Cartagena is a gorgeous, well preserved colonial city right on the Caribbean Sea. While it has beautiful architecture, interesting history, and really delicious food, despite being on the sea, it lacks a proper Caribbean beach! Surprising to many, the idyllic Caribbean beaches are an hour away by car or boat. Plan accordingly if you are looking for a Caribbean beach vacation!
There are three main Caribbean beaches around Cartagena. Playa Blanca, Islas del Rosario and Isla del Encanto. Playa Blanca has the Caribbean white sand beaches and can be reached by car (or public bus). Since it can be reached by car, Playa Blanca is often the easiest and cheapest option, as you do not need to go with a tour. It is also the most crowded and local option.
When you think “wine vacation,” Colombia, not surprisingly, probably doesn’t come to mind. South America has some world-class vineyards in Argentina and Chile, but Colombia has never made those those lists. Nevertheless, Colombia boasts two (maybe three…still waiting for confirmation that the third one is working), wineries that, while not top-of-the-line producers, are decent and very interesting to visit, especially for the wine enthusiast. Colombian wines are interesting to me because (1) Colombian wine is only found in Colombia; and (2) the grapes are grown at a very high altitude in the Andes mountains – unique in the commercial grape growing world. In any case, once I heard about “Colombian wineries,” I knew that I had to hit a vineyard on my trip!
La Tabula, Bogotá. Ravely reviewed by Anthony Bourdain and seemingly adorable, I made a reservation here for our first night in Bogotá before we even left! Side note – the reservation was easily made by email and probably not necessary for two people.
Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez airport is a small airport about 15 minutes out of El Centro (Old Town Cartagena). Since its so close to town and so small, a lot of people probably arrive far too early for their flight. We did, but luckily found the Sala VIP in the International Terminal to waste away the time.
One of my favorite days in Bogotá (and Colombia as a whole!) was the afternoon that I spent at the Usaquén street market a/k/a the Mercado de las Pulgas de Usaquén! If you visit Bogotá and like to shop and eat, you absolutely must visit this market!
What Is the Usaquén Market? The Usaquén Market is a street market and fair taking place every Sunday in the Usaquén neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia. Lot’s of vendors come out and sell quality handicrafts, as well as cheap trinkets. This is an excellent place to pick up Colombian souvenirs that are not touristy!
When Is The Usaquén Market? The Usaquén Market takes place every Sunday from about 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (give or take a little). The market is at its best in the afternoon!
Bogotá, Colombia. The city doesn’t exactly evoke the excitement of other South American capitals, such as Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo or Santiago. In contrast, and unfortunately, most people associate Bogotá with the drug trade that plagued Colombia for years and imagine the city to be terribly dangerous. I visited Bogotá in February 2016 and I can tell you without hesitation that Bogotá is no longer an “unvisitable” city. In fact, quite the opposite. I had a great time in Bogotá and found it safer than other large South American cities that I have visited, including Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio. PUT IT ON YOUR TRAVEL LIST! Plus, visiting Bogotá can be an easy add-on to a South American itinerary, as it has many direct connections to the U.S. and throughout South America.
Street food is incredibly popular in the Colombian cities of Bogota and Cartagena (and probably others that I haven’t visited…) but it can be rather intimidating to try as a visitor, especially if you don’t speak Spanish (like me!). A good way to try the street food without feeling intimidated is to sign up for a food tour. Side note – I love food tours and take them anywhere and everywhere. I find food tours particular useful in places where you do not speak the language and/or you are uncertain about the cleanliness of some of the food – Cartagena in my case!
I visited Bogota, Villa de Levya, Cartagena and Islas del Encanto last month and loved every minute of it! Colombia is a fabulous country and an easy vacation destination from the U.S. Located on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is one of the MOST popular destinations in Colombia. Here are 10 things that first-time visitors should know before visiting Cartagena, even if its just for a day as part of a cruise ship itinerary!
1. Cartagena is VERY touristy!
I knew that Cartagena is becoming very popular and has been on the Caribbean cruise circuit for years, but I did not expect it to be nearly as crowded and touristy as it was, and it was especially crowded when the cruise ships were in port! Lots and lots and lots of visitors and the entire old town (called “El Centro”) catering to tourists. A good time but not exactly authentic. Keep this in mind if you are looking for an authentic Colombian experience. I recommend pairing Cartagena with a less touristy destination, such as Bogota, to get a more well-rounded Colombian experience.