Colombia’s Kibbe-flavored Caribbean town: Santa Cruz de Lorica

Lorica or Santa Cruz de Lorica, is a heritage town of Colombia located on the banks of the Sinú River, bathed by the Ciénaga Grande del bajo Sinú, in the department of Córdoba. It has an enormous cultural value, both for the influence of the Sinu River and the different groups that have inhabited the region.

This town of Lorica receives several names such as the Ciudad Antigua y Señorial (i.e., Ancient and Lordly City), the Capital of Bajo Sinú, the Capital of Bocachico and even as Saudi Lorica, as a result of the arrival of Lebanese immigrants in the late nineteenth century.

Santa Cruz de Lorica is known by both its architectural majesty and by its gastronomy. Regarding gastronomy, the Bocachico fish is an elemental ingredient of typical dishes such as Bocachico Sinuano and Sancocho de Bocachico.

Besides, since the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, Lorica stood out as one of the great fluvial ports of the country. If you visit this town, we recommend you to visit the banks of the Sinu River, for a magical walk.

Below you will receive the necessary information you need to make the most of your wonderful visit to Santa Cruz de Lorica.

Heritage town of Colombia since 2010

The Land of Mixed Waters

Lorica was founded in 1740, and its historic center presents a mixture of Republican and Arabian styles, offering a beautiful spectacle to those who visit it. For its architectural beauty it was declared a National Monument in 1996.

In Lorica you can find beautiful places that transport the tourist to the Middle East, such as the Municipal Palace, the Cathedral and the Afife Matuk Building.

An emblematic place of Lorica, on the banks of the Sinu River, is its market square, also called the Ranchon, which not only offers the best of local cuisine, very varied indeed.

Lorica’s Jewels of architecture

Its architecture combines a style that merges the Republican with the vernacular and Mudejar, a mixture of Andalusian and Arabic constructions.  This place is a faithful exponent of a cultural legacy that shows the dynamics of the mid-twentieth century, product of the heyday of activities such as navigation and trade.

Its great architectural constructions are the legacy of some foreign settlers who imposed a unique stamp that has been maintained over the years. In fact, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants who, with the desire to build their own properties, gave shape to their culture and marked the identity of this region.

Sustainable Destination

In 2020, with support from FONTUR, the Historic Center of the municipality of Santa Cruz de Lorica was certified as a Sustainable Tourism Destination, after meeting the requirements of the Sustainable Tourism Sector Technical Standard NTS TS-001-1.

This represents a tool for the promotion and strengthening of the tourism sector in the destination, which allows to offer all visitors a quality tourism, generating confidence and satisfaction when walking the streets of this magical municipality.

Exploring Santa Cruz de Lórica

Santa Cruz de Lorica is on the list of “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages” a place full of history and culture. Lorica has a unique architecture between Republican and Lebanese, so it is charming to walk through its streets.

This town is located in the department of Córdoba, 60 km from Montería. It is recognized as the treasure of the Caribbean, for its important fluvial artery which is the Sinu River.

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Santa Cruz de Lórica is between 23 ºC (73ºF) to 35 ºC (95 ºF) and the best time of the year to visit Lórica is from mid-December to the end of March.

How to get to Santa Cruz de Lórica

Lorica that is located in the department of Córdoba, 63 kilometers from Montería and 55 from Sincelejo. There are two airports near to city you can arrive traveling from Bogota.

Bogotá – Monteria – Santa Cruz de Lórica

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Los Garzones International Airport (MTR) at Monteria city. Once at in Monteria you take an approximately 1,5-hours ride (61 Km) to Santa Cruz de Lórica.

Birds in colombia
Birds in colombia

Bogotá – Tolú – Santa Cruz de Lórica

Take a 1.5 hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Golfo de Morrosquillo Airport (TLU) in the city of Tolú, with ADA Airlines. Once in Tolú, it takes approximately 35-minutes (30 km) to Santa Cruz de Lórica.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz de Lórica

In Santa Cruz de Lórica you can find hostels and hotels that preserve the local architecture, we recommend Hotel Boutique Beteska and Onoma Hotel.

Santa Cruz de Lórica Attractions and Activities

Historical Center

The most striking attraction with eclectic buildings of Arabic influence and similar to those found in the city of Cartagena. Their fine elements and details make them imposing.

Public Market

Built in 1929, this building of republican architecture with certain Arabian touches, covers an entire block of the historic center, located on the banks of the Sinu River. Due to its importance and uniqueness, the Government, in 1996, named it a national monument.

Parish of Santa Cruz de Lorica

Built before 1800, and had to be remodeled in 1896. An important fact for when you visit this parish is that its bells were brought from Portugal, the bronze images of the facade are of French origin, and the clock, brought from Italy, was donated by the Syrian-Lebanese colony around 1929.

Gonzalez Building

It was owned by one of the wealthiest families in the region. It has an area of 540 square meters and it displays a republican style which highlights the facade and its internal spaces. You can take beautiful pictures in this imposing building.

Lorica Club

It is located in a corner of the Plaza de la Cruz, formerly where the Syrian-Lebanese immigrants organized their social gatherings. Nowadays it is open to the population where nightly events are held.

Afife Matuk Building

Placed on the banks of the Sinu River and adjacent to the public market. This building was finished in 1929, and it remains intact to date. Inside, you will notice how the light blue and white colors stand out in small walls that separate each space, with arabesque figures. It also has a room with a large window where you can see the waters of the Sinu River.

The Malecon of Lorica

It is the complement of the patrimonial buildings of the Historical Center and the Public Market, it has an extension of 5 km around the banks of the Sinu River. It was declared of Cultural Interest in 1998; during your walk you will be able to appreciate the beauty of the river and the beautiful buildings.

Gastronomic delights in Lorica

Immigrants played an important role in Lorica’s gastronomy, so it is possible to enjoy very typical dishes of the region such as bocachico stew, the popular sarapa, mote de queso (whose main ingredient is Creole yam and coastal cheese) and food such as kibbes (prepared with ground beef, wheat, onion, mint, salt and pepper) that characterizes the immigrant culture.

Craft traditions in Lorica

In Lorica, primitivist painting is its maximum artistic expression. It reflects the popular imagination, dishes, objects and colors of the peasant culture. Its main exponent was Marcial Alegría Garcés, a man who dedicate himself to painting. Marcial’s paintings are present in more than 18 countries, becoming one of the emblems of Lorica’s art and tradition. You will appreciate his history and works in the village of San Sebastian. Marcial also applies his art to ornate pottery pieces that are made and sold there, as well as canvas paintings and wooden frames.

Nature Destinations Near Lorica

Lorica is surrounded by a complex landscape of swamps and marshes mixed with pastures with extensive cattle ranching and patches of flooded forests. The area is very susceptible to water level variations in the marshes and the Sinú River as a result of seasonal changes in rainfall. The main habitats in the region are swamps and marshes.

Visit the Nearby Marshes and Natural Reserves

34 km from the town you can visit the swamp of La Caimanera, with 2000 hectares of mangroves, herons and reptiles. it is possible to kayak and canoe along the river.

There is also La Leche swamp, ideal to see monkeys, snakes, tigers and deer.  Finally, the Sanguaré Natural Reserve, with 110 hectares of tropical dry forest surrounded by mangroves, coastal freshwater lagoons, sea grasses and reefs.

Ciénaga Grande de Lorica is another big swamp, which is home to numerous species of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles. It is shared by five municipalities and fed by lagoons and streams and the Sinu River. It has an extension of more than thirty thousand kilometers, and it is home to the Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) when they arrive from Alaska.

Swamp complex of the western margin of the Sinú River

This region was declared Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Despite conservation efforts, the land is mainly used for extensive cattle ranching and fishing, subsistence agriculture and timber extraction. From 1997 to 2002 a project on sustainable use of wildlife was developed in the Bañó swamp, where a community-based tourism program was key. However, the place has no the expected recognition as an ecotourism destination.

Birdwatching

Bañó marsh alone registers a total of 142 species of birds. However, the number of species may be higher, as many marshes remain uninventoried.

There are large flocks of Fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), Black-bellied whistling duck (D. autumnalis), White-faced whistling duck (D. viduata) and a large number of waterfowl in general. The area is potentially important for reproduction and long-term maintenance of the Northern screamer (Chauna chavaria) population, as well as five other species of ducks. More than 20,000 waterbirds congregate there.

Other fauna

Besides birds, it is possible to find some threatened fauna species such as Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) (DD), Gray-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus griseimembra) (VU), Dahl’s toad-headed turtle (Phrynops dahli) (CR), Magdalena River turtle (Podocnemis lewyana) (EN), Hicotea (Trachemys scripta callirostris) (LR/nt). Two characteristic species of flora are: Pithecellobium lanceolatum and Thalia angustifolia.

Diving

There are more than 17 dive sites where you can admire the largest variety of virgin corals in the Caribbean, nurse and whitetip sharks, turtles, fire and brain corals. It stands out Bajo Bushnell, a reef where barracudas, giant gorgonians and horn coral colonies abound. Other interesting diving places are: Burbujas, Los Pargos, Grieta del Socorro, Fondo Loco, Bajo Mariajo, Los Venados, Los Bayones. Moreover, for advanced divers, Bartolo reef and El Orion.

Beatiful Beaches of Coveñas and Tolu

Thanks to its proximity you can visit Coveñas and Tolú. To get to Coveñas you must take a 45-minute (30 km) road trip. There you will be able to develop the following activities:

Relaxing at the beaches of Coveñas

The beaches you can visit in Coveñas are La Coquerita and Punta de Piedra. You can practice activities and sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, donut riding, jet skiing, among others.

Marine Infantry Museum Park

It is a museum that has a very attractive architecture, where the work of the armed forces is exhibited as well as part of the history of the country. You can enjoy 22 exhibition rooms and other spaces where the history of the Colombian infantry is shown from independence to the present.

San Bernardo Archipelago

You can also visit this paradise, a group of islands in the Gulf of Morrosquillo where you can enjoy everything from gastronomy to water sports. For more information visit our blog Travel Guide to El Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park.

Las Cuevas Toluviejo

There are 7 caverns where you can go spelunking and explore the mysteries hidden inside, also formed by millenary formations of stalactites, stalagmites and dolomites in its depths, dating from the Miocene and Pliocene periods.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
About the Authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.