It goes without saying, and we’re sure that you have thought about it more than once: 2015 is coming to an end and you are exhausted from constantly working. The only thing that you can think about is how to get away from it all, and hopefully, find yourself in a beautiful tropical paradise made just for you (or at least one that will include free drinks). Okay then, now that we’re on the same wavelength, we’ve got what you need…
Around ten years ago, South America started to be recognised as a geographical and tourist destination full of many well-kept secrets. Combine that with the growing trend of travellers thirsty for knowledge of new places and new experiences, and Cartagena de Indias should jump right up to the top of your must-go-and-see-now list. Popularly known as ‘La Heroica’ (The Heroic) o ‘La Ciudad Amurallada’ (The Walled City); Colombia’s architectural and cultural treasure is brimming with colours and flavours on every street corner. It has everything you need to enjoy THAT summer you will remember for the rest of your life. As we are lucky enough to live here, it’s only fair for us to share our wisdom and be your personal guide for how to best take advantage of your time in this Caribbean style city. (We’ve got a whole five days planned for you, so don’t go anywhere).
| Wednesday Arrival |
To begin your Caribbean/South American adventure, you need to find the perfect place to stay, the ‘Ciudad Antigua’ (Old City) is without a doubt the area you want to be in. After ditching your bags in your room and freshening up a little (because unless you’re made of porcelain, surely, you will be a little sweaty from the hot weather), it’s time to eat. To introduce yourself to the delicious delight that is Caribbean cuisine, we recommend you start with the restaurant, La Mulata. Here, a typical lunch includes fresh shellfish and will be just what you need to reenergize after your travels. After your delicious meal and as the sun starts to be a little more forgiving, why not indulge in some history? Pay a visit to ‘El Palacio de la Inquisición’ (The Palace of the Inquisition) or ‘El Museo de Oro’ (The Gold Museum), they will teach you little something about the bloody history of the Spain Inquisition and the Indigenous cultures’ collection of gold.
As the sun sets, after a soak in the bath (optional of course) head to the impressive terrace at Santa Teresa Hotel and soak up the festive atmosphere with a rum and coke in hand, a signature summer drink. But, we hear you cry, how to finish your first day in the best way possible? Well, for a romantic dinner at one of the best restaurants in Cartagena, look no further. La Vitrola will provide you with just that, accompanied by the care-free tones of an incredible Cuban band.
| Thursday: Brunch, Paseo de Compras and much more |
There’s no better way to start your day than with a hearty breakfast. The patisserie Mila, located in the Cathedral’s square, is famous for their delicious breakfast and natural juices. Here, breakfast can easily turn into brunch because after seeing the menu, you will want to try a little bit of everything. From the fresh sandwiches made from bread baked that day to the best brownies you will try, ever. No exaggeration. Now, let’s burn a few of those calories with a walk to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, where you can familiarise yourself with some more of the city’s history and enjoy marvellous views of the Old City, Bocagrande and Getsemani.
Enjoy an afternoon in Cartagena perusing the streets and doing some shopping. Whether you’re looking for something indigenous or a something trendier, the walkway from La Plaza de San Pedro to La Plaza Santa Teresa has a lovely choice of boutiques with eclectic pieces spilling out into the doorways and onto the pavements. Offering a varied choice from; multi-colored bags, typical ‘vueltiaos’ hats (traditional to Colombia), jewellery and accessories made with emeralds – to stylish clothes and shoes, your options are endless. What’s more, you just can’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the renowned Colombian designer Silvia Tcherassi’s boutique or the swimwear boutique with a great atmosphere Agua Bendita. Whilst embarking on this marathon shopping session, why not take a break at Caffe Lunático, a charming café in Getsemani that has a tasty, Colombian and Spanish fused menu.
As the sun sets, why not ride along the cobbled streets in a colonial-style horse-drawn carriage; discover the city, its architecture and watch the sun drop behind the horizon with the sound of the horse padding along and street vendors wheeling their fruit carts home. And after all this excitement, if you’ve still got some energy left, how about a leisurely and relaxing dinner at La Cevichería: the ceviche is made solely with fresh ingredients, presented with style and elegance. Oh, and don’t forget to try the octopus with peanut sauce (el pulpo con salsa de maní) it wouldn’t be the lightest meal but definitely worth a try!
| Friday: White Sandy Paradise |
What better way to start your Thursday than a typical Caribbean breakfast of egg arepas and a large choice of empanadas? If you agree then Sierva María is the place to go. On the other hand, if you are looking for something a bit more relaxed why not make the journey to the spectacular Islas del Rosario. Hire a sailing boat or a yacht a spend a peaceful day swimming in the crystal waters of Playa Blanca and lounging on the white sands, or spend the day in the Island hotels; Gente de Mar or Hotel Sport Barú. It goes without saying that you can’t go and not try the deliciously fresh fish.
If you plan to stay in the city, head to one of the many restaurants or take a tour of the bars, classier than it sounds, in the Walled City. Perú Fusión is a great choice with Peruvian cuisine, ceviche and sushi, all in the same place. Demente in Plaza Trinidad (Getsemani) is a great bar with a buzzing atmosphere, good music and delicious tapas. But if you’re looking for somewhere to put those dancing shoes to good use, Café Havana awaits. This famous salsa club has a live band and the best mojitos in the city. Bazurto Social is another good option for those looking to party; it has more of an underground vibe with Champeta style dancing.
| Saturday: The History of Cartagena |
Saturday is the perfect day to get to know the city and its architecturally impressive monuments. After a French style breakfast at La Brioche, pay a visit to the different churches and cathedrals in the city. These include San Pedro Claver, Santo Domingo and Santa Catalina de Alejandría Cathedral. As the day wears on and the sun begins to go down, why not walk along the city walls, where often there is a concert or a performance of some kind. For an evening refresher grab an ice cream from Gelateria Paradiso, a haven of ice creams with all the tropical flavors under the sun; lulo just so happens to be one of our favourites.
For dinner we recommend Juan del Mar, a seafood restaurant with a lovely atmosphere in Plaza San Diego. To top off a great day and evening, how about heading to the best club in Cartagena, La Movida, its beautiful terrace has latina and electronic music playing until the early hours.
| Sunday: Bike Tour |
We can imagine that after these busy four days you are already starting to feel exhausted, but the city has so much more to offer so don’t hit the hay just yet. There’s nothing like riding a bike through Cartagena, it allows you to take the time to appreciate the details, colours and those best-kept secrets. During the tour and to recharge your batteries, treat yourself to some brunch with an Italian feel at La Diva, or for lunch stop by La Cocina Pepina that serves Caribbean food with a twist.
Café del Mar is a truly idyllic place to spend your last night in Cartagena, take a mental picture of the sunset whilst enjoying a cocktail or two, or three. Finally, to end the day in the best way possible, walk over to Marea, run by the talented Rausch brothers. It is sure to be an innovative and exciting gastronomy experience overlooking the old walls and the sea. Are you ready?Año Nuevo en Cartagena, Año Nuevo en el Caribe, Best Beaches of Colombia, Cartagena, Ciudad Amurallada, Colombia, Summer in Cartagena, Tropical Paradise in Colombia, Vacaciones en Cartagena