When most people normally think of Colombia, one thing comes to mind: Narcos, the popular show on Netflix about Pablo Escobar and his drug empire in Colombia, who was responsible for over 25,000 cartel related deaths. To be honest, before we did any research on this beautiful country in South America, we thought the same. But forming opinions based on what happened in the 80s isn’t fair to what Colombia has now become.
We absolutely loved our trip to Colombia. With mountains, jungles, white sand beaches, colonial architecture and bustling cities, Colombia has transformed into one of the best places to visits in South America. We spent most of our time in Cartagena and the Rosario Islands during our short stay.
What To Do
Get Lost in the Old Town Cartagena
Strategically located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena was historically one of Colonial Spain’s most important ports. Stone fortresses and gigantic walls up to 30 meters thick and 11KM long line the city, which was so well protected after many pirates (most notably Sir Francis Drake) in the 16th Century attempted in sieges of the wealthy port city’s riches. We recommend that you just wander around the city and stop in at the many coffee shops, historic sites, and restaurants that are all over the city. Be warned: it gets very hot during the middle of the day. We usually left our hotel early and wandered around until we couldn’t take it anymore, and then went back to our hotel pool after lunch until the sun started to set.
Catch a sunset on a rooftop bar
Cartagena is known for their sunsets, and what better way to enjoy the golden hour than by drinking an aguardiente sour (Colombia’s national drink made with orange juice, sugar, egg whites, lime juice, and anise-flavored liqueur) on one of the many beautiful rooftop bars! We especially enjoyed the rooftop of the Townhouse Cartagena hotel, right in the middle of the old city.
Visit the neighborhood of Getsemani
Within walking distance of old town Cartagena lies the up and coming barrio (neighborhood) of Getsemani. This neighborhood used to be riddled with drugs and prostitution, but the city did a great job of cleaning it up and making it a must see destination during a visit to Cartagena. Beautiful graffiti art lines the walls of many buldings, open air restaurants are popping up everywhere, and smiling locals made this our favorite area of Cartagena to visit!
Experience the amazing nightlife
Cartagena is known for their lively nightlife, especially their salsa dancing. One of the most famous salsa bars in the world, Cafe Havana, is in Getsemani. People flock there to hear live salsa bands and drink delicious mojitos. One of our favorite watering holes to visit was Alquimico, a three story bar in a renovated old mansion. They have amazing craft cocktails and a beautiful rootftop!
Venture out to sea
While we were obsessed with the old town, we recommend breaking up your trip with some time on the water or the beautiful beaches of the nearby islands. (Note: there is a beach in the nearby neighborhood of Bocagrande, but we heard it gets very crowded and it wasn’t the scene we were looking for) We decided to spend a day at the Blue Apple Beach House, located on the island of Tierra Bomba. It was a short 30 minute boat ride from Cartagena. Once you land on this tiny island, the vibe completely changes from the hustle and bustle of the city to a serene and tranquil experience like no other. This resort comes equipped with two pools, beach front loungers or huts, and six private villas if you choose to stay the night. We highly recommend you stay the night like we did, we loved every second of it!
Where to Eat + Drink
- Maria (great restaurant with nice decor)
- Alma (amazing cocktails)
- La Cevicheria (trust us on this one, the long wait is worth it. Best ceviche we have ever had)
- Oh La La Bistrot (yummy breakfast in Getsemani)
- Alquimico (great cocktails and rooftop)
- Abacus Book + Coffee Shop
- Townhouse Cartagena Hotel (great rooftop for sunset drinks)
Where To Stay
During our three days in Cartagena, we decided to get a hotel in the old town because it is centrally located to practically everything in the city. We stayed at Casa del Coliseo, a charming small boutique hotel within walking distance of many restaurants and bars. It is a gorgeous hotel and it even has their own rooftop pool! For one night, we rented a villa at Blue Apple Beach House on Tierra Bomba. We also highly recommend this place!
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