Cartagena Part 2, Colombia

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Colombia Dec 2017

Cartagena Part 2, Colombia Dec 2017

Next part of Cartagena to explore was the market; so we took a taxi to Mercado Bazuto

Info for Tourists
(Ubers were not reliable here as it seems there was trouble when Uber was introduced here (Uber cars were burnt by taxi drivers), and hence Uber appears to be run as an “underground” operation here);
the ride cost us $5 from Bocagrande. Most taxi or uber rides in Cartagena cost us between $2.80 and $5 one way.

Bazuto market is a large sprawling, haphazard, unorganized, crowded, relatively dirty market, where everything from fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, toys, household goods, electronics etc etc is sold. There are plenty of people here buying and selling goods, all at very good prices; with a lot of produce being sold wholesale. It felt hot here as there was no breeze blowing like at BocaGrande, as this place is away from the seashore.

Below are some scenes from Bazuto market

Corn anyone?
Corn anyone?
Vegetable market
Vegetable market
Vegetable market
Vegetable & fruit market
Busy and crowded Market

We stopped at a nice clean local restaurant, the Manhattan, which was quite busy with locals eating. We ate hearty Sancocho de Pollo (soup) here with Pastel de Pollo, and fresh Passion Fruit juice.

Manhattan Restaurant in Bazuto Restaurant; a nice clean and busy place
Manhattan Restaurant in Bazuto Market; a nice clean and busy place
Sancocho de Pollo
Sancocho de Pollo
Fish Market
Wholesale fruit Market
Agua de coco stop
Agua de coco stop

We came across this fruit below that we have not seen before; it was pulpy, very tart/sour in taste with few small seeds; taste was kind of passion fruit.

Anyone know what this fruit is?
Anyone know what this fruit is?

Back at the hotel, we relaxed at Bocagrande beach and watched a great sunset

Sunset at Bocagrande beach
Sunset at Bocagrande beach

At night, we went back to the old Walled City and walked around on the city walls and other squares.

Old Walled City
Old Walled City
Cannot get over how busy and lively the squares are everyday
Cannot get over how busy and lively the squares are everyday

Since it was Xmas eve, we decided to attend midnight mass at St Petrus Claver church, in the Centro area. The church was packed, and the sermon/ceremony went on for about 45 mins, all in Spanish 🙁 . At the end of the ceremony, the families greeted and hugged each other, and they also greeted and gave blessings to the others around them; very similar to what we do. A very nice experience.

We also explored the Getsemani barrio of the Walled City over a couple of days/nights. This neighborhood is much more “local” than Centro, which is very gentrified and touristy. Getsemani had locals living there and was much livelier with local flavor than the Centro area. In the evenings; locals would sit outside their homes eating, chatting with neighbors, playing cards, listening to music while the children played on the street. Very nice homely atmosphere. Some parts of Getsemani looked seedier/rougher than others, so we avoided the rougher looking areas. Some scenes below during the day and night of Getsemani

Café Havana is the most famous Salsa dance club in Cartagena
Café Havana is the most famous Salsa dance club in Cartagena
Interesting street art
Interesting street art
Local street restaurant in Getsemani
Local street restaurant in Getsemani
Crowds outside Iglesia Trinidad in Getsemani
Crowds outside Iglesia Trinidad in Getsemani
Plaza Trinidad at night in Getsemani
Plaza Trinidad at night in Getsemani; very lively with locals chilling around Definitely worth visiting; I felt this was a much better place to send time with locals, than Centro, which was mostly full of tourists. Wish we had discovered this place earlier.

Check out the local scene at Iglesia Trinidad in the video below; very nice and lively

Another must we were told to visit in Cartagena is Playa Blanca, on Isla Baru, about 45 minutes ride south of Cartagena. The beach there was supposed to have white sand, with turquoise waters. To get there, one can either take a boat, or a bus, or drive there. We opted to take a shuttle operated by a backpackers hostel (Hostel Mamallena) that we had come across while exploring Getsemani. The shuttle bus took a bunch of us there and back for 50,000 pesos each; about $17. A private taxi would have cost 250,000 pesos.

Brief History
Isla Baru was formed as an “island” when the Spanish colonialists dredged a shipping canal all the way from the Caribbean Sea just south of Cartagena, to the Magdalena River to enable their boats to reach far inland to bring goods to and fro from the sea to the interior. Quite an engineering feat as this was done in the 1500’s.

The Mamallena shuttle took about 1hr to get to Playa Blanca; and then we had a short boat ride to get to a quieter part of the beach; as where the shuttles park, there are many vendors who we were told, could be quite bothersome. Going to the quieter part of the beach made the experience better. The beach was indeed very nice with soft white sand and turquoise waters. Well worth the outing for a day.

Some scenes from Playa Blanca below

Welcome to Playa Blanca 🙂
Our hangout at Playa Blanca
Our hangout at Playa Blanca
Fresh whole fried fish lunch at the beach
Fresh whole fried fish lunch at the beach

All in all, a very nice experience in Cartagena; highly recommended.

Cartagena is a very nice holiday/fun experience; where lots of tourists, including local tourists come to for fun. And the fun was not wild crazy/drunk fun, but good family fun with lots of good experiences; old and new architecture, gentrified and local barrios to visit; beaches and markets to experience etc.

To get back to Dallas, we flew from Cartagena to Bogota on Avianca airlines, the local carrier. When we got off the Avianca plane in Bogota, Dilshad noticed that the pilot, also leaving the plane, looked rather young. So she started chatting with him. Turns out he was only 24 yrs old; he had gotten his Private Pilot’s license at 18, his Commercial Pilot’s license at 19 and started flying Avianca jets at age 20 and so had been flying commercial aircraft including our 200 passenger plane for 4 yrs now. Very impressive. I don’t imagine too many 20yr olds that are that focused.

Flight back from Bogota to Dallas was a direct flight with American airlines.

Another place checked off the bucket list 🙂

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

20 thoughts on “Cartagena Part 2, Colombia

  • Pingback: Cartagena Part 1, Colombia - Ali Karim Travelog

  • Carlos P March 28, 2018 at 3:08 pm Reply

    Hi Ali,

    I really love the fact that you guys went to Mercado Bazuto and got a chance to see the real Cartagena. Also enjoyed reading about how you enjoyed these cheap lunches which we call “corrientazos” Big props for doing things just the way the locals do and getting a taste of the real Colombia which many tourists fail to experience when they come here.


    • Ali Karim March 31, 2018 at 7:46 am Reply

      Thanks Carlos, for the feedback. A question: I thought the cheap local lunch/meals were called “AlMuerzos” Am I incorrect?
      We love to go “local” where we can to get the real authentic experience of the culture of the locals; that is the only real way to experience a country.
      We also spent too much time in the Cartagena in the touristy part of the historico centro; and felt much better when we discovered Getsemani barrio of the Old City; this was so much more authentic and enjoyable.
      We went to Cafe Havana in Getsemani, but it started to get lively too late in the night, past our bedtime 🙂

  • Hamida Sarani January 16, 2018 at 9:39 am Reply

    Thanks for sharing Ali!

    I was in Cartagena few years ago and I found the people very kind and

    There was lot of poverty. Hope they have better times ahead of them.


    • Ali Karim January 16, 2018 at 9:40 am Reply

      Hi Hamida, we did not see much poverty on our trip; so hopefully, times have improved and continue to do so.
      THanks for your feedback

  • Azizeh Juma January 16, 2018 at 9:33 am Reply

    Hi Ali & Dilshad,

    I have just subscribed to your travelog. It is very interesting, descriptive, informative with beautiful pictures & a sense of humour!
    Enjoy all your upcoming travels!

    • Ali Karim January 16, 2018 at 9:34 am Reply

      Thanks Azizeh, for the kind words; really appreciate that.

  • Zubeda virani January 13, 2018 at 7:19 am Reply

    Oh what a fun filled visit that was…there were some reminders of East African Markets too and those brought back nostalgic memories…have fun and live life to the fullest! Zubeda V

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 7:56 am Reply

      Thanks Zubeida; we try our best 🙂
      Thanks for your encouragement

  • mahamud jinnah January 12, 2018 at 8:35 am Reply

    Sounds like an awesome place.the market looked like a lot of fun as did the plaza at the walled city with all those diners.the secluded beach looked awesome. I may just go there. Proud of that 24 year old pilot.good for him.

    thanks for sharing so Sicily and Cartagena are now on the list.

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:43 am Reply

      It was a wonderful place; it has the culture, history, architecture, weather, beaches, cheap…..
      What more can one want?

  • nagib paroo January 11, 2018 at 5:22 pm Reply

    looks like paradise The beach looks beautiful Good job Mr Ali

    love what you do

    • Ali Karim January 12, 2018 at 2:06 am Reply

      Thanks Mr. Nick for always encouraging me; really appreciate that

  • Tazim Adatia January 11, 2018 at 8:34 am Reply

    Love your articles!!!

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:45 am Reply

      Thanks Tazim; so glad you are enjoying them 🙂

  • Nasir Jivraj January 11, 2018 at 8:34 am Reply

    I think the media has brainwashed us to believe COlumbia is drug capital of the word…

    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:39 am Reply

      I totally agree

  • Altaf Hirji January 11, 2018 at 8:34 am Reply

    Thank you

  • Anjali and Vihang Desai January 11, 2018 at 8:34 am Reply


    keep up the sharing!!

    hope sanjay, you are on the mailing list too:)

    if not adding…

    have a wonderful day


    • Ali Karim January 14, 2018 at 8:36 am Reply

      Thanks Anjali

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