Bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena and Bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta
There’s just no denying it: riding a bus across Colombia is the number one way to experience this country’s storied landscape; revealing a tale that is paralleled only by its diversity.
At AndesTransit we hold true to the belief that the bus is mightier than the plane when it comes to fulfilling travel throughout South America. It’s the old school mode of travel, the one where the journey is just as important as the destination.
If that sounds ideal to you, why not use the Reserve Now button above to book your bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
But if you want to find out more first, no problem! We’ve created this article as an all-encompassing “Santa Marta to Cartagena Bus Journey Guide”.
https://andestransit.com/Search?q=Q6m%2bRIGe6DQcmSXH9D4oLA%3d%3d https://andestransit.com/portal/en/bus-from-quito-to-cuenca-and-bus-from-cuenca-to-quito https://andestransit.com/portal/en/bus-from-lima-to-arequipa-and-bus-from-arequipa-to-lima https://andestransit.com/portal/en/bus-from-lima-to-trujillo-and-bus-from-trujillo-to-lima 05 hours 00 mins. Multiple departures daily $ 22
What are the buses in Colombia like?
The short answer: varied. The long answer? You get what you pay for. You see, the level of service, comfort, and reliability provided when riding a bus through Colombia is considerably inconsistent.
For example, if you take one of the cheapest buses, known as a local bus, mentally strap yourself in for what may be somewhat of an uncomfortable journey.
For starters, if you get any seating at all, it will be basic. That's because, with local buses, the number of passengers often exceeds the number of seats!
Furthermore, there almost certainly won’t be any AC, onboard toilet or entertainment facilities like a TV.
Of course, you’ll still be privy to the main perk of riding a bus through South America, with an incredible view of the landscape unfolding out beneath your window, complete with cheery vallenato music played over the loudspeakers.
However, if that's all cool with you, then you're ready to hop on board.
But there's something even better. Despite living up to their name, “luxury buses” in Colombia are exceptionally cheap.
You can easily ride in a luxury bus that features reclining (and reserved!) seat, AC, an onboard toilet and entertainment facilities, for not very much money at all. We’ll give more details on that later!
How long is the bus ride?
From Santa Marta to Cartagena is a 240km (149 miles) ride in total, giving you a journey that should take just 5 hours to complete.
All in all, this is an entirely feasible length of time; one that allows you to avoid both an uncomfortable early morning start and a late-night arrival.
You’ll also have enough time to explore your departure and arrival destinations. Plus, many of the bus routes between Santa Marta and Cartagena can let you off at a place you surely don't want to pass by the incredible Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, a real volcano gurgling up medicinal mud you can bathe in!.
So we really do want to hammer home this point: the journey itself will be an experience.
Between Cartagena and Santa Marta, you’ll go through coastal rainforests and the beaches that famous Carribean pirates commandeered ages ago, and get to sample the unique Colombian snacks that vendors come on board on occasion to sell.
You’ll pass through gleeful little Caribe towns and villages, the exterior of their buildings decorated in every color of the rainbow.
And of course; you’ll get a feel for the entire stretch of land that lies between these two mighty cities. This is without a doubt, the only way to truly appreciate what ties Santa Marta and Cartagena together.
What is the cost of traveling by bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
Generally speaking, the bus ride between Santa Marta and Cartagena will cost between $14 - 33 (44,000 - 104,000 COP). Why the variance in price? That’s actually due to several factors:
When you should go
Generally speaking with regard to bus travel, weekends and holidays are a little more expensive. In the case of bus tickets between Santa Marta and Cartagena (both popular with tourists and Colombian weekenders alike), Fridays and Sundays are the weekdays that tend to be slightly more expensive, but not much more.
When you should book
If you book these tickets in advance, they’ll be a little bit cheaper. Helpful to know if you’ve already decided and want to save a few bucks!
Which Bus Carrier you should Choose
As previously mentioned, there’s substantial differentiation between the quality of buses in Colombia. Most of the time, the more you pay, the cushier a journey you’ll end up having. If you’re seeking a more luxurious experience - think aircon, reclining seats, toilets & more - you’ll need to dish out a little extra (but not loads).
What are the bus schedules from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
We want to be completely upfront with you. Although Latin American bus systems have improved significantly over the last decade, the bus schedules can still be subject to unforeseen change.
In addition to this, not every online booking system has schedules that are up to date; sometimes even the bus carriers' websites reflect inaccurate schedules!
However, if you use AndesTransit, this won’t be a problem that you’re likely to encounter. That’s because we pride ourselves on always keeping our ear to the ground with bus companies and their operators to get the latest news and updates! We do the grunt work so that you don’t have to.
Where can I book bus tickets from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
There are two ways you can go about doing this:
This is definitely the quickest, lowest overall cost and most reliable way to book a bus ticket these days - kind of a no brainer, right?
If you want to book yourself a ticket from Santa Marta to Cartagena, it’s easy to use our booking section to do that - knowing full well that you’ll be getting the best seats at a great price. Just click the Reserve Now button at the top of this page to get started!
If truth be told, we don’t really recommend this. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also possible to go all the way down to the bus office only to find out that the precise time you wanted to leave, isn’t available. And the bus stations in both Cartagena and Santa Marta are on the exact opposite sides of the city than where you want to be spending your time.
Plus, unless you intend to leave it to the last minute to check the availability of your preferred time, you’ll have to get to the bus office twice, once to buy your tickets and again on the day your bus leaves.
Why book with AndesTransit?
At AndesTransit we separate ourselves from the pack by providing fantastic customer service and are fluent in both English and Spanish (not just the language, but the communication styles and customs).
That’s why, unlike so many other bus booking companies, we provide you better insight, better personal attention, and better preparation, while still offering tickets at prices you'll love.
We honestly feel that slow travel equals meaningful travel, after all, the stories you get to tell of the real Colombia will only be found in the places you see in between the big tourist cities. When it comes to traversing the breathtaking back roads of Colombia, this is especially the case. Trust us on that one.
That’s why we only show bus carriers whom we know we can vouch for; ones that’ll make your journey a truly special one.
What is the best bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
There’s a fair number of bus carriers that run between Santa Marta and Cartagena, but if you’re looking for the most comfortable and without a doubt the best value for money, the choice is obvious:
Executive Direct Shuttle. This isn’t actually a bus, but a shared mini-van that’s able to take up to fifteen passengers. Despite the wagon being modernized and having air-con, it’s just $30 for a seat, which is infinitely less than you would ever pay for a taxi or Uber running this service. Get ready to travel in uncrowded, aircon-refreshed, ultra-comfortable bliss, and meet some new friends to pass the time!
What to see in Santa Marta
Founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish Conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, its oldest surviving city and second oldest in all of South America.
Located on the tropical Santa Marta Bay of the Carribean Sea in the province of Magdelena, it’s well known for the incredible surrounding natural landscape such as Tayrona National Park and Minca...as well as for being a jostling seaside party city.
There are so many things to do there, it made choosing a few of our favorites difficult, but here goes:
#1 - Visit Tayrona National Park
34km out of the city center of Santa Marta lies Tayrona National Park, which presents rich biodiversity endemic to Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range that the park lies at the foot of. It is said that Tayrona is becoming one of the three things in South America that you have to see before you die (the other two being Machu Picchu and Foz do Iguazu falls).
With some of the best and most pristine beaches in Colombia, the park's stunning geography varies from arid sea level to hills roughly 900m above sea level, stretching a total area of 150 square kilometers across maritime and land.
With an extensive range of species including the mantled howler monkey, the northern tiger cat, deer, over 70 species of bat and over 300 species of birds (!), as well as reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, coral, molluscs, sponges and both river and saltwater fish, it’s a nature lover's paradise. There are also countless plant species.
But that’s not the only reason to go. Because of the lack of infrastructure, resulting in minimal light pollution, the night skies over Tayrona National Park are spectacularly beautiful.
It’s possible to stay in a basic hammock and hut accommodation here, so you can witness this amazing park for as many nights as you choose to stay.
Honestly, the pace of life at Tayrona National Park is slow, perfect for lazing about on some of the most unspoiled beaches in the country, with dazzling mountainous rainforests as a backdrop behind you.
There’s also great snorkeling to be had, and a trek throughout the entire park that can easily be completed in half a day. At dusk, listen for howler monkeys - they’ll be hard to miss!
#2 - Stay in Minca
Minca is a tranquil little village in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains overlooking Santa Marta.
Here, you’ll feel as if you are one with nature, reinforced by the fact that every direction you look, what greets you is the forest, tropical birds and giant iguanas.
Life is slow in Minca, but never dull. There are waterfalls to be conquered, coffee, and chocolate plantations to be toured, tropical bird walks to be embarked upon and trails to be climbed.
The most challenging trek is the 27km haul from Minca to the 3100m high Cerro Kennedy; the tallest point of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range you can venture to before further access is blocked by the military to protect the privacy of the indigenous tribes living beyond this point.
It will take two grueling days and a night, with only basic accommodation to stay in at the top. You’ll also definitely want to set off early both days to avoid the hottest part of each and the torrential downpour that normally comes around mid-afternoon.
However, trust us when we say that you won't regret the hike when you witness the mind-blowing views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain range that juts up from a belt of the jungle. Cerro Kennedy is without a doubt the best viewpoint for this true marvel.
Don’t be thrown when you meet westerners who went to Minca for a few days - and are still living there years later!
#3 - Embark upon the Lost City Trek
If you’re physically fit, love ancient history, and seek an adventure of a lifetime, you can’t miss a trek to Ciudad Perdida, literally translated as "the lost city"!
Only rediscovered in the 1970s, Ciudad Perdida predates the Incas by over a thousand years and is the remains of a mysterious civilization that once made the city their home, tucked into the mountainous jungle southeast of Santa Marta.
It’s a serious 4 - 6-day trek (you can choose the length!) over harsh terrain that rises as steeply as it falls. You’ll also have to book and go with a tour company. No independent and unguided trekkers are allowed.
Sure, you’ll be attacked by mosquitos, drenched by rainforest downpours, and lose a lot of weight from sweating as you struggle through the humid jungle. But it’ll all be worth it!
For some, the highlight is getting to the lost city, which one must ascend to up a long winding staircase of chipped ancient stone steps because the long-forgotten settlement sits high above a river. But once you're there, the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains are like looking out at the world as it existed thousands of years ago.
For others, the magic is every step of the way they took to get there, throughout which you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the cloud forest and several authentic indigenous villages along the way.
If you are tough and physically fit, and seek to discover a side of Colombia that has been forgotten to all but a few - do not miss the lost city trek!
What to see in Cartagena
Founded in 1533, Cartagena is another of Colombia's oldest cities and is also located alongside the glistening Carribean Sea.
In addition to its incredible beaches, Cartagena also attracts flocks of tourists thanks to its stunning colonial-era cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and thriving nightlife.
Surrounded by a sea wall built to fend off invading pirates, and studded with museums and exhibits, Cartagena has a rich and colorful history just waiting to be explored.
Add to that a nightlife of dancing and street parades, friendly Colombians all too eager to party the night away, a mud volcano, the Rosario Islands, and exquisite food - it’s easy to see why this city is currently seen as a number one must-visit destination in South America.
It was hard, but we’ve picked just three of our favorite things to do there - and these are:
#1 - Go for a swim in the Crater of...El Totumo Volcano!
The legend goes that El Totumo was once an active volcano that spewed fire, lava, and ashes until a local priest used holy water to transform it into mud.
Well, we can neither 100% confirm nor deny this, but what we can tell you with complete certainty, is that it’s entirely possible to take a mud bath in the crater of this 15m volcano. It’s even rumored that the mud has healing properties.
One of the reasons we picked El Totumo is a top activity in Cartagena is because of the stunning journey you have to make there, and it's an easy day-trip outside the city including a stop for a lunch of fresh-caught fish.
Once you get to the small town of El Totumo (Totumo is the name of a hard-shelled gourd the size of grapefruit), you’ll see a staircase leading to the crater, where visitors can climb into the volcano and brace themselves for a somewhat bizarre sensation.
You see, the mud is neither hot nor cold - nor can it be accurately described as thin or thick. Travelers report feeling weightless, as though they’re floating in the vast vacuum of space.
Next, you get to wash off, by stripping down to your shorts and clambering into the adjacent lake where attendants pour buckets of water over you to wash you off.
#2 - Take a stroll along the historic, pirate-proof City Walls
Don’t worry. The notorious pirates Francis Drake and Henry Morgan won't be attacking Cartagena anymore, but the city had to build massive walls to keep them out, and they stand to this day.
Nearly from Cartagena's founding and another 200 years following, the city was the main port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain as well as the import of African slaves.
That’s why the city of Cartagena surrounded itself with a truly mammoth seven-mile-long stone wall that took nearly two hundred years to finish (completing in 1796).
This wall still stands today and surrounds the historic center of Cartagena, complete with fortifications and bastions.
Nowadays, you don’t have to be employed as a military guard in order to take a stroll along this historic fortification. Tourists and locals saunter along the wide walkway to catch the ocean breeze and a birds-eye view of the old city! Speaking of which…
#3 - Explore the Old City of Cartagena
You simply can’t visit Cartagena without getting playfully lost in the byzantine cobblestone streets that meander around vibrantly colorful colonial buildings, because this is Cartagena's fame.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old city is overflowing with stunning colonial architecture, markets, performing artists and trinkets sold by street vendors all along its alleys and boulevards.
Make sure you check out the vibrant Plaza Santo Domingo, famous for its Botero statue, which you can touch for good luck. Then there’s the leafy green Plaza Bolivar, always brimming with flamboyant dancers and eccentric performance artists.
If you’re hunting for souvenirs, head on over to the Bovedas Market - a collection of souvenir shops, each one built into one of the old cells of the former Cartagena prison that is so close to the sea that at high tide prisoners used to be up to their ankles in seawater!
To delve back even further into the history of Cartagena, do not miss the Zenu Gold Museum, which gives a window into the ancient cultures that once lived here, at least as far back as 4000 BC.
Of course, we’re just scratching the surface of all the incredible things that there are to do in the old city of Cartagena. For the most all-inclusive and informative way of learning about the old city, we recommended a guided tour.
It’s also worth noting that you can actually stay in the old city since it’s where all of the best hostels and hotels can be found.
And there you have it! In this Santa Marta to Cartagena Bus Route Guide, we’ve taught you everything you’ll need to know about catching a bus between these two incredible cities.
We’ve covered how to book the bus, the best company to book it with, the cost, what kind of journey to expect as well as some of our favorite things to do in Santa Marta and Cartagena!
All that remains now is to go ahead and get booking that bus by clicking the Reserve Now button at the top of the page. Good luck and happy traveling!