Santa Marta - The oldest city of Colombia


The city Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities in Colombia but not very pretty.

Anyway, the streets are full of life! Markets and vendors are everywhere in the city. 


The landscape and nature around Santa Marta are amazing and very interesting. 


Besides the city we went to Minca, the Parque Nacional Natural (PNN) Tayrona and surfing at the Playa Costaño. 


I also met the first local ornithologist in Colombia.

The group "Birding Santa Marta" invited me for a short observation trip to PNN Tayrona.


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Santa Marta is located in the North of Colombia, next to the Caribbean sea and the capital of the Magdalena department. The city was founded in 1925; it is the oldest city of Colombia, second oldest of South America.  About 450 000 people live on a space of over 2 000km². 



Besides Santa Marta, we also visited Minca, a small village at an altitude of 650 m. Minca is 17km away from Santa Marta and the beginning of the Sierra Nevada. The amount of flora and fauna is huge and the landscape leaves you speechless. About 300 bird species were spotted in Minca. Another good thing about Minca is the temperature; it is much cooler than in Santa Marta. Minca has only recently been made accessible to public because of former gang presence and paramilitary activities.



 We to Minca twice, with the "Cootraminca" 4x4 jeeps which leaves from the Mercado place of Santa Marta. 


On our first time in Minca, we only had half a day. Therefore, we went to "Pozo Azul", two little waterfalls at an hour walk away from Minca and looked for more information about trails in this beautiful region. The way first goes uphill on a street and later downhill on a dirt road to the creek. Plenty of locals and other tourists were visiting this place to swim. It's possible to cross the knee-deep water and climb over stones to arrive at less frequented spots. 



An option for lazy people: Motortaxis are driving to the waterfall and something like a restaurant exist there as well. 


We also planned another trip to Minca. The 6 hours trail to "Los Pinos" seemed to be interesting and exactly what we were looking for. It's possible to do this trail as loop. The trail is going uphill on the street and dirt road and after reaching the point of interest, the pine trees, it's going down again. The view over the valley, the mountains, the little village Minca, the Caribbean sea and Santa Marta is impressive. We had a clear view and could see very far. The big ships on the ocean which come to Santa Marta to unload or load containers were looking very tiny!


On our way down, we stopped at the hostel and restaurant "Elemento" where they have the biggest hammock in the world. We had a stop for lunch. We underestimated the distance of the trail and hiked about 26km that day. Nevertheless, the hike was very nice, easy to walk and with an amazing view on the top. 


Lazy option: Motortaxi


Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

The "Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona" is about 180km² (150 on land and 30 on sea) and got established in 1969. The park is located about 34 km northeastern of Santa Marta on the Caribbean sea. It's the second most visited park in Colombia with almost 300 000 people each year. About 180 mammal and 300 bird species live in the park. 



We visited the park early in the morning with a bus which starts at the Mercado place in Santa Marta, we needed about 1 hour to get there. Our hike in the park was 10 km long and took about two hours with trails in rainforest areas and on the beach. We walked to the beach "Piscina". Many people used the beach as well but it's one of the safest places to swim and not to disturb breeding turtles. 


In order to surf one last time on the Caribbean sea and because we have no idea when we'll have time again for surfing, we went to the Playa Costaño.


The beach is located East of Santa Marta, behind the PNN Tayrona. It's a bit tricky to rent a board because first, you need to go to a nearby hostel  to rent it. The waves behind the hostel aren't good for surfing as they are low. Therefore, you have to walk about 1-2km to the beach Costaño. The waves were about 1,7 - 2,1 meters high but still difficult to catch. Also, the current was very strong at this place. 



Santa Marta isn't very beautiful, but the nature around is very interesting.


In Minca and the PNN Tayrona you will find plenty of endemic bird species and the landscape of the Serra Nevada around Minca leaves you speechless!


Hiking around and discovering the nature was very interesting for me.


I also enjoyed to meet Colombian ornithologists and I learned a lot from them!



Twitch Twitch


Santa Marta and Minca has plenty of birds to discover and some endemic species live here. 

Actually, I was looking to find a bird ringing station in Santa Marta. I contacted some birding agencies and asked for more information. Unfortunately, I found out that they just ring in spring. 


Anyway, one of the agencies I contacted, asked me if I wanted to join them on a little birding trip in the Tayrona park.

They picked me up at 7 am at my hostel and we had a very nice morning. We had a short but very intense 2 km walk in the forest and found many species.


It was very nice to meet these guys and to exchange. I learned a lot about the birds in this region and about the bird songs in the jungle. Unfortunately, I had not enough time to spend more time for a bigger trip, but if anyone comes to Santa Marta or Minca and want a birding trip, I really recommend "Birding Santa Marta". 


Number Species
1 Crested Guan
Magnificient Frigatebird
6 Brown Pelican
Common Black Hawk
Squirrel Cuckoo
1 White-chinned Sapphire
2 Rufous-tailed Jacamar
2 Red-crowned Woodpecker
1 Crimson-crested Woodpecker
4 Blue-headed Parrot
2 Black-crowned Antshirke
2 White bellied Antbird
1 Cocoa Woodpecker
2 Brown-capped Tyrannulet
1 Yellow-olive Flycatcher
2 Streaked Flycatcher
2 Tropical Kingbird
2 Lance-tailed Manakin
3 White-bearded Manakin
1 Southern Rough-winged Swallow
2 Buff-breasted Wren
2 Clay-colored Thrush
1 Louisiana Waterthrush
3 Gray-headed Tanager
2 Crimson-backed Tanager
1 Palm Tanager
2 Orange-crowned Oriole
Total 27

Minca is full with birds as well. On the two hikes we had in Minca I couldn't stop watching birds. On every corner are birds sitting in the trees and singing, jumping around or fighting for food. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get the very beautiful but also very shy Keel-billed Toucan in front of my lens.