Cartagena is well and truly on the tourist track for a good reason – its beautiful and charming.
Cartagena is a postcard town. The walls that once stood to protect the city of Cartagena now spoil late afternoon wanderers to beautiful sunsets and views of the dazzling Caribbean Sea. Looking back into the city from the walls provides a similarly spectacular view. Proud churches, plazas and monasteries stand amongst never ending balcony clad houses. Almost year round, vines hang over these balconies blooming into colours that complement the equally colourful building exteriors.
If you’re worried about what to see, don’t over think it. Any readily available tourist map provides a good outline of churches, statues, parks, shops and more. Simply follow your nose and enjoy this city. Sweet toothed travellers won’t be hard pressed to stumble across one of the many gourmet ice-cream shops, each offering a variety of delicious flavours – perfect for the Cartagena heat!
Cartagena is also conveniently close to Santa Marta which is the gateway to one of Colombia’s big attractions – The Lost City (La Ciudad de Perdida).
Frequent sailings to Panama also make Cartagena a popular first or final destination for backpackers in Colombia. Whatever the reason you are in Cartagena, you will enjoy the romantic and colourful charm of this city.
Accommodation: Don’t arrive in Cartagena assuming cheap accommodation is easily found. To really enjoy Cartagena stay in the walled city. With exception to the nearby beaches, Cartagena’s beauty is confined to these walls with litter and dusty streets surrounding it. Make sure you find a way to fit pricey Cartagena accommodation into your budget.
Hostel Makako – COP22,000 for 6 bed dorm with aircon. The hostel is relatively clean, although bathrooms are less so. Nice hang out area with deck overlooking the streets. Lockers and decent enough kitchen available. Breakfast not included.
Getting there from Medellin:
Option one: flying. Viva Colombia has affordable tickets if you book a few weeks in advance. Flights are around the same price as a long windy bus ride but climb steadily in price if not booked as soon as possible. We don’t often recommend booking in advance however flights in Colombia is one thing we recommend.
Option Two: Catch a bus from by taking the metro to Caribe station. Buses are just as expensive as an early booked flight starting at COP115,000 per person (12+ hours). From the main terminal in Cartagena there is a large sign stating fixed prices for taxis to various locations in Cartagena. Taxis take approx 40 minutes to the walled city.
Getting there from Bogota:
Viva Colombia has affordable tickets if you book a few weeks in advance. Flights are around the same price as a long windy bus ride but climb steadily in price if not booked as soon as possible.
Getting away to Santa Marta:
• From the walled city, catch a local bus to the main terminal (1800 per person, 45 minutes – heavily dependent on traffic).
• From the main terminal catch a local bus to Santa Marta (COP20,000 per person, 4 hours 45 minutes in light traffic). Ensure you get a ticket all the way to Santa Marta and not just to Barranquilla.
• You will be dropped at Terminal de Transportes bus terminal (#31-277 a, Cl. 41 #31347, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia). Before you leave there is a very helpful police office/ stand which gives out maps and advice of the area.
• Taxis from the bus station to Santa Marta cost around COP6000 – 8000 depending on your haggling skills. Alternatively, a bus costs COP1,500 per person.
Getting away to Bogota:
As mentioned above, Viva Colombia has affordable tickets if you book a few weeks in advance. Flights are around the same price as a long windy bus ride but climb steadily in price if not booked as soon as possible.
Supermarket: Exito – corner of Carrera 11 and Calle 38.