MEET ME IN THE PARK

Colombia 2016 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: TAYRONA NATIONAL NATURAL PARK

Among Colombia's many world-class attractions, the Tayrona National Natural Park stands out as a perfect way to experience the country at its all-natural best.

The Tayrona National Natural Park is situated in the northern Colombian department of Magdalena on the Caribbean coast, just one hour away from Santa Marta and about four hours from the touristic Cartagena. The national park was established in 1964 and covers an area of 150sqkm, where astonishing white sand beaches with a crystalline sea and a unique jungle landscape merge to create a natural retreat for rest and relaxation.

The park boasts outstanding flora and fauna, with a plethora of different trees and flowers, as well as nearly 59 species of mammals, among which the gray-bellied night monkey, the brown-throated sloth, armadillos, jaguars, and the giant anteater stand out. According to park authorities, there are around 70 species of bats, 396 species of birds, and numerous unique reptiles. Visitors will also be able to observe a wide array of sea species such as mollusks and turtles.

The natural park is also in close proximity to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain range isolated from the Andes that is home to four indigenous ethnic groups, namely the Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa, and Arhuaco. Even though these peoples do not inhabit Tayrona Park, they consider it part of their ancestral territory. In fact, usually once every year the park is closed so that these ethnic groups can undertake a spiritual cleansing of the site (and so that mother nature can take a month of rest from the 1 million tourists that visit the park every year).

Visitors have two main accommodation options. The more adventurous can stay at the camping areas, where they can bring their own tent or sleep in a hammock at a low price. There are two camping areas, one of which is in the Arrecife sector, which can accommodate up to 400 people, while the other is Cañaveral, where 200 people can stay. Those looking for a more comfortable and unique accommodation can take advantage of park's 14 ecohabs located in the Arrecife sector, all of which feature the same amenities found in a conventional hotel—the most exquisite way to balance leisure and nature.