Updated: May 24, 2022
As mentioned in my previous post about San Blás, we finally arrived in Cartagena after 2 days of some character-building open water sailing. Cartagena is one of the most important cities on the Colombian Caribbean coast, and in the last few decades it has become an enormously popular tourism hub for international visitors. Named after the Spanish port of Cartagena, Cartagena de Indias boasts a rich history and stunning colonial architecture. During prehispanic times, the area was home to several avanced aboriginal cultures, that flourished thanks to the warm climate, numerous waterways and extremely fertile soil and abundant wildlife. The most important of these tribes was the Zenú, known for their exquisite gold filigree jewelry and intricate pottery. Sadly, this culture and their priceless artifacts were destroyed or looted by the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s, and their land was stolen and ravaged to make way for the construction of city we know today. You can learn more about the Zenú and gorgeous filigree jewelry by clicking on these links:
If coming to Cartagena from an international flight, make sure to check both entry and exit requirements with your airline, since these tend to change sporadically. Furthermore, make sure you pack, light-colored clothing, comfortable walking shoes, a water bottle, plenty of sunscreen and a hat, the sun and humidity can be harsh!! If you're carrying your belongings in a purse or satchel, make sure it has some sort of closing mechanism that wards off pickpockets. Also, if you see something you like from a street vendor, don't be afraid to haggle! A lot of those goods are often overpriced to rip off international tourists. This also applies if hiring a local service provider, like a speedboat, taxi, horse-coach ride, tour guide or even beach masseuse or hair braider. Haggling in Colombia is normal, and sometimes even encouraged. I also recommend exchanging money at local venues instead of at the airport, since the former offer better rates. Ask your hotel/hostel's front desk about nearby currency exchange services. Doing your research about Cartagena before your arrival will definitely streamline your visit.
This bustling metropolis has something for everyone, thanks to its combination of modern and traditional ambiences. In the mood for a serious gourmet experience? Head over to "La Cuidad Vieja", the walled area of the city, where you'll find restaurants to cater to every budget. My personal favorites are Café del Santísimo, Andrés Carne de Res and Hotel Santa Clara Restaurant. Is clubbing in the books during your visit? Check out Mr. Babilla, Quiebracanto and Café del Mar! Want a genuine Caribbean island experience? You can charter a speedboat to the Rosario Islands, visit the aquarium and even rent a cozy AirBnB there! The Islands are a small cluster of volcanic islands that are known for their beautiful white beaches, scuba diving spots and laid back vibes. You can check out my family's AirBNB site and more on the history of Cartagena here!
If you visit Colombia, this Caribbean spot is A MUST!! With its beautiful beaches, glorious international and traditional cuisine, lovely weather and stunning seascapes, Cartagena is a magical place!!