Our friends over at El Camino Travel just wrapped up their inaugural trips to Cartagena, Colombia. El Camino specializes in experiential travel to off-beat locations around the world. Every trip includes a professional photographer that captures the whole adventure and provides fresh images on a daily basis. Read on to learn more about their must-see’s and do’s in Cartagena.
Cartagena is a vibrant city whose cobblestone streets are constantly flowing with a stream of vendors, musicians, university students, dancers, etc. To say this city is alive is an understatement. The passion is palpable. However, Cartagena, just like the rest of Colombia, continues to be haunted by its past. Though Cartagena is extremely safe and its people welcoming, often when one mentions that they are traveling to Colombia, one receives looks of horror and then flooded with words of concern. Ignore the naysayers. Here are five reasons you should pack your bags immediately and hop on a plane to this Caribbean beauty.
1. You can spend hours upon hours wandering the colonial city. Roads are narrow and walls are painted all shades of colors. Behind each door there are often large veranda type courtyards filled with luscious plant life; try to peep in when possible because you never know what you will discover. Head outside of the walled city and roam around the adjoining neighborhood of Gestamani. Gestamani, a formerly seedy part of the city, is now booming with hip restaurants and bars, grandiose street art, and boutique lodging. It is buzzing with young backpackers and travelers from all corners of the world.
2. We are not the biggest fans of the beaches in Cartagena proper. The water is dirty, the beaches crowded, and you are consistently being bothered by someone trying to sell you something. We prefer to take a boat out to the Islas de Rosario, an archipelago of 27 small islands 45 minutes off the coast. The water is crystal clear and several shades of oceanic blue. Your sole priority and purpose while visiting is rest and relaxation, nothing else.
3. While salsa (the style of dance) reigns king in Colombia, champeta is really the musical heart and lungs of this region. It is what keeps this city alive. Champeta is a style of folk music that originated from the communities of African descent along the Atlantic coast. The music is wild and the dance moves provocative. Head to the cultural center, Ciudad Movil, in Gestamani, to take a class. Get sweaty, learn some moves, and then at night take those new skills to Bazurto Social Club where a live champeta band has everyone going crazy on the dance floor… and bar tops.
4. The abundance of exotic fruit to consume is unparalleled; guanabana, curiba, maracuya, zapote and lulo are some of our favorites that you cannot find outside of Latin America. Eat them as is or try them out in liquid form at one of the many juice stands that line the streets. Better yet head to La Paleteria to try these fruits in delicious popsicle form. If you want to stick to your daily indulgence of coconut water, prepare to get the real deal at a much cheaper price. On every corner there are vendors selling fresh coconut water for about seventy-five cents a pop. Once finished, you hand it back to the seller who will proceed to hack it open with a machete and scoop out all the coconut meat for you to eat. Nothing gets wasted.
5. Head outside of the city for an afternoon to soak in the Totumo mud volcano for a “spa day.” Totumo is known by locals to have healing powers that leaves your body refreshed and your skin glowing. There is no ground. Once you set foot in the mud, you are freely floating amongst other travelers. After you have had enough, you head to the lagoon next door where a lady from the village will take your hand and lead you to the water. She will then proceed to wash you off until no trace of mud can be found on your body. This sounds weird, we know, but it is an experience that all our travelers continue to buzz about long after it has happened. It is one of those travel stories you will share on a first date or at the bar.
+ Interested in joining the next adventure to Colombia? El Camino Travel is heading back in September. Learn more here.
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