Paradise is an overused term. The slightest hint of a white, sandy beach and clear, blue water has become synonymous with the word. We picture an idyllic, tranquil spot, hidden from prying eyes and bathed in the warm rays of a setting sun. But with a plethora of these so-called ‘paradise’ beaches to choose from all over the world, it is surely reasonable to demand more from our idea of utopia?
Tayrona National Park in Colombia offers a lot more than just the backdrop of pristine Caribbean beaches. It is rich in wildlife, historical relics, mountainous terrain and rainforest, all of which make this park a paradise for all types of traveller. I would strongly recommend Hotel Jasayma as a place to stay. An intentional lack of electricity meant that we would sleep and rise with the sun, often greeted by the call of monkeys in the trees just metres from the luxurious four-poster beds. Delicious meals were included in the price and the location was central enough for us to explore all areas of the park, but without the irritation of too many other foreigners.
If it is beaches you seek, then Tayrona has plenty: Cabo San Juan, La Piscina, Los Naranjos and Arrecifes are some of the most popular, but the further away from the crowds, the more secluded and ‘paradisiacal’ they become. One could easily spend days lounging around on Tayrona’s beaches, reading, sunbathing, swimming and perhaps playing a spot of beach golf.
Although Tayrona is abundant in beautiful beaches, its real beauty lies in the interior. Hiking through forests among a staggering variety of wildlife is exciting and as the rocky passes climb higher and higher, the views of the water and beaches become ever more impressive. The park is reportedly home to over 300 species of bird, as well as hundreds of mammals and sea-dwelling creatures, so it’s the perfect spot for animal enthusiasts.
I would highly recommend hiking up to the ancient relics of El Pueblito, formerly home to a local tribe, but now resembling something similar to a tiny version of Machu Pichu, but devoid of tourists and hidden away in the trees. The walk is demanding, especially in the sweltering heat that often engulfs the forest, but the track cuts a beautiful path through the trees from the edge of the park on one side and then down through rocky traverses on its way to the beach on the other. There are few things more refreshing than a dip in the turquoise sea after several hours of tough, sweaty hiking.
Everyone has different expectations of the perfect place to relax or while away the hours on holiday, but Tayrona has all the attributes to meet and possibly exceed most of those expectations. Parque Nacional de Tayrona: paradise found.