Parrots screech across the rooftops at dawn and dusk. Banana ships enter the harbor while local fishermen prepare to go to out to sea. People stroll along the seafront park, and swim in the warm Caribbean Sea changes that colors all day, from sapphire blue to jade-green, to opal when the sun finally sets. All of this tranquility belongs to Colombia's second most important Atlantic coast port. Santa Marta hides her treasures well to the casual visitor who has come for the larger gems of her region: Ciudad Perdida and Tayrona National Park.
Santa Marta was the first Spanish city founded in South America, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where they cascade to the sea. On a clear day, their snowy peaks edge the horizon. This is a port that was repeatedly sacked by pirates and the place where SimĂłn BolĂvar died. He lived his last days at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, now a museum to the Liberatador.
With the 21st century's second decade, Santa Marta is experiencing a renaissance. Sailboats and yachts dock into the new international marina at the south end of the camellĂłn (sea front boulevard). Cruise ships call into the main port at the north end. More statues honoring the Tayrona bedeck the seaside park and a monument to local soccer legend El Pibe is at Avenida Libertador and Carrera 19.
Santa Marta's dozen cultural centers and museums frequently host of music, theater and other festivals. Near the city are the beaches of Rodadero, offering all services for the higher budget tourist and excursions to an off-shore aquarium, and Tanganga, popular with backpackers and scuba divers.
To the southwest are two interesting villages: Aracataca, hometown of Gabriel GarcĂa MĂˇrquez and a real-life Macondo, and CiĂ©naga, set on the east side of a bird-rich lagoon and amid banana plantations, and site of the 1928 massacre. Heading into the mountains are Minca, a cool get-away from the tropical port, and San Lorenzo, gateway into Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Santa Marta's greatest draws are Parque Nacional Tayrona with white sand beaches, emerald jungles and crystalline waters, and Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City), located five-days trekking deep in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.
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