“I feel that I’m a native of any country in Latin America” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Whilst this statement may be true, Colombian literary hero Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Gabo for short) was in fact born in the small town of Aracataca, a stiflingly hot and dusty place in the banana zone of the country. However, despite this intense heat the town is well-worth stopping off in for a few days to experience something a bit different from normal backpacker attractions in Colombia.
Aracataca could have easily become a sort of Garcia Marquez themed, Disneyland style tourist attraction, but the real beauty of visiting the town is that it almost the direct opposite of that – Aracataca still feels like an undiscovered corner of Colombia, and consequently has retained that little bit of magic which has become so synonymous with Garcia Marquez’s work.
Where to stay: There is only really one option worth considering for a few nights in Aracataca: The Gypsy Residence – a small, laid-back hostel run by jovial Dutch poet Mr. Tim Buendia. With basic dorms at $20000 and two large doubles at $60000, the hostel is reasonably priced, with several nice touches, including free water (this is a really great idea, and it would be nice to see more hostels adopting this in such a hot climate where the tap water isn’t really drinkable). Even the pets are named after Garcia Marquez characters, including the playful dog, Remedios, and a new addition to the family, Amaranta the chick.
What to do: There isn’t a whole lot to do in Aracataca, but the sleepy atmosphere is part of the charm of the place. If you’re staying at the Gypsy Residence (and you really should), then ask Tim for a map and he will point out all of the sights in town worth seeing. This includes the Garcia Marquez museum in the house where Gabo was born, the Telegraph Museum (which is more authentic than the birth house, and contains some fascinating original photographs of Gabo’s family), the train station and the library. It’s also well worth walking down to the river for a cooling swim and a game of football with some of the local kids. One tip worth remembering though: don’t take anything valuable down to the river if you’re planning on taking a swim, it may not be there when you get back!
How to get there: Despite the fictional Macondo being so isolated from the rest of the country in 100 Years of Solitude, the real life Aracataca is actually really easy to visit. Just head to the bus terminal in Santa Marta, ask for Aracataca and you can be there in about 1 ½ hours, at a cost of between $7000-$10000. Once you arrive, jump on a Moto-Taxi and ask for Mr. Tim’s place! It shouldn’t cost more than $1000. From Aracataca you can return to the coast easily, or carry on to Bosconia en-route to Mompox.
Aracataca may not be well-established on Colombia’s backpacker circuit, and to be completely honest, those without some interest in Gabo or his work may not find all that much to get excited about. However, for anyone with a real desire to spend some time in a friendly, untouched Colombian town and learn something about a Colombia hero at the same time, Aracataca is not to be missed.
If you’re interested in visiting Aracataca then please contact See Colombia Travel with any questions you might have, and we’ll be glad to help you organize your trip.