Tayrona National Park
Photograph by Jane Sweeney, Corbis
Pristine Caribbean beaches make Tayrona National Park a standout in northern Colombia. The park is one of several natural and cultural attractions in the area that include the 16th-century city of Santa Marta and Ciudad Perdida, an archaeological site to rival Machu Picchu.
Photograph by Carlos Villalon, Redux
Eco-friendly bungalows along the pristine beaches of nearby Tayrona National Park offer a tranquil base from which to begin the vigorous three-day uphill hike past traditional villages of the Kogui people.
Photograph by Fabio Cuttica, Contrasto/Redux
An Arhuaco man works in a coffee warehouse in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Arhuaco, believed to be descended from the Tayrona people, produce coffee in the north Colombian mountains.
Photograph by Christian Heeb, laif/Redux
Travelers to Ciudad Perdida launch from seaside Santa Marta, founded in 1525. The Caribbean rhythms of salsa burst from the town’s clubs; plantains and chicken sizzle at streetside stalls.
Photograph by Dennis Drenner, Getty Images
A group of hikers climbs a stone staircase to reach Ciudad Perdida.
Photograph by Fausto Giaccone, Anzenberger/Redux
Just over 35 years ago, Ciudad Perdida, the “lost city,” was—like much of Colombia—undiscovered and off-limits for travel. This spectacular archaeological site in northern Colombia had disappeared into inaccessible wilderness populated by violent militia and drug traffickers. Now the cleared mountaintop terraces (above) shine like a green grassy beacon declaring the country’s rebirth as a travel destination at the crossroads of the Caribbean and South America.