Famous as the birthplace of Colombia’s most popular, Nobel Prize-winning writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (known affectionately by Colombians as Gabo), Aracataca is a small and unassuming village in Northern Colombia.
Just five hours from the tourist haven of Cartagena de Indias, Aracataca receives but a trickle of visitors compared with other destinations in the country, and most of those are die-hard ‘Gabo’ fans.
Read more about backpacking in Colombia here.
100 Years of Solitude
The town of Aracataca is known as the inspiration for many of Gabo’s novels, especially his most famous book, ‘100 Years of Solitude,’ where the fictional town of ‘Macondo’ is based on Aracataca, and the colourful Buendia family loosely based on Gabo’s own family.
Walking around the small museum in town, formerly Marquez’s family home will take all of half an hour, while a trip to the town’s main plaza and church will barely eat into another half an hour. After that, you could get an Aguilar and sit in a roadside café and watch the world go by – but there really isn’t much happening here in Aracataca.
The fact is that there is nothing in particular to do in this typical Colombian town. The real interest lies in the incredible history and culture of what the town stands for.
Backpackers who venture here, (we feel that a knowledge of Spanish is a must for visitors wanting to get anything out of this experience at all) will not only uncover a rich heritage through talking to locals about their most famous ever resident but will experience an authentic slice of Colombian life that is a world away from the nearby sophistication of Cartagena or the backpacker hang out of Taganga.
Where to stay in Aracataca
When we first visited Aracataca, way back in 2014, there was only one guesthouse operating in the town, the Gypsy Residence, run by the charismatic Dutch owner, Tim Buendia. Tim was a big Marquez fan and has been running walking tours around the town to tell people about important points of interest in the history and novels of Marquez. Due to financial reasons, the guesthouse closed down in February 2014 and since then three new guesthouses have sprung up to take its place.
- Casa Turística Realismo Mágico – This place gets the best reviews in the town and is located just a few metres from the Garcia Museum. The hostel is homely and the owners are friendly and it will cost you around $30 US for a private room.
- Hostal Macondo – Located centrally, close to the Garcia Museum, this no-frills abode is just $16 US per night for a triple room.
- Hostal Casa Morelli en Macondo – A basic hostel in the heart of town. Friendly owners but temperamental water situation. Rooms from $35 US.
All of these can be booked on Booking.com.
Things to do in Aracataca
Visit Gabriel Garcia Marquez Museum and Former Home
Although not the original building that Marquez was born in, this museum is located on the site of where the Marquez family lived. With quotes from his various novels, such as ‘100 Years of Solitude’, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and his own autobiography, hardcore Marquez fans will find interest in this town landmark and symbols of magic realism in the trees.
Visit the house of Leo Matiz
Another much-loved son of Aracataca, world-famous artist, Leo Matiz was born just up the road from his friend Gabo. His home is now a house turned restaurant, which serves delicious chicken and chips whilst the friendly owners treat you like part of the family. The restaurant is called ‘Patio del Magico’.
Take a dip in the river
It’s hot in Aracataca – hace mucho calor! Cooldown by taking a dip in the local river in the town and be prepared to teach English to local kids who are excited to see a foreigner in town. Be careful not to parade iPhones and cameras around the town as muggings have occurred.
The Future of Aracataca?
Rumours suggest that Aracataca may be on the cusp of a tourism boom, based of course, on its literary roots, but help from local government or tourism investment is desperately needed if this is to happen.
There is talk of a regular train transporting tourists daily from Santa Marta, a renovated Museum, more restaurants and guesthouses – but for now, Aracataca is somewhat of an imagined destination for what it could be.
Interested to find out more?
Read our article about the last ever Gabriel Garcia Marquez Tour that we took with Tim Buendia.