For many Barranquilleros, a day trip to Cartagena offers a chance to let go, to eat well, to shake their tails, kick off their shoes, and relax – it’s not as expensive as Miami, and it’s certainly much closer; just a short 100kms up the coast. For Costeños, Cartagena is a sanctuary.
Founded in 1533, Cartagena was the original port city for the Spanish Empire’s interests in the Americas and by the 1600s it had become a massive military stronghold – the exit point for stolen Peruvian gold headed to Spain and the entry point for stolen Africans, destined for a life of slavery. Cartagena is a city rich with history, tradition, and circumstance, a city born and bred on gold, sweat and blood. This is more than evident in the enormous churches, the huge plazas and the interiors of buildings such as the Palace of the Inquisition in Plaza Bolivar where thousands were tortured and murdered at the hands of the Vatican.
These days, people taking a day trip to Cartagena for the first time or viewing it from afar are often surprised; the long line of hotels and luxury condos of La Boquilla lining the highway into the city and the equally beautiful pristine white towers of Bocagrande give the impression that the city is much bigger than it really is. It’s easy to think you’re descending on a massive metropolis when in fact, with a population of just over a million, Cartagena is still growing its legs.
The city is truly a veritable paradise and has something to offer everyone, and from delicious food, great music and dancing, a relaxing body massage on the beach, a guided walking tour of the castle, a private island party, or a midnight sail in the bay, you can find almost anything to satiate your desires.
Most people are drawn to La Ciudad Amurallada, an extremely colourful, picturesque, colonial neighborhood enveloped by an enormous 13km-long stone wall tenement; the original barrier to raging storms and pillaging pirates. Within the giant walls is a mini-city of exquisite spaces lined with designer shops, boutique hotels and fine restaurants all connected by quaint cobblestoned streets.
For those looking for a more trendy, artsy feel, Getsamani is the other up-and-coming neighborhood of Cartagena – once a warren of crime, it has become the haven of artists – a patchwork collection of art studios, backpacker hostels, tasty, reasonably-priced cafes and diners, and some very cool, very funky wall murals.
Alternatively, you can step off the land and into a boat; there are watercraft options for any budget and plenty of fantastic activities, from sailboating out into the bay at sunset, to diving off a thirty-meter mega-yacht in the Rosario Islands. Whether it’s swimming in the crystal clear water of Isla Barú that gets you excited, or diving down to check out a magical corral reef, Cartagena has something for everyone.
A day trip to Cartagena is a must for any visitor to the region. Stay tuned for more articles on things to do in this awesome Caribbean city.