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Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve, Colombia

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve and National Park overlook the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia. Most of the Reserve (675,000 hectares) lies in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the remaining 56,250 hectares comprises Tayrona National Park. 

Designation date: 1979


Regional network:  Red de Comités y Reservas de Biosfera de Iberoamérica y el Caribe (IberoMAB) 

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface : 2,115,800 ha

    • Core area(s): 405,000 ha
    • Buffer zone(s):  N/A
    • Transition zone(s): 1,710,800 ha

    Location: 10°01’05’’-10º20’11’’N; 72º36’16’’-74º12’49’’W

    Administrative Authorities

    Luz Elvira Angarita
    Directora Territorial Caribe PNN

    Tel.: (57 5) 423 0752 – 423 0704


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The 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 meters above sea level, at a distance of only 42 km from the Caribbean coast. The snowy peaks called ’tundra‘ are considered sacred. Vegetation ranges from sub-hygrophyte to snow levels and includes cloud forest and high barren plains. Three types of vegetation can be seen at Tayrona’s National Park: forest/matorral 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. 


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    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 . 


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    Last updated: April 2020