Santa Marta is one of the first cities in the Americas colonised by the Spanish in the 16th century. Just as in many other latin towns, the streets are filled with beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in rainbows all shades with the traditional high ceilings with wooden beams and the small balconies overlooking the streets. Santa Marta is known as the “pearl of the Colombian Caribbean” and it is easy to see why. The quaint town by the water, with the ever so present snow clad Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, and the lush Tayrona National Park to the North, a short bus drive away. In the city you can find South America’s oldest building - La Casa de la Aduana from 1531. As well as the cathedral, the mother of all Colombian churches, a national monument that was built in 1766 and once held the remains of the liberator of South America, Simón Bolívar, before his tomb was moved to Caracas, Venezuela. There's also an open-air museum "Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino", a 17th-century hacienda where Simón Bolívar spent the last few days of his life.
We have spent many of our evenings in Parque de los novios (park for the engaged) yet this square was not always a streetlamp-lighted place for lovers. Just a few years back, the park was a run down area trafficked by prostitutes and petty criminals. We've been told that until eight or so years ago, nobody would come to Santa Marta because of the guerrillas, but the government has in recent years done a good job in cleaning up drug and paramilitary activity in the region. Crime has now been replaced by tourism and Santa Marta’s reputation as an up-and-coming travel destination is growing by the day. Many Colombian's from other cities have came to live here and they love this place because it still feels real and Colombian. People are attracted by the authenticity, which the city has maintained despite the recent development.
What is so refreshing is that everyone is busy doing something, going to work or selling things on the street, not in particular to foreigners, but to everyone, natives included, and life seem to continue no matter if we are there or not. And all those fruits that are so well made use of, fresh juice, ice cream and candy on every street corner. Not to mention the abundance of beautiful, friendly people that Latin America is so famous for. Very glad we had to pull in here because of the strong winds the other day, otherwise we would probably have missed this little gem completely.