A Day Trip to Nueva Venecia

Nuevo Venecia, city on the water

One of the most memorable tours we’ve done so far in Colombia is a visit to Nueva Venecia. A community built on stilts in the middle of a swamp which is a natural sanctuary, it’s like nowhere I’ve ever been. Keep reading for more about our day trip to Nueva Venecia in Colombia.

Cienaga and Nueva Venecia

You may have already guessed that Nueva Venecia is Spanish for New Venice. Named after the famous Italian city, the entire town is on the Grande Ciénega, a marsh leading from the River Magdalena to the Caribbean Sea. Residents live in houses built on stilts in the marsh, and instead of cars and bikes, they get around by boat, mostly long canoes. It was a real treat to visit and get a glimpse into the lives of its residents.

Map of Cienaga and Nueva Venecia
Day trip to Nueva Venecia map from Santa Marta

Getting to Nueva Venecia

For the day trip to Nueva Venecia, we took a tour from Santa Marta by bus to Ciénaga, where we met our boat driver. A quick drive under an hour from either Santa Marta or Baranquilla, and then a couple of hours boating around makes a great day trip!

Our bus tour guide spoke English and imparted interesting information about the region and its history. The boat captain who we met in Ciénaga spoke Spanish, and he took us for a long tour of the village and the surrounding waters, where we saw a variety of birds and the local fishermen at work.

boat day trip to Nueva Venecia
The boat waiting at the dock to take us to Nuevo Venecia

For more day trips from Santa Marta, read about our day in Parque Tayrona

The Stilt Town of Nueva Venecia

Nueva Venecia is an interesting place! This community is approximately 300 people, every one of whom came to their door, window, or front porch to wave hello to us, or at least it felt like it from the warm welcome our boat received as we slowly glided into town. We were told not to get too close to anyone to protect them from the pandemic, but everyone was friendly, especially the children.

What a treat to come from the middle of a swamp to approach the distant houses on stilts, appearing seemingly out of nothing. As we neared, the houses came into view, with colorfully painted exteriors, some with beautiful murals.

Approaching Nueva Venecia you see the stilt houses rise over the water

It’s a pretty sight to see.

Nueva Venecia home
Home in Nueva Venecia

Inside Nueva Venecia

Nueva Venecia even has a town square, joining the important sites with bridges. Centrally located by the square are the football pitch, which even has lights, the church, school and library. The school’s teacher, and most of Nueva Venecia’s supplies, comes from the nearby city of Baranquilla. They are still getting groceries and other essentials, but the teacher hasn’t been there in a year, again due to protection from Covid-19.

Nueva Venecia library and bridge
The town library connects to the school and town square via a bridge
A closer look at Nueva Venecia

The men make their living from fishing, and often are sent away after school to try their luck in the big city. According to our tour guide, most return because they don’t take to city life. I can only imagine the culture shock of a land town with cars and everything else after growing up in Nueva Venecia.

Neuva Venecia's football field
The town football field

Nueva Venecia has no running water, limited electricity, and no computers and video games. The kids are good football players, especially at defense to prevent losing all their balls to the water, despite the fact the football pitch is flooded almost half the year during rainy season.

Nueva Venecia football pitch
View from the football pitch in Nuevo Venecia

The Wildlife in Ciénaga Grande

On the way to the town, our boat driver toured us through the marsh, Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta for at least an hour. Sections of the water are quite shallow, only a couple of meters deep. The fishermen pole through the water and use large nets to catch their prey.

Fishermen in the marsh

All of us had cameras and we took lots of photos and videos of the beautiful scenery.

Here is just a glimpse of the sheer numbers of birds surrounding us on the boat.

Fisherman in Cienaga
Fisherman casting his net
Birds flying Cienaga Grande Colombia
Birds flying on Ciénega Grande
Bird on the water
Bird in Ciénega

Take a Day Trip to Nueva Venecia

If you are in Baranquilla or Santa Marta, I recommend taking a day trip to Neuva Venecia. As anywhere you travel, respect the local people and follow expected protocols to keep them safe. We wore masks the entire time and kept our distance as requested. Everyone was welcoming and the kids were happy to pose for photos with us and show off their football skills. We had a great day.

Boat tour to Nueva Venecia
Our crew on the boat on Ciénaga Grande
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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

6 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Nueva Venecia”

  1. Neuva Venecia is such an interesting place! I have never visited a village completely on stilts. I guess those kids must all be amazing swimmers. I love all those colourful houses.

    It’s a bit mad that they have no access to running water, despite being surrounded by it. It really sound like the kind of thing that *should* be possible if they had cash to throw at the issue.

    1. Hi Josy, Those kids are probably good at a lot of things! Since there is a lot of water around, I believe they desalinate some of it with a mix of bringing fresh in from Baranquilla. It’s an interesting place for sure.

  2. Those buildings are beautifully painted and I seems to be a nice day trip. It is real hard to imagine a life without running water and limited electricity, especially when your soccer field is flooded for half a year. I guess that leaves the locals with….well I guess enough time to paint the houses.

  3. It’s fascinating to see how where people manage to survive and live happily. No running water is unimaginable for me as well as no electricity. But I guess a special place like this has other benefits compared to city life, such as no stress, less people and pollution, unspoiled nature, more exercise and fresh air etc.
    Would love to visit this community when I get to Colombia.

    1. I know what you mean Slavka! The other day I left my phone at home and wasn’t sure if I could survive without it hahaha!

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