There are plenty of fine places you could, and very well should, pack up your bag and go visit in 2017. The world’s gotten smaller. (It’s also gotten a bit wackier). The point is: there are a bevy of locations now on the cusp of becoming the next must-see-travel-spot.
Undoubtedly you may be thinking, “Man, I need a vacation.” Maybe you’ve been scouring the web to find the perfect place to visit? Or flipping through Instagram whenever you can and getting all jealous at friends’ photos of places you’ve never even heard of.
Well, here’s my pick for you. So listen up and if you have questions feel free to post as comments below.
My predication is that in 2017 or perhaps, 2018, all the travel guides will soon have Cartagena at the top of their lists.
Colombia as a whole is at a moment of pure awakening – having pushed off the Cocaine + Drug Dealer + Narcos + Deadliest place on earth stigma – the country can now showcase all of her glistening emeralds. You’ll find a delightful country with a warm and welcoming people: still on the uptick enough that the prices are fair and the hotels are not slammed, yet safe and “touristy” enough so that just about anyone can hop around, utter a few lines of Spanish, and have one hell of a time.
It’s also just about one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to terrain, climate, altitude, you name it. For example between Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena, you’ll experience the high elevation of the capital city, a lush “eternal spring” down in the valley, and a tropical port city on the Caribbean coast, respectively.
How do I get there?
More formally known as Cartagena de Las Indias, you can look for JetBlue flights that will arrive direct in Cartagena but another trick is to search on statravel.com or Kayak, to see which airlines fly from the US to Bogota to Cartagena. Perhaps try searching “multi-destination” if you plan on making a few stops in Colombia while on the Expedia page. You’d be looking for a flight from say, San Francisco to Dallas to Bogota, then an Avianca flight from Bogota to Medellin or Cartagena.
When you do arrive to the famous port city of Cartagena, you’ll be smacked by the beauty of the destination. Part New Orleans, part Caribbean. The Spanish influence and architecture are unmistakable and the tropical breeze will blow your hair (and troubles) back. What’s more, the walled city and buildings are a worldly treasure and the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
So a couple of pro-tips:
1.) Stay inside the walled city (everything good happens inside the walls). Called the “Old City”, the “walled city”, or if you prefer in Spanish, “ciudad amurallada”.
2.) Take the little yellow taxis almost everywhere. ($6 USD from the airport to your hotel, $5 USD from your hotel to the castle up on the hill for sightseeing, you get the idea)
3.) Order seafood. (You’re on the Caribbean coast. Enough said.)
Where to Stay?
Depends on what type of trip you are going for…
If you have a group of 2-4 people and want a home-base, I used AirBnB and found a gem. We stayed in the tallest building in the old city and hidden up there you’ll find an apartment that is perfect: open and a bit rustic, there’s a balcony, a hammock, and killer 180 degree views of the whole city. Also you are walking distance to everything but can retire to your high, airy and bug-free, castle, each evening for pre-going-out drinks or a late night cigar on the terrace.
For a solo traveler or a couple looking for a comfortable and modern set up, I’ve found this AirBnB:
Dinner and Going Out?
Here are the best restaurants I can recommend:
El Boliche – Hidden on a quiet street – the glass door slides open and you enter a tiny dining room of maybe 6 tables, AC, pretty decor. You order a cocktail or a crisp white wine (order whatever the hostess suggests – they’ll have a bottle of something good). Then get the crab empanadas and a few various ceviches. Don’t skip a dessert or espresso after. Everything they do is with great care and purpose. You’ll want to go back twice.
La Cevecheria – Famous for the best ceviche, seafood dishes, and it’s famous because Anthony Bourdain stopped in a few years back. Go for lunch. Go before or after the rush. Typically you’ll wait an hour outside but they let you order a beer and hide in the shade. Do that. Order the shrimp ceviche.
Juan del Mar – Romantic, seafood, live music, classy. Right by the plaza de San Diego.
Sofitel Legend Bar el Coro – A fine spot to start or end your evening. It can be the place you sip on a Negroni before your dinner reservation. Or the place you order a Gin Tonic and wander the amazing hotel garden. Or order a Hechicera rum and puff a cigar in the their comfortable open air couches.
Maria – Fun, bright, colorful. That’s the inside and the food.
Here are the best bars/going out spots I can recommend:
Cafe Havana – Old school cuban bar and live music spot. Really cracking on Saturday night. Show up at 11:30pm with your group, dress nice and where a white shirt, order a bottle of rum and they’ll give you glasses and a bucket of ice, sit back and wait for the music and dancing. Usually starts at about 1:30am. Late night. It’ll be a fun night.
Cafe del Mar – You’ll come here every night for sunset and a first drink. They’ve got a huge open deck on top of the city wall with a set of tables, couches, and lounges. They’ve got pretty waitresses. They’ve got the ocean winds and a killer sunset. And they’ve got a trance, lounge, ibiza thing going on with the music. Order a Mojito and watch the sunset / people watch. Then go out to dinner.
Malagana Café Bar – Set in an up and coming backpacker neighborhood. You’ll find a cute little bar with 2 x 1 drinks and dinner. There’s a small balcony / rooftop up the stairs.
Mirador Café Bar – Rooftop and open air bar with pop music. Good spot for a drink after dinner to plan out the evening. You’ll see the Clock Tower and the walls of the city.
Demente – Gastropub, fancy pizza, it’s great! You’ll want to check the Mexican restaurant next door and the bustling square of young backpackers and travelers all around. This is a great spot to take a taxi or you can even walk from the Clock Tower to this part of town. Note: this area is outside of the city walls. Lots of little bars and snack places all around.
Well there you go…some helpful pointers for visiting Cartagena, Colombia.
Have you been? Let’s hear your tips or favorite things to do.
#Keeptraveling and you can see more photos over on the TakeYaThere Instagram page!