Jan 17

Decisions, decisions Pt. 1… Tayrona National Park or Cartagena?

tayrona national park colombia
Beach at Tayrona National Park
Beach at Tayrona National Park

They say the wrong decision is better than no decision. It’s a mantra that can save you a great deal of time and effort if you apply it frequently. There are times, however, when you’ll have a decision to make and, frankly, there won’t be a wrong decision. What a delightful conundrum.

One such instance is when travelling to Colombia. I receive many emails asking whether I think a person on vacation in Colombia should travel to destination A or destination B. I always tell them first off: you can’t really go wrong.

That said, people’s moods will often dictate what will suit them and so although they’ll enjoy their trip anywhere in Colombia, they might be more in the mood for a relaxing beach holiday in Colombia rather than, say, a cultural tour around the bustling streets of Bogota.

With this in mind I’m starting a new section on the Colombia Travel Blog, called ‘Decisions, decisions’. I’ll take two destinations and briefly outline their chief appeals, so you, our dear readers, can make an informed decision about where you want to go.

So, first up: Tayrona or Cartagena?

Tayrona National Park

Clear waters at Tayrona
Clear waters at Tayrona

Turquoise waters, golden sands, palm trees and jungle-clad mountains all await you in Tayrona. It’s a National Park in Colombia and one that is looked after extremely well. Tayrona is one of the best destinations for relaxation in the country and is perfect for 2-4 days sun-bathing, mixed with the occasional trek. Definitely one for beach lovers as there is little nearby in the way of culture. You should be aware that if you want beautiful beaches, Cartagena will not cater for you nearly as well as Tayrona. There are islands near Cartagena but they’re often busy and are less spectacular.

Tayrona offers accommodation for all levels of passenger, however for luxury stays prices can mount.


Impressive architecture in Cartagena
Impressive architecture in Cartagena

Cartagena, aside from the ever-present touts, is a laid-back city that oozes history. Its cobble-stone streets wind through colourful, colonial buildings, in which you’ll find an abundance of high-quality restaurants, cafes and bars. The cultural scene in Cartagena is healthy, with music festivals and film festivals often taking place alongside the regular museums and galleries on offer. Travel to Cartagena is recommended for those who want to experience some of Colombia’s culture and history, but still wish to take it easy. You can get to beaches from Cartagena and some of them are extremely picturesque, but you have to travel to islands which can be pricey if you want to stay overnight.

I hope this helps your decision making. Remember, in this case it is possible to go both destinations very easily in 5 days. You can take a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and from there transportations (buses/taxis) are available to take you to Tayrona.

As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, and if you’re interested in Tayrona and/or Cartagena, please check out See Colombia Travel’s Colombia tours.


3 thoughts on “Decisions, decisions Pt. 1… Tayrona National Park or Cartagena?

  1. John Sarter on

    Hi Paul, Thanks for your blog here and it is helping shape our decisions for an upcoming trip to Colombia in November. We are flying into Cartagena on a Wed. and will be looking to stay somewhere for 3 nights prior to a week already booked in Cartagena. So I am thinking maybe 3 nights in Tayrona, then the week in Cartagena, with a day trip (or 2) into Rosario Islands. Are there other beautiful areas around Cartagena other than beaches to see as well?

    I wish I’d planned Cartagena for a week prior to the extra 3 days in Tayrona perhaps, but that decision has been made already. Sounds like we’ll enjoy it all in any case though, based on your blog post! 🙂


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