Sierra Nevada of Santa MartaThe Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is a magical place that is popular with tourists; it is located on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia between the departments of Cesar, Guajira and Santa Marta. The exuberant beauty of this place is unique, and it offers the opportunity to experience and immerse yourself in nature and indigenous communities that survive to this day in this paradise.
I’ll begin by telling you a bit about the geography of the region: 32 rivers are born here, a fact which emphasizes the importance of this region for water reserves. The climate is quite varied, ranging from 27° centigrade to 0 ° centigrade (depending on the altitude); on occasion, it can even drop to a chilling -2° centigrade, which is quite cold for Colombia! There are two rainy periods each year, which run from between May to June and from September to November, but it is quite common for there to be some rain almost every day in higher altitude parts of this region.
How to get to the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta?
Before going up to the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, you should prepare yourself physically for the hike as the trek to this beautiful paradise takes days. Also, note that you should bring comfortable clothing including t-shirts, a bathing suit, towel, shorts, socks, a long-sleeved sweater and a pair of pants (indispensable for night-time when it gets cold). Of course, you’ll need good hiking shoes, sandals, sunscreen, bug repellent, a hat and sunglasses. Finally, make sure you bring personal higiene supplies (e.g. toothpaste), your documents (e.g. Passport), bottle(s) of water, and cash – with all of these items, you’ll be sure to get the best experience in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta.
Although they say that one can get here by oneself, I recommend that you hire a tour operated by an agency so that you will be covered by security measures while you’re there. The tour costs about 400 USD (four days and three nights) and includes absolutely everything, such as transportation, food, accommodation, tour guide and park entrance.
The trip to get to the Sierra Nevada starts with an hour in a 4×4 van or jeep, taking you to a small town called Mamey or Machete Pelao. From there, you’ll start on foot for a hike of about 4 hours (8 kilometers) in which you’ll see rivers, climb and descend verdant hills, and enjoy some of the most gorgeous scenery imaginable. The camp you’ll then arrive at has electricity, potable agua, bathrooms, and accommodation to stay the night.
The next day starts early, at about 5:00 a.m., and you’ll get to enjoy 16 kilometers of constant climb – don’t worry, though, as you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the landscape, more rivers, waterfalls and indigenous communities like Kogui and Arhuaco, all of which make the hike more manageable. After this adventure of a day, you’ll arrive at Teyuna Paradise (Paraíso Teyuna). You can relax in this camp, and on the following day, make your way to the Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida), which is around one hour away from this camp
The Lost City, also known as Teyuna, is an ancient, indigenous site that was inhabited by the Tayrona people; this archaeological site is located in the north of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta.
Teyuna Archaeological Park
The Lost City is located at about 1200 meters above sea level, in the highest parto f the basin of the Buritaca river. Getting there requires that you cross the river and climb the 1200 steps that conduct you to the Lost City. A gorgeous paradise hidden among the mountains, with a unique magic and full of history, your tour guide will here explain to you the daily life of people who lived in the communities there.
The Arhuaco People
The Arhuaco People, or Bintukuas, are an indigenous group composed of nearly 15,000 people descended from the Tayrona culture who inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. They reside in the high basins of the Aracataca, Fundación y Guaraní Rivers, in the western foothills of the Sierra, in the jurisdictions of the Cesar, La Guajira and Magdalena departments; their territory also includes other nearby zones at the southern limit of their reserve, in the Palomino and Don Diego Rivers. To the north and south-west are the river basins of the Azúcarbue y Guatapurí Rivers.
These territories are the lowest parts and passes of the mountains, lost and thus not as strongly affected by the forces of colonization and western agriculture that arrived with the Spanish Conquistadors. The language of the Arhuacos corresponds to the Chibcha linguistic family.
The authentic clothing of the Arhuacos is still hand-made by themselves. Men and women alike use a long robe (a “manta”) that is made of sheep’s wool, as well as hand-woven bags called “mochilas”. The women use various necklaces and walk without shoes. The mochila, for them, is an accessory that is very important for them: they never are without a mochila, in which they keep their personal items as well as a “poporo”, a small container for a coca-lime concoction made from coca leaves and ground sea-shells, stored in a receptacle made of the dried fruit of a cucurbita plant. For the Arhuacos, the poporo has a sexual symbolic meaning and is given to young man following a special ceremony when they reach adulthood.
Can you imagine the beauty of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta while reading this article?