If you’ve thought about travelling Colombia, then the chances are you’ve heard of Palomino, a seriously tiny town up north on the Caribbean coast that’s becoming an essential stop on the backpacker circuit. If you haven’t thought about travelling Colombia (why not?!), Palomino is an up and coming backpacker destination that’s developing more and more each year, a bit like Pai in Thailand a few years ago. Think unspoilt white beaches, unpredictable electricity lines and a totally laid back way of living.
How to get to Palomino
The closest city to Palomino is Santa Marta and it couldn’t be easier to reach it from here. Just head to the Mercado in Santa Marta (carrera 9) and hop on any Palomino bound bus – you don’t need to buy a ticket in advance and buses leave regularly throughout the day. The fare is 9,000 pesos (£2.20 – bye bye expensive Brazil buses!)
Now believe me when I say that Palomino is small. It’s so often compared to Pai that I had imagined it to be a similarly sized town, but it’s really more of a village. It’s centred around one long road which runs from the bus drop off point right the way down to the beach; almost everything is on this sandy road but a few hostels are located down smaller dirt tracks just off it. Here you’ll find a couple of shops, five or six restaurants and only two bars that I know of. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat from the cities, look no further! People come to Palomino to unplug and enjoy a simpler pace of life for a while – power cuts are frequent, WiFi is rare and ATMs don’t exist. This may sound like hell to some people but it makes for such a refreshing break – it does attract every wannabe spiritualist for miles around but don’t let them put you off. It really is lovely!
What to do in Palomino
Palomino’s greatest allure is its beach. Unfortunately the sea isn’t good for swimming as the currents are extremely strong; but the pristine white sand, coconut trees and Caribbean sunshine more than make up for it. This long stretch of beach is regarded as one of Colombia’s most beautiful, and you can relax here in peace without being bothered by anyone trying to sell you things. There may be a few friendly dogs who want to say hello though!
Another popular thing to do in Palomino is river tubing. I actually didn’t do it because I was scared (#noregrets), but most backpackers coming here do it. It costs 40,000 pesos (about £10) to do, and consists of floating down the Palomino river in a huge rubber ring for about four hours until you reach the beach. Some of our friends did this and liked it a lot!
It’s no surprise that Palomino is hardly a party destination, but if you ever want to carry on after the hostel bars close then the beach is the place to go at night. There’s a big bonfire most nights, groups of people scattered around and locals selling alcohol. We lost track of time one night and ended up sitting out here with friends until 7am. Getting to see the sun rise over the sea was so beautiful, and one of my favourite experiences in Colombia.
I think we must have acquired about ten stray dogs this night, all of which walked us back to our hostel in the morning. One didn’t leave for two days!
Our hostel was called The Dreamer, LOOK NO FURTHER if you want to stay at the best hostel in Palomino. It’s a little expensive for a hostel at £10 per bed (or £50 for an amazing private if you’re travelling short term), but this is because it’s practically a resort. It is everything!! It has a huge pool, comfy dorms, a busy bar area and a good restaurant. The bar is very sociable, with lots of drinking games and other activities, so it’s easy to meet people here. It also has working WiFi which is a pretty big deal in Palomino. Before I came everything I read told me there was absolutely NO WiFi in the town – we even met people who didn’t come for this reason – but at The Dreamer it was pretty reliable.
The growing number of tourists means Palomino is unlikely to stay this way forever – If you like the sound of it, hurry up and visit!