Tayrona Park, Colombia
There are few places in the world as beautiful and idyllic as Tayrona National Park. I spent three days there last August, basing my life on the rising and setting of the sun. We ate piles of fresh fruit every morning, big plates of meat and rice for dinner. We attempted to beat the stifling heat with ice cream, beer, water, but the only thing that really helped was going in the ocean. The water there was flecked with gold; it sparkled in our hands as we attempted to catch it.
There was little to do in Tayrona other than hike or relax, and I filled my days with the latter: reading, napping, lying in the sand, swimming, talking to other travellers. I slept surprisingly well given that I slept in a hammock surrounded by other people, but perhaps that is the benefit of all that sun and sea. And just like that, it was time to leave, time to head back to the road and to continue our path through the country. I could have stayed longer, though. I could have stayed for weeks.
I don't know why I've been thinking of Tayrona so much these past few days. Perhaps it's the excess of snow we're experiencing, perhaps this white landscape has me craving green trees and blue waters and pink skies. Perhaps it's because, once you've seen paradise, you can never really stop dreaming of it.
It's easy enough to get to Tayrona from either Santa Marta or Taganga - only a short bus ride away, the park follows the coast of Colombia, a mix of water and land that brings in over 200 000 visitors a year. Costing 40 000 Colombian pesos (approximately $25) for foreigners to enter, there are dozens of hikes and trails to follow, most culminating in beaches and views of the ocean. Tourists can stay at a number of sites, though most backpackers tend to gravitate toward the cheap hammocks and tents for rent at El Cabo, where lockers are available for valuables. Bring food if you can, as there are very limited places to eat and the prices are exorbitant. Cash is necessary as there are no ATMs in the jungle (duh). Alcohol is not allowed in the park (with the exception of beer bought at the restaurants within it) and any found by police will be confiscated. Be prepared to encounter a lot of police officers, and for a search of your bag and/or person.