In a previous post, I talked about the beginning of my Colombia trip and how it wasn’t exactly the start I was looking for.
My trip started in Cartagena and I didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would’ve liked due to my luggage issues. I only had a couple of partial days to explore but I tried to make the most of them by seeing as much as possible. Indigenous people founded the city known today as Cartagena as early as 4000BC and it was officially founded in 1533. Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.I arrived in Cartagena on Friday, February 21st and a wall of hot, humid air greeted me as I stepped off the plane. Since I didn’t have any checked luggage, I quickly made my way to the taxi stand, paid around $7 USD for a cab and checked in at my hotel, Villa Colonial, which is just outside the walled portion of Cartagena, in Getsemani. The hotel is a bargain at around $35 for night and the staff were some of the nicest hotel staff I’ve encountered in all of my travels.
My first order of business was to buy some new clothing since I arrived wearing a thick sweater and winter running tights, not ideal in 90-degree weather. Also: I didn’t follow my own advice and pack a change of clothes. I wandered around the cobblestone streets and managed to buy a couple of outfits and some replacement toiletries using my broken Spanish. I almost left my passport in my hotel room but in hindsight, I’m glad I brought it with me. In order to use my credit card, I had to provide my passport. Compared to the rest of Colombia, Cartagena is expensive and I spent much more than I would’ve liked on replacement clothing. Thankfully, I purchased travel insurance before I left and it covered most of the cost.
I spent the next couple of days wandering the streets, people-watching and trying delicious Colombian cuisine. Don’t try to rush through an itinerary in Cartagena – part of the beauty of this destination is wandering the streets and getting lost. At every turn, there’s another colonial building, a street vendor selling snacks or a plaza with a set of comfortable chairs. Plus, the heat is pretty intense and chances are, you won’t feel up to rushing to tourist attractions.
Everyone in Cartagena that I encountered was warm, friendly and very patient when dealing with my abysmal Spanish skills. If you’re from the U.S., you’ve probably heard over the years that Colombia is a dangerous, scary place to visit. I took the normal precautions that I would anywhere in the world and I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe at any point.
I recommend visiting Cartagena in combination with some other cities in Colombia but if you’re short on time, it’s a location that can keep you occupied for a few days. It’s also a very short (2.5 hours) flight from Miami, making it one of the most accessible South American destinations.
Here are some more photos from Cartagena: