At any rate, I really was just looking for a room and soon figured out that the one I already had was a bargain compared to these, not to mention the dilapidated neighborhood factor. I did get to meet some of the backpacker hostel staff who seemed much more intent on selling me a tour of Tayrona or Ciudad Perdida than renting me a room. It was only when I didn't bite that they wanted to get me to move in, I'm sure so they had another crack at selling me the tours again.
Back at the room after a quick street meal and stroll by the waterfront, my wife was looking awfully comfortable in our very nice room which now looked like the Taj Mahal. I was glad I hadn't found anything else. I wouldn't have had the heart to move her anywhere and certainly not down to that ragtag shantytown. She spent most of her time in Santa Marta in that room so it turned out to be not only a great move but the only move that would have made any sense.
Santa Marta is a real Colombian city despite its tourist demeanor and is perhaps more alluring in its half-baked state. Some of the town has been spiffed up but some of it remains in a delightfully dilapidated state. Enjoy both while you can, this is a town earmarked for mass tourism just waiting for its arrival.
Fondest memory: We opted for Solymar Hostal mostly because it was in a nicer area of Santa Marta than the cheaper options and we were arriving in the evening. We had taken a taxi from the bus terminal as it was quite outside town as we were finding most of Colombia's stations to be. My wife had eaten a spoiled arepa con heuvo en route and was already feeling its ill effects. So, we figured we would stay at Solymar for one night and I would go out in the morning to see if that something cheaper was also livable, especially with Doreen's condition.
The room was very modern and clean. The private bathroom was very nice and when someone in your group has stomach problems, this can be a huge factor. Actually, the whole hotel was very nice and the people at the front desk were friendly, helpful and not obtrusive in the least. They didn't try to sell us any tours and this is a town where gringos come to do such things. I went out in the morning and as expected “the other side” of town was not the nicest. Don't get me wrong, it had a certain charm to it and it was easy to see not only how Santa Marta was once a proud rich city and then one that had fallen very much from that lofty position. Much of the town was going through a renovation of sorts but it was obvious this area would be the last one to garner such attention. While it wasn't teeming with prostitutes, I was solicited by a few such ladies in my short stroll around the area looking for another hotel. This was about 7 in the morning too so my bet is there is more competition at night. The rooms were about half the price but most did not have air-conditioning and those that did were real flophouses. I might have got a better price if I had one of the ladies I had just passed do the bargaining but let's just say none of them was in the running for Miss Colombia and my wife, even in her sickly state, would be a shoe-in if they were her competition. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Santa Marta was almost the first Spanish city founded in South America. Apparently the first city was actually Santa María la Antigua del Darién between Panama and Colombia.
Santa Marta was founded on July 29, 1525 by the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas, accompanied by some two hundred of his men and a few amerindians. After he sailed on Columbus's second voyage, he decided to branch out on his own. He is supposed to have named the city after the Catholic day for Saint Martha, because the city was founded on her "day". In Spain Santa Marta Day was celebrated with festivities.
This was the beginning of Spanish colonization of the region, and it was from here that the Spanish set up of administrative functions for the colony, including a maritime port and the construction of defenses to prevent pirate raids. But in spite of the two fortresses built to protect it, 26 known pirates and attacked Santa Marta between 1543 and 1702. These pirates included John Hopkins, Francis Drake and Martin Cote. On December 3, 1655, British Vice Admiral William Goodson attacked and burned the city. During the Colonial times the city started losing its importance as maritime port to nearby city port of Cartagena.
Fondest memory: In addition to the statue on the waterfront, Rodrigo de Bastidas tomb is in the Cathedral (photo 2 and 5).
That is what is inscribed over the main entrance door
The Cathedral was designed by architect Diego Rueda, and was built of stone masonry in the Roman Renaissance style. Construction was began in 1766, but the structure was not completed until the latter part of the 18th century. The cathedral's exterior is simple. You can see the dome from the port, but there is also a square belfry.
Favorite thing: Inside, the nave is grand but not ostentatious. It was very cool and restful. Catholic cathedrals in Latin America often drip with gold and elaborate decor. Even though the decor is more restrained, you can still see intricately carved Carrara marble sculptures. Notables are buried here, and that includes the ashes of de Bastidas, the city’s Spanish founder.
Santa marta, the main city of the Magdalena state.. one of those places I wish I had not visited...
Admitedly it is scenically located in a nice bay surrounded by the Sierra nevada mountains, but the charm ends here. it's supposed to be the oldest city in Colombia - but more than old, it looks badly run down. We found nothing of interest to be visited while roaming around town, so we headed to the calle where all the money exchanges are supposed to be, I don't remember if it's calle 13 or 14.
Anyway, all the money exchange offices except one (casa de hierro) changed dollars, at the worst rate ever in Colombia. It is still not quite clear what the other exchange offices change... Cocaine? Stones? Fresh Air? There's also a private exchange office, which was turning away people because it was not exchanging money. Does it make sense? We withdrew money from an ATM machine.
Then we headed for the Rodadero... where everyone seems to spend their vacations (included a trusted friend). Hell: miles and miles of high-rise all-inclusive and all-expensive hotels and a mediocre beach. Not quite our scene, again. It took us three hours to decide to leave Santa marta on the spot.
Fondest memory: Just to give you an idea of how sad Santa marta is... on the seafront promenade, while waiting for a bus or taxi to head to Taganga, we came across some prostitutes - not so young and so fat. We wonder who would pay a cent to go with them.
Still, as we were waiting, the other priceless moment... there was a ragged homeless sleeping on the pavement a few metres from us. Suddenly we see a local young man heading towards the homeless and putting his hands in his pocket, stealing from him a couple of 100 pesos coins (roughly rougly 12 cents).
Moral of the story: do stay away from Santa Marta.
The Lost City tour at El Miramar is this travellers pick "Best" of the best South America.
About $180 U.S. or less 6 days 5 nights all included hike to The Lost City.
The Lost City is a 5000 year old city of 50,000 inhabitants in the mounthains of Santa Marta
Get your reservation, book your tour for"The Lost City" at El Miramar a great place in itself friendly people. good info. The The Lost City leaves and gathers here 3-4 times per week.
THERE IS NO OTHER Lost City TOUR!!!! Just el miramar...
The guides on the street are bulls--t. avoid all those scams and the waste of tiem.
For the The Lost City go to El Miramar they have bags storage, a safe, good honest info, and a great breakfast and cheap plain rooms with a fan for $10000 COP private room w bath
Everyone I ever met loved this trip and people who have done tours in the andes, central and south america, etc all agreesd The Lost City is the best one of them all...
Fondest memory: El Miramar Hotel L Mutha "the mute lady" who does laundry and smiles.
Our Lost City Manuel.
The Fruit Juices and fruit salads at El Miramar Sol y Luna restaurant are the best EVER!!!
sunsets hanging out listenng to guitar on the roof...
hanging out at Ramarim "El Miramar" backwards in Taganga
I wish I was there now...
Santa Marta, city in the northern Colombia, capital of Magdalena departament, on a deep bay of the caribean sea at the mouth of the Manzanares river, at the norhwestern foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta located in an area in whish bananas, cotton, tobacco and livestock are grown, Santamarta exports bananas, hides and coffe. the city is a terminus of the Atlantico railroad
Fondest memory: we think that Santa Marta is good for know the Quinta De San Pedro Alegandrino were died Simon Bolivar, and the rest is to relaxing an on the night you can go to dancing to discos that are located on El Rodadero
In my very personal opinion there is not that much to see in St. Marta. It's just a nice Caribbean city with a beach and not that many sight-seeing things. Mostly it just serves a pit-stop for travellers on their way to Ciudad Perdida or Parque Tayrona. There are however lots of travellers there to meet up with, talk to and perhaps find a travel-companion. There are also several travellers (especially form Israel), who stay in the city for months, just going to the beach, buying cheap drugs and entertaining themselves with hot and easy "street-girls". On the whole - nothing that special, but worth avvisit if you are in the neightbourhood. And the place to go to organise a trip to Ciudad Perdida, Tayrona or get a dive-course.
Fondest memory: Probably sitting on the roof of the Miramar hostel with other travellers, drinking rum, smoking pot, swapping travelling stories and looking at the sunset.
Favorite thing: The town itself offers an excellent point to re-supply yourself from the off-the-beaten path destinations nearby. Internet access is dirt cheap, you can buy pretty much any normal item you're looking for, etc...