Many of us get inspired to travel by the books we read. If you’ve read 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (nicknamed Gabo), you must plan your visit to Aracatca, the village Macondo was inspired by.
Tucked away in the mountains, Aracataca is home to a small community of people who share their love for the great Colombian writer.
Assuming some of you might know nothing about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his famous novel, I have prepared a short introduction about the writer below.
Plan your visit to Aracataca to learn about Magic Realism
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the most prolific Colombian writer of our times. He gained worldwide recognition after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. The literary genre that made Marquez famous is called Magic Realism.
As the name suggests, Magic Realism is a literary genre that combines elements of fantasy with day-to-day reality to such an extent that the limit between the two becomes blurry, and the reader does not know when the novel plot switches from one to the other.
Since the beginning, Magic Realism has been associated with Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia), Isabel Allende (Chile), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), and Borges (Mexico), who published novels using this unique writing style.
If you want to give these types of novels a go, I recommend starting with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books, as they are one of the best to illustrate magic realism. My second favourite magic realism writer is Isabel Allende, whose books I recommend if you want to try out Magic Realism novels written by a woman author.
Why should you plan your visit to Aracataca?
Going back to Aracataca, you don’t need to be an avid reader of Marquez’s novels to visit this village. Planning a visit to Aracataca is a good alternative if you want to escape louder and busier cities like Cartagena, Santa Marta and Barranquilla for a few days.
The village is near the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, making the ride to Aracataca a very scenic route.
Aracataca is also a good place to visit if you want to experience village life in Colombia and immerse yourself in the local culture.
When planning your visit to Aracataca consider public transport
Aracataca is accessible by public transport from pretty much every big city on the Colombian Caribbean Coast. This came as a surprise to me as I thought getting to the village would be an adventure. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with Aracataca.
Travel from Santa Marta to Aracataca
Travelling from Santa Marta to Aracataca is easy peasy. All you need to do is head to the Santa Marta Bus Terminal and catch one of the buses that leave for Aracataca. There should be one leaving every hour.
I want to give you some heads-up on how things happen once you get to the bus terminal. You will be approached by people suggesting different bus companies. If you already have one in mind, ask for the one you want to travel with. If you don’t mind which bus company you will travel with, ask the person which bus company is he recommending and how much the ticket costs.
There are ticket offices you can buy your bus ticket from too. On this occasion, I bought my ticket straight from the bus driver.
I used the same bus company I travelled with from Barranquilla to Santa Marta-Berlinas del Fonce, as they proved to be professionals, on time and had clean buses.
I paid 4£ for the bus ticket (a one-way ticket with Berlinas del Fonce from Santa Marta to Aracataca) and in less than 2 hours I arrived in the village.
I read that other bus companies charge less, but perhaps the bus might be less comfortable and not have all the additional things this bus company provides: a USB charger, free Wi-Fi, AC, and access to the toilet.
The bus drops you off 10 minutes on foot from Garcias Marquez’s house. I would like to give a piece of advice here.
Don’t get to Aracataca too late since there aren’t any taxi companies per se. You can get picked up by scooter drivers, and they even have some sort of rickshaws in the village, but they are not reliable and they might not be around when you arrive.
Travel from Barranquilla to Aracataca
Although I was told there is a direct bus from Barranquilla to Aracataca, I only travelled from Aracataca to Barranquilla with the same company-Berlinas del Fonce.
The one-way ticket costed me £6 and the journey took 2h30.
It can take longer if you get to Barranquilla around rush hour, so make sure you consider this, in case you need to catch a bus somewhere else from Barranquilla like I did.
When buying the bus ticket in Aracataca, make sure you have cash on you as Berlinas del Fonce doesn’t operate card payments in the village. You won’t have issues paying by card in Barranquilla and from what I saw in Santa Marta either (although I did pay by cash in Santa Marta, as I bought the ticket straight from the bus driver).
Travel from Cartagena to Aracataca
The journey from Cartagena to Aracataca will take the longest because you have to change buses in Barranquilla.
If you use Berlinas del Fonce (as I did), they will take care of everything, including transit, because you need to change bus stations in Barranquilla to travel further to Aracataca.
The journey takes around 6h and the cost of both tickets (Cartagena-Barranquilla, Barranquilla-Aracataca) is 12£.
The company runs quite a few buses a day to either destination, so I managed to travel from Aracataca to Cartagena on the same day and still get to my final destination at a decent time.
Travel from other places in Colombia to Aracataca
If you travel from Medellin or Bogota, you will probably need to stop in Barranquilla and then make your way to Aracataca. Make sure you budget extra time, as you will definitely need more hours to complete the journey, including an overnight stop in Barranquilla.
As you have read so far, if you are in the region, you can easily travel to Aracataca by bus. It will take significantly longer if you come from Medellin or Bogota, but you can always stop in Barranquilla for a day or two before continuing your journey to Aracataca.
What to visit in Aracataca?
Gabriel Garcia Memorial House Inside the house Inside the house 2 Exhibition on Garcia’s work at the local library Statue of the writer at the local library The Church and Garcia’s statue The Office Post The Tomb The Train Station in Aracataca The monument by the train station Macondo Park Macondo Park Graffiti in the Macondo Park
As you would expect, everything in the village is about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his literary work.
The village is small, so all tourist attractions are within walking distance from the village centre.
If you stay at Casa Turistica Realismo Magico (which is where I chose to stay), you can start the tour by visiting the local library (on Google Maps, you will find it as Biblioteca Municipal) and Gabriel Garcia’s memorial house (on Google Maps, you will find it as Casa Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
The library and the memorial house are a few meters away from each other, and both are a few steps away from Casa Turistica Realismo Magico.
By visiting the local library you will learn about Garcias’s novels and other significant events that occurred during his lifetime.
The memorial house is the best place in the village to learn further about the writer’s work and life. The house displays many quotes from his novels. You will learn about Garcia’s upbringing, about his family and understand how everything played a fundamental role in Garcia’s novels.
Within walking distance, you will also find the church and The Post Office (on Google Maps, you will find it as Casa del Telegrafista). People visit The Post Office because that’s where Garcia’s father worked. It has a nice collection of objects that celebrate Garcia’s work.
Melaguiades’s Tomb (on Google Maps, you will find it as Tumba de Melaquiades) is probably the most remote tourist attraction in the village. In fact, it’s quite hidden. I found it behind two parked cars in a residential area, quite far away from all the other tourist attractions.
The tumb refers to one of Garcia’s novel characters. In the 100 Years of Solitude novel, Melaguiades is the first person who dies in Macondo and returns from the underworld because he cannot handle being lonely.
Next, head to the train station. Make sure you don’t miss the book-shaped sculpture dedicated to the writer. It’s on the other side of the road. The train station is often mentioned in Garcia’s work. As you pass the train station, you will get to the main road, where you can visit Macondo Park.
I expected the park to be better looked after, but I did enjoy the graffiti bits.
Pay extra attention when you visit the park as I was stopped by locals and told to not spend too much time around that area because it’s dangerous. And this is it, that’s everything you should visit in Aracataca.
You can easily do the itinerary above in half a day up to 1 full day depending on how much time you stay in every place. Everything is free to visit, including the memorial house.
You can always hire a guide to show you around. The tour guides wait for potential clients outside the memorial house. Just walk around that area, and someone will spot you immediately and offer you their services.
Make sure you plan your visit to Aracataca any time of the week except for Mondays when everything tends to be closed.
Where to stay in Aracataca?
Since the village is not big at all, don’t expect to have so many accommodation options available.
I stayed at Casa Turistica Realismo Magico, which I loved because it looked like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s house. It was prettier because it had much more colour and character than the memorial house. Plus, it was only a few steps away from the writer’s memorial house.
As I walked through the village, I came across other hostels and hotels, yet I am not sure all of them are on travel platforms like Booking.com etc.
As I did not want to risk being left without accommodation, I booked my place at Casa Turistica Realismo Magico before I arrived in the village.
I travelled to Aracataca at the beginning of September, which is the low season for tourism in Colombia. September is also the beginning of the rainy season, so you won’t find too many foreigners in the village.
Yet, I wanted to be on the safe side and have something booked especially, because the village is quite remote, and I did not want to spend the night in the street.
I have put together a video of the interior of the Casa Turistica as I liked so much the way it was decorated. Indeed, the aesthetics reproduced the magic realism portrayed in Marquez’s novels in the best playful and colourful ways.
I recommend staying at Casa Turistica if you want to feel part of the magic realism world Marquez created in his novels.
Where to eat in Aracataca?
I was surprised to discover you can eat in quite a few places around the village, yet most of them accept cash only or local money transfers.
I found one restaurant called Restaurante Café y Hostal Gosen, where you can find a good variety of Colombian dishes for a reasonable price. They also accept card payments.
Apart from this restaurant, there is also an Olimpica supermarket in the village, which is a good place to go for fresh fruits and other snacks.
As you won’t stay in the village for long, I found Aracataca to provide quite a few options in terms of food for the days I was there.
Is Aracataca a safe destination for solo female travellers?
Except for that one time when locals advised me not to spend too much time alone in Macondo Park, I did not get any bad vibes when I walked through the village.
And even when I was in the Macondo Park, I did not see anything strange. It was just the warning I got from the 2 women that I should not be by myself in that part of the village because there is a gang nearby that commits robberies.
I was told that murders were committed because the said gang attacked locals hoping they could get money to buy drugs. I am not sure if this was an exaggeration or not, but I did not return to that area after listening to the stories the locals told me.
Apart from this event and the occasional staring you will get from the villagers, I felt perfectly safe in the village.
Still, I am mentioning this particular episode here because I want to be fully transparent about my experience in Aracataca.
What is the weather like in Aracataca?
Expect the same high temperatures as in the rest of the region.
I hoped the temperature would be lower as it is closer to the Sierra Nevada range mountain, but this was not the case.
At the beginning of September (when I visited Aracataca), I experienced highs of over 30 degrees Celsius, high humidity and sporadic showers.
Should you speak Spanish to visit Aracataca?
Because Aracataca is a village, people don’t speak much English, except for the tour guides and the accommodation owners.
Therefore, having a good command of the Spanish language can help you have the best experience in the village.
Having said this, if you really want to visit the village, you can still do it.
Just try to have available alternative ways to communicate in Spanish (should you need to), like the Google Translate app, otherwise it can be quite difficult to pass on your message if your interlocutor does not speak a word of English.
Is Aracataca expensive?
I did not find Aracataca too expensive. The supermarket prices were the same as in the rest of the region.
I paid for a mojara that included the main dish (fish, rice and salad), a soup and a drink- 3.3£. I believe you can find cheaper meals if you prefer fast food or pastries. There were quite a few places in the village where you could buy these foods.
Regarding accommodation costs, I paid around 20£ a night, that’s because I opted for an ensuite room. If you look up Google Maps, you will find hostels listed too, which I believe are cheaper than where I stayed. But not many of these hostels are listed on Booking.com, which is what I usually use to book my accommodation.
Getting to Aracataca should not cost too much. Assuming you travel from Santa Marta, you will pay 4£ for a one-way ticket. If you travel from Barranquilla, the price will be 6£. If you travel from Cartagena as you need to change two buses, the one-way bus tickets will be 12£.
You can definitely visit Aracataca even when you travel on a budget.
*Please note that the prices I quoted in this blog post were the ones I paid at the time of writing this blog post. They can obviously increase over time, so best to check with the bus companies first before calculating your budget.
Is Aracataca worth visiting?
You should definitely plan your visit to Aracataca if you are Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fan.
Since I discovered his books in high school, I became interested in his work. Later, I also studied his work at university, so I could not miss visiting his birthplace, knowing I was close to it.
Despite my biased opinion on Aracataca, as I like Marquez’s novels, I must confess I expected Aracataca to be better looked after.
Apart from the memorial house, which is in perfect condition, the other tourist attractions related to the writer’s work could be better looked after. For example, I was surprised to find la Tumba de Melaquiades in a residential area behind 2 cars as if it didn’t mean anything.
As you’ve seen throughout this blog post, planning a visit to Aracataca, the birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not complicated.
You can travel to the village by bus from all the major cities in the region. When it comes to accommodation and food, you also have quite a few options to choose from.
All you need to do is get ready to discover the real Macondo and see first-hand everything that inspired Gabriel Garcias Marquez when he wrote 100 Years of Solitude.
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