Cartagena Colombia Travels: Romantic Get Away
Cartagena is Colombia’s most popular tourist destination for good reason. This coastal city on the Caribbean boasts a vibrant night life, beautiful architecture, and rich history. If I had to choose one word to describe Cartagena, it would be: “romantic,” (and no, this is not a reference to the film Romancing the Stone). Now, you might say my opinion is biased, since Cartagena is the city where Juan Pablo and I became engaged. But I will tell you it is the opposite- we became engaged because the city was so romantic!
After all the excitement of two weeks of visiting with Juan Pablo’s family and traveling all over the country, we were happy to slow things down a bit when we arrived in Cartagena. We planned to stay for six days – three days in the Walled City (well, really two with one full day spent on an ecotour in Boquilla just outside the city), and three days at a resort. This post will focus on our stay in the Walled City – more on the ecotour and resort in later posts.
We opted to rent an Airbnb in a beautiful old building in El Centro, rather than staying in a hotel in Bocagrande where Cartagena’s most popular hotels are. Bocagrande is located in the modern urban part of Cartagena, along a vast stretch of beach. Since we knew we’d be getting plenty of beach time in during our stay at the resort, we opted for the ability to walk around the beautiful colonial area known as the Walled City (the walled off area was an often disputed port city during trading days in the 16th-18th centuries).
We spent most of our time wandering around, marveling at the beautiful colors and and architecture, eating whenever the mood struck us, and taking each day at the slow pace that the oppressive humidity of the Caribbean demands. Below is a list of of what we chose to focus our time on, followed by a list of what we missed, but would love to do the next time we visit, and finally a few tips for traveling in Cartagena.
What we did:
- Ate at awesome restaurants like Montmartre (where we killed a few hours while we waited to be able to check into our Airbnb, and the lovely French owner gave us a cognac tasting to top off our lengthy meal, and a map of the old city where she circled all her favorite places for us), El Kilo (where the ceviche was so delicious that it inspired an unplanned proposal!), and Sierva Maria (where we stumbled into a delicious breakfast of arepas and fresh juices).
- Drank the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever tasted at Alquimico
- Wandered up and down every street in the old city, marveling at the colors and architectural details
- Browsed the artesanias at Las Bóvedas for artwork and gifts to bring home
- Strolled along the wall and watched the sunset
- Left the walled city and walked through the famous Getsemani neighborhood, where the street art reigns supreme
- Watched street performers dance (I don’t know how they moved so beautifully and energetically in such heat!
What we missed:
- La Popa – the hill where the convent “La Candelaria” sits, which offers sweeping views of Cartagena
- Castillo San Felipe de Bajaras – a fortress built in the 16th century for the protection of Cartagena
- Museums (Gold Museum, Naval Museum, Cartagena Historical Museum, etc.)
- Islas Rosario – these islands are accessible by boat or bridge, and offer a day trip to the most beautiful beaches in the area
Tips for traveling in Cartagena:
- Wear sunscreen. You’re on the equator, and the sun is spicy!
- Dress in the lightest fabrics you own. The humidity and heat are no joke.
- Plan leisurely days. The humidity and heat are no joke.
- If you want to take photos with the fruit basket ladies, or watch street performers, have small change with you so you can always leave a tip – this is their livelihood!