A visit to San Basilio de Palenque, the “freedom town”

Taking a tour from Cartagena, on an air-conditioned bus, only 1 hour and 20 minutes will be needed to arrive at San Basilio de Palenque, a village of Mahates in the Bolívar region. Through an uncovered road, surrounded by nature, you begin to feel the joy of this town full of a priceless culture.

The amazing blend between language, dance, gastronomy, hairstyles and music welcome us with a sample of traditions never seen before. Boom, boom! The drums start to sound. All our emotions and intrigue light up, as well as the desire to move the hips as these women do.


The flavor and tradition of the stoves of San Basilio de Palenque are outstanding. They captivate even the most demanding palates. Tropical fruits, 'Arroz con bleo', the 'Pescado en cabrito', the 'Creole chicken stewed in coconut milk', the 'Mazamorra de coco' or, to sweeten the day, some 'Peanut balls' or a bit of 'Alegría', are part of this varied cuisine loaded with exotic flavors characteristic of this town, which fuses flavors."

Music and dances

The party is animated by the Sexteto Tabalá and the maestro Rafael Cassiani. You will surely keep the rhythm in your heart, but after having danced a piece with much tumbao’ and flavor. Music accompanies most of its activities, it is a fundamental part of their culture, and since you enter the town the sound of the drum will make you vibrate. Palenquera music is joyful and is expressed in dances such as entrompao, paraíto or paseo, mapalé, púyala, el palenquero, chalusonga, and champeta. But in many rites music also accompanies pain. The musical tradition is passed from generation to generation."


Palenque is a town woven in braids. Each hairstyle has an association with the past, its history and its legacy. All the women seem to be brunettes with abundant hair and fine braids. In this town they wear a different hairstyle, original and elaborated by themselves. With names like: the 'hundiito', the 'borreguitos', the 'carreítas', the 'lío', and the 'puerca paría'. They take out smiles to all the tourists that visit them, convincing them to wear a braid in their hair, and leave San Basilio de Palenque wearing the cultural heritage up to their heads."


In the park, in front of a small church painted in a faded blue, pink and purple, there is the monument to the brave freedom fighter who dared to challenge the Spanish crown in 1600 and which made Palenque the first free town in America: Benkos Biohó. It is located 44 kilometers from Cartagena, next to the Montes de María. A dusty road and a brutal sun announce its closeness. The first thing that appears then is the central square with the children's playground, then there is the only and most important sculpture of the town: the torso of Benkos Biohó. At first sight San Basilio seems a poor village, but in reality it is a population full of treasures that hides a mystery that awakens in the traveler the need to return. This town is one of the treasures of the Colombian Caribbean. Full of stories, characters, parties, cuisine and African heritage, in each of its inhabitants."/
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