Every year I follow my family’s New Year’s Eve tradition to walk with an empty suitcase around the neighborhood to attract travel for the upcoming year. To end 2015 with a “drop-the-mic” attitude, I decided to actually pack my bag and welcome the new year traveling!
I arrived in Cartagena de Indias on December 31, 2015 with just enough time to check-in at the hotel and get dolled up for a NYE’s party in Plaza Santo Domingo in the city’s Historic Center. The streets, decorated with Christmas lights, were vibrant with live music and there were people from all over the world partying around every corner. Even though I hadn’t been to Cartagena since I was a little girl, I felt at home and the crowd all around me felt like family.
Waking up early on the first day of 2016 was no easy task, but I was in Cartagena and didn’t have time for hangovers… so I got ready and headed to the Santa Clara Hotel for a delicious brunch with friends. The $140,000 pesos or about $45 U.S dollars for all you can eat seafood delicacies, exotic fruits and French desserts with a Colombian twist were totally worth it. To top off the experience, we also got a taste of carnaval right at our table!
Cartagena’s old city center is surrounded by a wall that was built in the colonization period in order to protect it from pirates. This wall is one of the city’s main hangout spots and a great place to watch the sunset.
The next couple of days were dedicated to discovering the outskirts of Cartagena. I visited Playa Blanca in Isla Barú. This is the only one of the Rosario Islands that can be reached by land. Getting to the beach was quite an ordeal…we had to wait more than half an hour for the shuttle to leave the hotel and since we had been delayed, we had to stop half-way there to drop some people off who thought they were not going to make it back in time to catch their flight home. Two kilometers before reaching our destination, we were notified that the beach had reached maximum vehicle capacity and our shuttle couldn’t go any further. Everyone had to gather their belongings and prepare for a 30 minute walk to the beach!
Rather than lose our patience and get frustrated, we laughed it off and began walking. When traveling, not everything will go as planned… so live in the moment and enjoy the (unexpected) adventures. Besides, there is nothing that a piña colada, a massage at the beach and a fried-fish-coconut-rice-and-plantain lunch can’t fix!
Another new and totally awesome experience was getting into a tiny volcano that stands about 15 meters above ground to get a mud bath with 15 total strangers. El Volcán del Totumo, located just 50 minutes outside Cartagena is something you have to experience for yourself. After taking the plunge in the mud and getting a brief massage for less than a dollar, I descended the volcano and walked to the nearby lake to wash the mud off.
The last day of the trip was spent walking the streets of Getsemaní, a bohemian neighborhood within the Walled City. The colorful murals and abundant bougainvillea made me fall in love with this part of town. You will see more of that in next week’s post along with some tips for making the most of your Cartagena experience. For now, enjoy a video of my trip!
If you have been to Cartagena and have more fun activities within the city or outside the wall, join the club and comment below!