Border advice plus... dancin', chillin, cyclin' plus more in Colombia's paradise on the Carribean coast
09.12.2015 - 17.12.2015
I left Central America full of great memories.... via Avianca and landed on the sunny shores/airport of tropical Cartagena.
Luckily I had bought a bus ticket to Ecuador for a month's time, because the customs officer asked for evidence of my departure before letting me in to the country.
This has happened twice for me so far.... so be warned.
I made the mistake of not supplying onward travel evidence in Costa Rica.
It created all kinds of havoc, though I'll save it for another chapter dedicated to border crossings.
I stayed at two different hotels at different times, and both were excellent!
Though, I really recommend Patio de Getsemani.
It's run by a super friendly family, the rooms are wonderful, cool and quiet... and the hotel has the most amazing rooftop patio/garden with astounding views.
Barrio Getsemani is a wonderful, hip suburb just outside of centro.
The streets really come alive at night... many families blast music out of their front rooms with the windows open and often sit out the front socialising with their neighbours and tourists alike.
It's a very nice environment to be part of.
There are many bars in this area, but the spot where most people congregate is Trinidad Square.
Many food stalls surround it, and there is often sound systems blasting quality tunes.
Central Cartagena is wonderful!
It is a photographers dream, and most likely heritage protected as it has a very antique feel, retaining its 600 year old charm.
You will find all of the boutiques, upscale shops, and fine restaurants in an amazing setting.
It seems like from the facades the city has not changed since inception nearly 600 years ago!
There are many squares, where people either sit and eat, or amazing performers ply their trade.
Café del Mar
If you want to impress your loved one, book a seaside table at Cafe Del Mar for sunset.
It's a truly beautiful spot with incredible views out to sea, and out to Bocagrande.
Cartagena isn't famous for the beach, but it is nice.
It is easy to get to the more pristine places like El Rodedero or Playa Blanca
Explore by bike
Cartagena is a great place to explore by bike.
It is very flat, and doesn't have much road traffic, with many bike friendly avenues.
I took 3 hour tour covering centro, Getsemani and often less visted barrios for a bit of contrast.
Festival of Lights
Cartagena put certainly put on a show in terms of Christmas lights.
Huge light statues and presentations were scattered all over the cities and parks.
Cartagena has amazing nightlife! All Latin forms of music plus electro are catered for here!
Salsa is the staple form of music in Caribe Colombia, and Salseros are in for a treat.
You can study at Crazy Salsa, and enjoy some awesome venues to dance or just listen and marvel.
Here are some venues I visited....
Donde Fidel is a small bar with a huge voice!
(Folks sit outside of Donde Fidel, in the main square enjoying the music by night)
There isn't a great deal of dancing here, it is more of a place to sit appreciate/talk about music with others so passionate about it.
Many groups, couple, individuals sit and appreciate the tunes, amidst the photos of famous Salsaneros who have visited the place.
Bring sticks and even a cowbell!
Quiebra-Canto is a 3 story venue dedicated to Salsa.
The bottom venue attracts many casual punters, and the top floor was filled with aficionados passionate about the music .
I spoke with the barmen about different artists... and they of course bash rhythms and singing passionately when they aren't serving drinks.
Havana Café. Arguably the premier live Salsa joint in town.
They have smokin hot musos gracing the stage and a really festive environment.
My only problem with it was that it was full of tourists and no room to dance.
I had the best time at Donde Fidel and Quiebra-Canto!
One day I came across a busker playing didgeridoo... in a way that Colombian's would - rapidly, with marvellous complex rhythms and a strong groove.
His girlfriend was playing a soulful clarinet accompaniment.
It was truly amazing and I'm kicking myself for not filming, but if you visit Cartagena watch out for them!
I saw a lot of other really wonderful performances in different pockets of Cartagena.
It was my first taste of the country and the importance of musicality in Colombian culture quickly became very clear.
I could write subjective tomes about it... and others have done exactly that....
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
The Jewel of Cartagena and a very significant/strategic part of Colombia's history.
I spent more than four hours exploring, via aid of audio guide.
It was really fascinating, especially to lean that at one stage British Pirates conquered the fort.
Cartagena is just one of the many magnificent cities of the Carribean coast of Cartagena.
I also had an amazing time in Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Parque Tayrona, which I'll write about shortly.
I definitely recommend Cartagena as a destination for families and backpackers alike.