Tag Archives: cartagena

Beach Time in Playa Blanca

Electric blue fish swimming in the reef of Isla ManglarPlaya Blanca, just an hour out of Cartagena is reported as a great place to cool down and relax. Many people head directly there via boat or public transport, or it can be done as a tour.

I opted for the tour version. With a company called Backpackers, I did a two day package. The tour itself cost 150,000 pesos and the accommodation for one night on Playa Blanca cost an additional 50,000 pesos.

Hanging out in the water bungalows at CholonOn the first day the hotel pickup is at 6:15, followed by an hour van ride out to Playa Blanca. From here you can leave your bags at the accommodation if you are staying overnight.

You then jump in a boat and head out to the Isla Rosario archipelago for some water activities. Firstly is an hour of snorkelling around the tiny island just off Isla Grande, called Isla Manglar. The coral reef here is predominantly brown, but it is still living and houses a beautiful variety of fish species.

Beach Bungalow Accommodation on Playa BlancaThe second stop is a place called Cholon, where thatched bungalows have been set up in the water. For 4000 pesos per person you can rent a  bungalow and sit on chairs in the water, watching life swim by while indulging in a drink or two to cool down.

The third stop is Agua Azul, for some swimming and sunbathing.

Lastly you finish up at Playa Blanca for the lunch that is included in the tour cost, and some more beach time. This allows three hours at Playa Blanca if you do the day tour, or 27 hours for those staying overnight.

On the beach you can rent jet skis and stand up paddle boards. Also surprisingly, the restaurants along the beachfront have delicious food on offer. Be aware that in staying at Playa Blanca, aside from bottle water and one shower per day, you have no access to fresh water.

Relaxing with a viewI would definitely recommend the overnight stay so that you have the time to unwind in the shade of a tree, reading a book. Playa Blanca is over the top crowded between 1-4pm daily, with all the boat tour day trippers. The morning and late afternoon are wonderfully relaxed!

Playa Blanca is a great place for some time out!!

Playa Blanca

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Cartagena, postcard perfect!

Cartagena de Indias is a town on the Caribbean Sea. I will be one hundred percent honest, I did next to nothing during my visit to Cartagena, as it is ridiculously excessively hot there. Daily temperatures were around 35 degrees celsius, but with between 70-90% humidity depending on the day, resulting in a ‘feels like’ temperature of around 43 degrees celsius. The minute you move a single muscle, you are already drenched in sweat. Any day time excursions would be advisable for the early morning or very late afternoon, be aware there is little to no shade.

My Cartagena highlights were the old town, Getsemani and a quick visit to the castle on the hill.

Cartagena’s Old Town

Amazing colours in the old spanish colonial buildings int the Old City of CartagenaWhile the town of Cartagena is now  modern sea port, the old walled city oozes the charm and character of it’s Spanish Colonial History. The gorgeous colours of these 400 year old buildings have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to retain their history.

While the old town has churches and probably castles, I didn’t pay much attention to specific monuments, I really just explored and was gobsmacked at just how beautiful and colourful almost every building was. Many have fantastic colour combinations, sometimes with plants and vines falling gracefully from a balcony above. It feels like this town was the most photogenic city I have seen in my life. I absolutely LOVED every second of my explorations of the old town.

As a walled city, it is also worth walking the perimeter on the wall itself, the views are gorgeous.

Getsemani

Three Women, Street Art in GetsemaniGetsemani has been mentioned from time to time as an unsafe area of Cartagena, while I was not keen to wander through solo after sunset, I would have been more than happy to explore solo during the day.

Getsemani is a lively suburb where many bars, cafes and restaurants can be found. The highlight of the suburb for me was all the street art. The walls were dotted with some fantastic pieces, many by artists we had previously come across in Bogota and Medellin. There are graffiti walking tours available for the area, so if you aren’t comfortable going solo, the a tour is an option.

Getsemani is definitely the place to be for nightlife, but go with friends.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Castillo de San Felipe de BarajasEntry to the castle costs 25,000 pesos for an adult; a student/teacher ticket is 10,500 pesos (Right about now is when I am grateful for my International Teacher Identity Card). Tours or audioguides are an additional expense, which I choose not to pay.

Make sure to visit the castle as early as possible in the day because it really is roasting hot. The castle affords some fantastic views over the city, both old and new as well as out to sea. I didn’t learnt he history of the castle but did enjoy wandering around and exploring the underground tunnels.

In trying to get into the castle you will be harrassed by street vendors selling water and hats, if you don’t have these things already, it’s not a bad thing to give in to a street purchase at this point. The hat is a lifesaver!

Eating and Drinking

Honestly with the weather so hot, sometimes what you need to is to seek refuge in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled building. A few restaurants, cafes and bars I would recommend visiting include:

Cuba 1940s: This Cuban style cafe is in the old town on the corner of one of the plazas. They sell absolutely delicious cocktails and the food is to die for! In addition to amazing food and drink, the selling point for the cafe is that it has a pool in the centre, you can sit on the edge, drink your cocktail and dangle your feet in the water.  It is super chilled and well worth spending some time and pesos here.

Coffee SiphonSan Alberto: This cafe in the old town really specialises in preparing good Colombian coffee. The coffee is sourced from Buenavista, Quindio. The cafe offers a variety of coffee preparation methods for you to choose from, such as cold drip, french press, not to mention a whole swag of others I have forgotten. I opted to share a siphon with my friend Jake and Laura. The siphon is a coffee preparation method I have not previously come across, but was very happy with. It was a fascinating and engaging to watch coffee prep process, that resulted in absolutely delicious coffee.

La Mulata: A seafood restaurant in the old town that has ripper reviews on TripAdvisor. It is ideal to reserve a table if possible, but you should still be prepared to wait. Without a reservation we waited at least an hour before ordering, I was getting tired, cranky and hungry but all this disappeared when I saw my meal. Very generous portions of fantastic quality seafood, cooked to perfection. This place was well worth the wait!

Cafe HavanaCháchara: In the suburb of Getsemani is a funky cafe/restaurant called Cháchara. It has funky decor with almost a garden party feel to it. The food was delicious and reasonably priced.

Cafe Havana: This is a famous cafe well known for live music and salsa; the fact that Hilary Clinton visited it certainly boosted it’s profile. It’s big night of the week is Wednesdays, where crowds flock in the doors, paying the 8000 peso entry fee. Things don’t kick off until about 11:30, but get in early if you want to sit down.

Accommodation

My recommendation for accommodation in Cartagena consists of four requirements: In the Old Town, has Air Conditioning; has fans; and has a pool. Being centrally located and having access to a means to cool off is vital to staying in Cartagena.

I stayed at Hotel Escallon and was very happy with the location and facilities.

Cartagena

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