Cartagena is a popular holiday destination for Latin Americans, located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Despite what assumptions are made about Colombia, I found Cartagena to be safe and made a very welcome addition my ever-expanding list of favourite places. The walled old town is picturesque with cobblestone roads, colourful restored colonial architecture and an endless choice of trendy bars and restaurants. A short cab ride down the road is Bocagrande, where the old town connects to the newer beach area. It has an endless choice of hotels and apartments along the warm watered coastline.
I stayed in Cartagena for a week which was almost enough time to experience what this city has to offer. One of my favourite nights was on the weekend, as the hip area of Getsemani within the old town became even more alive. (Although I feel most nights would be alive, especially during the hot high-season). I started with dinner at Demente in the busy square Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad. A bar/restaurant within a restored ruin – with a good vibe and an equally hip menu including tapas, creative mains, gourmet pizzas and drinks to start the night. Whilst sitting at the bar I meet an inspirational fellow Australian who had visited the area six years earlier and didn’t want to leave, so she didn’t. By setting up a tour agency she has been lucky enough to keep the holiday feeling alive every day. She also introduced me to Demente’s legendary coconut pie. I will eternally be grateful to this individual.
Stepping out of the restaurant back into the square Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad was an incredible experience, as the crowds had grown even more. This is a must-visit hot spot if you’re there on the weekend, with a combination of locals and travelers. Within the square salsa music spilled out from nearby bars, teenagers kicked a soccer ball around, an older couple was salsa dancing in the midst of the crowds and bodies lined the curb sitting on old cardboard boxes drinking beer and rum purchased from a nearby corner store. At one stage I shared a curbside seat with a French traveler, who like my new friend from the restaurant couldn’t bare to leave Colombia so had created opportunities to stay an extra nine months. Unfortunately he wasn’t as business savvy and will have to leave the country soon – commendable effort though. I could have stayed on my cardboard box chatting to interesting people all night, but after staying two hours more the planned in the plaza, I felt a salsa club calling.
Also located in Getsemani is Cafe Havana the most popular (with good reason) salsa club in town. The club was packed shoulder to shoulder, but for those who were determined there was still room to dance and everybody was pretty accommodating for the amateur. The atmosphere is fun and vibrant. The loud music from the live band made it a little difficult for anyone to understand my ‘not so polished’ Spanish, so we were grateful to meet Canandians in the club to share the experience with. If an experience is about a feeling, then the passion and energy I felt in this room was the perfect end, to a perfect night in Cartagena.
To appreciate Colombias Carribean coast make sure you
- Visit Cafe del Mar at sunset – Cartegena is apparently famous for it’s sunsets. This bar is lucky to have the top spot along the old town wall. Grab a drink and skip the overpriced food, as it’s not great. Or just sit on the wall and enjoy the music coming from the bar and take it in.
- Spend at least one day at Isla del Rosario (Rosario Islands) – I went to Playa Blanca and unlike the beaches at Bocagrande, the turquoise waters are crystal clear and have an amazing reef to snorkel over. There are also various accommodation options on the islands if a day isn’t enough. The one hour bumpy speedboat ride over to the islands was ‘rough’, but fun at the same time.
My next blog will be on the land of Tequila and Tacos – Hola Mexico!!! Check out my Instagram account ‘Belindness’ for other places I visit.