, whether they’re fresh from a tree, fresh from the market, or freshly squeezed. Just make sure you don’t go “giving papaya”, aka making yourself or your objects an easy target.
Colombian fruit

5. The dancing culture
Even if you don’t think you like to dance, you should still take a lesson while traveling in Colombia. Whether it be a professional lesson, or some tips from the man at the corner bar, you will be surprised at how much fun you have as you sway your hips and spin around to the Latin tunes that pump through the air. Delirio Colombia

6. The nature 
As mentioned above, Colombia has it all, from beaches to mountains, from oceans to rivers to waterfalls and even some hot desert land. If you like to get lost in the nature, there are plentiful opportunities to get out there and explore. A few of my personal favorites have been Minca, a cloud forest with rivers and waterfalls, Tayrona National Park, tucked in to the jungle and located along the aquamarine beaches of the Caribbean and Valle de Cocora, a mountainous meadow speckled with sky-high Palm trees that make you feel as though you just stepped into the world of Dr. Seuss.
Valle de Cocora

7. The flowers 
Colombia is covered with flower farms, from roses to hydrangeas to carnations and beyond, and if you’re a flower enthusiast, or you simply want to experience life in the country, then take a trip to one of these spectacular farms and let yourself be wowed. IMG_0084

8. The prices 
Colombia is just getting started with tourism, so it is the perfect time to take a visit. Many places are familiarizing themselves with the needs and desires of tourists, but the place hasn’t been completely exploited yet, and the prices are half what you would pay in other countries. Think $2-8 for a really lush local restaurant meal, and $1-10 for many excursions.
Colombian soup

9. The coffee
It is seriously the best I have ever tasted. You can drink it “tinto” which is black, or “pintada” which is with milk. Oftentimes they will add natural panela sugar cane to the mix without consulting you first, but it adds a delicious twist to the flavor of the coffee. You can also tour coffee plantations, which are typically located in the beautiful mountainous regions. The oldest operating coffee plantation in Colombia, La Victoria, can be visited on a trip to Minca. It is still running with the hydropower of the nearby river, and German owner Mickey has quite a story about regaining control of the plantation from the guerrilla back in the 80s, if you’re lucky enough to meet and speak with him over a cup of complimentary coffee. Colombian Coffee

10. The colorful cities
Colombia is a country with dozens of quaint cities bursting with color. You can spend hours walking the streets “oooh”ing and “ahhh”ing over the spectacular colors of the doors, window frames, and the beautiful combinations of one house next to another. A few of my favorite places to wander the streets were Guatape, Salento and Cartagena. Colorful Cartagena

There you have it. 10 reasons to come to Colombia. Now it’s up to you to come see for yourself.

19 Surprising Things About Colombia Which You Probably Didn’t Know…Until Now

Before I came to Colombia, I didn’t know too much about this incredible country. In the nearly two months I spent traveling around, I was constantly exposed to something new, whether it be an interesting phrase, a fact about a new place, or simply something I considered odd, but was really common place in the day-to-day life of Colombians. I wanted to share some surprising things about Colombia which I learned along the way, to give you a heads up for when you visit this amazing place!

1. “Don’t Give Papaya” is an expression Colombians use to say don’t make yourself an easy target. “Close your purse! Don’t give papaya!”

2. “Monas” and “Monos” are people with lighter colored hair.

3. Toilet paper is usually found outside the bathroom stalls, and typically there are no toilet seats.

4. “Chivas” are open-sided colorful school-bus shaped busses which are packed with either people or cargo.
Chiva bus in Colombia

5. In the 90s, Medellin was known as the “Murder Capital of the World”, and in 2012 it was voted “Most Innovative City in the World”. It is inspirational to see how far the people and the city have come. Age of Terror Colombia

6. “A la orden” is a saying you will hear over and over as you walk past or enter shops. It essentially means that they are there to serve you.

7. Yogurt is so liquidy that it’s always drinkable, and there is something similar to yogurt called “kumi” which is worth a try.

8. You will see signs all over the place for “minutos” and there will be telephones with chains attached to a cart, or a person wearing a vest. Colombian payphones

9. “Cuántos cuotas?” is something you will be asked if you pay with credit card. They are asking over what period of time you would like to pay off the bill.

10. Hot dogs are very popular, and often they are eaten sliced and out of a pop-top tin can.

11. Cigarettes are available for individual purchase in many corner stores. Cigarettes for sale

12. Hot chocolate is a popular morning drink, and is served in a bowl which you drink out of.

13. A special treat is to have hot chocolate, or “agua panela” with a piece of queso (cheese) in it, which you eat with your spoon as it starts to melt.

14. Arepas, round cornflower tortilla-but-thicker things, are a staple part of the meals. They are typically eaten with eggs (huevos pericos = eggs with diced up tomato and onion) or cheese for breakfast, and sometimes come with soup. Arepa con queso

15. Soup is included as part of your meal with a typical lunch or dinner, and comes before the main plate.

16. There is a famous artist from Medellin, Fernando Botero, who makes all his figures chubby, but he preferred to call them “voluptuous”. Fernando Botero

17. Valle de Cocora is the only place in the world where you can find the towering wax palm trees, Colombia’s National Tree.
Valle de Cocora

18. Colombia is known as a “world in one country” because they have access to both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, and you can find nearly any type of weather and landscape here, from mountains, to deserts, to beaches and rivers and waterfalls. It is phenomenal!

19. Colombia’s slogan for tourism is that the “only risk is that you won’t want to leave'”… And it’s true. Colombia is amazing! What are you waiting for? Come check it out now :) Santa Barbara Colombia

 

Minca Colombia is a Must See for Nature Lovers

Just 45 minutes outside of Santa Marta, Minca is an experience not to be missed. With the rolling tree covered hillsides, plentiful flora and fauna, and refreshing rivers and waterfalls, Minca is a nature lover’s paradise.

World's Largest Hammock Casa Elemento

 After spending nearly a week in the colorful coastal town of Cartagena, hiking along the beautiful beaches in Tayrona National Park and exploring the historical city of Santa Marta, I needed a break from the heat. I set out towards Calle 11 where I caught a 4 person “collectivo” group jeep taxi for $7000 pesos each.
The 45 minute ride out of Santa Marta and up into the mountains of Minca flew by as I shared travel tips and stories with some “travel brahs” from England and an Australian girl. The Brits were going to Casa Elemento and I decided to go to Casa Loma with the Aussie. It was a steep 20 minute hike up a path behind the town’s church, to the right. I had brought all my belongings, so I was loaded down. When I finally got to the top, I dropped my bag, and gratefully accepted the glass of water that was handed to me. Then I turned around and reveled in the breathtaking view that stretched out before me.

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 My first night in Minca consisted of one of the oddest gatherings I have ever attended, but my next two days were just what I was looking for.

Carpa Roja

 As I came down for coffee the next morning, I selected an open seat next to a guy studying Spanish. I had intended to do some work of my own, but soon we were talking, and I came to find out he was from Iran and his mom owned a flower shop and taught floral design classes there. That certainly caught my attention! Then I found out he had been traveling South America for the past two years, and he was chock full of advice on places to see and explore. How cool! I tell you, when you’re traveling, everything and nothing happens by chance.

Minca

 My new Iranian friend had already hiked to one waterfall that morning, and was setting off for another in a few minutes with a French couple. I liked his energy, and happily accepted his offer to join them. The next two days were full of exploration in nature, swimming in rivers, eating fruit from alongside the road, hiking to miradors and checking out all sorts of unique hammocks and coffee plantations along the way.

Colombian Flowers

 If you have two days in Minca, and like to hike, check out these two options. If you get tired along the way you can always cut a hike short or hail a motorbike or taxi in the road- nearly all will be open to driving you to where you need to go for 20,000 pesos or less.

Pozo Azul

 Day 1– Set off for Pozo Azul and spend the day hiking up the river, stopping to sun yourself on the rocks and swim along the way.

Pozo Azul

 All locals can point you in the direction of Pozo Azul, and it’s probably a 30-45 minute walk up the road from the central area in town where all the colectivos and motorbikes wait. The trail is off the main road, and when you reach a restaurant on the side of the road there will be a sign. Pozo Azul is free to enter, and many locals go there to picnic and jump off the rocks on weekends.

Pozo Azul

 We hiked up the river, past the jumping point, and kept going and going until we hit one final, powerful, gorgeous waterfall. With each step we took there were less people and the scenery got even better. It was an awesome way to spend the day, watching birds and butterflies and the wind in the trees, swimming when we got hot, and absorbing the heat from the rocks when we got cold. Make sure to bring food and water so you don’t have to leave due to hunger setting in.

Pozo Azul

 There is a trail along one side of the river, which we took to speed up our walk back. If you would prefer to take that right from the start, it is to the right of the river as you approach it, and it says “Minca Aqueduct”. Technically you’re not supposed to go there…but some rules are meant to be broken. 😉

Pozo Azul

 Day 2– Wake up with the sun and set off hiking for Mirador de Los Pinos, a beautiful lookout point at the top of the mountains. To get there, walk past the church along the same road you would take to get to “the waterfall”. It’s a beautiful walk, with lots of bird sitings and trees providing shade the whole way. There are also dozens of fruit trees lining the road, and we indulged in mangos, jocotes, guava, mandarins, and some other pod-like fruit during the climb.

Colombian fruit

 About 45 minutes after leaving the center of Minca you will come to “the waterfall” or “la cascada”. There’s a 3000 peso cover if someone is attending the entrance, and the waterfall is tall, beautiful and refreshing, but there isn’t much of a swimming hole. We were short on time, so kept hiking, but if you love waterfalls and have the time it’s worth a stop to cool off before continuing on with your hike.

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 After approximately 2 hours, if you’re taking it slow, you will start to see signs for “Casa Elemento“, which means you’re almost there. When you get to Casa Elemento, pause and relax in the World’s Largest Hammock. Maybe have some breakfast or a cup of coffee, and ask them if they’ll draw you a map to Los Pinos and La Victoria. If you’re feeling too exhausted to continue, you can always have them call you a motorcycle as well.

World's Largest Hammock

 If you’re fit to go on, Los Pinos is another 15 minutes up the hill, always keeping to the left, and walking through a coffee plantation. If you’re lucky, and the season is right, you will encounter delicious “mora” or black berries along the way.

Mora

 When you finally get to Los Pinos you will feel so accomplished! It’s a spectacular view, and the tall pine trees at the top provide shade and add a freshness to the air that, when mixed with the breeze, is pure bliss.

Mirador Los Pinos

 If you want to turn this walk into a loop, rather than retracing your steps, continue on down the road for another hour or so until you come to La Victoria, on the right hand side. Stop here to learn the history of the oldest operating coffee plantation in Colombia. We didn’t take the tour, but we had the most delicious sandwich ever, and ended up talking to the German property owner, Mickey, who told us about how he came to negotiate with the Guerrilla back in the 80s to get this property back after they took it over from his parents, who bought it in the 50s.

Minca

The coffee is free, the food is phenomenal, and the Nevada Cerveceria is there, brewing its “Happy Jaguar” and “Happy Toucan” in the old chapel on site. Despite being tucked away in the mountains, over 24,000 tourists have been registered here in the two short years that they have been keeping track of their visitors. It is such a cool place to visit.

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After walking the property, you could grab a bite and a beer and recharge at the La Victoria restaurant, or you could even take it with you to eat later as you make your way back to the road to continue on down the hill. You will actually run in to Poza Azul before getting to Minca, so if you didn’t walk up the river, as previously suggested, you have another chance to indulge in a spectacular nature hike. Whatever you do, if you’re a nature lover and a river lover, don’t miss the chance to hike Pozo Azul!

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When the time comes that you must leave the paradise of Minca, there are always jeeps and rickety cars waiting to bring you back to Santa Marta or wherever you must go. If you’re in a rush, you can pay the whole taxi fare, ~28000 pesos, or wait until the car is full, at ~7000 pesos a person.

Minca Colombia

In my time in Minca, I stayed at Casa Loma, which was a steep 15-20 minute hike up the hill and to the right behind the Church, and I had the pleasure of visiting Casa Elemento while I hiked up to the Mirador Los Pinos lookout point.

Casa Elemento

There are quite a few hostels and guesthouses all throughout Minca, especially en route to Casa Loma, and most have either the option of either private or shared rooms, or a hammock. Casa Loma is close to the village, serves food, and had a stream of tourists pumping through when I was there. Casa Elemento was much more removed from Minca, being a whole motorcycle ride up the hill, but it had an epic view, a massive hammock, a swimming pool, and on-site food, plus tons of fruit trees all around.

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As you can see, Minca is absolutely amazing. A trip here, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month will leave you feeling naturally refreshed by re-establishing a connection with the great outdoors. Take a break from the city and take a trip to the paradise that awaits you in Minca, Colombia, a must see for nature lovers. 

Take Your Time and Enjoy Tayrona National Park

The gentle rustling of palm leaves mixed with the crash of the ocean waves. A smell of salt in the air.  A deliciously refreshing breeze washing over me as I walked the soft, sandy path which separated the jungle from the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. I reflected on the three days I had spent in the Tayrona National Park, and I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude for the opportunity to explore this marvelous place.

Tayrona National Park

As I travel the world, I make it a priority to explore National Parks. I am at my happiest when I am able to be one with nature. Tayrona National Park, however, is a great mix for people who need some “modern amenities” but who still want to get lost in the pure beauty of nature.

Cabo San Juan

 Getting to Tayrona is easy, which probably aids the number of tourists who come here. From Santa Marta, it takes about 45minutes to an hour to arrive, depending on whether you take a public bus (~5000 pesos) or a mini-tourist bus (~10,000 pesos). Upon arrival to the park, you must first watch a welcome video which explains about the ecosystem of the park, and also touches on “Dos” and “Don’ts” while in Tayrona. After watching the video, which plays in Spanish but has English subtitles, you will be given a ticket which then allows you to get in line to buy your entrance ticket. If you’re 26 or under, with a valid student ID and a passport your entrance will be 8000 pesos, but if you’re older, or you don’t have an actual passport and student ID then your entrance fee will be 39,500 pesos.  *Note that you need an actual passport or photo copy- a picture on your phone will not qualify because they must make a photo copy of the passport. Being the “viejita” (little old lady) that I am, at 27 years old, my student card didn’t make the cut, but my 19 year old friend didn’t ‘get the discount either because he only had his passport picture on his phone… Be prepared, and reap the benefits of a discount.

Tayrona National Park

 After purchasing your entrance ticket, you can either walk 5km along a road to get to the point where the trails actually start, or you can pay 3000 pesos for a mini-bus and save your energy for walking in the park. We opted for the bus, and it was money well spent.

Tayrona National Park

Once in the park, the trails are well maintained, with wooden walkways and handrails leading up and down steep areas. If you have hiking sandals, use them. Even though the path is soft, you will be happier if you have shoes which are stronger than flip flops, especially if you decide to hike up to the ancient indigenous town of Pueblito.

Pueblito, Tayrona National Park

 After about an hour of hiking you will come to the first set of accommodations in an area called Arrecifes. There you can find inexpensive lodging with a tent or hammock at half the price of Cabo San Juan. This area has a total chill vibe, but you can’t swim in the ocean here- you must walk up the trail approximately 15-20 minutes to find a swimmable beach.

Tayrona National Park

En route from Arrecifes to Cabo San Juan, you will encounter Restaurant Lilli which is right on the beach, and Panaderia Vere, a bakery, which serves the most delicious chocolate, arrequipe, or guava-queso bread you could ever dream of. At 3000 pesos a loaf they cannot be missed. Do yourself a favor and stop here, take a load off, and sit in the shade of the trees, looking out on the little lake behind the house…you might even happen to see a cayman floating about!

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The beach after the Panaderia Vere is swimmable, and also has food options of arepas stuffed with eggs, vegetables, chicken or meat, and cost between 3000-5000 pesos depending on your selection. You can also refresh yourself with fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of ceviche, also costing around 5000 pesos. Stick along the coast, and you will sneak up on “La Piscina”, a picture-perfect swimming area with big boulders that you can climb on for fun. Kick back and relax here, or continue on through the jungle trail for another 20-30 minutes to reach Cabo San Juan.

Tayrona National Park

 The second accommodation area of Cabo San Juan is breathtakingly beautiful, but is more “resort like” than the laid-back area of Arrecifes. If you arrive in the afternoon, be prepared to wait up to an hour in line to reserve your lodging, and by then the hammocks might be sold out. Tents start at around 25,000 pesos a person for a single, and a hammock will run around 20,000 pesos. If you arrive early enough, ask if you can get a spot at the little hut on the beach. There are only about 12 hammocks there, and two little sleeping areas up top, but the breeze is phenomenal, and the view of sunset or sunrise is worth the extra cost.

Cabo San Juan

 The ancient village of Pueblito lies a steep 1.5 hour hike up the mountain from Cabo San Juan. The path is naturally formed by boulders, and at times you must grab on to a rope in order to climb up and over the gigantic rocks in the path. This is where you will be happy you have more than just your flip flops. I wore my hiking sandals, and more than one person commented that they were jealous.

Pueblito Tayrona National Park

 Once up in Pueblito, take a seat, eat a snack, drink some water, and imagine what this village was like thousands of years ago when it was bustling with activity. There are still indigenous people living in the village, and you can see them and their hut houses as you pass by a local stand selling cold drinks. Rather than hiking the boulder path again, take a softer trail back which takes you through the jungle and pops you out on the beaches. It is still about 1-1.5 hours hiking, but it is different and worth checking out. Both routes can be seen on the park’s maps which they give you at the entrance.

Pueblito Tayrona National Park

 During my stay I spent both nights in Cabo San Juan, but if I could go back and do it again I would spend one night in Arrecifes and one night in Cabo San Juan, to experience the different vibes of both places. Cabo is always bustling with people and activity, and each night everyone comes together to eat in the dining hall, which can be nice if you’re looking to meet people. The meals are a bit pricey in comparison to normal (25,000 pesos for a fish dinner, 10,000 pesos for an egg and arepa breakfast) but it makes sense because you’re in the middle of no where. You can always bring your own food to keep your costs down, and definitely bring a lot of water (at least 3 liters), because although they do sell it in the park, it’s 3000 pesos for a small bottle. Indulge in the freshly squeezed juice at least one time during your stay.

Tayrona National Park

When it comes time to leave, you can either retrace your steps and exit the park through the same entrance you came from, or you can take a path out to the road from Pueblito, which you can see on the map. I had a few friends who only spent one night in the park, and they opted to hike out from Cabo San Juan via Pueblito to the road, which allows them to “see it all” in just two days and one night.

Tayrona National Park

 I walked back out the same way I came in, stopping to relax and swim along the way. As you leave the park, take it slow. Enjoy it. Make sure to soak in the salty ocean breeze, and to let the sound of the waves and the rustling palm leaves engrain themselves in your memory. Tayrona National Park is exquisite.

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