When you travel, do you look for destinations in which you can connect with the rich living culture and natural magnificence? If this sounds like you, and you are planning a trip to South America, look no further than Tayrona National Park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast!
Colombians refer to this swath of 70 square miles of protected jungle and sea as the closest you can get to paradise on Earth. In this article, we cover everything you need to know when planning a visit to Tayrona for your next private journey to Colombia. And once there, chances are you will fall in love with this unique slice of natural majesty!
Where is Tayrona?
As we have already mentioned, Tayrona National Park forms part of Colombia’s breathtaking Caribbean coast, but where is it exactly? The park lines the Caribbean coastline and spills out into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range (the world’s highest coastal mountain range), making for a highly unique ecosystem sheltering an abundance of flora and fauna.
Notably, the Tayrona National Park functions to protect this area’s important biodiversity, including 105 mammal species, 300 bird species, 70 bat species, 15 amphibian species, and 31 reptile species. And these figures only count the jungle region of the park.
In Tayrona’s protected Caribbean coral reef, you will find 110 coral species, 400 river and sea fish species, and so much more. Then we have the forests. The woodlands of Tayrona National Park include tropical jungle, cloud forest, dry forests, and mangroves kissing the sea. All in all, this geographical diversity houses 44 of Colombia’s 340 endemic species!
Why is Tayrona an ecotourism hub?
It goes without saying that Colombia is one of the most biodiverse pockets on Earth. This naturally lends itself to eco-conscious travel and the pressing need for the tourist industry to become more sustainable by the minute. The country itself is rising to the challenge and has folded ecotourist ideals into its tourism guidelines.
In fact, Tayrona National Park is locally known as “Colombia’s Yellowstone.” This rings true, considering the main point of traversing Tayrona is to get back to nature. We will dive into more specifics below, but the main attractions in Tayrona are winding jungle trails, pristine beaches, and getting up close and personal (while still maintaining a respectful distance) with local wildlife.
How to get there and when to go?
We recommend pairing a few nights in Tayrona at the tail end of a concentrated visit in the Caribbean Colonial city of Cartagena. And from Cartagena to Santa Marta (the access point to Tayrona National Park), you have a four and a half scenic drive along some of the world’s most beautiful coastline to look forward to.
Then, it’s another quick hour’s drive from Santa Marta to your luxury accommodation just on the outskirts of the park. This highway leading to the park is called the “Troncal del Caribe” and takes you to all of the main entrances, the first being El Zaino and Palagana and Calahazo, primarily for day visitors.
The busiest months tend to be December to January because of yearly spikes in national tourism during the holiday season. Another detail worth noting is that the park has closed every February since 2018 so that the delicate ecosystems can rest and replenish. This is also an essential time for indigenous communities to realize their ceremonies in peace.
Any other time of the year is a great moment to go! One last note about the journey, especially for day-trippers, is that you want to get there early to beat the long lines. The park opens at 8am; therefore, we recommend spending at least a couple days and nights to make sure your overall experience here isn’t dominated by waiting in line.
What to do in Tayrona?
1. Look for local wildlife
Although they are tricky to spot, there’s something magical about walking jungle trails that you know are frequented by the elusive and majestic jaguar. In addition to these exciting predators, you will be able to spot countless species of curious monkeys, plenty of bat friends, and reptile buddies, like the caiman!
2. Snorkel in La Piscina Natural
Of all the beaches in Tayrona (and there are quite a few), La Piscina is one of the only in which you can swim to your heart’s content. La Piscina means “pool” in Spanish, and this particular name is derived from the tranquil pool created by surrounding rocks forming a natural barrier.
3. Stay at least one night to catch the sunrise
If you stay at least one night, you will be able to catch the spectacular sunrise over this unique corner of Colombia. In particular, this sunrise guarantees a meaningful experience because of the layers upon layers of mountains right against the Caribbean coast. Picture those classic beach sunrise colors combined with mysterious mountain mist.
4. Pick and choose from various nature hikes
The Tayrona National Park does not want for nature hikes; in fact, this is what draws most travelers in. You also don’t need to be an avid hiker and/or adventure enthusiast to enjoy the numerous jungle trails leading right into the beach. You actually need to hike at least a little bit to reach every beach, which is definitely a plus if you are looking to travel with purpose and reconnect to nature.
5. Visit Pueblito Tayrona
The Tayrona National Park also forms part of the ancestral territory for the living descendants of the great Tayrona Civilization, now members of the Wiwa, Kankuamo, Kogui, and Arhuaco indigenous communities. The hike to Pueblito takes you higher into the mountains and brings you to an impressive archaeological settlement from the Tayrona Civilization.
Where to stay and for how long?
We recommend staying at least three nights near the park itself if you have the available time. This guarantees you have at least one full day of activities in the park and then one full day to relax on the numerous beaches. In addition, the lodges we work with and recommend just outside the park’s entrance are all eco-friendly, including the Quetzal Dorado Eco-lodge.
How to enjoy Tayrona with Kuoda?
Colombia offers so many incredible destinations for every type of traveler, to the point where you might not know where to start and/or how to fit Tayrona National Park into your limited timeframe. This is where Kuoda comes in because we are travel experts when it comes to custom-designed itineraries in South America.
You won’t need to worry about any of the nitty-gritty logistical details, which can be overwhelming as it is and even more so in the Tayrona National Park, which is considered off-the-beaten-track for international tourists. So contact us today to get the ball rolling on your once-in-a-lifetime, personalized journey to Colombia with one of our travel designers!