A continuation of the hot and humid Santa Marta is the heart of the Caribbean region in Colombia- Cartagena. Unlike any other place I have visited so far in Colombia, the city has a spectacular walled old town which encapsulate the Spanish colonial buildings and plazas (El Centro), as well as the its own fortress (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas).
The usual route from Santa Marta to Cartagena is a ‘quick’ 4 hour bus. However with it being a straight road, traffic is notorius. And if you have my luck you choose the day of one of the biggest football matches in Colombia causing the journey time to double! Another point is the transport terminal is a good 45 minute journey out of the city- which allows most taxis to rip you off if not ready for a haggle!
Once in Cartagena most places are easily accessed by foot, however the humidity is a killer! The historic ‘old city’ is where the bulk of the sightseeing of the quaint narrow streets and the many plazas and cathedrals. The history of Cartagena dates back to 1533 when it was founded by the Spanish and served as a main port.With the city being a prime target to pirates numerous forts were built around the city and still evident today.
Being right by the sea, the usual boat trips take you to the nearby Playa Blanca or Islas del Rosario. The Playa Blanca is often packed full of tourists, so if expecting a day of peace and quiet it is not the spot for you. Many days trips can take you around Islas del Rosario- but for the best experience I would recommend atleast 1 night on one of the many small coral islands.
However the time I was there it was the ‘Independance festival in Cartagena’ as well as ‘Miss Colombia’ so celebrating were happening all day throughout the city- so there wasn’t really a good reason to leave and head to the beach.