Cartagena de Indias: the beginning of a love history with Colombia.
January 1, 1970
by Andrea Monsalve Rivera
As a Colombian was really hard to see my own country as a touristic place. I thought that for being a tourist or a backpacker I had to travel long distance and going to other continent to finally being a tourist but no, I realized that I’m not a tourist, not in Colombia or somewhere else, I am a traveler.
Cartagena, for instance is one of the most touristic places in Colombia and I decided to travel and understand more with a traveler eye s. All start when I take a bus from my hometown, Corozal – Sucre, that cost 10USD, 175.7 kms and 3 hours to get there. When I finally arrived to downtown or Centro Historico, I’m fascinated of how many foreigners decided to visit my country and makes me wonder if other Colombians have gave the chance to travel and enjoy this wonderful city.
As soon as you as you arrive to Cartagena you can feel the magic and it’s inevitable to feel trapped by all the old details of history and time, narrow streets with an amazing architecture, flowers and bright full colors, diversity of nationalities all over, a lot of things to buy and a million of things to learn.
I arrived and I set up to the hostel stayed in and I’m ready to explore the city. Is very easy to find friends in the way, a lot of backpacker arrive to Cartagena to do the same as me: discovering one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia and probably in the world, you can easily fall in love with this city in a heartbeat.
What to do in Cartagena?
The first thing to do is explore and walk along the walled historic city, as I like to call it: Walling. Use comfortable shoes, very fresh clothes, sun screen and your camera and you are ready to go!
La torre del Reloj:
La torre del Reloj is the perfect place to start this journey. A map isn’t necessary and all you need to need is to follow your heart, start to walking and stop only when your feet can’t make another step. All the streets inside the wall, are filled with restaurants, shops, souvenirs stores, plazas, monuments, museums and churches, it’s all about taking choices when you feel like you have to. I decided to rent a bike and get lost in the beauty of Cartagena, every corner was a new start. After a good lemonade I drove the bike for a couple of hours and returned it to the rent place. It’s a very nice way to know the city in a very low price.
Castillo de San Felipe:
When the sunset was about to come, I knew that was time to go to the Castillo de San Felipe, an amazing castle build by the Spaniards that has this mystical vibe holding history in every inch of it. After taking a tour outside and inside of the Castle was the time to sit and enjoy the marvelous view of Cartagena companied with an amazing sunset.
I decided to go back to the Centro Historico and have a guide tour in a horse drawn carriage, the tour guy have an lot of knowledge of the city and made me understand more of this amazing city. I finish my first day in Cartagena by having dinner with some friends I made in the way and we head to a Bar and have an amazing time with Colombian drinks.
Islas del Rosario.
The heat of Cartagena woke me up very early and I decide to go to las Islas del Rosario; I walked to the loading bay that is really close to the Torre del Reloj. I took a public boat and in 45 minutes I arrived to a perfect island surrounded by crystal clear water, white sand, bright sun and incredible view. I sat in a reclining chair and relaxed.The Rosario Islands are the perfect place to relax and enjoy another Colombian amazing place.
After a long and perfect day, it’s time to go back to Cartagena in the afternoon and later on was time to explore beyond the walls and I went to Getsemaní, this neighborhood of Cartagena was full with travelers, ancient houses have become hostels, cafes, bars and small restaurants but always continuing with the native spirit.
Beach time in Boca Grande.
The next day I decided to go to a closer beach in Boca Grande, was crowded with native people and travelers. As soon as I arrived I get a tent in front of the beach, have 2 comfortable chairs and order a great shrimp cocktail and a couple of beers; I avoided completely the massage and braided ladies, I highly recommend not to get trapped by their free samples of those, as soon as they know that you aren’t Colombian or Cartagenero, they will take advantage of that with over pricing services, food and drinks. I stood there till the afternoon and waited for the sunset. I went back to the hostel and booked a Chiva tour all over the touristic area in Cartagena, beyond the walls.
After passing by the old city, the Convention Centre, the San Felipe Castle, The India Catalina statue until we arrived to the walled downtown the chiva stopped for an hour at the Bóvedas, after Colombian fried food as: Arepa de huevo, Carimañolas and empanadas, the chiva tour included a party at a nightclub, was really fun. After that was time to go back the hostel and rest to go back to my reality, going back to my hometown.
I can’t really tell when I like Cartagena the most: in the morning the colorful city contagious you with an afro-caribbean atmosphere or in the night with this yellow lights that invite you to stay one more day. Was the first time, after several years that I finally discovered Cartagena as a traveler, and I’m fascinated about the magic of the city, I’m really in love with the city and I’ll be back really soon.
Some important recommendations:
The weather is always hot and you need to use sunscreen and also be hydrated. Be aware at the time of buying anything in the streets, Cartagena is well known as a touristic city but sometimes sellers get advantage of that and overcharge the prices, a Colombian/Cartagenero friend would be very helpful in those cases.
Thanks for everything Cartagena, Ill be back to know you more and better.
Andrea la viajera.