Minca, Tayrona & Cartagena


9th of September 2013

After having visited my friend Camilo in Bogotá, I took a flight to Santa Marta. Although the city itself doesn’t have a lot to offer (apart from an incredible heat that smacks you in the face as soon as the plane door opens), there is a few highlights in the area. One of them is Minca, a tiny little town in the hills South East of Santa Marta which is easily reachable by bus (7.000 COP / 2,78 €; approx. 1h). On a clear day it is possible to enjoy the view over the area, the Caribbean Sea as well as Santa Marta. Unfortunately on the day Marco and I went there, the weather was not so clear. We nevertheless made our way to Marinka Waterfalls, privately owned falls (admission: 3.000 COP / 1,19 €) which can be reached from the “town” center in about 2 hours by foot. The waterfalls aren’t exactly Iguazú but still worth a visit and quite nice to cool off in after the walk. There is also a few other things to do in Minca but since it started to pour down with rain, Marco and I decided to head home.

Tayrona National Park

10th of September 2013

Tayrona National Park definitely counts as one of the highlights of Colombia. Even the Lonely Planet considered it beautiful enough to put it on the front cover of their Lonely Planet Colombia. Generally there are the options to do the park either in one day or to stay as long as you want at one of the campgrounds. I went to the park with Laura and Frank, two fellow travelers I had met in the hostel in Santa Marta. We opted for the one day tour since lodging and food in the park is everything but cheap. Asmus, a friend of mine whom I had climbed Huayna Potosi in Bolivia with recommended, that we should NOT take the main entrance but the side entrance at Calabazo. The reason for that was that we would mainly be walking downhill towards the ocean and pass beautiful Pueblito on the way, an ancient village of the Tairona tribe.

Another big plus was of course that not many people take this amazing route through the rain forest which meant, that we almost entirely had it to ourselves. So we took the bus to Calabazo (6.000 COP / 2,38 €; 1h) quite early in the morning (8:00 am). After paying a whopping admission fee of 37.500 COP / 14,88 € (the lady at the admission booth didn’t think I looked like 24, booh! Under 25 students only pay 8.000 COP / 3,17€) we started our hike that in total was going to take us 6 hours. On the way we saw a massive centipede and ant-trails of sizes we had never seen before. I might have caused a little mayhem by blocking it with a few leaves to see what happens. They definitely lived up to their hard working insect reputation and cleared the trail in a jiffy.

After about 3,5 hours of walking we reached El Cabo San Juan, probably the most beautiful and most famous beach of Tayrona National Park. It consists of two bays with a little hut in the middle on a few rocks, absolutely stunning. Since it was boiling hot we were quite happy to catch a break and go for a swim in the ocean. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay too long since we still had to walk back to the main entrance. Also it looked like a massive storm was moving in and we wanted to try and avoid getting caught in it – yeah right!

On the way back the inevitable happened, it started pouring down like I have never seen it before. The only “good” thing was that horses had turned the track into rubbish long before the rain. So at least we had a solid layer of mud underneath the rivers that were created by the rain – irony off. In wise preparation I had brought an umbrella which I packed away after about 5 seconds because the sheer masses of water coming from all sides rendered it absolutely useless. Once we got comfortable with the idea of being completely wet it was actually quite a bit of fun. We reached the main gate thoroughly soaked and happy around 5 pm and took the bus back to Santa Marta.

Tayrona National Park is indeed amazingly beautiful and a definite must if you’re travelling to Colombia. If you go, make sure to take plenty of water and something to eat. Once inside the park the prices are rubbish and you’ll save a fair bit of money if you follow that advice.


11th – 15th of September 2013

While Cartagena is stunningly beautiful, it is also an oven. I melted about a hundred times while I was there. Cooling down isn’t really that easy, especially when sightseeing which is of course a must. The old town in particular is breathtaking with all its colonial buildings and the massive city wall which offers amazing sunsets. The contrast with the new town and all its Miami-like apartment buildings just makes the place even more interesting in my opinion. Apart from that, there isn’t that much more to write about since in that case pictures really do say more than a thousand words – so enjoy!

Not quite directly in Cartagena but nearby is the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, also known as the Mud-volcano. We booked the tour through our hostel and paid 35.000 COP / 13,89 € for it. The volcano isn’t really a volcano as such rather than a giant ant hill with mud in the top. The whole thing is VERY touristy (the local people try to sell you all kinds of services, they e.g. tell you to put on your flip flops when you get out of the volcano, just so you can get them dirty enough for them to offer you a cleaning service 5 minutes later). The whole “service industry” at the place is quite annoying. Local women offer to wash the mud off you in a nearby lake after the mud bath and don’t take no for an answer. Even after the fourth “No gracias!” they kept pouring water over my head and only stopped after I told them that they were welcome to continue but that I was not going to pay for that.

Apart from the constant buy this, buy that harassment the actual floating in the volcano is incredible. Due to the high density mud it is impossible to sink and you get an awesome feeling of what I imagine no gravity to be like. The mud roughly has the density of thick yoghurt. Probably one of the strangest things I have done on this trip so far but I absolutely loved it. What grown up man doesn’t like to cover himself in mud completely? Exactly!

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1 Comment

  1. Haha I really enjoy that your outrage at the park entrance fee made it into the post!


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