When it comes to South America, it would be hard to find a bucket list that doesn’t include Machu Picchu. As traveling is slowly allowed again, Machu Picchu’s popularity is surging. The trend is clear, with queries like “visiting Machu Picchu” and “best time to visit Machu Picchu” growing over 5,000% in Google over the last year, Americans want to travel again.
Since UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a world heritage site in 1983, millions of people have flocked to see the place.
However, Machu Picchu is incredibly expensive, so why not look for something in the third most beautiful country in the world, Colombia? Along Colombia’s Caribbean coast is the renowned Tayrona National Park, a national park with jungle and some of the best beaches in Colombia.
Tayrona doesn’t get overrun by tourists as much as Machu Picchu, giving it a more relaxed and unique vibe. People love the national park and are raving about the diversity inside. But should you bump Machu Picchu off your bucket list?
Is Machu Picchu Overrated?
While Machu Picchu is unique and incredibly beautiful, it’s not for everyone. Many compare Machu Picchu to Disneyland because of the big crowds and long lines.
Machu Picchu is quite easy to get to. You can take a train directly to the town of Aguas Calientes, where you can take the bus up to the ancient ruins. You can go by bus and hike from there.
One thing is certain, Machu Picchu is not cheap. Tickets to Machu Picchu often must be booked in advance, especially if traveling in the high season. Tickets to walking the popular Inca trail have a maximum number of visitors that can walk the hike, which means prices surge and tickets are hard to get. Even budget accommodations in Cusco are few and far between.
If you’re a budget traveler or want to discover up-and-coming Colombia, consider adding Tayrona National Park to your bucket list instead.
What Is Tayrona National Park?
Tayrona is a national park that UNESCO has nominated as one of the most important parks in the world. The Tairona people, who lived there thousands of years ago, gave Tayrona National Park it’s name. Their descendants, the indigenous Kogi people, still live inside the national park in traditional thatched-roof huts.
Tayrona is known for its huge biodiversity, including over 300 bird species, 400 types of fish, 100 types of mammals, 770 plant species, and over 100 species of coral. This type of diversity means the park attracts culture lovers, hikers, backpacks, and snorkelers.
It’s magical to wander along its jungle trails between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Caribbean coast. The coastline in the park shows white sand beaches, secluded bays, and blue waters. Tayrona is ideal if you love nature, want to see unique landscapes, enjoy the beach, and relax.
Planning Your Stay
From the big cities in Colombia, like Medellin and Bogota, you can fly into Santa Marta. From there, you can take the bus or arrange a tour of Tayrona National Park.
When looking for accommodations around the Santa Marta area, consider staying at the Hilton Santa Marta, scheduled to open in early 2023. The 261-room hotel will offer Caribbean Sea views and a short walk to the area’s beautiful beaches. You can also explore nearby sites such as the Sierra Nevada green mountains and Tayrona National Park. Guests will also enjoy contemporary Colombian cuisine onsite.
For those looking for an experience inside the national park, plenty of cabins and campsites are scattered throughout the park. Many campsites offer amenities such as electricity, showers, and bathrooms along with stunning rainforest views. If you’re looking for a more traditional camping experience, you can rent a hammock or tent and pitch it in the park.
What Makes Colombia Special?
Colombia is a trendy destination, yet still uncrowded.
“According to data from ForwardKeys, bookings to Colombia for the mid-year season exceeded the 2021 record by 148%, and the country has experienced a solid recovery thanks to its safety, work(ing) hand in hand with the airlines, tour operators, travel agents, and the awakening of a demand that is looking for meaningful travel,” says Gilberto Salcedo, Tourism Vice President of ProColombia, a government agency tied to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism.
As a matter of fact, in early September, the prestigious World Travel Awards granted Colombia a total of 14 recognitions, including San Andrés ‘Leading beach destination’; Medellín ‘Leading Emerging Destination’; Bogotá, ‘Leading business destination’; Cali, ‘Leading Cultural City’; Barranquilla, ‘Leading destination for festivities and events’ and Cartagena, as ‘Leading destination for honeymoons,’ amongst others.
From snow-capped mountains right next to pristine beaches to a desert that meets with the ocean and National Natural Parks, both remote or embedded within cosmopolitan cities, Colombia has several countries in one, and all these are yours to explore.
A Suitable Alternative
When looking for alternatives to Machu Picchu, National Park Tayrona in Colombia might be what you’re looking for. Its pristine beaches, incredible nature, and authentic culture make it a destination worthy of your bucket list.
While Machu Picchu is overrun with visitors, Tayrona offers a unique and jaw-dropping experience without the crowds. Don’t wait to visit, as the jungle trails and secluded blue-water bays in Tayrona mean that more and more people are visiting.
For most travelers, visiting Tayrona instead of Machu Picchu will mean you get an equally extraordinary and unforgettable experience while getting more bang for your buck.
This post was produced by Spark Nomad and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.