Introducing Caribbean Coast
Soaked with sunshine and steeped in history, the Caribbean coast offers a wealth of attractions that make it Colombia's biggest draw for both domestic and international visitors.
Ticking off a list 'must sees' along the coast could take several weeks, so be sure to budget accordingly. Mud volcanoes, lost cities, desert isles, impregnable fortresses and steamy nightlife can hold you captive longer than expected. Throw in superb tourist facil-ities, welcoming locals and dazzling festivals and you may end up a permanent resident.
The crown jewel along the coast is Cartagena, a colonial city with a beauty and romance unrivaled anywhere else in the country. Santa Marta, the last stop for the legendary liberator Simón Bolívar, also offers a sense of history, but the real reason to visit is nearby Parque Nacional Tayrona, a spectacular stretch of deserted beach and virgin rainforest.
By contrast, Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) is no picnic to reach, but the exhausting three-day trek has become a rite of passage for many travelers. Recovery from the long haul into the jungle is easy - just wander into tranquil Taganga and enjoy the sea, sand and fruit drinks.
Local inhabitants, the costenos, are easy-going folks of mainly African descent. Their quiet lifestyle is interrupted by raucous festivals, including the most colorful and wild of Colombian feasts, the Carnaval de Barranquilla; the Carnaval de Cartagena is only marginally less mad.