Colombia ~ Cartagena

28 February 2021

In Cartagena with fruit sellers dressed in the colors of the Colombian flag just before my shirt became drenched in the heat.

For obsessive travelers — even if vaccinated — travel planning is still tricky as the pandemic lingers on.

I wanted to go ① somewhere I'd not yet visited ② that is warm, ③ is not too far away, and ④ does not require an entry quarantine.

Exploring lists of "must see" places in South America, I saw Cartagena often listed in the top ten. It's a short nonstop due south of Miami. Plus, the weather forecast was hot and sunny. No arrival quarantine, just a negative test.

Cartagena alone looked like it held more than enough to enjoy exploring on foot for many days. No need to hop around Colombia; I'd been to Bogotá and Medellín previously.

Cartagena turned out to be an ideal choice!

Once a key city in the Spanish empire, Cartagena is now home to over a million people. A high, thick wall runs 11 kilometers around the old colonial city (foreground above).

Most blocks in Cartagena's large old town are immaculate, colorful, meticulously preserved, and topped off by bougainvillea. Except in the midday sun, I never tired of just walking around for hours.

Cartagena's Cathedral

Plazas, big and small, dot the old town, usually surrounded by outdoor cafes.

The elegant Santa Clara Sofitel, in the heart of the old town, was built as a convent in 1621.

Near the hotel is La Serrezuela, a new upscale shopping center featuring a nightly show of fountains dancing to "Nessun Dorma" and then "We Will Rock You."


Next to the walled old town is Getsemani, a poorer barrio now being gentrified. Without the colonial heritage to maintain, Getsemani is free to be more bohemian.

Getsemani is noted for its creative street art. It was fun to walk around without a guidebook and "discover" for myself some of the more striking murals. 

You won't see multi-colored balustrades and exotic murals in the colonial district.

Bottom line: Loved Cartagena.
Extended my stay there from a week to ten days. You can see the basics in three days, but it was a fascinating, charming place to hang out longer.