A Long Weekend Getaway to Cartagena, Colombia….
Cartagena was never a destination that was on my “must-see” list. However, based on the recommendation of colleagues in Bogata, it was on my husband’s. I really didn’t give it much thought until I started reading about Cartagena as the hottest long weekend getaway with direct flights that are under five hours from New York. In a spur of the moment decision, we decided to forgo our annual out-west ski trip and booked a flight to Cartagena…..we did not regret that decision!
Given that we were traveling with kids, we chose to stay at the Sofitel Santa Clara. They have nice connecting rooms and a large pool. The location can’t be beat…inside the walled city. You just need to step outside the doors to be immersed in the charm and culture of the city.
If we did not have the kids in tow, I would have considered more of a boutique hotel such as the Casa San Augustin, The Charleston Santa Teresa, or the Bastion Luxury Hotel.
The trip was busy, but we were able to find a few hours each day to lounge by the pool….
An obligatory horse drawn carriage ride was the perfect welcome and orientation to the city. The following day, a full-day privately guided tour helped us to really get to know the area. We visited Popa Hill, San Felipe Fort and the Mercade do Bazurto market. A highlight was the “pirate” who took the kids on a little treasure hunt around the fort….maybe a little old for the game, they played along and had a blast.
A can’t miss is a trip to El Totumo Volcano about an hour outside the city. El Totumo is a mud volcano that you can “bathe” in. You basically leave everything you own at the bottom (leave all jewelry at the hotel), give a random guy your camera, climb the stairs to the volcano and are shuffled down a ladder into the mud where men slide you over to other men giving massages….it sounds strange, but feels right when you are in it – trust me! You can hang out for a bit in the mud before climbing out and are escorted over to a lagoon where ladies help to wash the mud off. Again, modesty isn’t a consideration as she asks for your bikini bottoms to wash out. It was a completely unique experience…unfortunately I did not notice any benefit to my skin or hair!
A sunset biking tour around the Gestemani (a colorful neighborhood beyond the walled-city) and along the city’s walls was an adventure. I always love being the only one in the group who feels we are in imminent danger! The rest of the family was comfortable with the guide leading us into traffic.
Another highlight was our day trip to the the Rosario Islands. We chartered a motor boat and headed out to some of the most amazing snorkeling in the Caribbean. We then docked one of the smaller islands and relaxed on the beach while a lunch of fresh fish was prepared. My kids enjoyed hunting for coconuts and spent hours working on cracking them open!
I can’t wrap this up without mentioning to food!! The ceviche and fresh fish were so incredible it would be hard to pick a favorite meal. We ate simply on the beaches….whole fish grilled or fried served with coconut rice and plantains and enjoyed some of the most fabulous gourmet dishes at local restaurants. Some of our favorites: Maria, Alma, La Cevicheria and Cuzco.
* Cartagena is a fantastic weekend destination or can be made into a longer stay combined with the coffee region of Columbia. If you have any questions or would like further information on a trip to Cartagena, please contact Jennifer at 917.741.7409 or [email protected].