And so it begins.
The first stop on our adventure is Cartagena, Colombia. It is a beautiful Caribbean port city that is hot and humid. It is amazing to hear about the transformation the city has gone through over the last 15-20 years. The area we are staying in, known as Centro, is now a completely safe area where the locals are very friendly and the nightlife is abundant. The city itself is comprised of narrow well-lit streets with short colorful buildings as well as tall white skyscrapers in the distance.
There are many other travelers and many things to do including walking on the wall that surrounds the old city, visiting Playa Blanca in Los Islas Rosarios, take a mud bath at Vulcan Totumo, take a tour of the San Felipe Fortress that shadows the city, or walking around and exploring the many other historical parts of the city.
We enjoyed people watching at night from a balcony overlooking a famous statue of la gorda gertrudis in Plaza Santo Domingo as horse-drawn carriages circled below. There were a variety of entertainers as well; from mimes, to guitarists, to accordion players, to a full mariachi band.
After being here for a few days, here are some recommendations for anyone interested in visiting:
- The bus (or buseta) from the airport to Centro costs about $0.90 USD. Ask any of the airport guards for directions (about three blocks). Take the green and white buseta with a sign for Centro and pay when you get on.
- You can get a free map from the tourist information center near the clock tower or any other similar booth around town
- It is okay to drink the tap water in Centro
- Since it is so hot, it is better to take several short showers a day than one long one
- People in Cartagena are very friendly so don’t hesitate to ask for directions
- Juan Valdez Cafe is the only cafe that serves Grade A Colombian coffee (it is really good)
- Make sure to actually walk on the wall
- Even though we paid for an English speaking tour guide while at San Felipe Fortress, we don’t think it was worth the 30,000 Colombian Pesos because she just told us everything it says in the free pamphlet they give you as you walk in. We didn’t try it, but they offer an audio tour you can get from the ticket booth at time of purchase for 5,000 Colombian Pesos.
- Makako Chillout Hostel and The Chill House are sister hostels. Makako is much more laid back and clean, whereas the Chill House is more of a non-stop fiesta
- We were told by a friend that if you only have time for one beach, take “la lancha directo” to Playa Blanca
- The restaurant called Crepes & Waffles hires only single moms and has a really nice ambiance with its modern decor in an old style building. Their lunch was only okay, but we didn’t try their specialty which is desserts (ice cream, sweet crepes and waffles). We recommend going to help the socially responsible enterprise.