5 Musts When Visiting Cartagena, Colombia
My trip to Cartagena, Colombia was a special one. Enjoying the week long holiday with my parents and husband allowed me to both reconnect with family and explore a new and stunning new location. There is a lot to see and do in the area but what we found most apparent is the simple desire to people watch at one of the many local pubs or coffee shops, wander the winding cobble stone streets or enjoy the views of the vast atlantic ocean.
The heart of Cartagena is the old city. Surrounded by a three and a half kilometre wall, this portion of the city is a breathtaking example of colonial architecture. The city itself was built with protection in mind. Protection from potential invasions including piracy. While the defines was constantly being rebuilt and restored, the city maintained its status as a world class port.
Here are my top must-dos when visiting Cartagena:
1. Eat At Carmen
Carmen is rated as one of the top restaurants in Cartagena according to Tripadvisor and other reputable travel sites. While travel site recommendations are not always accurate, they are spot on when it comes to Carmen. Carmen is a romantic, beautiful restaurant with some of the best food I have ever eaten. No joke. I have travelled extensively and rarely miss an opportunity to feast on highly revered restaurants. I try to stick to my clean eating or as close to it as possible, even when travelling. Carmen offers fresh, exquisitely cooked, creative meals that will take your breath away.
2. Enjoy Ceviche
Cevicherias are a staple in the Cartagena and across the region. It just so happens that Cartagena boasts some of the most talked about ceviche restaurants in the world. There are two particular cevicherias in the old city that have their own unique flare. The Cevicheria is a relatively large restaurant with an extensive menu to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Anthony Bourdain’s photo is featured on the wall and on the back of the menu from his visit in 2010. That alone draws loads of foodies but it is the quality of their cuisine that keeps people coming back. Just down the street there is an unassuming cevicheria by the name of El Boliche Cebicheria. This place is rather different from the Cevicheria. It is a tiny spot with some totally unique culinary options. If you are looking for Colombian food with a twist, check out Boliche and try their incredible coconut crab empanadas.
3. Walk The Wall
The wall is relatively small in terms of radius but the height of it offers spectacular views of both the inner city and the coastline. Wake up early before the heat is overwhelming and enjoy a brisk run around the wall to work off some of the ceviche and South American wine you will no doubt indulge in. If you aren’t a runner, walking the wall is equally as lovely and offers you the added bonus of being able to stop at some of the chic little bars overlooking the water.
4. Take A Mud Bath
The mud volcano is something that seems exceedingly strange. It was a last minute decision to go on this tour and we could not have been more happy that we did it. Interesting? Yes. Soothing? Totally. Relaxing? Without a doubt. Weird? Definitely. The long drive from the city centre is made more pleasant by good company and the capacity to snooze during car rides. Upon arrival the site of a strange, mud covered tower definitely makes you wonder but the moment you step into the cool, smooth mud you are one hundred percent sold. Local men with some serious skills provide full body massages while your body floats, entirely buoyant, atop the surface of the mud. You float and play in this amazing little pit before making your way to the local lake for a scrub down from the village women. It is a tad aggressive but my god they are thorough. This is a trip that is as enchanting as it is strange.
5. Visit The Fortress
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is at the highest point of the city. It was built to defend against potential invaders and despite numerous raids and attempts at capturing the city, continued to be built and reinforced to guard against attacks by land or sea. It doesn’t take long to wander through the entire structure unless you are brave enough to explore underground caverns and tunnels. Regardless the hilltop views and history are enough to make it worth the journey.
Spending a few days in Cartagena isn’t necessary cheap. As a well known tourist destination, travellers can expect a serious premium on everything from accommodations and food to beer, wine and souvenirs. Thankfully options such as vacation rentals and mini markets help to alleviate some of the strain on the wallet and inexpensive tours, wandering the city and splurging on great food makes it a perfect vacation destination.