Cartagena Part 1, Colombia

By Ali Karim

Cartagena Part 1, Colombia Dec 2017

After a short business trip; we decided to explore Cartagena, Colombia, since we had liked Cali and Medellin earlier.

We flew to Cartagena via Miami, and when the plane landed in Cartagena, the people in the plane started clapping. We had experience this before in several parts of the world, but in addition, many passengers started singing :); definitely a first experience for us, and a good start to the trip :).

After clearing customs and immigration, we found someone offering us an Uber ride without booking online, for $5 to the hotel. We took that and after a nice ride alongside the old Walled City, and the beach area, we arrived. At that point, the fare became $5 per person; my first experience of a rip-off in Colombia. So after telling the guy it was $5 for the whole car we had agreed on, he smiled, agreed and left. Seems like since this is a tourist city, more people spoke English, and potential for rip-off was higher. Need to be careful. However, people so far have been nice.

A bi of history: Cartagena was inhabited by several indigenous Indian tribes and upon colonization by Spain, was founded as a City in 1533, located on the Caribbean Sea, and between 2 strategic rivers; that allowed it to become a major trading port for the Spanish; bring slaves to the new colonies, and taking Peruvian silver and other important natural resources from the interior of South America to Spain. It was relatively safe from pirates & invaders, but did get invaded and ransacked several times. This led the Spaniards to fortify the city by building a wall around the city, and an impressive fort to protect it.

The boss had decided that this time, the trip would be a relaxing-exploring trip vs the normal full throttle exploring trip 🙁 . So we stayed at a nice hotel on the beach and spent a week here relaxing with some exploring 🙂 . Cartagena is a city on the Caribbean ocean with a population of about 1M, a lot less than other cities in Colombia. It has several interesting suburbs; the most famous of which is the Old Walled City, which is the tourist center of Cartagena. The Old Walled City itself had several Barrios like Centro, San Diego and Getsemani. Another popular area is Boca Grande, that has Miami style skyscrapers and the best beach (Playa Bocagrande) in Cartagena. All the major hotel chains are located here and this is where we stayed.

After settling into the hotel (nice ocean view room), we went for a fish dinner at a small local kiosk on the beach; dinner was $12 for 2 people for whole fried fish, rice, salad and a beer.

Local Seafood restaurant; the Kiosco El Bony
Local Seafood restaurant; the Kiosco El Bony

Since it was not too late, we took an Uber to the Walled City Centro; which was quite busy and active, with nice squares and people walking around.

We found one place just outside the wall that had a food festival and a stage with dance-off competitions going.
We found one place just outside the wall that had a food festival and a stage with dance-off competitions going.

Watched this for a while and then took an Uber back. Ubers seemed to be taking a long time, but were reasonable (about $3 each way so far).

Next day, we checked out the Bocagrande beach; scenes below. The sand was a light grey, with decent size waves that lots of people were enjoying. The Caribbean Sea was nice, warm & clean hence the many people using it. The water was not clear, due to the wave activity.

Lots of fruit for sale on the beach
Lots of fruit for sale on the beach
Bocargande skyscrapers and beach.
Bocargande skyscrapers and beach.
Mango bisque was a popular fruit snack, consisting of ripe-sweet large mango, cut up, with salt and lemon squeezed on it; for about $1 each.
Mango bisque was a popular fruit snack, consisting of tangy-sweet large mango, cut up, with salt and lemon squeezed on it; for about $1 each.
View of the Walled City from BocaGrande beach
View of the Walled City from BocaGrande beach

Next stop (after breaks to relax at the hotel pool and Bocagrande beach) was a visit to the largest castle built by the Spaniards in the new Colonies of Americas; the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This fort was built on a hilltop in the city, to fight off the French, English navies, and to fight off the many pirates operating in this areas including Sir Francis Drake. The castle is well preserved, and has good views of the city. There are also a lot of tunnels that were dug to connect different parts of the castle, for shelter and moving goods. Entrance was a little steep at 25,000 pesos ($8 pp), but worth it. Some images below

View of the City from the castle
View of the City from the castle
Turrets for fighting the bad guys
Turrets for fighting the bad guys
Lots of tunnels under the castle
Lots of tunnels under the castle
View of Castle at sunset
View of Castle at sunset

We then walked a short walk to Manga Island (so called because at one time, this island used to be covered with mango trees; not most are gone now; thanks to development). On Manga, we were told there was a nice seafood restaurant. We found it, and in fact, this restaurant (Restaurante Club de Pesca) was actually on an old fort; the Fuerte Del Pastelillo (or Fort of San Sebasitan de Pastelillo); with great views of the Bocagrande from the Bay side. Since reservations were required and we had none, we got seated on a table for 2 in a gun turret part of the fort, and only given until 9:30PM, after which it was reserved (we arrived there at 7:30PM). So we had plenty of time for wine and a great seafood dinner here. Pricy, but very beautiful & romantic. Worth going.

Great view from our table at the restaurant at Fuerte Del Pastelillo
Great view from our table at the restaurant at Fuerte Del Pastelillo

On another evening, we walked around the Centro old walled city, which was very busy with lots of people walking around and enjoying the city; locals, local Colombian tourists, and foreigners alike. Check out some of the pics below

Clock tower main entrance into the walled city
Clock tower main entrance into the walled city
Chilling in the old walled city
Chilling in the old walled city

Walking around the old city, we came across a live proposal

Live proposal
Live proposal

Dinner was at the food festival of the Departmento de Cordoba; local province. The food we got was rice, potatoes, vegetables, onions and chicken cooked inside a banana leaf

Dinner time
Dinner time

Walked around some more and came across a wedding about to start at the St Petrus Claver church

Bride and father arriving by horse carriage to church
Bride and father arriving by horse carriage to church
Wedding
Getting ready for the wedding
Beautiful Cathedral; unfortunately, it was always closed when we walked by
Beautiful Cathedral; unfortunately, it was always closed when we walked by
Chilling outdoors in Centro; listening to music
Chilling outdoors in Centro; listening to music

Christmas décor in another square
Christmas décor in another square

So far, Cartagena has been a “fun” vibrant and lively city; more so than we witnessed in Cali or Medellin

Next; more Cartagena explorations of other parts; and of course, the markets 🙂

This entry was posted in Cartagena Dec 2017, Colombia, South America

20 thoughts on “Cartagena Part 1, Colombia

  • Hameeda Somani January 4, 2018 at 5:37 am Reply

    Very nice Ali Karim. I enjoy your description of these places as always. Colombia on my radar now 🙂

    • Ali Karim January 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Thanks Hameeda; I know you guys will love this place.

  • Nisha Kassam January 4, 2018 at 9:46 am Reply

    Shafique and I Love Cartagena! In fact it’s where he proposed to me! You must catch sunset at Cafe Del Mar in the old wall city! It’s gorgeous 🙂

    Love this info!

    • Ali Karim January 6, 2018 at 12:46 pm Reply

      Hey Nisha; how romantic; I can just imagine Shafique on his knees on the old city walls with a great sunset 🙂
      Enjoy and thanks for the feedback

  • Firoz Mohamed Allibhai January 5, 2018 at 8:14 am Reply

    Very cool

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:22 am Reply

      THanks Mohammed

  • Dilawar Sayani January 5, 2018 at 8:15 am Reply

    trajiste cocaína?

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:25 am Reply

      No drug selling that we came across; I believe they have cleaned things up significantly.
      However, I read somewhere that the drug trade is coming back 🙁

  • Shaida Kassam January 5, 2018 at 8:15 am Reply

    Sounds fantastic.. Ali

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:26 am Reply

      Shaida, it sure is; you guys need to go there

  • mahamud jinnah January 6, 2018 at 8:15 am Reply

    awesome place. wow, the buildings look like New york. The walled city, Manga Island, the cathedral all looked like a lot of fun. I just need to convince Samina to go to Columbia. at least she is on for Sicily!!!

    PS, i liked the live proposal-she must have been really surprised-she had her wedding dress on!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:27 am Reply

      You would love this place Mohammed; definitely should add it to your bucket list. Let me know how it goes

  • Aziz Bhimani January 6, 2018 at 8:15 am Reply

    Excellent write up. I think I am now inspired to add this to my list.

    I was in Ghana West Africa for 10 days during Christmas. It was 80 degrees all 10 days. No rain dry weather. It was perfect weather.

    Keep me in your travel blog list.

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:30 am Reply

      Aziz, You are quite the adventurer going to Ghana. I have stayed away from Africa, for no reason. Perhaps we should spend some time there and explore.
      I want to go to Botswana and Namibia first. Any angles there?

  • nick paroo January 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm Reply

    very beautiful and very romantic Well demonstrated Good job Mr Ali

    • Ali Karim January 8, 2018 at 12:24 am Reply

      THanks Mr Nick; appreciate that

  • Moez Nagji January 6, 2018 at 9:01 pm Reply

    Hi Ali
    great write up and timely for us as we are leaving on Monday January 8 to visit Cartagena. will be able to follow some of your foot steps.
    Thanks for sharing
    moez

  • MANSOOR LADHA January 7, 2018 at 8:16 am Reply

    Thanks Ali for your email. Glad to know that the adventerous couple is enjoying their trip to the fullest.
    I am travelling and won’t be back home till Jan. 22. I’ll be glad to look at your travelog then. Sorry couldn’t do it earlier.
    Happy travels to you,
    Mansoor.

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:32 am Reply

      THanks Mansoor, I would appreciate your feedback as a journalist, once you do get time to read it.

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