How to Get From Medellin to Santa Marta: 2 Best Ways & Why Visit

medellin to santa marta

Are you looking for the best way to travel from the vibrant city of Medellin to the coastal paradise of Santa Marta?

Having traversed this route in both directions, join me as I guide you through the intricacies of reaching Santa Marta seamlessly. From transportation options, costs, and practical tips, I share firsthand insights to ensure your travel is smooth and enjoyable.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • Efficient bus and flight options from Medellin to Santa Marta
  • Cost breakdowns and tips for budget-friendly travel
  • Airport and bus terminal insights for hassle-free transitions
  • The best times to visit Santa Marta for a delightful experience

Join me as we explore the routes and uncover the best ways to reach Santa Marta from Medellin!

Where is Santa Marta?

Santa Marta, located along the northern coast of Colombia, boasts a captivating blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African cultures, akin to the charm of Cartagena. Established in 1525 by the Spanish, it stands as one of the oldest cities in the Americas, evident in its well-preserved cobblestone streets and historic architecture.

Beyond its historical allure, Santa Marta unfolds as a tropical haven, surrounded by breathtaking beaches and picturesque landscapes. Whether you seek hidden beaches or venture into the mountains, Santa Marta offers a diverse range of natural wonders.

Accessing this gem often involves a short domestic flight or a lengthy overnight bus ride, both economical choices. Having experienced both, I recommend the flight, particularly from Medellin. The journey unfolds as a seamless transition to this coastal paradise.

Why Visit Santa Marta?

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Santa Marta, a coastal haven on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, beckons with unparalleled beaches, a stark departure from the norm in South America. Here, pristine white sands meet the crystal-clear turquoise waters, framed by swaying palm trees, creating an idyllic paradise.

But Santa Marta offers more than just beaches. Dive into the natural beauty of Tayrona National Park, where sandy shores invite you to become a beach aficionado. Experience the laid-back vibes of Taganga, a coastal gem perfect for relaxation and mastering SCUBA skills—I earned my PADI Open Water certification here.

For the adventurous, embark on a jungle trek to Ciudad Perdida, a three to five day odyssey revealing ancient wonders. Indulge your taste buds at street stalls, savoring local ceviche, and delve into history at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.

Immerse yourself in cultural treasures at the Museo del Oro, unwind at El Rodadero’s best beach, feasting on fresh lobster, or lounge on the sands of Playa Blanca. Engage in the vibrant energy of Parque de los Novios, explore the mountainous landscapes of Minca, and embrace the eclectic atmosphere while mingling with the vacation crowd.

Medellin to Santa Marta Bus – Cheapest Option

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Colombia’s buses, known for their affordability and safety, usually reign supreme in transportation. However, the 18-hour+ bus ride from Medellín to Santa Marta poses a considerable challenge. Despite the comfort and budget-friendly nature of Colombian buses, this lengthy journey prompts a rethink. Flying becomes a compelling alternative for those seeking a quicker and more efficient route, especially for travelers keen on sidestepping the airport hassle. Yet, for the resilient road tripper determined to avoid air travel, here’s a guide on navigating the extensive bus network from Medellín to Santa Marta.

Getting to the Medellin Bus Terminal

The journey to Santa Marta begins at Medellín’s bustling northern bus terminal, Terminal Norte, conveniently linked to the Caribe Metro Station. Whether you’re in El Poblado or Laureles, a seamless commute awaits. From El Poblado or Laureles, stroll to the metro (Poblado or Estadio Station), purchase a one-way ticket (all fares are uniform), and board the train heading to Niquía. Alight at Caribe Metro Station, seamlessly integrated with Terminal Norte. If you’re departing from Estadio, a transfer at San Antonio is necessary.

Opting for an Uber or taxi? A reasonably priced 10,000 – 15,000 COP ride from El Poblado or Laureles to Terminal Norte is a convenient alternative. Keep in mind that rates may fluctuate based on the time of day and traffic conditions.

How to Book Medellin to Santa Marta Bus

Upon arriving at Terminal Norte, streamline your journey to Santa Marta by heading directly to ticket windows 22-24 or 31. Your gateway to the coast is facilitated by three major companies—Expreso Brasilia, Transportes Rápido Ochoa, and Unitransco S.A. Having personally enjoyed reliable service with Expreso Brasilia, it stands out as a top choice. While various departure times exist, opting for a night bus provides the chance to rest during the extensive journey.

For a smooth booking process, consider the flexibility of departure options between 8 pm and 10 pm, arriving at Santa Marta around 12 pm or 2 pm the next day (though delays are common). While spontaneous ticket purchases are feasible, it’s prudent to pre-book during peak tourist seasons like North American/European summer or holidays. Utilize the user-friendly BusBud comparison site to check routes, current timetables, and secure online tickets, or navigate the straightforward Expreso Brasilia website if you’re comfortable with Spanish.

Medellin to Santa Marta Bus Cost

Prepare for a wallet pinch—the Expreso Brasilia bus journey from Medellín to Santa Marta commands a hefty 199,500 COP. Other major companies generally match this price tag. While this might seem steep compared to Colombia’s typically backpacker-friendly transport, the Medellín to Santa Marta route is an exception. If flying isn’t on your agenda, consider this your primary option, albeit a pricier one in the Colombian overland travel landscape.

Medellin to Santa Marta Bus Schedule

While bus companies suggest a 16-17.5-hour journey from Medellín to Santa Marta, anticipate a more realistic timeframe of 18-20 hours. Delays are common in Colombian travel, and it’s not uncommon to surpass the estimated hours, especially in the face of traffic or road conditions. Despite the potential for tardiness, the journey is a comfortable one. Colombian buses, including Expreso Brasilia, boast plush seats and seat-back TVs playing Spanish films. Most buses on this route also feature onboard toilets, though strategic seating away from the facilities is advisable to avoid unwanted disturbances.

Prepare for the journey by packing a jumper or blanket in your carry-on, as the air conditioning tends to be robust, I’ve learned the hard way on several occasions. Ensuring your comfort is essential for a trip that might extend beyond the initially stated hours.

Tips For Medellin to Santa Marta Bus

Maximize comfort on your Medellín to Santa Marta bus journey with a few savvy tips. Prior to boarding, explore the abundance of shops and restaurants at the bus terminal to stock up on snacks and drinks. You’ll find an array of options to suit your preferences.

When boarding, your ticket will be checked, and your larger bag will be tagged for storage under the bus. A copy of this tag ensures easy retrieval later. While this process is secure, safeguard your valuables by keeping them in a carry-on to minimize potential wear during the journey.

Getting From Santa Marta Bus Terminal

Your journey concludes seamlessly at the Santa Marta bus terminal, a mere 10 minutes from the city center. The swift proximity ensures a quick and easy final step before you can unwind. Depending on your hostel’s location, securing a taxi for a prompt 7,000 to 15,000 COP allows you to swiftly transition from the terminal to your accommodation, bringing you one step closer to the relaxation awaiting you in Santa Marta.

Medellin to Santa Marta Flight – Fastest Option

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Opting for a flight from Medellín to Santa Marta is the wisest choice on this route. The 18-20 hour bus journey, though scenic, can be daunting, especially for those unaccustomed to lengthy rides. Surprisingly, the 45-minute flight is not only more time-efficient but also not much more expensive, even when factoring in checked baggage and shared transport to the airport. While some may argue about missing the landscape between Medellín and Santa Marta, the additional 15 hours gained by flying provide ample opportunity to savor the beauty of Santa Marta beyond the confines of a bus.

Getting to the Medellin Airport

Reaching José María Cordova International Airport (MDE), situated 35km outside Medellín in Rionegro, is no quick Metro train ride. Fortunately, a newly completed mountain tunnel has trimmed the drive from Medellín to the airport to approximately 30 minutes. For a swift and hassle-free journey, a taxi or Uber is your optimal choice, albeit pricier. While shared transport via colectivos to San Diego Mall and onward to the airport is an option, it may prove less straightforward, especially for those unfamiliar with the city or traveling with multiple bags. Regardless, we’ve navigated both routes without issues, and tend to prefer the colectivos method to save on costs.

How to Book Medellin to Santa Marta Flight

For the best flight deals, we like to use Aviasales or Skyscanner. Optimal booking is at least a week in advance to secure the most favorable prices.

Who Doesn’t Love Cheap Flights?

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Skyscanner is your trusted service for buying cheap flight tickets, with no extra fees or markups! Their flight search will not only find the best option for your specific dates, but it will also offer another period when the cost may be even lower.

Medellin to Santa Marta Flight Time

Experience a quick and comfortable flight from Medellín to Santa Marta, lasting under 1 hour, with some flights as short as 45 minutes. While budget airlines may lack frills, the brief duration ensures a convenient and efficient journey between these Colombian destinations.

Medellin to Santa Marta Flight Cost

Secure your roundtrip flight from Medellín to Santa Marta for approximately $92 USD. Exercise caution when booking, considering recent instability in Colombian airlines. Viva Colombia’s recent bankruptcy filing emphasizes the importance of travel insurance to safeguard against unforeseen circumstances.

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Getting from Santa Marta Airport

Upon landing at Simón Bolívar International Airport, Santa Marta, opt for the economical minibus outside the terminal, connecting to central Santa Marta for a mere 2,000 COP. No need to fret about route numbers; all buses essentially lead to the city center, albeit with a potential 1-hour+ travel time. For a quicker, hassle-free option, taxis are readily available at around 25,000 COP, swiftly transporting you the 15km to your accommodation in Santa Marta.

Traveling from Santa Marta to Minca

You can’t go to Santa Marta without visiting Minca, a Colombian gem for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers, conveniently accessible from Santa Marta. Opt for the economical colectivo, as detailed in our post below.

When is the Best Time to Visit Santa Marta?

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Optimal times to visit Santa Marta are during the dry seasons, spanning December to mid-April and June to early September. These periods offer calmer waters and reduced rainfall, providing an ideal climate for exploration and enjoyment in Santa Marta, Colombia. Plan your visit during these months for a more comfortable and weather-friendly experience in this coastal paradise.

Santa Marta FAQ’s

How Long Does it Take to Get From Medellín to Santa Marta?

Flying from Medellin to Santa Marta takes under 45 minutes, plus an hour for check-in if you have luggage. In total, expect about 3 hours. Opting for the bus? Brace yourself for an 18-20 hour journey.

Is Santa Marta Closer to Medellín or Bogota?

Santa Marta is closer to Medellín. The flight from Medellin is around 660 km, while from Bogota, it’s approximately 770 km. Opting for a quicker route, Medellín is the more convenient starting point.

How far in advance should I book a flight from Medellín to Santa Marta?

For the best prices and options, aim to book your flight at least a week in advance. Keep in mind the stability of Colombian airlines and ensure your travel insurance is in place for added security.

Which airlines provide the cheapest flights from Medellín to Santa Marta?

Look for budget-friendly options with LATAM or Avianca when booking your flight from Medellín to Santa Marta. These carriers often offer competitive prices for a cost-effective journey to your coastal destination.

Which airlines fly non-stop between Medellín and Santa Marta?

Enjoy a seamless journey with direct flights from Medellin to Santa Marta by LATAM Airlines and Avianca. These carriers provide a convenient non-stop option for your travel between these two Colombian cities.

What’s the Altitude Difference Between Medellin and Santa Marta?

Medellin sits at an elevation of 1,495 meters, while Santa Marta is at sea level. Experience a significant altitude change, transitioning from the mountainous terrain of Medellin to the coastal beauty of Santa Marta.

Is Santa Marta Close to Medellin?

Santa Marta is approximately 660 kilometers away from Medellin. While the distance is substantial, the efficient transportation options, including flights and buses, make it quite manageable.

Is Santa Marta More Expensive Than Medellin?

Generally, Santa Marta tends to be more budget-friendly than Medellin. While both cities offer diverse experiences, the cost of living, accommodations, and activities in Santa Marta often present a more economical choice for travelers compared to the bustling city of Medellin.

Do I need a passport to fly between Medellín and Santa Marta?

No, a passport is not required for domestic flights within Colombia. Travel conveniently between Medellín and Santa Marta with just your identification, making the journey hassle-free for local and international travelers alike.

Which is the best airline for flights from Medellín to Santa Marta?

Avianca, LATAM, and Wingo stand out as the preferred choices for flights from Medellín to Santa Marta. Known for reliability and service, these airlines offer a comfortable and efficient travel experience between these two Colombian cities.

Is there a way to reach Santa Marta from Medellín without flying?

Certainly! Opt for the bus, a budget-friendly and secure option, offering an easy journey between Medellín and Santa Marta. Embrace the scenic route with comfort or explore carpooling services for added convenience on this overland adventure.

How frequently do buses run from Medellín to Santa Marta each day?

Experience daily convenience with approximately 7 buses available from operators like Expreso Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa. Note that the frequency might vary based on the day of the week.

What are the departure and arrival stations when taking the bus from Medellín to Santa Marta?

Depart conveniently from Terminal del Norte in Medellín, and arrive at Terminal Santa Marta. While these are the main stations, explore additional pick-up and drop-off locations for enhanced flexibility on your journey between Medellín and Santa Marta.

What is the most cost-effective way to go from Medellín to Santa Marta?

Opt for the cost-effective bus journey, starting at $42 USD, for the most budget-friendly option from Medellín to Santa Marta.

Is Santa Marta Worth Visiting?

And there you have it, a comprehensive guide on navigating the journey from Medellín to Santa Marta, covering transportation options, points of interest, and travel tips.

If you’re still pondering whether Santa Marta is worth the visit, let us assure you – it absolutely is! From its rich historical roots dating back to 1525 to the captivating mix of indigenous, Spanish, and African cultures, Santa Marta promises a unique and vibrant experience.

In the realm of natural wonders, the city boasts breathtaking beaches and landscapes, offering a tropical paradise that beckons exploration. Whether you choose to bask in the beauty of Tayrona National Park, dive into the underwater wonders of Taganga, or embark on a jungle trek to Ciudad Perdida, Santa Marta unfolds as a treasure trove of adventure.

So, begin your journey from Medellín to Santa Marta with excitement, curiosity, and the knowledge that a tapestry of experiences is waiting for you. Safe travels, and may your Santa Marta adventure be as memorable as the city itself! Feel free to share your thoughts or questions below, and happy exploring in Colombia!


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