Tayrona Park, Colombia 

The fabled highlight of any backpacker trip to Colombia, Tayrona Park – the national park of jungle-fringed Caribbean beaches and wildlife treks – was number one on our ‘must do’ list for the country, and it did not disappoint.

Reminiscent of our holiday to Costa Rica, time in the park was divided between walks in the jungle and sunbathing on stunning beaches. With added rustic components of camping under coconut trees, showering outdoors and walking around camp with no shoes on.

Although our time in the park was chilled, planning around it was a little stress-inducing. We’d heard that everything in the park was SUPER expensivo, so we hit up a nearby town (Santa Marta) to load up on supplies – carb and protein heavy foods, plus TONS of bags of water – to avoid paying the premiums. This meant carting INSANELY heavy bags to the park (have you ever tried to lift 30L of water?!) – which resulted in a sweaty, cramped local bus journey, and a back-breaking walk to the entrance of the park, where we luckily could hire a horse to take our stuff the rest of the way!

As we trekked through the park to our camp spot, we fell in love with the park on sight. We saw bright green geckos, neon blue/yellow lizards darting everywhere, capuchins hanging from the trees, and dazzling views of azure seas dotted with huge boulders, peeking through the canopy.

We finally made it to our campsite, Don Pedro’s, and were reunited with our horsey buddy and our stuff, then camped up, took a stroll around the stunning site, inspecting the mango and coconut trees overhead. It was a beautiful place to wake up to – with hippy types making food on the wood burn ‘stove’ (just a place to burn wood!) – and with just enough facilities (flush loo, relatively consistent water) to survive.

The days melted together with walks to beaches – spotting monkeys, roosters, unidentified jungle creatures – followed by blissed-out hours on the sand. For the first few days we headed to Aranilla beach – a tiny, perfectly formed cove with thick trees to shade from the sun, and clear blue water flecked with gold, visible as you climbed in and out of the perfect warm waters.

After a brief rainy spell partway through, we then discovered further flung beaches – the tiny swim hole, ‘La Piscina’ and the ultimate star attraction – Cabo beach. Cabo’s bay is undeniably the most beautiful of all Tayrona, boasting clear bright waters that beg you to swim in them with their warmth and gentle waves; two neat curves of sand fringed by palms and an island in the middle toppled with an indigenous-looking hut strung with hammocks. We spent our last blissful day here, eating divine bakery goods from nearby Bere Bakery (we got obsessed with this place.. I would happily trade an organ for their chocolate-filled warm breads that contain a giant bar’s worth of melty chocolate goodness)

Oh yeah, back to the beach. So we sunbathed, floated in the perfect sea, snorkeled with bright blue fishies (not sure of the name, but the lady friend of Nemo in Finding Nemo… I wanna say Dorian??) and generally had a heavenly last day, struck with awe by the beauty of the place.

After one last breakfast of coffee and chocolate indulgence at aforementioned bakery heaven, we trekked back through the jungle with our much lighter bags in tow (minus insane amount of water) and took the local bus down the road to another beach spot, teeny tiny Palomino…