Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena  |  Photo by: Esteban Venegas

Dancing, drinking, fresh fruits and crystal clear water- it’s a tropical paradise you don’t want to leave.

Cartagena, a colorful gem on the coast of Colombia. Dancing, fresh fruits and crystal clear water – it’s a tropical paradise you don’t want to leave. Here are our secret recommendations for 48 hours in Cartagena and the things you definitely can’t miss out on.

Local women  |  Photo by: Ricardo Gomez

We start to stroll through the stonewalled Old City where it feels as if you’ve travelled back in time. After many pirates in the 16th century (including the well-known Sir Francis Drake) attempted to plunder the city, stone fortresses and enormous walls were built to line the city’s defence and one of colonial Spain’s most important ports. Nowadays you see the remainders of the colorful cobblestone streets and vibrant plazas. There is an abundance of great street food to enjoy here, like cheese-filled arepas and fresh lemonade.

Check out the Sand white
which fits perfectly to Cartagena

If you want to try out Colombian food for the first time, Mercado de Bazurto is a good place to start. Here you’ll have fresh fish, meat and many different kinds of exotic fruits to tickle your taste buds. Apart from the mercado, there are numerous great restaurants that we tried during our stay. We will list a couple of them underneath:

La Vitrola: this Colombian mainstay is frequently visited by tastemakers, politicians, and socialites that evokes a feeling of 50’s Havana. With live Cuban music and mid-meal dancing, the atmosphere is incredible. The food doesn’t disappoint either: it’s vast, ranging from pasta and steak to seafood and carpaccios. No wonder it’s one of the hardest reservations to get in town.

La Perla: a Peruvian pearl in a Caribbean paradise. This place doesn’t just do ceviche, they also have incredible tiraditos, which are sashimi with sauce. The cocktails are just as great. The pisco sours will make your head spin again and again. Guaranteed.

Vera Cucina Italiana: what’s in a name, of course, Italian food! Inside the Tcherassi Hotel, which is a colonial mansion with a fashionable following, this restaurant serves authentic dishes in an indoor-outdoor dining room. The mushroom risotto and fettucine aragosta have been on top of our list for a long time.

Inner city  |  Photo by: Ricardo Gomez

If you want to relax after a day of walking around Cartagena’s markets, you should go to the El Totumo volcano. Here you can treat yourself with a special mud bath and – if that isn’t relaxing enough – even get a real Colombian massage.

Away from land but close to Cartagena you have beautiful islands that are accessible by boat. Islas De Rosario is a group of little islands which is an aquatic wonder, only to discover by snorkeling or scuba diving. If you want to stay on the mainland and want to have some magnificent views, it’s a good idea to explore the Convento De La Popa. You can take a cab up here and see the convent that was founded in 1607, with a honestly stunning view on Cartagena and its beaches. 

Islas del Rosario  | Photo by: Meghan the traveling teacher

There are many options for accommodation in Cartagena. There are plenty of homestays, budget hotels and luxury hotels, mostly depending on the specific neighbourhood. The luxury neighbourhood of Cartagena is Castillogrande, the hipster neighbourhood is Getsemaní, The Quiet Neighbourhood is San Diego and The Miami Beach of Cartagena is Bocagrande. There’s something for everyone.

A few of our recommendations:

Casa San Agustín at the heart of Cartagena’s old town, this hotel was designed around a 300-year old aquaduct. Inside with a supremely elegant and strong Colombian style, outside a charming L-shaped pool that has been constructed under the aquaduct. After relaxing at the poolside, you can eat at their renowned restaurant, ALMA.

Anandá Hotel Boutique by Cosmos is a luxury hotel close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. The rooms in this hotel complement the historic beauty of the city, with colorful interior and exotic decoration. With downstairs a pool to cool down and on the roof a hot tub to warm up, there are many ways to relax here after exploring the city.

Bastión Luxury Hotel Cartagena: this hotel combines modern architecture with 16th century craftsmanship in the heart of Cartagena’s old center. We absolutely love the panoramic pool and spa that they have to wind down with an iced fruit cocktail after a long day of exploring the city.

Casa San Augistin  |  Photo by: hotel
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