Coloured history in Cartagena, Colombia
The historic town of this Caribbean city can be described in a single word: stunning. With its fortified walls, colourful colonial facades, Spanish courtyards, churches, green squares and pristine streets, Cartagena is possibly the most beautiful Colonial town in Latin America.
But wander a little away from the glitz of the old city and you will soon be walking through sprawling slums. The divide between rich and poor in this city is stark and confronting and shows the tourist dollar does not always spread far.
Rich in history, there is plenty to keep visitors busy for several days including the Spanish Inquisition and fort museums. I spent much of my time wandering the historic town, admiring the colour and architecture, eating at one of the many restaurants and enjoying the street dancers.
Palacio de la Inquisicion provides a fascinating insight into the Spanish Inquisition when Catholic Church searched for and put to death “witches”. You can try out some of the devices used for torture and test yourself on the questions asked to determine if someone was a witch. My friend Jenny and I would have definitely faced the chopping block.
For many, Cartagena is the beginning or end of their trip in Colombia with many tours sailing via Panama’s stunning San Blas Islands. Read my blog about the San Blas here.
Check out This Is Cartagena for more information on things to do in Cartagena.
Cool bars: Cafe del Mar to watch the ocean colours change on sunset.
Good eatery: La Cevicheria for, you guessed it, great Ceviche, mains are about COP40,000 to 50,000.
Dancing: Centro Cultural
Day tours: Take a bus to Playa Blanca or a tour to the mud volcano.
Accommodation: There is a huge selection of budget accommodation just outside the city walls along and around Calle Media Luna. El Viajero is the only hostel within the fort walls.
Mamallena Hostel has air-conditioned dorms and privates COP30,000/COP90,0000, includes pancake breakfast.
For privates, the stunning Hostel Casa Baluarte has private rooms with air-conditioning for COP100,000 and a very tasty breakfast.
Getting to and from Cartagena
Local buses run roughly every hour from the main terminals between Santa Marta and Cartagena for COP20,000. It is a COP20,000 taxi ride from Cartagena centre to the bus terminal and COP5,000 in Santa Marta.
A shuttle service that travels door to door between Santa Marta and Cartagena is available for COP42,000. This tends to take roughly an hour longer than the bus due to the time taken collecting and dropping off passengers and picking up locals throughout the journey. After travelling through a ball of fire following a car accident, I can’t recommend taking the shuttle service.