Cartagena, a town at the Caribbean coast with a lot of history. When we told (Colombian) people in other cities we were going here, they told us that is would be the most beautiful city that we would encounter with beautiful beaches. However, when we got here it was a little bit disappointing. The town is beautiful, really, however because tourism has developed a lot due to the big cruise ships docking here, it is not as authentic as the other cities in Colombia. For example, Bocagrande only consists of high rise hotels and the street sellers are quite aggressive, they will hunt you down the street, even if you tell them no multiple times. Also, the beach is not that nice, so if you are planning on some beach time, better stay at Playa Blanca for a night!
– Casa en el Agua
Since this is our number one activity in Cartagena and probably Colombia, and maybe even of all the trips we have made so far, we dedicated a separate blog to Casa en el Agua. Read all about this paradise here!
– Free Walking Tour
It is impossible to beat the free walking tour in Medellin (read all about that here), but it for sure was a nice introduction to Cartagena. You will only walk through the old part, but that is fine because at Bocagrande there is nothing but high buildings and black beaches (not worth it). As usual, it is free but a tip is recommended.
– Playa Blanca
Probably the best part of Cartagena is Playa Blanca. We intended to go there by bus (you can arrange this through many hostels) however we missed it and thus went by boat. We bought our tickets with one of the guys that are walking near the harbor and told them that we directly wanted to go to Playa Blanca. You can also opt for a tour with which you first go to another island and an aquarium, but we read that this is not really worth it and you will only have an hour at the beach. Once you get to the beach, walk all the way to the left. That is what we did and it was nice and quiet. When we walked back to our pickup spot we were shocked to find out that it was so super busy. There was no spot left on the beach to sit and music playing everywhere. So just walk all the way to the left so you can actually enjoy the white beach and empty sea! We only went for a day trip due to time constraints but if you have the option and don’t mind to sleep in a hammock, stay there for a night (or two). At 4:00 pm, all the boats and day trip tourists leave and you will have the whole beach to yourself (boat 75.000 COP, bus 40.000 COP).
– Mud Volcano
The mud volcano is one of Cartagena’s highlights and lies just a little bit outside of Cartagena. We thought it would be a natural well filled with mud but actually it is a high hill and not natural at all. It is fun to do so though. You can book a trip to the volcano through most of the hostels. You will go there by bus, this will take you about an hour. When you arrive, get into your bikini (better to wear it when you get there), put your stuff in a locker and go to the volcano! Tip: be as quick as possible! We were one of the first ones to go in and so we did not have to wait. All the others were waiting for at least half an hour. Once you get into the mud, you of course want to have pictures taken. And you can, for 3.000 COP (the Colombians are smart people). Also, you can get a nice massage, also for 3.000 COP. Finally, once you have enjoyed being weightless in the mud (it is a fun feeling), you of course have to get yourself clean again. And you can, for 3.000 COP. Some say it is tourist trap, but it is a fun one though. (30.000 COP, 39.000 COP all-in)
Be aware: Chris’ her hair is very blond and the ends turned orange because of the mud and stayed this way for a couple of days. So if you are a blonde, you might want to prevent your hair from getting into the mud.
– Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
There are several fortresses in Cartagena but this one is the most well-known. You can walk there from the old part of Cartagena and you can either do a tour or just walk around by yourself. To our opinion, you can just skip it. It was really expensive and did not impress us. We did not do a tour however, so maybe that is why are not too excited about this fortress. (25.000 COP)
– Cato Negro
Best breakfast! So good that we had breakfast here every day. There is lots of choice but our favorite was yogurt with muesli and fresh fruit, together with coffee and fresh juice for only 7.500 COP.
– Crepe Xpress
Delicious crepes (sweet and savory) that are perfect for a snack (8.000 COP)
Really good (and inexpensive for Cartagena) vegetarian restaurant (12.000 COP)
– Hotel La Magdalena (72.200 COP)
Hostels are quite expensive in Cartagena, so expect to pay quite a lot for even a dorm room. We decided to also check the hotels and ended up at Hotel La Magdalena, a very beautiful hotel in Getsemani. We were lucky because we ended up with a hotel room for 4 people with air conditioning and a nice shower. We paid as much (or even less) as we would have if we booked a room without bathroom (or even a dorm bed) in one of the popular hostels, so it really pays off to also look into the hotels! (72.200 COP for a double room)
Everything is close by, so you can easily walk to all the restaurants and shops, even to Bocagrande.
Not really necessary, only to and from the airport
We took a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta, it is cheaper than flying and it will take you about 5 hours to get there (44.000 COP)
Flight Medellin – Cartagena (90.000 COP)
What did you think of Cartagena? Were you also a little bit disappointed, or did you have a completely different experience? Or if you are planning on going there, what is on your to do list? Let your opinions and/or questions know in the comment section below!