Whenever I dream of exciting nightlife, fascinating cultural festivals, and beautiful seascapes, I know exactly where to fly to; the exotic city of Cartagena de Indias. This beautiful coastal community in Colombia, is my home for unwinding in the refreshing breeze and warm seas while enjoying a cultural masterpiece.
Old town balconies beckon me!
Surrounded by a gorgeous bay, Cartagena’s landscape is one of the most beautiful and properly maintained in all of the Americas. This makes Cartagena a popular stop for cruise ships while they’re in the region. The city isn’t just about tourists, however, it also presents a vibrant scene for world-class events. Its cuisine, culture, art scene, history, beaches and many more attractions make this city ideal for a visit. That’s why it’s one of the most visited destinations in Colombia and hosts many conventions and international meetings.
Rafael Núñez International Airport serves Cartagena de Indias. Because of extensive international flights, tourists no longer need to make a stop at Bogotá on the way in or out. There are also convenient domestic connections from cities including Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Medellin as well as Bogotá. The popular tourist areas in Cartagena are quite compact so walking or taxis are the easiest ways to move about between sites.
Here’s a Pro-Tip: Verify taxi prices before you enter to avoid unforeseen expenses. Prices are negotiated and are also seasonal. Currently, £1 GBP equals about 5000 Colombian.
Castillo de San Felipe de Baraja – This magnificent fortress dates back to the 17th century and is the ultimate landmark for locals and visitors alike to explore. Take a tour through the tunnels and learn about the history of the ‘Guardian of Cartagena’ while exploring its impressive architecture.
The Castle during the ‘Knight Shift’!
The Old Town – Tourists tend to stay in the Old City of Cartagena because of the colourful neighbourhoods and attractions that surround it. You’ll find a lot of beautiful architecture, street artists, shopping, flowers and cheerful people everywhere. Centro, San Diego, and Getsemani are unique neighbourhoods you should wander around to savour Cartagena’s charm. Don’t forget to check out the fascinating plazas at Aduana and Bolivar to experience art, dance, and exotic music.
The Chiva Bus – Don’t leave Colombia without spending a fun evening on a Chiva bus. Enjoy live music, local liquor, meet new people and have as much fun as you can while you tour the city!
Here’s another Pro-Tip: Hotels usually arrange the Chiva bus tour for their visitors. For security purposes, it is best to use their services.
Parque del Centenario – right inside the walled city, this leafy park is home to monkeys, iguanas and sloths. After drinking several shots of local aguardiente washed down by local beers, you will understand why those sloths move so slowly!
Santo Domingo Plaza – This beautiful plaza is fabulous for relaxing and watching Cartegena life unfold before you. There is also a beautiful sculpture by Botero which provides great Insta pictures!
After a long day of relaxing and enjoying the sites, you’ll want to eat. Cartagena is a foodie’s paradise with fabulously fresh and spicy flavours unique to the region. Here are my favourites:
Pastelería Mila – For a delicious taste of the fanciest pastries in Cartagena, visit this contemporary bakery in Old Town. The pancakes with sweet dulce de leche, sour cream, crispy bacon, and scrambled eggs are the perfect combo breakfast that shouldn’t be missed!
Yummy ceviches are my favourite!
La Mulata – the hip style will enchant you and its excellent menu of seafood, meat, local Colombian dishes, and fresh juices will delight your tastebuds. Meal prices are moderate and wonderfully tasty!
Besides boarding the Chiva party bus and having fun nighttime, this South American city has incredible nightspots including:
Café Havana – The famous Getsemani neighbourhood is about nightlife in Cartagena, and Café Havana is the home of the best salsa experiences. With high-quality cocktails and live music, this club is easily the most famous nightclub in the city. It’s open till 4 a.m. five nights a week.
Bazurto Social Club – This is the place to meet up with Cartagena local residents. It has a live Champeta band that pushes the dance parties into the night –as far as 4 a.m. It’s located just outside the Walled City.
Fragma Club – For a contemporary club style, the Fragma Club gives you a different focus from traditional Latin American music and dance.
When it’s time for sleep, you’ll find a wide range of accommodations – from traditional colonial style hotels to exclusive boutique properties and everything in between. Here’s my list of favourite places to stay:
Hotel Monterrey – With spacious rooms, a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar, this colonial-style hotel is perfectly located between Getsemani and Centro. Its best charm is the rooftop terrace, where you’re served an evening cocktail and amazing French fusion cuisine.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara – built within the shell of a former convent inside the old town, this hotel is the iconic address in Cartagena and an excellent value!
Although friendly, Cartegena has a ‘Fortress Mentality!’
Here’s a final Pro-Tip: No matter when you visit, there’s a high chance you’ll come across one of Colombia’s incredible festivals. Relax and enjoy these colourful cultural events!
Cartagena is a beautiful and exotic city which is simply unforgettable. Have a wonderful time and tell them that ‘Isabellita’ sent you!