Cartagena, located in the Caribbean coast, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has emerged as one of the world’s most exotic places. It is indeed one of my favorite Colombian cities, (and in more personal words, is the city I chose to get married 😉
It’s impressive the way Cartagena makes anyone fall in love. Its charming history dates back to four centuries of Spanish colonisation, with a legacy of romanticism, mystique, heresy, and more than two miles of old stone walls that encircle the city.
Cartagena targets to refined palates that search for trendy, theatrical, and refreshing corners for their getaways. While walking the city’s narrow streets and Old World-style plazas, one can enjoy the sights of renovated colonial mansions, exclusive restaurants and bars, fashion boutiques, cathedrals, dance festivals, and most importantly, one is surrounded by smiling pedestrians that are either tourists eager to explore the city, or locals with beautiful Caribbean features. Cartagena portrays ‘magical realism’, as Nobel Literature Prize winner, Gabriel García Marquéz describes the fantastic contradictions of this city of love, charm, and fascination.
The majority of places are close to each other, so walking will work out fine for any tourist, and for those bicycle lovers like me, it is a fantastic option to move around. Besides the fortified city, there are also beautiful sandy beaches within walking distance, and the Islas del Rosario featuring clear crystal waters were the scene is more private and tranquil.
Cartagena has managed to cultivate its own taste with menus inspired on the Caribbean shores. Its authentic dishes reflect an abundance of freshly caught fish and seafood, as well as strong palm trees bearing refreshing coconuts. The city’s specialty is ‘Mojarra Frita with Arroz con Coco y Patacón’, which translates into a fried Sea Bass with a lemony taste, accompanied by natural shredded coconut that is caramelized and mixed with a rice later bathed in coconut milk, as well as smashed crunchy green plantains with a flavour of garlic and salt.
Another fun thing to do is visiting the Baluartes or the city’s bastions offering a beautiful sight of the sunset, a refreshing breeze, and a starry night next to the Caribbean sea. Besides the fortified city, there are also other ways to explore the city. This includes a visit to the impressive Castillo de San Felipe built by the Spaniards around the 17th century, where one can come across tunnels, canons, and underground prisons, used at the time to guard the city from the pirates.
Museums are small but are also in the must-do list, including Museo de Arte Moderno, or Museum of Modern Art located in the San Pedro Plaza, which displays works of young Colombian artists, the Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum located in the Plaza de Bolivar, exhibiting many of the gold pieces that attracted the Spanish Conquistadors, and the Palacio de la Inquisición, or Palace of Inquisition also located in the Plaza de Bolivar, which displays the history of the Roman Catholic Church’s efforts to dispel the heresy off the New World; all open from Monday till Saturday from 9:00AM till 7:00PM.
Undoubtedly, Cartagena has the scent a magical city full of history, romanticism, and mystique that remains as one of the hidden jewels of the Caribbean. I am thrilled to have Cartagena as our upcoming YALAjourney destination!