Unforgettable Places to visit in Cartagena Colombia

Top 5 things to do in Cartagena

  1. Visit Palenque
  2. Go on a city/food tour with Colombia Connection
  3. Day beach trip to Islas de Rosario
  4. Eat at fantastic restaurants (Cande, La Cevicheria, La Vitrola)
  5. Stay at a boutique hotel (Casa del Coliseo)

After hiking in Peru for 4 days last June 2018 (I’m late I know), Nelli and I knew we wanted to have a completely different experience (read: lazy beach bums).  I’ve always wanted to visit Cartagena after seeing pictures on travel blogs and I had/have a growing fascination of Black people’s experience outside of the USA.  I’m embarrassed to say that some of my introduction to AfroLatino culture came from Spanish soap operas like la Esclava blanca and Celia (Cuba post coming soon!).

Cartagena was considered in 2018 the next hot place to visit by Conde de Nast and the beautiful Instagram influencer pictures in front of the picturesque doors certainly don’t hurt it’s tourist industry either.  Boco Raton used to be the hot spot for rich people and tourists in Colombia – Cartagena was actually where the outcasts lived, it was literally a ghetto until gentrification (surprise!).

All of this I learned when I took a history/food tour with Cartagena Connections – I think this should be the first thing you do if you decide to go here.  The tour guide/owner spent more than half a day explaining the African and Indigenous, Spanish Colonial history of the city and showing us the hot spots of where to eat and drink.  We even got to try some delicious street food and visited an abuela’s house for her famous homemade popsicles.  Honestly, this was the best city tour I’ve been on, we liked it so much – we decided to book another tour to Palenque.

Palenque (officially named: San Basilio De Palenque) is a city outside of Cartagena about 1.5 hours away.  This city is predominately AfroColombian and the people living here are descendants of the first free Africans in the Americas.  In the 16th century, a group of slaves in Cartagena led by Benkos Bioho escaped and formed this city.  The tour included a local Palenque tour guide who took us around the town explaining their connection to Africa, introduced us to some prominent people living in the areas (artists, musicians, etc.), and his family even prepared a traditional meal for us in their own home.  The whole experience was awe inspiring and something I’ll never forget – please look up this special city, I’m not completely giving their legacy justice.

The rest of our stay was filled with delicious food and trying to nab the perfect Instagram shot (sorry not sorry).  Cartagena is full of boutique hotels and ours (Casa del Coliseo) did not disappoint.  They organized our taxis everywhere, made lunch/dinner recommendations and reservations, as well as preparing our breakfast every day – our room was also fabulous (small, comfy, and air conditioned).  Be prepared – it’s HOT!  Some days I took multiple showers because I was drenched in sweat (TMI!).  Speaking of delicious food – there are way way too many spots, it was impossible to hit them all but my favorite were the 3 I listed above.  La Cevicheria has some of the best seafood I have tried, Anthony Bourdain (RIP) also visited here and loved it – try to get here early, it’s always packed.  Another favorite was Cande, I LOVED this place because all the waiters/waitresses were Black and they had live dancing of traditional AfroColombian rituals.  La Vitrola was very nice as well, make sure to pack some cute date night dresses because a lot of the restaurants are classy and romantic.

Our trip to Cartagena was by far one of my favorite trips of all time!  I would love to go back and visit more restaurants and bars.  They have a great party scene that I think would be perfect for a girls trip – I would also love to visit surrounding cities like Baranquilla and Medellin.  As an avid Narcos fan, tour guides in Cartagena loved to point out what used to be Escobar’s private mansions.  So much to do, so little time.  Adios for now.

 

 

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