We arrived to Cartagena from Medellin by plane in the evening, and took the 20 minute taxi ride to the backpacker area of Getsemani. Dropping our bags in our windowless (but air-conditioned) room at Hostal Jet-Set, we wandered our neighbourhood for the evening, settling in to our surroundings and acclimatizing to the hot and humid weather, and big change from Medellin’s spring-like temperature.
After breakfast the next morning, we decided to continue wandering, and found ourselves outside the gates of the Old Town.
Cartagena is a port that sits on the northern coast of Colombia on the Caribbean ocean. The Old Town is a walled neighbourhood that was built next to the sea in the 16th century and consists of beautiful squares and parks, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings. Getting lost within the walled city is a popular pastime, walking the streets and taking in all the sights and sounds it has to offer.
By noon the sun was almost unbearable and we were ready for some refuge from the heat, so to the beach it was. We rented bikes and took the highway to Bocagrande, an upscale neighbourhood known as one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the country of Colombia. The beach is filled with cabanas you can rent for the day (not really cabanas, but tarps). Bocagrande is definitely not the prettiest beach in the area, but it was close to where we were staying and the swimming was good, so we weren’t too picky.
By late afternoon we were starving, and being on the coast we thought it would be a good place to get some seafood.
And no day is complete in Cartagena without climbing the walls of Old Town and enjoying the sunset and a cerveza, so of course that’s what we did.
By this point our time in Cartagena was running low, and we only had one more full day to spend. We decided to book a day trip to Playa Blanca, a beach about an hour drive from the city. We booked a tour that included the bus there and back and lunch, for around $20 bucks a piece. We set out on the bus around 9am to the beach, with a short stop at a roadside checkpoint to get our bags searched by military police carrying shotguns, making sure we weren’t smuggling drugs or illegals.
Playa Blanca is one of the best beaches in the area, and for good reason. The soft, white sand and turquoise water so bright it doesn’t seem real make it one of the prettiest places we’ve seen. Unfortunately, like most places with natural resources so special, it is only a matter of time before these places get exploited by tourism, which is exactly what’s happened to Playa Blanca. The beach is filled with hundreds of people there to enjoy the beauty, which takes away from the beauty. Vendors wander up and down the sand selling jewelry, drinks, food, massages, you name it, they got it. You have to pay to sit in the beach chairs, and every two minutes there is someone trying to sell you their treasures/services. But if you can past all that, you’ll have a good time. It’s hard not to have fun in a place that looks like this.
Our time in colourful Cartagena may have been short, but we made the most of it! Our last Colombian stop, on to Ecuador!