Tayrona Park History

El Parque Nacional Tayrona was first established in 1964 in recognition of its importance as a place of outstanding natural beauty and also having regard to its considerable collection of diverse habitats for a vast assortment of wildlife.

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Cabo San Juan – Tayrona, Santa Marta

Tayrona Park can be seen on the shared tour 7-Day Cartagena & Caribbean Express: Comfort


History

Local history and cultural significance are substantial. Preceding the advent of the Spanish pioneers the region was inhabited by indigenous groups, including the Tairona nation.
They lived in the territory 2,000 years ago and evidence of their existence can be found today in within the park boundaries, made up of tropical jungle, beaches, and mangrove swamps.

Parque Nacional Tayrona is where the Sierra Nevada Mountain range encounters the Caribbean. The jagged shoreline contains isolated bays and inlets where sandy white beaches sweep down to glassy inlets with massive rocks protruding from the indigo water.

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Mountain, Tayrona Park

Tayrona is named after the ancient Tairona people who settled here thousands of years ago. Thirty-four km. from Santa Marta, this beautiful natural paradise offers amazing beaches with crystal waters including those of Chengue, Gayraca, Cinto, Neguanje, Concha, and Guachaquita.

Tayrona is also well-known among bird watchers and is home to 300 different avian varieties. You can observe exotic birds like the keel-billed toucan, the montane solitary eagle, and the military macaw. There are also numerous species of reptiles and amphibians, over four hundred types of sea and river fish, and over a hundred species of coral, which makes for some prodigious snorkeling and diving.

Playa Cristal, Tayrona Park
Playa Cristal, Tayrona Park

*Interested in a day tour to Playa Cristal, click here for more info


Indigenous

The park is named after the ancient Tairona people who settled here thousands of years ago. While the park is managed by the Colombian government, it is still under the purview of the Kogi people, direct descendants of the Tairona. Many indigenous Kogi still lives in traditional thatched roof huts snuggled deep in the Sierra Nevada, subsisting off the land and trading with strangers when necessary.

Located within what is the ancestral home of the indigenous Kogi people, Tayona is a rewarding destination that has a rich ancient heritage.

Lost City Taironaka
Lost City Taironaka

The Kogi are a Native American tribe indigenous to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Reaching an altitude of 5,700 meters above sea level less than 40km from the Caribbean coast, the Sierra Nevada is the world’s highest coastal range.

The Kogi civilization has existed since the Pre-Columbian era and today they have a population of approximately 12,000. The Tairona are believed to have inhabited the Sierra Nevada since 200 BC until the 17th century when encounters with Spanish invaders ultimately decimated their society. Those that survived moved further into the highlands and today’s Kogi society springs from them.

Kogi mythology demonstrates that they are the elder brothers of humankind and live in the heart of the world, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. The Kogi have long avoided contact with other people but concerns about dramatic negative changes to their beloved mountain landscape have prompted a new approach. Kogi representatives have recently begun to emerge from their self-imposed isolation high in the Sierra Nevada to share their message to respect the earth. *Book here for a day tour of the Lost City of Taironaka 

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Kogi People, palomino

Wildlife has great meaning for the Kogi. Everything has a connotation, the prints of the crabs in the sand, the paws of jaguars in the jungle, and the sound of a woodpecker in the trees.
Kogi lives on small farms in the mountains, villages only exist as meeting places. Men and women live separately. Daughters live with mothers and sons live with fathers. The average family might have as many as ten children.
Once a year, often in February, they perform a spiritual blessing of the area. The ancient Tairona worshipped the God of the earth and their descendants, the Kogi, still do today.


Weather

It is hot all year round on the Colombian coast, with average high temperatures in the 86f/30c range however, there is much local variation primarily due to elevation.
There are wet and dry seasons here though, the rainier time being from April to December. There is little to no rain in the remaining months, which makes this the ideal time to visit.
The observed humidity level along the coast does not vary significantly over the course of the year, remaining a virtually constant 100% throughout.


*Get all the information you need to start planning your trip to this magnificent destination, check the weather and climate facts of Santa Marta and Tayrona here!


Activities

The main activities in Tayrona are, of course swimming in the amazing sea and sunbathing on the glorious beaches. The most popular and iconic beach in the park is Cabo San Juan, for which you can take a taxi boat from Taganga. *You can book a day tour of Cabo San Juan here!

Beach, Cabo San Juan, Tayrona Park
Beach, Cabo San Juan, Tayrona Park

El Pueblito, a nearly three hours hike from the coast, is a Pre-Columbian ruin of a pueblo and a popular day trip. The trek into the hills to reach El Pueblito is a rewarding one as you are assured to observe reptiles, exotic birds, and other curious creatures, including howler monkeys and an extraordinary display of blue butterflies. The starting point is at the Calabaza entrance to the park. Pueblito Chairama is an ancient indigenous settlement where you can see the remains of homes, bridges, and a drainage system.

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Pueblito, Tayrona Park

An enjoyable day can be spent at Taganga, the launching pad for Tayrona. There are several decent beachfront cafes as well as a number of dive shops. Past the eastern end of the park is the rapidly developing beach town of Palomino, where there are all kinds of exciting activities to indulge in with stunning rivers and windswept beaches.

 

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Palomino, Guajira
Source: Cartagena Explorer

*Traveling through Colombia and need to find the best tours and transportation? You’ll find the best options, including all of your Private day tours and private transportation options right here!


One of the most popular activities in Tayrona is the trek to La Cuidad Perdida. The ruins of this ancient stone community pre-date those of Peru’s Machu Picchu by 650 years. It is an archaeological site that was once home to some 2,400 Tairona, who lived in round houses on stone-paved terraces. It is a fascinating site and as for the trek itself, there are different options however, expect to walk some 7 or 8 hours each day, stopping in various indigenous villages along the way for meals and to overnight. Sleeping conditions are very basic and somewhat uncomfortable. Even so, the hike to the Lost City is through exotic jungle foliage, amid tropical cacao trees, the buzzing of cicadas, and the calls of toucans. On the final day of the trek, you climb 1,200 stone steps to reach the famed archaeological site.
An alternative option is to take a helicopter to La Cuidad Perdida. Here you will experience the majesty of the jungle and the stunning lost city itself from an aerial perspective.

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Lost City, Santa Marta

*The Lost City can be seen in our high-end shared tour 29-day complete Colombian adventure as an optional tour in a helicopter, click here for more info


Lodgings

Although there are rustic lodging options at various points inside the park, it’s best to overnight in an eco-lodge outside Tayrona.

The beaches at Arrecifies and Cabo San Juan have camping facilities, while hammocks are also available.
One of the better places to stay within the park is Ecohabs Tequendama in Cañaveral beach, which has several thatched-roof bungalows. They accommodate up to four people, have ocean views, room service, and WIFI, and are the best lodging option within the park.

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Ecohabs Tequendama Playa Cristal, Tayrona
Source: Ecohabs tequendama

However, the pre-eminent lodging choices are the eco-hotels located just outside Parque Tayrona. There are a number of solid three and four-star options, many situated near the beach and jungle.

Villa Maria Tayrona is located close to the beach east of the park. Rooms feature canopy beds with terraces and great views of the surrounding pristine jungle. This is a three stars property and a good option.

Room with sea view Hotel Villa Maria, Tayrona
Source: Kalihotels

Cayena Beach Villa this is a four stars hotel, on a secluded beach also east of the park. It highlights multi-story bungalows, an enticing pool, a gourmet restaurant and an open-air yoga/massage space.

Drone view of Cayena Beach Hotel.
Source: Cayena Beach

La Finca Lorena The hotel is 1.9 km from the Tayrona Park entrance and has nine comfortable rooms with a dining area. A buffet breakfast is available and the kitchen is accessible to guests, having a fridge, kitchen utensils and an oven.

Finca La Lorena, tayrona
Source: La Finca Lorena

*Looking for the best hotels to lay your head down in Santa Marta? Then check out our recommendations for the best 3-starthe best 4- stars, and the best 5-star hotels in Santa Marta!


Gastronomy

The most popular destinations in the park, such as Cabo San Juan, have the greatest food options. There are open-air restaurants serving mostly seafood dishes, with some chicken or beef options. Plates here are typically huge and feature locally caught fried fish, such as mojarra, served with coconut rice and patacones.
Food can be expensive in the park, so it is a good idea to bring some nibbles and liquids with you before coming here.
Snacks and water are available from vendors on most beaches.

For more substantial meals, the eco-hotels often have restaurants that serve a wide variety of tropical dishes, including ceviche, coconut shrimp, red snapper, and many others.

Divanga Restaurant Bar offers Caribbean, and Latin food which also offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The food at Divanga is extremely good. The dishes look beautiful and the staff is very attentive. Located in Taganga, this restaurant serves recipes based on fresh and natural products, with unique flavors and at a very affordable price.

Bitacora is a seafood restaurant serving Colombian, Mediterranean, and Caribbean delights and also has vegetarian and vegan options.
Fresh, quality, aromatic, quick service with a pleasant atmosphere to watch people walking along the beach.
Menu in English available. While it is not a very salubrious restaurant, it is definitely worth it for a good meal at a reasonable price.

Restaurant Bar Babaganous is a grill restaurant with traditional cuisine, offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Reasonably priced with great service they serve very good quality and delicious dishes.


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