#1: Beaches. Cartagena sits in northern Colombia directly on the Caribbean Ocean, and the main tourist and hotel area is virtually surrounded by the ocean. There are long stretches of beach with protected, jettied swimming areas. While the sand isn’t bright white and the water isn’t the characteristic light blue that that you see in many Caribbean beach destinations, the water was bath-water warm while we were there and made for great swimming.
#2: Ceviche. We had been away from the coast for several months and were craving good seafood. Cartagena delivered fantastic fresh fish and shrimp. We tried the ceviche at several places and the seafood “cooked” in fresh lime juice was a treat.
#3 The sights. The Old City of Cartagena is lined with colorful vine-covered building and paved with cobble stone streets. It was great fun wondering aimlessly along shopping and taking in the scenery.
Inside the Walled City
#4 History. Every cabbie we spoke to during our stay was an amateur tour guide, giving us tidbits of information as we passed sites during our rides. The Cartagenian residents’ pride in their history and ongoing accomplishments were evident. Construction of the wall around the city and fortress (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas) was started in the 1500s by the Spanish to protect Cartegena from pirate attacks and to defend them from foreign invasion. The castillo itself was designed with three levels to crate a devistating defense against attack and and to provide potential retreat. In the event of a retreat, there were elaborate plans to entrap the invaders within the wall and blow it up as a last resort. We spent a cool day exploring the tunnels within the structure.
#5 The beer. Colombian’s love their beer and we appreciate them for it. Sean in particular is a fan, and was craving some handcrafted brew to go along with his ceviche. We discovered a branch of the Bogota Beer Company and went in for a sample. Great place, nice patio, good beer. Definitely worth a visit.
So if beach, beer, history, colorful scenery and ceviche are on your list of things that make your day, Cartagena will not disappoint.
Note: Street hawkers are becoming more of a problem in the area. They will stop you to ask if you want them to do anything from braiding your hair, spreading aloe on your skin (we actually saw a few takers – weird), sell you trinkets, etc, etc, etc. Advice before we went was not to engage them at all and just keep walking. Annoying as it was this worked well.