Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Park

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Park

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (hereinafter the abbreviation SNSM will be used) is located at 11° north latitude and, according to its orientation, extends between 74°20′ west longitude and 73° 45′ east. It is the highest coastal mountain on the planet, where its highest peak reaches 5,775 meters above sea level in only 42 linear kilometers from the coastal strip of the Caribbean Sea. On it converge the jurisdictions of three departments: Magdalena, Cesar and La Guajira.

Since 1964, the SNSM has contained two special conservation management areas, the Sierra Nevada and Tayrona national parks. Between them, they represent 398,000 hectares of area for conservation of the 2,527,760 hectares contained in the Sierra Nevada mountain massif; in other words, the protected natural areas represent 15.74% of the mountain massif. Since 1979, the first of these was declared a Biosphere Reserve.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the cultural space of origin of the Tayrona people.

The Sierra is home to four indigenous peoples in the heart of the same territory: the Kogui, the Arhuaco, the Wiwa and the Kuankamos.

In 1974 the Arhuaca Reserve was created, which later became a Resguardo, with an area of approximately 196,000 hectares, located in the departments of Cesar (municipalities of Valledupar and Pueblo Bello) and Magdalena (municipalities of Fundación and Aracataca). In 1980 the national government created the Kogi-Malayo Resguardo in the departments of Magdalena and La Guajira, with an initial area of 364,840 hectares, which was later expanded by 19,200 hectares, between the Palomino and Don Diego rivers, giving it access to the sea.

Some of the most recognized names of the SNSM peaks are: Simón Bolívar, Codazzi, Colón, Guardían.

The rivers that originate in the SNSM, to the north we find the Palomino and Don Diego rivers that drain directly to the Caribbean Sea. On the western slope there are other sub-basins such as the Marunchucua, Pasiamanchucua, and Neiva-Viscungue that collect numerous primary rivers and second and third order streams, which then flow into the Aracataca River that drains into the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta. As for the southeastern slope, the Guatapurí River collects drainage from the Dunachi and Curiba rivers.

The rivers that rise in the Sierra Nevada produce more than 10,000 million cubic meters of water per year, part of which becomes a source of water for 1.5 million people. The watersheds form alluvial valleys in the flat and surrounding areas of the Sierra, which together cover more than 280,000 hectares of fertile land. Based on the aridity index indicator, it was established that the Sierra Nevada has acceptable water availability, but there is also high pressure on its watersheds.

In summary, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a great “water star” that produces some 10,000 million cubic meters of water per year, of which a large percentage runs directly into the Caribbean Sea, the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta or the Ciénaga de Zapatosa.

It is important to be aware of emblematic places in the Sierra:

  • Pueblo Bello nestled in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta.
  • Nabusimake.
  • Within this mountainous massif is an area of particular scenic beauty and cultural significance, considered a sacred site for the four indigenous peoples of the Sierra, the Teyuna Archaeological Park “Ciudad Perdida” (Lost City).

In the SNSM you can find more than 350 species of birds, and in the lower areas of the mountains as Minca you can see a great variety of them, likewise in the palafitos villages of the large swamp is increasing every day the visit of tourists for bird watching.

The rich biodiversity of the SNSM is clearly evident. It is an oxygen lung that deserves every effort to conserve it from the different authorities, including companies and tourists who must follow rigorous protocols in permitted areas and comply with the standards required for these visits.

Visiting the SNSM can be done from Santa Marta to MINCA, La Victoria area.

Another option is to visit another part of the Sierra from Dibulla La Guajira. To get there from the city of Santa Marta or from Dibulla, a village in the foothills of the SNSM, take the road corridor that connects the capitals of Magdalena and La Guajira. (Riohacha). It is approximately 285 Km and 3 hours of trip.

There is also the alternative of visiting the foothills of the Sierra and part of the Sierra in Dibulla and Palomino.

From the Hotel Waya, there are two options, arrive in Riohacha and then go through the road corridor or take an alternate route from Albania that connects with Dibulla, it is approximately 122 Km, 2 hours of travel.


“ECONOMY OF ITS NATURAL RESOURCES”.  Joaquín Viloria de la Hoz.

National Parks of Colombia. www.parquesnacionales.gov.co

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