This relaxed beach town offers a tropical getaway from Colombia’s more bustling metropolitan cities.

A typical sweltering day in the city next to the sea.

After the raucous debauchery that is Medellín, I very much looked forward to winding down in Cartagena– which is just an easy (and inexpensive) one hour flight away. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with bright, tropical sunshine and accompanying humidity. Fortunately, one of our hotel’s selling points was its rooftop pool and gorgeous views of neighboring Manga, with the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas standing stoically across the water. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves napping poolside with bellies full of fresh seafood and piña coladas.

Getsemaní and Plaza de la Trinidad

The colorful main plaza featuring the bright yellow Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad.

We stayed in the Getsemaní neighborhood of Cartagena, adjacent to the more busy and touristy Old Walled City and only a short 15 or so minute walk away (or even a quicker cab ride for the more cardiovascular-challenged) . I’d definitely recommend staying in this part of town, as the area still has its fair share of bars, restaurants, and upscale fare catering to its many international visitors (without the craziness of the crowds). The many small local markets are great to pick up snacks and water, or cervezas, before you head out for the day exploring.

Street art on textured walls among the many winding streets of the neighborhood.

With a distinctly bohemian and artsy vibe, the streets of Getsemaní are lined with colorful graffiti and quirky sculptures– like those found in the Plazuela del Pozo. And if you need a break from South American or seafood cuisine, nearby Basilica Pizerría Café offers up Italian comfort food in hearty portions. As the sun sets and the heat slowly retreats, locals begin trickling into the Plaza de la Trinidad to sit, drink and take in the ambience of exuberant street performers while catching up with family and friends.

Sights and Sounds of the Old Walled City

The main entrance to the walled city, where you’ll find locals selling various souvenirs.

After some much needed mental rejuvenation and re-aligning or our heart chakras while tanning under the sun, we were emotionally and psychologically ready to tackle the next day exploring the Old Walled City in the oppressive heat. Some of our favorite things to do:

  • Gorging ourselves silly on seafood at the Anthony Bourdain-approved Cevichería.
  • Finding respite from the afternoon sun (and tourists) in one of the Juan Valdez Cafés.
  • Grabbing drinks at KGB, a Russian themed dive bar resembling a nuclear fallout shelter.
  • Taking a relaxing stroll atop the walls of the old city while admiring the beach views.
  • People watching and enjoying infused cocktails at the trendy rooftop bar Chemíxo.
  • Generally just wandering about while taking photos of all the wonderful exteriors.

Can You Paint with All the Colors of the Wind

Colorful buildings line the narrow streets filled with restaurants, bars and hotels.

Speaking of beautiful, colonial exteriors– here are some photos from our day of walking around while being Asian Tourists With DSLR Cameras. I’ve never had the chance to visit any islands in the Caribbean, but the bright colors and vibrant character of the city has me wanting to explore the region even more so. Cartagena in general, with its lively nightlife and relaxed attitude, very much reminds me of New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. to visit when I’m in the mood for good food, good music, and good people. Que rico!

Last Impressions

Our 3 days in Cartagena was a perfect end to our week long visit to Colombia, with a nice blend of rooftop pool lounging, requisite sightseeing, and savory local cuisine. I only hoped that we had more time to explore different parts of the country, but that just gives me an excuse to visit again soon. Until then, I’ll be bumping J Balvin on my headphones while daydreaming of more temperate climates to survive this unusually long and annoying New York winter. Salud!

🎵 I’m bringin’ filters back… yea! 🎵