Thinking of the Caribbean, the first image that springs to mind is one of beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, a relaxing and soothing atmosphere full of sumptuous food. The Caribbean, in my mind, has always sounded like a dream.
Travelling to the Colombian Caribbean coast was an unbelievable experience. Setting off from Bogotá, the capital, we (my friend and I) landed in Santa Marta, a beautiful coastal town, quintessentially Colombian: charming, colourful, relaxing; much more tranquil than Cartagena (the main city on the Caribbean Coast). A great little getaway place, we spent a couple of days wandering the streets and discovering this delightful town before moving on to Parque Tayrona. Parque Tayrona is a unique and magical place. A vast stretch of protected land, it contains many paradisiac beaches, and is inhabited by several indigenous communities. We travelled in a small bus, on the floor right by the driver (the only space left on the bus) for a few hours before finally making it to the park. On our arrival, much to our despair, we noticed the park was closed. It was dark and we were disappointed, but we found a nearby hostel and spent the night there before setting off to the park first thing in the morning. Our backpacks strapped to our backs, we wandered into the park, excited to explore what had been described to us as blissful location. The extensiveness of the park means that the beaches were rather spread out, and getting to any one was a little bit of a trek – some 10-15 km – in the blazing sun and heat. But the walk itself was lovely, and the beaches were well worth the effort.
There is no accommodation in Parque Tayrona – unless you’re ready to splash out hundreds of pounds. Instead, people rent hammocks on the beach, and get assigned small locker in which to store their belongings. That’s what we did whilst we were there – and it was surprisingly comfortable! We went for a swim in the water and ate some fresh fish at one of the small restaurants on the beach before heading to our hammocks for our first (short) night on the beach. We woke up at 5 am to watch the sunrise – the most beautiful one I had ever seen. A deep-coloured sunrise, with rich colours painting the sky; from orange, red, yellow, to a heavenly blue and purple; it was breath-taking.
As we left Parque Tayrona, sweaty, smelly and covered in mosquito bites, we made our way to our final destination: Cartagena, a stunning, vibrant and glowing colonial city. We travelled by bus again, taking in the beautiful Colombian scenery on the way. Arriving in Cartagena, we were amazed. It truly is dazzling. A stunning day with no clouds in sight, vibrant streets full of friendly people, we wandered whilst indulging in the exotic fresh fruits sold at every street corner. We spent the day wandering, before filling our stomachs at a local diner that was family-owned and served succulent Colombian food. The next few days were spent a few days exploring the area, and on the final day we went island hopping in the Islas Rosarias, just off the coast of Cartagena, and swam in the corals; a lovely end to our trip.