The northern coastline of Colombia flows to its own rhythm unique to the rest of the country. Cartagena is Colombia’s Caribbean jewel, the city that embraces both its Latin roots and its reggae soul. Your senses will feel overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, scents and r that hit you upon arrival. Positioned on the Caribbean coast with tropical Rosario islands within day trip distance, Cartagena is a great base to further explore along Colombia’s coastline. Easy to access from North America it is the perfect short break destination or a great addition to your South America tour itinerary.
A Unesco World Heritage Site, Cartagena’s colonial old town has been preserved for centuries thanks to the thick and imposing stone walls that surround the city that have protected it from multiple attempted sieges.With beaches a plenty scattered along side the city, Cartagenas charm really lies in her town and cool laid back way of life.
Below are the reasons you need to make this Caribbean city next on your travel list:
Passing through the thick stone walls, you are greeted with old colonial buildings painted a multitude of bright reds, oranges, yellows and blues. Some of the houses have been restored to their former grandeur whilst others are in a more rustic state but still retain a unique charm. Winding and confusing streets snake their way between the houses and its easy to get lost quickly. Taking an entire afternoon to stroll your way through the zigzag streets is the perfect way to take in the unique architecture. Or walk up the old wall and find a spot to watch the sun set over the ocean as local kids play soccer on the grass below.
If you don’t know how to spin your way around a dance floor then this is your chance to learn. Colombians sure do know how to dance and a dance club or bar might seem frightening to the uninitiated. Taking a few classes is a great idea to get the basics down, or for the brave dive straight in and give it a go. Salsa is not just confined to the bars and will often spill out onto the streets especially during festivals. Let go of your inhibitions and give it a go!
Girls this is the shopping destination for you! Teaming with upmarket boutiques and smaller, less expensive stores you can find the perfect summer dress or bikini here. Ranging from international brands to local Colombian designers you will be able to pick up that hat, sunglasses, dress or shoes that you forgot to pack. Or perhaps a new dress for a night on the town to show off your new salsa moves? Even if you backpack is packed to bursting have a browse through some air conditioned shops is often a nice respite from the oppressive heat.
The dish you want to order is the typical meal of fried fish, coconut rice and fried banana on the side. This perfectly captures the flavors of the Caribbean and the smell of seafood coming from the restaurants grabs at you as you walk past so if you try and resist you won’t be able to for long. Fruit juices are also a specialty here and your imagination is the only limit to what you can order. Although with many unique fruits only found in Colombia, Mora and LuLu are two to try for sure. Scattered through the streets are the Las Pelenquera, or the fruit basket ladies, who wear brightly colored dresses and carry baskets of fruit around on their heads through the city. Not to mention the corn flour snack of arepa often eaten with cheese, Cartagena really is a food lovers paradise.
Cartagena is a beach side destination that has a lot more to offer than just fun in the sun and it is easy to lose a day or two just soaking up the Caribbean vibes.
Tell us how your trip in Cartagena was!
I’ve wanted to go here since I saw the movie Romancing the Stone. However, I know that parts of Columbia are still unsafe, especially for oil and gas people. But is Cartagena safe? I believe it is, but just wanted to ask.
Overall Colombia is a much safer travel destination than it used to be, and Cartagena as a city is quite safe.
You do need to be vigilant with your personal security like always keeping an eye on your bag etc and not walking by yourself at night but otherwise it was a really great, buzzing and cultural city that I highly recommend travelling too.
My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer!
Let me know if you have any more questions,