Cartagena, Colombia

Distant Guide The magical blend of history, culture, and nature in Colombia

Hello, wanderers and wonderers!  Beautiful colonial towns, Quechua people,

lush Amazon forests and imposing Andean summits - Colombia may not be quite popular as a tourist destination but it still manages to hold amazing treasures and dazzling wonders! Fasten your seatbelt for 7 days of epic discoveries.

Quick Tips

See

You’ll get to explore the colourful buildings, massive castles, azure beaches, and plenty of museums in Cartagena. 

 

Do

Haggle your way through bustling markets, experience a party on a chiva, dance salsa till the wee morning hours, and soak up the energy of Cartagena! 

Eat

Fresh-caught seafood, homemade delicacies, to the savory mango biche and the classical Posta Negra dish, world-class flavors combined with Colombian flair and much more…

Stay 

Cartagena has a wide range of accommodation options - from luxury hotels to quirky hostels. 


Plan

Flights & Transport

Flight costs are annoyingly unpredictable. You’ll save the most money if you book 3-6 months out. Buses are the most common means of intercity transport in Colombia. Alternatively, you can hire a car for additional flexibility.

Accommodations

Go with  the flow. Although we advise you to book some of your hotels and excursions before you

depart, it’s always good to keep some things spontaneous! Allow yourself the flexibility (and the budget!) to go on an exciting adventure such as a day trip to Rosario Island, ride through the mangrove tunnels, or take some salsa lessons!


Insurance & Passport

Better  safe than sorry. Travel insurance is an absolute must. Ensure you take out a policy that includes a good level of medical cover, or expect a huge bill if the worst should happen. Although the majority of tourists visit Colombia without incident, it is also worth being insured against petty theft. Check with your insurer if you plan to indulge in adventure sports such as quad biking.


Visa- free travel!

Citizens of several countries, including those from the US, EU, Australia, and Latin America don’t need a visa to visit Colombia. Make sure your passport is valid for three months after departure and you have two blank pages for stamps. 


Checklist

A few months before your trip is the best time to secure your flights, tours and accommodations. Take a look at our hotel and activity recommendations for each location and book now to ensure your trip is exactly what you want it to be! This way, you’ll save a lot of time and stress. Plus, you’ll avoid the disappointment of your favorite places and activities being sold out.

Tips

Adapters

CHECK YOUR DEVICE PLUG

It’s important to know the difference between a power adapter and power converter. An adapter is a basic tool that retrofits your US plug to ‘adapt’ to the outlet in the wall. This is what you’ll use to charge your phone and camera. In Colombia, type A and B plugs are used as the type A and B in the US. The voltage and frequency are also nearly the same as in the US. So you may not need an adapter to the converter. If you are from outside the US, don’t forget that adapter and converter!


Currency

Peso. 


Landmarks

  • Colombia is land of bargaining, so make sure you haggle your way through the local markets there!

  • If you want more tranquil and secluded beaches, head over to Laguito. 

  • Taking pictures of Planquera isn’t free - you’ll have to pay a few pounds to take a picture of them. 

  • A walking tour is the best way to get acquainted with the city. 



Packing

PACKING ESSENTIALS

1• Traveling light is always ideal. Roll your clothes to save space and avoid creases. If you want to take it to the next level, use vacuum compression bags to maximize space.

2• Choose your footwear wisely. Bring a pair of walking boots for hiking and trips out into the beautiful scenery. Pack sandals for the beach, and a pair of comfy sneakers or canvas shoes for

walking around town.

3• Try to blend in as much as possible. Flashy outfits might make you stand out as a tourist and attract unwanted attention from vendors.

4• Pack your shampoo, toothpaste and any other liquids in ziplock bags in case they spill in transit. However, these are items you can always acquire once you’re in Colombia.

5• Don’t forget your sunscreen, aftersun and sunglasses. The sun is quite intense in certain parts of the country, so take care of your skin.

6• You’re going to encounter some beautiful beaches, so make sure you pack your swimming gear.

7• Remember your camera, charger, memory card and power adapter. Be well equipped to capture all of the beautiful sites when wandering the city.



Apps

• Colombia Travel Guide | Useful guide for traveling in Colombia

• Tripadvisor | a favorite resource for finding off-the-beaten-path

restaurants and things to do. However, all reviews are subjective,

so don’t obsess over scores

• Whatsapp | free text messaging to other Whatsapp users

• NobelApp | make cheap calls locally and back home


Transit Booking Sites


• skyscanner.com | easy to use website for finding low air fares

• google.com/flights | helpful fare prediction technology

• http://www.latinbus.com/ | for bus timetables and bookings

• www.columbiaairportshuttle.com | Colombia airport shuttle service

• https://www.colombiacarsrental.com/ | find taxis and cars for hire



Tipping

With so many great photo-ops in store, it’s best to be prepared and bring an adapter. Plug types D, M, and N are most commonly used in South Africa, while types A and B are used in North America. If you’re coming from the US, its most likely you won’t have these foreign plugs on hand so be sure to buy an adapter before departure. South African voltage is also higher than in the US (230V is standard) so we recommend double-checking if your adapter is dual voltage. If not,it’s best to purchase a converter as well.

Itinerary Page

Day 1

Welcome to Cartagena, Colombia

Your trip begins in Cartagena, the charming colonial jewel with one of the most beautiful architecture in the hemisphere, washed by the warm Caribbean waters. This city has something for everyone, and all obsolete travel warnings are not going to keep the crowd away. Culture

lovers will be amazed by the museums, live music, and local delicacies. On the other hand, groups of paradisiacal  islands will lure the beach bums to the coast with white sand, cold coconuts, and incredible snorkeling and diving.


Morning

SOAK IN YOUR NEW SURROUNDINGS

Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez International Airport is located 3 miles east of the historic center of the city. From the airport, you can take taxis or Uber that take you to the different tourist areas and hotels.

Check into your hotel, freshen up, get something to eat, and get ready to start your Colombian adventure!

TAKE A STROLL

Having settled into your hotel and after having taken a little time to relax or catch up on sleep, take a slow walk to the Walled City in Old Cartagena. What follows next? It’s time to get lost in the maze-like narrow streets inside the Old Town. Spend some time at the bustling Plaza Santo Domingo and take a picture with the Botero statue. Stroll through the many gardens then visit the Cathedral of San Pedro Claver named after a Spanish monk who devoted his life to the slaves bought from Africa.

SALSA AND LOCAL SPIRITS

At the end of the day, you may have found several food and drink options, but if you go back to the door near the Clock Tower, you will find an outdoor local spot called Salsa Donde Fidel. Enjoy some local delicacies with Colombian beer and enjoy the pleasant weather as night.

Day 2 

Morning and Afternoon

SEE THE SIGHTS

Waking up wanting to continue getting to know the city, you can easily go to the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, which is one of the biggest attractions in Cartagena. Hiring a guide is the

best way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if you are not much into history and architecture, it may be worth visiting as the castle offers breathtaking views

of the city. At lunch time, you can walk back to the Walled City with a stop at Bairro

Getsemani that is between the castle and the walls. This neighborhood is a backpacker’s

hub and here is where you’ll encounter a wide range of hostels, vibrant street-arts, and funky cafes. You can spend the rest of the day here or perhaps visit Bocagrande where you can find shopping centers, high-rising buildings, and upscale bars and restaurants. If you are a beer-lover, don’t miss the Bogota Beer.

Evening

LOADED WITH FUN

If all the action today isn’t enough, Chiva Night Rumba Tour will surely make it up to you. This is an open bus (colorful, wooden Colombian bus!) tour with live musicians and open bar where you can drink, sing and dance to the purest Latin rhythm—all this while touring the best areas of the city!

Day 3 

Morning

Start the third day with a visit to the famous Clock Tower. This is an entrance to the walled area and is one of the most representative symbols of the city. Once you cross through the door you will fall into Plaza de los Coches, which is so called because the horse-drawn carriages were "parked" there in the past. There are still some of them that take tourists on a tour around the historic center.

Afternoon

After having a hearty meal at one of the many restaurants in the area, head to the Naval Museum. Here you will know the history of navigation of ancient ships, before entering fully into the maritime tradition of Colombia. Located nearby is Museo del Oro Zenú, which houses a brilliant collection of pottery and gold ornaments of the Zenú people before the Spanish conquest.

Evening

Dedicate your last evening in Cartagena to shopping or just walking through the markets

if you like collecting experiences instead of memories! Las Bóvedas is probably the most

famous market in Cartagena. Here you will find a variety of shops selling traditional

Colombian clothing, handicrafts, souvenirs, jewelry, antiques, and paintings. For a more

localized shopping experience, head to Mercado de Bazurto.


Day 4 

Morning

You can’t return from the Caribbean without taking an island-hopping tour. You can book the whole tour in advance opting either for an express boat or a slower but spacious ferry. These i s l a n d s are Colombia's Caribbean coast’s gems, famous for their pristine white beaches, vibrant marine life, and sun-soaked.

THE EXCITING FERRY RIDE

Get to the port early in the morning so you can make the best out of your day trip. If you take the ferry, you have the option to take a comfortable air-conditioned seat. You can see the beautiful skyline of Cartagena as you leave the mainland. Participate in activities, have fun, and interact.

Afternoon

dolphin show

After three hours, you will arrive at Isla del Rosario where you can escape to the aquarium to see the typical dolphin shows or explore the island. Composed of dozens of islands of all sizes and crystal clear waters, this archipelago conceals a fantastic coral reef beneath its surface. In addition to these beautiful reefs, there are also numerous shipwrecks and historical combat sites with pirates. You will discover several fortresses such as the Fort of San Sebastian del Pastelillo which houses Club de Pesca—an ideal place to have some light snacks while enjoying the scenery.

Afterwards, the ferry will take you to a beautiful white sand beach in Barú Island. Unleash your desires and enjoy exotic seafood cooked with local techniques. Feel the warm sun on your body while lying on the beach.

Evening

RETURN TO CARTAGENA

On your returning journey by boat to Cartagena, you can enjoy an impressive sunset leaving behind the beautiful Rosario Island.


After returning, you’ll probably want to get some food and drink, but make sure you spend enough time in your hotel in order to get your things together for your departure tomorrow morning for the last two days of your holiday in Santa Marta!


Day 5 

Morning

HEAD TO SANTA MARTA

Santa Marta’s proximity to Cartagena makes it perfect for traveling by road and really getting a sense of the country without enduring undue discomfort or long airport delays. Buses are the cheapest way to get from Cartagena to Santa Marta. They depart regularly from the bus stand and India Catalina monument. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for more comfort and flexibility.

Upon arrival in Split, check into your hotel.

Afternoon

HISTORICAL AFFAIR

The Caribbean fishing town of Santa Marta has become an authentic nirvana for travelers thanks to white sand beaches, a lost city, and a national park. Start your trip in Santa Marta with a dose of history. This city was founded in 1525 and is the oldest colonial city in Colombia. The historic center is so compact and filled with wonderful buildings that it is ideal to explore on foot. After getting some rest in your hotel, take a late afternoon walk through the city to visit the Cathedral of Santa Marta.


Evening

RELAX BY THE SEA

As the sun approaches the horizon, sit back and relax at El Rodadero—one of the most charming beaches in Santa Marta. While you are here, you can also buy some locally made souvenirs. Dine in one of the seaside restaurants where you enjoy your food while listening to waves crashing the Caribbean shore.

Day 6 

Morning

Today’s main draw is certainly the chance to see the spectacular natural beauty in Tayrona National Park. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world, sink into the sea like the fingers of a gigantic hand between which bays and inlets. The white sand beaches interrupted by rocky atolls, mangroves, bushes or forests, and bathed by the turquoise crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea, are part of the many attractions offered by the Tayrona National

Afternoon

In addition to scenic beauty, discover the remains of the Tayrona culture and other indigenous tribes. The archaeological ruins denote the existence of human settlements of the Tayrona tribe since pre-Columbian times. Tayrona National Park is a good setting for ecotourism thanks to its exotic waves beaches that differ from one to another and even to its areas suitable for diving and snorkeling. The three best-known areas of the park are Bahia Concha, a beautiful spa and restaurants, Neguanje, and Cañaveral.

Evening

The nightlife of Santa Marta is quite lively, with many bars, pubs and nightclubs located in different areas of the city and its surroundings. Among the busiest points are the bars and clubs of El Rodadero, highlighting the famous nightclub La Escollera in the center of an island.

In the Historic Center, you can also find a lively recreational offer, with numerous bars and pubs, especially concentrated around the Parque de los Novios.

Day 7 

Morning

MAKE THE MOST OF THOSE PRECIOUS LAST MOMENTS

You’ll need to head to Santa Marta International Airport for your flight home via Bogota. Was there something you read about that didn’t have time to do or see? Get out there and do it! You may have just enough time to make one last memory or see one last attraction. But, beware of traveling too far out of the city; missing your flight home is not how you want to end your magical trip! Check out the Simon Bolivar's 17th-century house & museum if you haven’t done so already. It houses several historical items such as donated artworks, wares, and old furniture.