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Plaza Cienaga

Ciénaga is a mid-size port city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. With a population of 110,000 (2020), it is the second largest city in Magdalena Department. The city is a popular stop-over point for travelers en route between Barranquilla and Santa Marta.


Ciénaga has been designated by the Colombian government as a Pueblo Patrimonio (heritage town) in recognition of its historical and cultural value. It is a clean, bright city that was featured in Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels, including 100 Years of Solitude. Local night spots often ring out with the lively sounds of vallenato music.


Cienaga is an old city that was originally settled by the Chimila people. The first Spanish invaders arrived in 1518 but didn't set down roots until 1529 when Fray Tomas Ortiz described the city as having a large population and being located near the Laguna Grande (Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta), about 8 leagues from Santa Marta.

Cienaga was the site of a battle in Colombia's War of Independence from Spain on November 10, 1820, resulting in 940 deaths.

The town was the site of a brutal military crackdown on striking laborers who were protesting inhumane working conditions forced on workers by the United Fruit Company. At the behest of the company and U.S. politicians, the Colombian army entered the town and on December 5 and 6, 1928, opened fire on workers, murdering as many as 2,000 workers. In a government coverup, with the complicity of the U.S. government, military leaders tried to play down the violence, claiming that only 47 people were killed.

Get in[edit]

From Barranquilla, it is 2 hours by bus to Cienega. Expreso Brasilia has buses departing at least hourly throughout the day. Prices start at COP$20,000 (June 2023).

  • 1 Expreso Brasilia Bus Station, Cl. 20 #21 - 24, Ciénaga. Small, company bus terminal.

Get around[edit]


  • 1 Plaza Centenario (Zocalo), Calle 9 #10-11. Bright, open town square with benches, shade trees and lots of iguanas roaming around.


  • Ciénaga Grande of Santa Marta (the entire inland area as you drive along the highway between Barranquilla and Cienega). Huge swamp, lagoon, and soggy marsh areas that make up the outer delta of the Magdalena River. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a RAMSAR wetland and comprises 26,810 hectares of mostly water with a thin strip of barrier island separating the lagoon from the Caribbean Sea.
  • 1 Playa Cienaga. Long, wide beach. Lots of palapa bars and restaurants. Good place to chill with a drink and watch the sunset.


  • Caimán Cienaguero. January 20 marks the day that little Tomasina, a local girl, supposedly was eaten by a crocodile. Her sister went home and told her parents, who went out and tracked the beast down, killed it, and paraded its dead body through the town.
  • Festival Nacional de Música con Guitarra Guillermo de Jesús Buitrago (Buitrago Festival). Annual guitar festival to commemorate vallenato master Guillermo Buitrago. Musicians compete for awards in different categories while local and national artists perform for the crowds.



  • 1 El Rancho, Carr. 90, La Frutera, +57 318 83 55346. daily 7am - 9pm. Traditional Colombian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood (the snapper is recommended, as is the steak).
  • 2 Donde Oneida, Cl. 17 #1a-42, +57 300 72 94370. daily 7am - 6pm. Upscale restaurant with a wide range of seafood dishes with large portions and reasonable prices. Seafood casuela is a specialty here. The shrimp and rice dishes are always tasty.
  • 3 Popeye el Marino, Km 55 vía Barranquilla - Ciénaga, Puebloviejo, +57 311 41 05000. daily 8am - 8pm. Caribbean regional seafood at affordable prices. 30,000 COP.



  • 1 Hotel Playa Verde Cienega, Barrio Nancy Polo, Calle 1b #14, 278, +57 314 796 6874. Check-in: 3pm, check-out: 10am. Beachfront hotel with clean, comfortable rooms with good A/C and rock-bottom prices. Great option for the budget traveler.
  • 2 Hotel Boutique Casa de Remedios La Bella, Cra. 13 #8-25, +57 301 41 43537. Upscale hotel in a restored 1910-era home. Very clean, comfortable, air-conditioned, spacious rooms with period decor. 2-blocks to town square.
  • 3 Hotel Don José de Ciénaga, Cra. 18 #N° 16-57, +5 7314 42 63337. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Basic budget hotel but clean and comfortable with good service and central location. No parking lot. 40,000 cop.


Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Ciénaga is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.