Cartagena was a real surprise! A city I thought I would spend only a couple of days where I actually ended up staying one month! There is something special about it. And everybody I met seems to agree.
Is it its vibrant atmosphere, its medieval style or even its colorful houses that somehow remind me of Trinidad in Cuba?
Well if you want my opinion, it’s all of it!
So, if you are planning to go there soon, here are my top 10 things to do in Cartagena:
1.Visit the old town
You can’t miss the entrance! It’s right where Torre del Reloj (the clock tower) is. It’s surrounded by Las Murallas, the thick walls built to protect it against its enemies. From there, you can just walk around, discover its beautiful paved roads, restaurants and coffee shops everywhere, and all of it surrounded by music. Yes, Cartagena is a very loud city (no kidding, buy some earplugs).
There is also a beautiful park there named Parque de Bolivar.
2.Watch the sunset at Café Del Mar
Definitely one the best places to watch the sunset. You won’t regret it! And if the cafe is full (which happened to me), you can always go seat on the mural with some snack and enjoy it from there (you won’t be the only one).
3.Drink a fresh juice in Getsemani
I just fell in love with this area of the town! Right by “Iglesia de la Trinidad”, there are lots of places where you can drink amazing juices! There are about 8000 pesos (2.70 USD) and there are huge! Just walk around, feel the atmosphere. All those colonial and colorful houses reminded me a lot of Trinidad in Cuba.
At night, the area gets very crowded with lots of shows! It’s usually where everybody meets before going out.
4. Visit the castle San Felipe de Barajas
If you want to take amazing pictures of the whole town, it’s the place to go!
Plus, it’s super cool. I enjoyed visiting its maze of tunnels (and getting lost in it). And it is actually well conserved.
The entrance fee is 25000 pesos (8.50 USD) which is a bit expensive but worth it!
5. Eat an arepa e’ huevo and a prawn ceviche
One of the specialties you will have to eat. The arepa is not one of the healthiest, I know. But once in a while, it can’t hurt 😉
I really liked Sierva Maria. Good arepas, juices, and great location (right in the old town, not far from the entrance). They also have a good wifi there and AC so it was for me the perfect place to go chill on my laptop.
Let’s now talk about the ceviche.
When you are looking for a place to eat a ceviche in google, everything seems to point out to La Cevicheria. For 38000 COP (13 USD), I have no doubt it is good. But slightly expensive compared to the average prices in Colombia.
But thanks to the locals I talked to, they were able to indicate me to another place, yet, not as comfortable as seating down at a restaurant considering it’s more a ceviche “fast food” but the staff was so nice and it was cheaper.
Plus, I just walked 5 min and sat in a park named Parque del Centenario and ate it there. And it tasted divine!
The place is called El Sincelejano..
6. Go salsa dancing at Donde Fidel
It is small, so don’t expect to spend the whole night there but it’s a good place to start it 😉
I absolutely loved the vibe! Lots of locals and also located in the old town, near the entrance.
7. Check out the panoramic view of the city at Cerro de la Popa
Located on a hill, it is the highest point of the city! You’ll have an amazing panoramic view of the town!
It’s only 10 min away from the historical center but there is no public transportation that go there so the cheapest way is to get a mototaxi. Always negociate the price (you can drop it to half of it).
There is also a convent you can visit for 6000 COP (2 USD) which I didn’t do.
8.Take a picture in front of La India Catalina
Brief history class: Catalina was an indigenous girl (from the Calamari ethnic group) who was abducted as a child by a Spanish conqueror. She learnt Spanish and adopted the catholic religion. Pedro de Heredia (spanish conquistador who founded Cartagena) required her to serve as an interpreter to the native americans. The events of the Spanish conquest in the area of modern Cartagena ended with the complete annihilation of the Calamari people, which happened with her help.
Some say she was a traitor, some others she was a pacifist.
Anyway, nowadays, she is the only indigenous woman who has ever been honored.
9. Visit San Basilio de Palenque
I’m so glad I got to visit this town. Located about an hour away from Cartagena, you’ll feel like you’ve just landed in Africa. In fact, it is the first free town of African slave in America!
They are very proud of their culture and their language which have been able to survive after hundreds of years!
10. Go to Baru Island
A must do! It was absolutely beautiful.
Will talk more about how to get and what to do there it in my next article.
In the meantime, here is a picture of where I stayed. It’s called Playa Blanca…