Cartagena is a small city on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, with a beautiful historic centre and beaches. It was founded in the 16th century, where there are cobbled streets, the wall ruins and colonial buildings. It is a very popular tourist destination for both Colombians and foreigners.
After a lazy morning, I went into the historical centre around lunchtime. As I was staying in La Boquilla with friends, I was located around 5km away from main Cartagena.
Majority of travellers won’t be staying this far out but I will give you a break down on transport in Cartegena:
1. Taxis – they are yellow, you can just hail one down and it will take you to any specific place. From La Boquilla to the historical centre, it cost 15,000 pesos.
2. Motos – these are motorbike taxis. Again stick that arm out to the driver holding a spare helmet and off to your specific destination you go. These are safe, common, cheaper, faster. I feel totally safe on one since living in Thailand but I can understand it’s not ideal for everyone. It cost me 5,000 pesos from the border of the historical centre to La Boquilla.
3. Colectivo – basically they are shared taxis, where you stand at the side of the main road, you hop in and make friends with locals, which then takes you along the main roads and stop at any point along the way. It’s a cheaper option costing 2,500 pesos per journey.
4. Buses – there are many buses taking passengers to different parts of the city. You may need to ask your hostel or a local about where you can get a bus to different places. It costs 2,100 pesos per person
5. And of course, walk. From La Boquilla to the centre you can easily walk along the beach but it’s far and hot. However, once in the centre, everything can be done by foot.
Anyway, I took a taxi to the historical centre as I was with two others who had luggage. On the way back, I caught a moto, which was great as there was so much traffic.
The historical centre itself is a beautiful area with magnificent architecture of high colourful buildings and churches. The streets are narrow, full of quaint restaurants, artistic craft shops and multiple ice-cream cafés with the occasion taxi trying to get pass. There were many plaza, where one could sit and shade themselves from the blazing sun. Also, around were different museums including modern art museum, gold museum, history museum, chocó museum plus several smaller ones. On the roads, there are many hissing street vendors selling fruit, jewellery, souvenirs and fried food for all the tourist that pack the place. Some streets had flowers and bunting of colourful bottle swinging between houses, decorating the walls and others had metal artistic statues. Surrounding the centre is an old wall protecting the city but now it just stands still, disintegrating. From the wall, one can see into the centre, to San Felipe castle, to the church on the hill or to the peaceful ocean or to a harbour, where boats wait under the sun. It’s just a picturesque view.
I decided just to wander the area, people watching, admiring the structures, and popping into shops. After, I went to a restaurant called ‘Leños carne y cava’, which only caught my eye as there were promotors outside. The reason I chose this place was because food generally isn’t cheap for Colombian standards and they did a menú del día (menu of the day) for 10,000pesos with a selection of meals, which was the cheapest one I could find.
Inside, there was two floors with simple white but clean decor with Spanish music playing in the background. As one walked in, there was a bar on the left, with seating on the right, where I sat. I ordered bandeja paisa sin carne as I’m veggie. Basically it consisted of rice, black beans, a fried egg, avocado, plantain and salad. It was extremely tasty and a traditional Colombian meal. Well except they have loads of extra meat. I sipped it down with a refreshing maracuya juice. Just to be warned, they add a 20% service charge.
With a full stomach, it was time to walk it off by strolling on the historical wall, appreciating the sun and the city.
Then I headed back on a moto.