“Parque Nacional Tayrona?” The bus driver looked at us blankly. Staying in a little village only a few miles down the road from the park entrance, we thought our journey should be simple enough. “Just flag down any bus, they all go past there”, we were assured.
It wasn’t till we looked around that we twigged this wasn’t a local bus. The blinds were all still closed and most of the passengers had that glazed look you get after a long, uncomfortable journey. A nightbus journey from Venezuela, to be exact. The driver insisted we sit down at the back, waking sleeping people to move their bags. Awkward. With the blinds half-closed it was hard to tell where we were so when we saw a handful of stalls and restaurants we had to yell out for the driver to stop.
The Tayrona National Park is a stunning place to visit if you’re in this part of the world. Maybe not if you’re not into nature, but even then I think it would win you round.
A minibus that’s seen better days takes you from the entrance to the trailhead where a boardwalk leads you into the forest. The trail loops around scattered boulders for just under an hour (or 45 mins if you’re a quick walker) till you escape out to the rocky headland. A lovely walk talks you up and down steps carved in the rock until you reach the first of the main beaches. Like most along this coast it’s not for swimming – signs warn ominously of the 200 swimmers who have lost their lives in the area in recent years.
You can easily spend a few hours walking the trails, along the beaches or enjoying a drink at one of the handful of campsites and restaurants scattered around the park. The beach most backpackers head to is El Cabo, the sands dazzling and flecked with fools’ gold. The water here is warm and the sheltered bay means it’s safe to swim. If you don’t fancy the trek out again when you leave the campground, boats wait to take you into a nearby town, although word is it’s a bumpy ride.
A note of caution: Several guidebooks mention the fact that Tayrona can be very popular/overcrowded during the Colombia national holidays in December and January and also around Easter time. So maybe plan a visit outside these times!