Travel, Food & Books

Santa Marta

Founded on July 29, 1525, by Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta is the oldest surviving city in Colombia. It’s also a place where Simon Bolivar spent his last days before he died on 17th December 1830 after bringing independence to six Latin American countries.

Cartagena to Santa Marta by Bus

On the same date, 493 years later, we visited this beautiful, peaceful little town. Our first leg of the journey started with a taxi from the old city of Cartagena to Terminal De Transportes. It was about 40 minutes away with a fare of 22,000 COP.

We booked our bus tickets online with Unitransco for the price of 27,000COP each. When we got to the bus station, we went to the bus counter to have our tickets printed out. Before boarding the bus, we bought some empanadas and water to help us get through the journey of 230km away.

Our backpack was standard school bag size, but because of the narrow space in our overhead compartment, we had to place it in the luggage storage. The worker tagged our backpack and put a sticker with our bus ticket, just like an airport check-in luggage.

There’s a TV, air conditioning and also a toilet on board, but we didn’t realize that until we were inside and had already spent 1,000 COP for the usage of public restrooms at the station.

Cool Bus

The bus departed 11 minutes later than the scheduled time at 11:45 am and reached Santa Marta station after 5 hours 04 minutes journey. It took a long time to arrive as it stopped at various bus terminals picking up other passengers, and the most extended stop was almost an hour which was at the Barranquilla bus terminal.

Additional Information

Before starting the journey, and also at any stop at a bigger bus terminal, there will be a man taking a close-up video recording of every passenger’s face. It’s kind of weird; I’m not sure what’s about, probably for safety purposes.

Hotel Calle Santodomingo

The Taxi journey from the bus terminal to Hotel Calle Santodomingo took about 15 minutes. It’s a simple hotel with essential amenities. There’s a small pool on the roof and a hammock for you to relax while looking out at the beautiful mountain view.

Hotel Calle Santodomingo’s view from the swimming pool

But we have only had a night here before leaving for Playa Los Angeles tomorrow, so no time to appreciate it. But we did book this hotel again for our last night before returning to Bogota from Santa Marta airport. The second booking was made directly with the hotel, and it was 10,000COP cheaper than what we’d paid earlier when booking with Agoda.

Catedral de Santa Marta

There were many people at the Catedral when we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to get inside the church and look for the town’s founder’s ashes, which were said to be just to the left at the entrance. The first church was built in Continental America and claimed to be this country’s oldest church, but the construction was only completed at the end of the 18th century. Hence, the influences of various architectural styles.

Parque de Los Novios / Boyfriend’s Park

This park used to be called Santander Park, honouring the former president of Colombia, Francisco José de Paula Santander. The charming little square was also surrounded by bars and places to eat, a perfect place to hang out with your couple!

Rodrigo de Bastidas Square

A place where they placed the statue of Rodrigo de Bastidas, the founder of this town. It’s also a nice place to watch the sunset, with a view over the bay with a small rocky island, El Morro in the background.

Public Market Santa Marta – Carrera 9 Calle 11

A place where we got the bus to Tayrona Park. We had our meal in the market before taking the bus, and also when we came back from our trip to Playa Los Angeles and Tayrona. The meal was cheap, about 19,000 COP for the two of us.

Mike also took this opportunity and bought some chillies to bring back home from this market. It was 4,000 COP for 500 grams of chilis. This market reminded me of a market in Kota Kinabalu where we used to have our lunch before heading back to Kota Belud. The only thing absent was the sea.

On our last night, we went to Lavinia for dinner. I had a burger before I left for the sunset view at the waterfront.

Mike couldn’t be bothered to see the sunset, so I went alone. On my way, I walked passed Parque de Los Novios and also Artesanias Santa Marta – a place where you could buy crafts.

Artesanias Santa Marta
Sunset in Santa Marta

After the sunset, I met Mike at the bar before we moved to a tienda. In the store, we met a guy who spoke English well. He told us a story of how he was fluent in English. According to him, he started learning English when he was about seven years old, during that time, his mum worked for an American boss in a theatre, so he was exposed to the language.

We also met with another local woman when we moved to the tienda near the hotel. She was sitting alone in the corner when we treated her with aguardiente. Soon enough, she came to our table and joined us.

She was a chatty 55-year-old woman. Living alone as her husband passed away a few years ago, and she has seven siblings. However, I was distracted by the little Chihuahua and couldn’t keep up with her story much. Plus my Spanish was rubbish.

Me and the woman

The next day, we took a taxi to the airport, it was about a 30-minute ride. We sat at the Avianca VIP Lounge admiring the Caribbean sea view from the window while waiting for our flight. While we were there, we saw the same ladies who were queuing with us back in Bogota when we checked in on the plane to Cartagena. What a coincidence timing.

Other pictures of Santa Marta Town

Travel Date: 29th ~ 30th July & 2nd ~ 03rd August 2018

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