I have not yet got off the plane and I already see the majestic landscape that stands out from the heights of Cartagena de Indias. While the pilot announces the landing, and augurs us a very good Easter, I become very eager to know about the history of this place.
Cartagena is a city to discover. As we walk through its streets, we start getting involve with each facet that it offers, such as its beaches, its afternoons, its bay, its monuments and, of course, its people.
The map of the tourist guide Dónde was the ideal to build my own tour. From experience I tell you that it was exciting, since the city is full of treasures that, as visitors, we discover as it is explored. With a bottle of water, comfortable clothes, a hat for the sun and a camera, I started my adventure in the Historical Center.
A good lunch welcomed me to the old city. In the Walled Center, precisely on Calle Santo Domingo, I found the restaurant La Cocina de Cartagena. There I let myself be seduced by a sample of Caribbean food: lobster, coconut rice, shrimp and fish. What an excellent alternative. The site fascinated me for its romanticism, as well as its environment, exquisite and tasteful.
I have captured hundreds of places and unforgettable moments, but in here life is too beautiful. For the love of art I decided to visit the museums
. When I arrived at San Pedro Square, I discovered the Modern Art Museum, where the admission was free, and with its warm setting, I marveled at the exhibits.
A few steps ahead, walking down Calle San Juan de Dios, two imposing canyons came out to meet me, inviting me to know the corridors of the Naval Museum of the Caribbean, which has preserved in perfect condition all the culture, history and traditions of the naval military world.
The streets of Santa Teresa and la Inquisición took me to the Museo del Oro Zenú, which protects with mistrust the most beautiful testimony of the pre-Columbian culture: religious manifestations and rituals of everyday life present in ornaments and hand-made pieces of gold.
Leaving this museum, I got infected by the magic of Parque Bolívar, a place with leafy trees, tropical birds and water sources. Right at the front, I was conquered by the imposing architecture of the Museo Histórico de Cartagena
, where I found a convincing sample of the machines and instruments of torture used by the inquisitors. I could photograph the pulley, the fork of the heretic, the heads crusher, the fingers crusher, among others.
I went back to the hotel -located right there in the Historical Center
- and after resting the necessary time, I walked around a bit, talked with some local people, and I got to know more about the architecture of Cartagena.
It was not a bad idea, to return to the door of the Church of San Pedro only to watch the pigeons, while the seconds passed unhurriedly and to be photographed next to the striking sculptures in scrap by the artist Edgardo Carmona.
Recommended dinner time exceeds 7 o'clock at night, when the temperature has already abated. I booked with plenty of time at Monte Sacro restaurant, where I savored the special evening dish on a romantic colonial balcony. In there, I took a long time to admire the majesty of the dome of the Cathedral Santa Catalina de Alejandría.
On the terrace of the Hotel Movich Cartagena de Indias
, one of the restaurant-bars of Calle Vélez Danies, I met with some friends and we had a few glasses of wine enjoying the romantic night.
Going into the bowels of Castillo San Felipe
was undoubtedly one of the best plans of this day. For the 45-minute itinerary I canceled 20 thousand COP and I took advantage of it from beginning to end. It is a fantastic tour of this magnificent fortress that protected Cartagena from pirate attacks and enemy invasions.
I dare to say that it is one of the most visited monuments, due to the number of foreigners that I found among tunnels, access ramps, batteries, canyons, sentry boxes, forts and bridges, and that, like me, were amazed and stunish. with its grandeur. The 360 degree view it offers, is privileged. From there I was able to capture beautiful views with my camera.
It was lunchtime and I was caught off guard. But thank God the taxi driver took me to Malanga Bistró-Caribe, a restaurant located across from Plaza San Diego
, which I will never forget. The perfect place to sample exclusive dishes with the technique of French cuisine combined with traditional Caribbean ingredients. This amazing meal brought the energy back to my body.
For the tour of the streets in the Historical Center, I decided to go by horse-drawn car
to learn about their stories and legends. For 60 thousand COP and a 40 minute tour, my coachman took me to the heart of each one. The tour began at the corner of the Plaza de Santa Teresa, right on Calle San Juan de Dios, which I thought was beautiful because of its romantic aspect. On the one hand, there are mansions where fashion shops, handicrafts and restaurants operate. On the other, there is the Naval Museum
and the San Pedro Claver Church
Turning to the left, we take Calle San Pedro that leads directly to Banco de la República. From there, we went to Calle Las Damas, which surprised me by the beauty of the balconies with beautiful tropical flowers. One of the smaller streets, but no less important, is that of La Amargura, which leads to the Plaza de La Aduana, where the town hall is located. The coachman decided to make a stop at the Portal de Los Dulces
, located in Plaza de Los Coches. I do not regret having eaten a small piece of sesame seed, a milk "doll", and a tamarind ball, true delicacies of the gastronomy of Cartagena. What a treat. One of the best photos of the album of my memories was taken in this street, with the Torre del Reloj
in the background.
After touring the Calle de Las Carretas, the Primera de Badillo, and the San Agustín Chiquita, you can see the Segunda de Badillo, which led me to Plaza Fernández de Madrid, very close to San Diego. Like this, we kept going, street by street, until finishing in the starting point, after crossing the Calle de La Factoría, La Artillería, and the Calle del Triunfo.
The mandatory stops: Palacio de la Inquisición, the San Pedro Claver church, the Santo Domingo, the Cathedral, the Heredia Theater, the Clock Tower and the Vaults.
I was struck by the Calle de Tumbamuertos or Tumbamuerto, full of legends of goblins and ghosts. The most beautiful, according to my tastes, the Calle de la Inquisición, Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Baloco and Santos de Piedra. They all constituted perfect places, full of romance, where pleasant and indelible memories are built.
As soon as my fascinating tour through the streets of the Historical Center culminated, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and quench my thirst. As I could see throughout the tour, in most of the busy corners, there are vendors that turn a large ice mold into a refreshing drink. I immediately went to the nearest cart I could find, and the native taught me that it is the traditional scrapers that are prepared in a variety of colors and flavors. Without hesitation, I asked for one of lemon, and with just scraping, pouring the syrup and garnish it with condensed milk, my drink was prepared in a few seconds. With the beverage in hand I decided to go to the hotel to rest and recover my energy again.
During the rumba in "chiva", I could realize that the city at night is also happy and very festive. This tour aboard the traditional "chivas", typical buses painted with striking colors, and equipped with open bar and a band of musicians sitting in the middle, took me from bar to bar while humming the vallenato or champeta song of the moment. We started from the tourist sector of Bocagrande. Then we went through the residential sector of Manga, and reached the walled center. Near the end, I enjoyed the specialties of a Cartagena “fritanguera” and the black dance show on top of one of the ramparts of the wall, facing the sea and under the stars. We all closed the show dancing vallenato on that wall and then, we headed to the area of the rumba of the city, El Arsenal, where I stayed until 12 o'clock in the morning. For this tour, I canceled 45 thousand COP.
Today's journey is towards the island area of Cartagena. Very punctually I arrived at the dock and, since I had already bought the ticket two days before at a tour operator agency, I approached to cancel the exit tax to the Ministry of the Environment. Then, I got on the boat that would take me to the destination I had dreamed about so much, by the way, one of the most attractive places in the world.
It was a privilege to know this beautiful archipelago and its Caribbean beaches. It is a very well deserved fame it has, because its beauty is extraordinary. A whole provocation to your senses.
This paradise is made up of 27 islands, located 46 km from the city. In my tour I could see that the nearest island is Tierrabomba, constituted by Caño del Oro, Punta Arena and Bocachica, unquestionably beautiful. As the panoramic tour progressed, I was increasingly surprised by the whiteness of the sand and the crystalline blue-green sea that I appreciated on each island.
One of the wonderful experiences that I experienced during this tour of the Corales del Rosario National Natural Park was when I arrived at 11:00 a.m. to San Martín de Pajarales. There, in the middle of that paradise that surrounds so many sensations together, is the Oceanario Islas del Rosario, the most beautiful of the Caribbean basin. A place that I contemplated and photographed until I could not do it more. Under a shining sun, I met the marine wealth of our seas, such as sharks, giant tortoises, dolphins, fish diversity. It caught my attention, as well as that of all visitors, the dolphin show and the cat shark show. For entering the aquarium I canceled $ 30,000.
Crystal clear waters, white sand and an infinite blue horizon. As I dreamed, it's Playa Blanca, which is in the tourist zone of Barú. It amazed me as soon as I contemplated my final destiny. During the afternoon I enjoyed all its kindness, as well as a delicious and true typical lunch: Fried fish, coconut rice, salad, fried green plantains and a fish soup. After this delicious lunch, I took a sea bath and walked for 40 minutes barefoot, because I did not want to deprive myself of feeling that soft sand under my feet. The dream ended at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when the boat began to make calls with its horn. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon I arrived in the city tired, but with the satisfaction of having known a true "paradise".
The nights in Cartagena are full of rumba and bohemia. Despite the fatigue left by the beach and the sun of the islands, my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up at the meeting place of the party lovers from all the corners of the world. In Getsemaní I enjoyed its atmosphere, its music, its drinks and snacks, where the striking and colorful architecture adds to its many attractions. I stayed in the Plaza de la Trinidad, a very original and native place where locals and tourists meet without distinction.
My flight was scheduled for 12 p.m. Therefore, before leaving for the airport, it was impossible not to return to photograph the wall that surrounds the center of the city. Walking on the walls, and watching really closely the rusticity of each rock, I understood that they were necessary for Cartagena to become what it is today. Parking in one of its bastions, in Santo Domingo, I looked to the left and found the horizon drawn by the Caribbean Sea, there was that sky adorned with birds and garnished by the Bay of Cartagena.
I finished my tour in another of the bastions, in the one of Santa Catalina, and while I was going down, I thought: it is the walls, the fortifications and the bastions, those that tell the story and, at the same time, make of Cartagena a well known destination around the world. When descending, my obligatory visit was to Las Bóvedas, located between the bastions of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina. I visited the 23 craft shops that function there. I bought many gifts and all kinds of souvenirs.
My visit will remain in my memory, and if it is to remember it, I prefer to come and experience it again. So I finished my tour of Cartagena, a city that conquered all my senses.