When I arrived in Taganga, my first stop on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, I wasn’t all that impressed. And yet I somehow managed to end up staying more time in the area than anywhere else I’ve been so far on my trip.
The obvious highlight of the place is that it’s a great place to start the Lost City trek from, but there are plenty of other reasons to stick around too.
After five days of intense, sweaty hiking, all most people want to do is go and recover on a beach. Fortunately enough, Taganga is right next to the stunning Parque Nacional Tayrona, which has some of the finest beaches I’ve ever seen.
It’s a bit of a trek getting there – an hour on the bus, followed by an hour’s trek through the jungle of the national park, followed by another hour of hiking along the beaches (although if you’re the flashpacker type you can skip all that hard work and just get a boat direct to the beach from Taganga) – but boy is it worth it.
As it’s a national park, the area is almost completely undeveloped, with just a few cabins on one beach, and then an area with camping and hammocks to rent a few beaches along at Cabo San Juan. Aside from that, it’s just pristine beaches, backed with palm trees, and then with thick jungle behind that. With most travellers for some reason staying put at Cabo beach, that leaves the next two beaches along almost empty. There’s nothing to do there apart from lie on the beach, read your book, and cool off with the occasional dip in the crystal clear, warm sea. So that’s exactly what I did for a few days.
Aside from the Lost City and Tayrona, Taganga itself has a few other things going for it that keep people sticking around. Best of all was the hostel I stayed in, La Casa de Felipe, which is the nicest I’ve stayed in. Perched at the top of the village with a view across the bay, it’s a fantastically relaxing place, much more spread out than most, with a lovely garden for wasting time chilling out in hammocks. Probably the most unexpected feature there is the restaurant. Most hostels I’ve stayed in don’t serve food at all (or at best offer breakfast). Not Casa de Felipe. They have a French chef who makes amazing food at very reasonable prices for Colombia. The place is packed out every evening as people come from all the other hostels, mostly attracted by his amazing filet mignon in a red wine sauce. If only backpacking was always like this.
After filling up on steak, the place is pretty lively in the evening too. There’s always something going on the beach, which is where we ended up most nights, and on Wednesday the village fills up with Colombians coming up from nearby Santa Marta to visit the one nightclub in town, El Garaje. It’s semi open-air, and is a fantastically relaxed spot to spend an evening, dancing (or in the case of most gringos, not dancing but sitting there admiring and envying all the locals salsaing away. Shame I have two left feet or I’d have been up there with them) and chatting away, followed by heading back to the beach to continue the partying into the small hours.
With all that to do I managed to spend nearly two weeks in the area, and still didn’t even get to try out the other thing the area is famous for, its diving. I kind of wish I’d hung around for a few days more to get my advanced course done, but I just never seemed to have the time. It’s the kind of place that willl do that to you – pretty much everyone I met ended up overstaying for days (weeks even) longer than planned.