Although Colombia’s oldest city, founded in 1525, SANTA MARTA’s colonial heritage was all but swept away at the hands of English and Dutch pirates. The result is a busy beach city geared to middle-class Colombians on holiday, and international backpackers in search of jungle adventure. Though its narrow streets are clogged with traffic, restoration in the city centre over the past few years has manifested itself in attractive public spaces, such as the Parque de los Novios, the pedestrian area around it bustling with restaurants, and an international marina full of yachts.

Not far away are some of the country’s best beaches, particularly in and near Parque Nacional Tayrona, Colombia’s most popular national park. Also close by is the fishing/party village of Taganga, ultra-popular with backpackers, hippies and holidaying Colombians. Santa Marta also acts as the hub for organizing hikes to the Ciudad Perdida.

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