Because I had to go for my work to Barranquilla, I also had to see Cartagena, both cities are only 2 hours away from each other. Cartegena, fully named Cartagena de Indias, is with its Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments on the UNESCO world heritage list. Below my 24 hours in Cartagena…
Together with a colleague we decided to take a bus at the bus terminal of Barranquilla. Arriving at the kiosk we bought our tickets there, they were about 20,000 pesos each, and within 15 minutes we could already leave. Sometimes things are fast here in South America, or is it just luck this time?
Honestly, I am very curious what I will see during the ride to Cartagena, unfortunately I notice that the surroundings are as inspiring as the music I am hearing out of the van’s old speakers. I sit in the front row of the van, next to the driver, and I see that the digital number of radio/cd-player jumps from’1′ to ‘2’… No, no, no… I will be listening to this singer until we arrive Cartagena.
Cartegana’s old center is actually a real fort itself and when you enter the city it gives a weird, strange feeling when your pass and drive through the main gate. It seems that you are entering a whole different world. I see small, colorful streets, with little balconies and their lovely flowers. Each street has his own unique character and therefore it is really tempting to take a picture of each of the streets you see.
We stopped before a large stair which is leading to the top of Caratagena’s fortress wall. There is an outside bar (Cafe del Mar), and we decide to drink a well deserved cold beer and have a good look at the Caribbean sea. Next to us there is a stage for a DJ, and after half an hour he is actually there and playing some lounge music. More and more people, mostly tourists, are joining the terrace now. Behind us the Colombian flag, fighting and struggling with the wind, gives that additional touch to this scene. And in the background you can see the modern part of Cartagena as well.
Our hotel is located at the other side of the old center as where Cafe del Mar is. The hotel is near the clock tower (Puerta del Reloj), actually it is on the same square as the clock tower. This tower has clocks at every side. It used to be a chapel, nowadays you can jus walk through it. As you might agree with me it is a beautiful spot in the evening.
Our next morning, after a perfect strong breakfast, we jumped into a cab to visit one of the other Spanish forts, which was used to defend the city. The San Felipe de Barajas is the biggest, and the strongest fort ever built by the Spanish in all of their colonies, if you have the chance visit this one while you are in Cartagena.
After shaking our heads several times yesterday to the vendors on the street, when they were aiming to sell hats to us. This time the sun was in their favor. Walking, steeply, the sun burning and burning in our necks, it was just too much. Finally we decided to buy one of the hats. And I knew, we fitted the touristic picture very, very well now!
Because the fort is much higher than other parts of Cartagena it is an ideal place for making overview shots. If you want more details about the fort itself and the defending strategies plus some of the Spanish history I recommend to take a tour. We were able, without any planning before, to arrange one on the spot.
Our last ‘activity’ was the beach. We went to the nearest beach of Cartagena. There it was.. the Caribbean sea.. I almost forgot how magnificent you were. The temperature is just perfect, like walking into a warm shower. Besides that the waves are pretty high and powerful enough to enjoy yourself for quite some time in the sea.
For everyone who is doubting Colombia’s safety because of the drugs, the FARC, and maybe other negative rumor, please don’t. Colombia is a much safer place as 20 years ago and I strongly recommend visiting this country when you are in South America.
I have the feeling that my time was too short to experience it all. I hope to visit Colombia and Cartegena again soon so I can discover and explore more. At the other side of Barranquilla, on the right, you have a national park – PNN (Parque Nacional Natural) Tayrona, and this park is on my visit list for next time.
Please leave a message below when you have more Colombian travel tips.
¡Hasta La Próxima!
Short history of Cartagena
Cartagena was founded by Pedro de Heredia and it became the most important Spanish port located at the Carribean sea. From Cartagena many of the conquered treasuries were transported and sailed towards Spain. And because of all these treasures the city was a target for a lot of other countries or pirates sailing the Caribbean sea.
In 1810 Cartagena was one of the first cities in Colombia who declared independence from Spain, but in 1815 it was conquered by the Spanish again. Finally it was Simón Bolívar’s groups who liberated Cartagena in 1821 from the Spaniards. Cartagena is often referred as the Heroic City.