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What Is Tayrona National Park?

Debra Barnhart
Debra Barnhart

Tayrona National Park, or Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona in Spanish, is 58-mile (93.342-km) tract of mountainous equatorial rain forest that tips down onto the Caribbean shoreline. Located in Columbia, the park offers a variety of tourist activities and accommodations and is one of the most bio-diverse areas in South America. During the 1980s the park was an area of conflict, but the Columbian government has since successfully preserved the park's natural resources and turned it back into a popular tourist attraction.

Located near the town of Santa Marta, the oldest town in Columbia, Tayrona National Park has rainforest covered slopes and Caribbean beaches that make it a South American gem. Its main attractions include the vegetation, diverse wildlife, ancient Native American sites, and of course beaches. Coconut palm trees provide a shady respite, and visitors can swim among coral reefs. The beaches have been described as enchanting.

Coral reefs, like this one, are found in Tayrona National Park.
Coral reefs, like this one, are found in Tayrona National Park.

Tayrona National Park has two ecosystems — jungle and beach, and for this reason it has a multitude of plants and animals. Jaguars, monkeys, toucans, woodpeckers and violet-colored crabs are all at home in Tayrona National Park. According to some reports, over 200 species of birds live in the park as well as 100 species of mammals and 50 species of reptiles. The coral reefs of the Caribbean shoreline are teeming with aquatic life.

Backpacking, guided tours, horseback riding and camping are just some of the activities that tourists can enjoy at Tayrona National Park. Puebilito, which is part of the park, is the remains of a Kogui Indian city that thrived until the Spanish arrived in Columbia. Visitors can hike along ancient stone roads that lead to the site.

For overnight stays, lodges reminiscent of Kogui Indian dwellings are available to tourists. Those interested in a more economical vacation can use the campsites or rent a hammock for overnight stays. The park has several fine restaurants, and seafood is a staple. Peak tourist months are December through February, and the two rainy seasons are between May and June and September and November.

Tayrona National Park was once a war zone and a haven for drug traffickers. In 2003, however, the Columbian government cracked down on guerilla groups and those involved in the drug trade. The park is relatively safe for tourists in 2011, although the idea of sleeping outdoors in a hammock with jaguars roaming around at night might cause some people to pause.

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    • Coral reefs, like this one, are found in Tayrona National Park.
      By: Richard Carey
      Coral reefs, like this one, are found in Tayrona National Park.