The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve overlooks the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia. It is a sanctuary as well as a tourist attraction because it offers different climate, terrain, flora and fauna environments, ranging from beaches to snowy mountain peaks.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park is Colombia's second oldest national park, established in 1964. It is a sanctuary as well as a tourist attraction because it offers different climate, terrain, flora and fauna environments, ranging from beaches to snowy mountain peaks.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range separated from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. It is one of the world's highest coastal ranges and is home to a number of ecoregions, which vary with elevation.
The Guajira-Barranquilla xeric scrub region lies near the Caribbean seacoast to the north of the range.
The Sinú Valley dry forests cover the range's lower slopes, up to an elevation of 500 m (1,600 ft).
The Santa Marta montane forests lie above 500 m (1,600 ft) to 800 m (2,600 ft). The montane forests are separated from other moist forests by the lower-elevation dry forests and xeric shrublands, and have large numbers of endemic species.
The Santa Marta Páramo, a high altitude belt of montane grasslands and shrublands interspersed with marshes and acid bogs, occupies the zone between 3,300 m (10,800 ft) and 5,000 m (16,000 ft).
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve overlooks the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia. Most of the Biosphere Reserve (675,000 ha or 1,668,000 acres) lies in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the remaining 56,250 ha (139,000 acres) comprises Tayrona National Natural Park.
- Tayrona National Natural Park is a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as they meet the Caribbean coast. The park covers approximately 30 sq km (12 sq mi) of maritime area in the Caribbean sea and approximately 150 sq km (58 sq mi) of land. It’s known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rain forest and rich biodiversity. At its heart, the Pueblito ruins are an archaeological site accessed via forest trails, with terraces and structures built by the Tayrona civilization.
The Biosphere Reserve's area stretches from the Caribbean coast with a finely preserved coral reef, extensive beaches, several bays and inlets up to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with marked relief and steep slopes. Independent of the Andean chain, it rises to a height of 5,775 m (18,947 ft) above sea level, at a distance of only 42 km (26 miles) from the Caribbean coast. The snowy peaks called 'tundra' are considered sacred.
Vegetation ranges from sub-hydrophyte to snow levels and includes cloud forest and high barren plains. Three types of vegetation can be seen at Tayrona’s National Park: forest/scrub with dry forest and humid forest. Some of them are being modified by peasants engaged in agriculture and cattle grazing, and also extraction of high-value timber, especially in the coffee belt.
Of the estimated population of 211,000 (1999) some 26,500 indigenous peoples, particularly the Arhuaco, Kogui and Wiwa live in indigenous reserves, but also a considerable number live outside these areas. Ethnic groups try to develop a policy for the recovery of their ancestral lands in order to strengthen their culture and assist their traditional conservation practices.
There is no management policy of the reserve as a whole and the zonation is not clear. However, scientific diagnosis and technical assessments have contributed to the elaboration of a sustainable development plan with programs in the Sierra Nevada National Park, in agroecology, fish farming and environmental health.
The area is of great archaeological value particularly with sites such as Ciudad Perdida as well as many artifacts of Tayrona culture.