Tuesday, 16 May 2017


Cartagena is a beautiful, well-preserved old town surrounded by tall city walls. Much like other old Spanish colonial centres, it has a really European feel – both architecturally and culturally – and within the city walls, there were even horse and carts (like we saw in Seville, Spain and also in Merida, Mexico) ferrying the tourists around.

Gate to the old town

Wandering around the narrow streets
Outside of the old town it’s a different story: the chaotic suburbs descend into traffic mayhem, diesel fumes and an urban sprawl where all Cartagena’s residents live. It was quite a contrast travelling in from the noisy suburban bus station outside of town, into the colourful centre of the old town. Needless to say we stuck to the centre of town once we’d arrived!

The city walls are filled with narrow streets, colourful buildings, brightly painted street art and big shady squares. It’s incredibly hot and humid so we were grateful for the cold air conditioning in our hotel room – the first we’ve had in a while and feels like a real treat!
View from the city walls
The best itinerary in Cartagena is to drop all sightseeing plans and get lost wandering around the streets of the old town. We walked miles in the shady streets, popping into shops and cafes for a Colombian coffee and some air conditioning, and strolling along sections of the city walls, taking in the city views.
City walls and sailing boat

Strolling around the walls
All the doors in the old town are much taller than standard doors as when the city was built, people used to enter buildings on horseback, so the added height is to cater for the horse and rider.

People’s homes also used to be marked with a symbol if they were one of certain occupations – usually the door knocker is in the shape of one of the following animals to represent the following professions:
  • Lion – works for the king
  • Iguana – rich/noble people
  • Owl – doctor
  • Mermaid – Sailor
  • Dolphin – Fisherman
It was fun to walk around the old town spotting the different animals, though we’ve yet to see an owl…
A rich person used to live here...
We stayed in Getsemani, a ten-minute walk outside the centre and a popular location for backpackers. It’s a vibrant area with lots of great bars and cafes and generally the standard of food here is really good. We found a lovely cafĂ© for breakfast with three resident cats, which serves the best banana pancakes (even better than mine!)
Street art in Getsemani
We’ll return to Cartagena in a week or so, ready for our flight back to Cancun before we fly home, but in the meantime, we decided to explore some more of the Caribbean coast and headed north to Minca in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Minca, in the mountains
We spent a couple of nights there and did a spot of hiking to nearby ‘Pozo Azul’ waterfall for a swim, but our day’s adventure got prematurely cut short when the heavens opened and we got soaked through. So much for 100% waterproof Goretex shoes if they get so full of water that you’re squelching around in them! 

Soaking wet!
After a brief stop in Minca, we’re now in Palomino and I’ll fill you in on our adventures here in the next blog post.

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