Santa Marta and Taganga are on the north coast of Colombia, towards Venezuela. Santa Marta is a lovely city with lots of old colonial buildings and squares, and a pretty decent main beach (right in the centre).
Taganga is a small town of around 2400 people, and it has about 2 small stretches of paved roads. The rest is dirt, rocks, rubbish, stray dogs and chickens. It’s mostly known for scuba diving (at least 10 scuba diving companies in a town with about as many streets), and for hippies coming and seemingly staying for a long time.
For more pics, click below!
Recently Taganga has received a dangerous reputation for a rise in hold ups at knife-point. Apparently this has been on the rise only in the last 2 months. Our hostel was pretty terrible, very dirty and unmaintained, with a bed as hard as a plank of wood wrapped in a sheet. We originally booked for 4 nights, thinking that staying in a little beachside town would by idyllic. However I really didn’t feel safe in the town, the hostel was shocking, and there wasn’t really 4 days worth of things to do there. We ended up canceling our final 2 nights and with a bit of debating, the hostel gave us most of the money back. In return, I gave them and honest and harsh review on trip advisor.
In Taganga, we went scuba diving, which was excellent. For about $70 each we did a morning ‘discover scuba’ course with a German instructor, Julian. He was super chilled out, and gave us a very very brief briefing (5mins?). Then we walked across the road to the boat which was waiting on the beach, and hopped in. A 10-15 minute boat ride took us to the bay where we did our first dive from. The dive school has a hut up the cliffs from the bay, and offered us a free night’s stay in hammocks there. We did take that offer up but maybe should have!
Our first dive started with a couple of drills at the shore – clearing the mask of water, finding a lost mouthpiece… Then we were off! It was around 30mins and we went to around 6m deep. I’ve been curious for years as to how my mind would go when scuba diving – luckily and happily my mind was totally calm and I really really enjoyed it! After this dive we had a snack, met Lola the scarlett macaw and went back into the boat for our 2nd dive. This time we entered the water from the boat, doing that awkward backwards flippy move. Fun! We were down for around 40mins, and went to 12m deep. Again this dive was wonderful! Rob took his GoPro camera down and we had a good play with that too. We saw loads of different kinds of fish, brain coral and other kinds of coral, and an octopus (just!).
I can’t wait to go diving more in the future!
That was really about all that Taganga had to offer us. We booked our Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek and the next day we hot footed it to Santa Marta.
We spent 1 night there before the Lost City trek, and stayed at a lovely small, new hostel – Mango Hostal. It’s run by Lisandro (from Argentina) and Alejandra (from Colombia) and is a lovely 3 bedroom apartment with a view of the mountains. We felt so at home there that we booked 2 more nights after the trek. (Read about our adventures on the Ciudad Perdida trek here). It was no problem to leave our big bags at the hostel during the trek, and afterwards we washed our smelly, dirty clothes and took over the balcony drying them. It was really hard to leave Santa Marta mostly because of the lovely homely accommodation!
We also checked out the Plaza de los Novios, in the centre of town, and ate at a few of the restaurants there. On our last day we checked out the beach which is essentially in the centre of town, and had a swim. The Caribbean Sea is so warm! And it literally sparkled, as there are particles of pyrite (aka ‘Fool’s Gold’) in the water.
What followed was an 18 hour bus ride to Bogotá… Phew!