Tayrona National Park is known as one of the wildest and most beautiful corners of South America. For us, it was the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure as we hiked through the jungle, over giant boulders, to the the most beautiful virgin beaches I’ve ever seen.
Home base for our jungle journey was Cartagena, Colombia. We had amazing assistance exploring the city and arranging excursions, thanks to my Colombian family (who were also incredible hosts).
Getting to Tayrona from Cartagena was not exactly an ‘easy’ journey (I would recommend flying to Santa Marta to get a much closer starting point). A four hour van-ride along the coast and into the jungle was arranged, which sadly included a ride through some of the most poverty-stricken areas of Colombia, and some of the most downtrodden communities I’ve ever seen. Heartbreaking.
The ‘van service’ was operated by solely non-English speaking drivers. I would strongly recommend that you learn a bit of Spanish (or at least have a guidebook) in-order to get around properly if this trip is on your bucket-list. Our journey to Tayrona turned into quite an adventure of its own, to say the least. We passed along roads bustling with children playing in/around trash-filled puddles with their pet pigs; we got stuck in gridlock traffic, all caused by a man moseying along on his donkey down the highway; we detoured into a few neighborhoods as our driver made more than a few sketchy ‘package pickup’ stops along the way (yikes!). Take it from a fearless (but cautious) travel team, this journey can be slightly unnerving. It’s important to be alert and sensitive of your surroundings at all times.
Until about ten years ago, the word Tayrona was associated more with Civil War and narcotics than hiking and beaches. In late 2003, then Colombian president (Álvaro Uribe) began a military crackdown in the area and the government started promoting Tayrona as a tourist destination. While there are numerous campgrounds within the National Park, we opted for a few nights of ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ luxury at Ecohabs. This small group of secluded huts, built cliff-side, is known as the jewel of Tayrona.
After four hours of serious transit and struggle to converse with our driver, our excitement to explore this beautiful landscape was overwhelming! We immediately went deep into the jungle.
The jungles of Tayrona are crawling with wildlife – Titi monkeys, Red Woodpeckers, iguanas and even jaguars. We hiked for hours through tall trees adorned with perfect swinging vines, being careful not to step on armies of GIANT ants (as big as my thumb!), while listening to the singing of more than 400 species of bird.
We spent our days in Tayrona exploring the landscape, finding our own secluded paradise among the natural beaches and giant boulders.
Without electricity, entertainment, anything, we spent our nights (it gets DARK in the jungle!) in the comfort of the Ecohab, listening to the sounds of the jungle and watching the lizards play on our ceiling.
Tayrona is an incredible hybrid of relaxation, adventure and escape. An enchanting jungle so secluded that you are completely removed from the outside world. It’s an experience to rise with the sun, seize the day, relax in the afternoon and listen to nature chirping in the evening. This is the place for people who want to “get away from it all”. A place with nothing but beauty and balance.