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It’s no major revelation to state that the main reason most tourists go to Santa Marta is to visit the attractions surrounding it. In other words, the city is a tourism hub solely because it’s close to places of greater interest and beauty. (It’s historic centre is quaint enough for sure and it has a bog-standard beach, but they’re not necessarily crowd-pullers in themselves.)
Of the many places of interest in the region, the best known are, arguably, Parque Tayrona and The Lost City, La Ciudad Perdida. Indeed, by all accounts the latter has become almost too well-known compared to our first and thus far only virtually-solo trek there back in early 2009. It’s not that ‘lost’ at all these days so it seems. An inevitable result of Colombia’s growing popularity that.
Nonetheless — and thankfully for those of us seeking less-crowded locations — the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this being the mountain range that surrounds the city, still has plenty of fairly remote spots to discover. And we don’t have to go too far out of our way to find them.
In fact, about an hour’s combined bus and moto-taxi ride from the city centre, via the suburb of Bonda and the village of Masinga, there’s the quite stunning Paso del Mango. Similar to rural parts of Colombia’s coffee region, many of the farms (fincas) here offer peaceful, sustainable mountain living but with the special bonus of the beach, should you want it, being just a stone’s throw away, relatively speaking.
However, considering just the trickle of visitors the place seems to get, you mightn’t be too pushed to leave the tree-shaded serenity it offers.
The small rivers that race towards the Caribbean around here regularly have their flow interrupted, resulting in impressive waterfalls that call out to you well before you can see them.
Aside from being picturesque, the little pools they’ve created provide a very refreshing dip after trekking in the tropical sun — not forgetting the natural massage the cascading water provides should you wish. What’s more, there’s a good chance you’ll have them all pretty much to yourself to relax and unwind in.
Speaking of unwinding, another plus point for us was that there was no mobile phone signal in the finca we overnighted in.* Seeing as how addicted many of us have become to our handheld devices, rarely disconnecting even when on holidays, a bit of forced rehab is a very healthy thing every now and again. (At the risk of ruining the image, we must point out here that the finca’s caretakers, a young local family, do have cable TV. We were able to avoid that, though.)
Lying in pitch darkness, the gentle sounds of a busy nocturnal jungle and flow of a nearby river are therapeutic-like (interrupted by the odd dog bark albeit and, if things get sticky, you may have to turn on a fan. Nothing’s perfect, eh?).
Altogether, the biggest pull factor Paso del Mango has to offer is its tranquillity. With a few other fincas currently in construction, there is a risk it might lose a bit of that in the coming years. Here’s hoping it doesn’t. We’re all for development, but when we’re talking about a paradise like this, keep it sensible, sustainable and in harmony with the natural environment. It’s not too much to ask, is it?