Fruit seller, Cartagena, Colombia
Travel

3 Days in Cartagena, Colombia… in 20 Colorful Snapshots

Back now from our recent trip to Colombia, I’ve already shared details of our experience in Bogota — a vibrant if still complicated gem of a city. That we loved Bogota so much was a bit of a surprise to us, given that Cartagena is much more my speed when it comes to my typical vacation preferences. It’s got that Caribbean heat and humidity, plus beaches and islands. It’s charming, lively, and picturesque beyond words. So rather than droning on too much, I want to simply show you scenes from our three days in Cartagena through snapshots. I hope they both gesture at the city’s beauty and culture, as well as suggest a reasonably paced sample itinerary for would-be visitors. And off we go!

3 Days in Cartagena, Colombia

The architecture within Cartagena’s historic walled city is picturesque wherever you look. The colors are bright, varied, and dreamy.

Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena street sign

Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

Horse-drawn carriage in Cartagena, Colombia

 

Confessions of a shopaholic: I’d seen photos of these vibrant woven handbags on Pinterest — and it was kiiiiiiinda one of the things that catalyzed a visit. These mochilas are handmade by members of indigenous tribes in the country, and they come in all sorts of combinations of bright, neon colors. Vendors stack then up against walls all over the streets.

Fruit sellers carry pounds of fresh fruit on their heads… even keeping knives in their bowls! For a couple thousand Colombian pesos, they are more happy to pose for photographs without a purchase.

Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

Lush landscaping in Plaza Bolivar within Cartagena’s walled city. (I’m pretty sure there are 400 Plaza Bolivars in Colombia, however that is not a scientific assessment.)

Cartagena at night

Cartagena at night

Teatro Heredia in Cartagena, Colombia

Teatro Heredia

Cevicheria, Cartagena

David was so taken by La Cevicheria restaurant that we ate there twice. Evidently, so did Anthony Bourdain. (We’re unabashed fans.)

Arepas in Cartagena, Colombia

Meanwhile, in street food: arepas cart! You know where to find me…

For our stay, the brand new and soaring Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias hotel hosted us most graciously. The service was beyond solicitous and, obviously, the infinity pool is a serious selling point. I mean….:

Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena Colombia

View from our room. Blues for days.

Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias casino

Oh, and there is a proper casino attached to the Intercontinental! This is something we didn’t even realize until the taxi driver asked us if we were going there. You have to pass through security, but inside is a reasonably Vegas-style setup with slots and table games. If this looks like a lot of money… I will let you continue to think that.

The Boca Grande section of Cartagena — home to the Intercontinental — is outside of the walled city, and therefore off the beaten track for non-Colombian tourists. It sprung up in the ’70s to welcome tourists on holiday from other parts of the country — and now it seems construction is nonstop. Every third skyscraper on the horizon seems to have a crane hanging off the side. The beaches within the city are not notable per se — thin and ordinary. However, the scene from above is lively and colorful, reminiscent of Rio or Miami. (It should be noted that, while not inside the walled city, Boca Grande is easily accessible to it with a cab ride of just 10 minutes or so, even in traffic.)

The Rosario Islands make for a fun off-shore jaunt from Cartagena. We opted for the island of Majagua, where there is a Sofitel, as we were advised it was a bit more exclusive feeling and less crowded. However, unless you’re reeaaaaaaalllllly low-key and into being far off the grid, opt for a day trip instead of an overnighter. We literally slept the day away on the small beach abutting turquoise water until it was time to catch the afternoon boat back to the mainland.

Aguila

We did manage to wake up for lunch, with Aguila local beers

Majagua Island

There are two small beaches on Majagua: one with a small bar, music, and proximity to bathrooms, one farther away from that stuff. For scale, this is the “party” beach. So yeah — come to the island to relax.

Majagua island views

Majagua island views

Cartagena skyline

Cartagena’s chic white skyline, seen from our return boat after our island day trip

And there you have our three days in Cartagena!

Until next time!

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