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Santa Marta is South America's oldest surviving city and the second most important colonial city on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Now a busy port, it still retains a lot of its colonial heritage and is noticeably quieter and more relaxed than its neighbour Cartagena, although a lot of its attraction is as much to do with what surrounds it. It's the gateway for trips into the unique Tayrona National Natural Park, and for longer guided treks to the Lost City (Teyuna) archaeological site in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Santa Marta is also significant as the final stop in Simon Bolivar, the great libertador of Latin America’s, life. His villa, "La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino" is just a short taxi ride from the city center.
Sat at the foot of the stunning Sierra Nevada range, (the highest coastal mountains in the world) and 4 hours by coach along the seaboard from Cartagena, Santa Marta is small and easily navigated on foot. Parque Tyrona is only a 1 hour transfer away and can be visited as a day trip as well as for longer stays.
Santa Marta is a destination that can be visited anytime of the year owing to an ideal temperature and low rainfall levels. Usually the months of June to September are the peak tourist seasons and Parque Tyrona especially can get a little crowded in these months, though not uncomfortably so.
Try the beaches going the other way along the coast from Parque Tyrona to Palomino and the beaches around it are often nearly deserted or occupied by locals only.
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