We could hardly believe how quickly our time had gone as we flew into the beautiful city of Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, our last stop in South America!
It seemed as though just a few days before we were saying hello to the Pacific for the first time, however, onwards and upwards (well, northwards at least) with our adventures.
This meant basing ourselves in the Caribbean for the next few weeks… it could’ve been worse!
I know I’m starting to repeat myself, but really, this city was just too cool!
As soon as we stepped of the plane into the warm tropical breeze we were hooked.
We ended up staying in the Cartagena area for about 8 days, whilst this sounds like a bit of an anomaly in our crazy, fast-paced travels (and it was) we had a few reasons for the extended stay;
- The next leg of our journey was a week-long sailing trip to Panama, which we had to book in advance, so day 1 was finding a boat trip and booking ourselves on it, you can read more about organising that in the next post
- Cartagena wasn’t the only draw of this beautiful area – the next week would become our first taste of Caribbean island life; we did two 2-night trips to Tierra Bomba and Playa Blanca which you can hear all about soon
- We couldn’t help but love the easy way of life we were sucked into when discovering this city and the opportunity to treat ourselves to some real bar hopping
- We then had a few issues which delayed our boat journey and gave us 2 more days in the area (which we used to go to Playa Blanca – an absolute MUST)
As you can tell I think I’m going to need a few more posts to share all the details of our extended week in Cartagena! So, for now, I’ll stick to passing on the highlights of this wonderful city!
What to see and do;
Wander the winding streets – discover little hidden shops, vast squares, artists, musicians, fruit sellers, market stalls and a whole lot more – don’t forget to look around you, the cities beauty is rooted in the brightly coloured houses, ornate windows and balconies and the beautiful climbing flowers on the front of every building.
Follow the city walls – either with a sunset cycle or a morning walk make the most of the beautiful city walls, the epic views and the much needed sea breeze!
Make the most of your surroundings – throw yourself into discovering every aspect of this area from the old town of Getsemani, the vast Bocagrande and the islands of Playa Blanca and Tierra Bomba.
Where to stay;
Hostel Mamallena – though not the cheapest this place is a real backpacker hub on the lively Calle Media Luna. This hostel chain provides the essentials of hostel life really well; good mix of dorms and doubles, a great pancake brekkie and loads of info on what to do and how to get there!
- Opposite Mamallena there was a hostel (possibly called Media Luna) that seemed to host great backpackers parties on its roof terrace – we never made it but it sounded like fun from what we heard from others
- If you are unable to get in at Hostel Mamallena (and it did get super busy) then don’t worry the surrounding streets are filled with other cheap places to stay
Hotel Plaza San Felipe – stayed here on the night we arrived late – it’s a beautiful old colonial building which overlooks the Parque Del Centenario as an emergency when we couldn’t find anywhere else to stay late at night – it was central, clean and comfy which was perfect for a late crash!
Where to eat and drink;
Agua de Mar – an incredible, sophisticated and super-cool (literally) gin bar. Not cheap but totally worth the splurge, Robbie enjoyed a classic G+T with cucumber which was the size of his head and I slurped a delicious gin and red berry cocktail, the cool Cartagen-ian crowd, beautiful bar and lively bar tenders make for a great evening of drinking and observation.
Gelateria Paradiso – the ultimate ice cream shop in the heart of the maze-like old town, we couldn’t resist a few repeat visits and each time tried a new incredible flavour from their selection which changed daily – also a great air conditioned retreat for hot, weary wanderers!
Teriyaki Teppanyaki – situated on one side of the Plazuela de San Diego opposite the Sofitel this place had an incredible selection of sushi – it is in amongst a bunch of restaurants all of which were full and lively every night and had great outdoor seating, a great spot for an evening!
Bar el Coro – the Sofitel hotel lounge bar – here I had hands down THE BEST COCKTAIL I HAVE EVER HAD. IN MY LIFE. EVER. I am so annoyed with myself that I enjoyed it too much to make note of the recipe but the delicious mix was something like this; refreshing lychee liquor, lemongrass syrup and a few other dreamy bits and bobs all mixed with together with iced mango green tea and loads of ice! My mouth is watering just thinking about it, and I haven’t even gotten around to the bar snacks yet… Alongside our wonderful refreshments we had a complimentary selection of olives and crisps and we ordered a small plate of crispy shrimp with spicy sauce… delish! Again this isn’t such a great budget option however, the lounge bar is like something from a 50s classic film; comfy low sofas, enormous ceiling fans and a jazz crooner in the corner – a must visit!
Pizza en el Parque/Pizza in the Park – a perfect pit-stop just a few doors down from Agua de Mar this little pizza place offers tasty and cheap pizza… perfect after a few gins!
Fruit on the street – everywhere there were ladies in traditional blue, red and yellow dress selling the most wonderful fresh fruit for super cheap – gorge on mango, melon and pineapple (and papaya, but I don’t trust people who like papaya…)
Exito – a great supermarket with a big branch right in the heart of Getsemani, great for picking up island or boat supplies, Haviana flip-flops for £5 and ideal to get ingredients for making your own guacamole as we did one hot afternoon!
As you can tell we did a real eat-and-drink-tour of Cartagena and I would recommend anyone else to do the same!
All that should be on your agenda is to explore, discover and enjoy the city – and what better way than to follow your stomach!