Updated: May 15, 2020
Visiting Colombia has always been a dream of mine. When one of my best friends said let's go to Cartagena, I did not think twice and booked my ticket. I was so excited I got my ticket before I had my vacation days approved 👀. I had 2 months to practice Spanish before going because the person I traveled with was clueless about the Spanish language.
Now here is a list of things I feel one should do when going to Cartagena:
1. Go on a FREE guided tour of the walled city
There are multiple companies offering free tours for gratuities. The best part is that you can leave the tour at any moment (but I recommend staying until the end). Do this on your first day to get an idea of your surroundings but to also get a rough idea of the history of Cartagena, why it is part of the wall down, and more.
2. Try not to get scammed by the locals; but if you do, go with the flow ✌
Locals will try to sell you things or sing to you and the minute you pay attention to it you will have to pay them. The best is to keep walking and ignore which is not what we did and our pockets felt it. Below you can clearly see me trying to walk away but him (my friend) falling for it. #goodtimes
3. Spend the day in Bocagrande
It is said to look a lot like Miami because of the high buildings that are very close to the beach and the very walkable town. It was very nice, the water was warm, the people were great and the food was to die for. One thing to watch out for is the masseuse ladies on the beach, they will come with their lotions and just start massaging you, gently say "no gracias" and be persistent because they will keep trying. Another thing to keep in mind is your bathing suit, I made the mistake of wearing a white bikini and all I can say is now I have a gray bathing suit.
4.Go visit The Totumo mud volcano (Volcán de Lodo El Totumo)
A day trip outside of Cartagena is totally worthwhile. We booked a tour that took us there and later to the beach to finish off the day. The volcano is taken care of by the locals. Faith in others is required in order to get pictures at the volcano because you can't exactly go in with your phone; you have to give it to one of the local boys and trust that they will take your pictures (and they will of course for a small fee). When you're inside there are a few guys there to guide you and rub the mud on your legs and arms like a massage. After the massage, they let you spend about 10 mins on your own just relaxing. When you finally get out, there's a little lake to wash off and there you will find older ladies more then willing to help, especially the guys 😉 (if you know what I mean). It is a lot of fun and a good laugh.
5. Enjoy the colors
Cartagena is full of colors; from the houses to the flowery streets. Take an afternoon to just walk around, get lost, and take pictures.
6. Go see the sunset at Cafe Del Mar
The sunset is beautiful at Cafe Del Mar but it's not just about the sunset, it is the whole vibe that makes it the best place for me. There's live music, the open air and there's food; what more does one need?
7. Take a picture with the Palenqueras
Did you even go to Cartagena if you don't have a picture with these beautiful ladies? On our free tour, we found out that the Palenqueras is the symbol of Cartagena and they do not even live in Cartagena anymore. They live in Palenque, which is a small village in the South of Cartagena. Palenque is constituted of African descents and is the first free town of the Americas. Palenqueras used to leave their town to go sell fruits but now they sell fewer fruits and mostly pose for pictures with tourists. They went from fruit sellers to the symbol of Cartagena. Now be careful, they are not only beautiful and nice but also vicious. Make sure to have a set price before taking the pictures because if you don't they will ask for an outrageous amount, therefore be careful.
All in all, Cartegena was a successful trip. We did a lot of other things as well, based on interest. We took a party bus where they gave us non-stop shots of Aguardiente, went salsa dancing, spent a night at Playa Blanca, and more. Cartagena has a little of everything for everyone and I recommend it as a destination. Don't listen to people telling you Colombia is dangerous; if you were to listen to these people, you would never leave your house.
What is one place you've visited that people tried to convince you not to go?