Santa Marta and Cartagena

The Caribbean coast of Colombia is simply a delight : beautiful nature, warm vibe and interesting history!

Santa Marta

We arrived in Santa Marta directly from the paradisiac island of Providencia close to the Nicaraguan coast. The airport is 18km away from the city but the taxi was not very expensive (30 000 pesos).

Bloggers seem not to really enjoy the city, quite busy and not interesting historically. However, after 4 days on a quiet island, we didn’t mind the vibrant vibe and the place is a great base for several excursions.

Things to do in Santa Marta

  • Minca: we left from the mercado for one day in the hilly village of Minca. Lovely lunch at the Lazy Cat staring at birds. We then headed to Pozo Azul with a local motorbike driver. The site is pretty but the water is pretty cold and there’s not a lot of place to sit down. We therefore didn’t stay that long and started walking back on the dusty path.

Tip: cover yourself with insect repellent before going. Sandflies killed us. We had more than 100 bites each that drove us crazy for sevral days.

  • Tayrona National Park: you can either take a shuttle from your hostel or from the mercado in Santa Marta (cheaper). 61 500 pesos + mandatory insurance. Tip: make your booking before going to jump the queue and to be sure to get in (there’s a limited amount of tickets). If you don’t take your insurance at that time, there will force you to take one at the entrance (even if you have a private one). Take a shuttle from there to a path that will take you to the Cañaveral beach. You can then continue to the beautiful Arrecifes beach (40minutes walk). Nice bay nearby called La Aranilla and a large beach called La Piscina. Warm water but super hot walk! Next beach and massive place to eat and to sleep is Cabo San Juan del Guía. This was also our last stop.

We initially thought about walking back via El Pueblito but we were told thatit would take us 5 hours and it was already way too late. We therefore decided to take a boat to Taganga. This was probably one of the scariest travel experiences of my life. The sea was so rough it was difficult to climb onboard. We then had to welcome passengers form another boat that were stranded in the middle of the sea. The journey was long, it was getting cold and waves kept going over the boat, many people were scared and some had small panic attacks. We disembarked on the beach in the middle of well dresses tourists but taxis seemed to know the deal: they took out special covers from their boots to protect their car seats!

We stayed at El Hostal de Jackie, very pretty double room, nice breakfast and great terrace and bar on the top of the hostel. We enjoyed the food from Lulo and drinks from the Crabs bar.

Cartagena de Indias

We took a shuttle from our hostel to the final destination if our Colombian trip: Cartagena. Nice views along the coast.

We had a bad experience in Cartagena unfortunately our flat was double booked. Booking.com tried to offer us other accommodation but none were satisfactory (next to the airport, on a island…) as we wanted to be able to walk to the centre on New Year’s Eve. We however were very lucky: Ofelia, the host from our Airbnb found at 7.30pm on the Wi-Fi of a Mc Donalds, was probably one of the sweetest girls in Cartagena. Her flat is located right a block away from the trendy area of Getsemani and has a lovely terrace/garden. I was sick and she called a doctor for me and prepared a nice breakfast for my boyfriend.

Tip: if you’re sick and  need to find an English-speaking doctor quite quickly, I recommend you Clínica Medihelp Services in Bocagrande.65€ for a consult.

Things to do in Cartagena

  • Free Walking tour: we did a nice tour in the centre of the city with a guide from Beyond Colombia. I would have liked to the food tour but I was unfortunately too sick. We walked from Paseo de los Mártires to Plaza de los Coches, we learnt more about the beautiful houses of the centre and the meaning of the drawings on the doors, we continued to Plaza Bolívar and the cathedral.We finished our tour at the bottom of the Muralles.
  • Getsemani: this area is so vibrant with so many colourful houses, tags, and little restaurants (especially, the tapas from Demente and the mojitos from El guero Taqueria), it’s just impossible not to fall in love!
  • If I hadn’t been sick: I had planned an excursion to Las Islas de la Rosario  and to have sunset drinks at Café del Mar

Bye bye Caribbean coast, hasta luego!

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