If you're coming from the splendid beach at El Rodadero in Santa Marta or visiting the Quinto de San Pedro Alejandrino where Simón Bolívar spent his last days, go west young packer on this Caribbean coastal route that involves just a couple hours ride at a time.
While most bypass the big industrial port of Barranquilla, it is South America's second Carnival capital (first being Río de Janeiro) at a much better bargain. It also is a great spot for art deco fans, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and the famous Teatro Amira de la Rosa museum and library.
Before you get to Cartagena, stop for an unforgettable experience at the Volcan de Lodo Totumo, a real volcano only about 30 feet high, that bubbles up lukewarm medicinal mud you can bathe and receive massages in, and then get yourself washed off in the nearby water -- very therapeutic and fun!
Cartagena itself is to die for, what I call the New Orleans French Quarter on Steroids! Old, full of pirate history, sultry and exotic. Sit on top of the old town wall at night with a pitcher of coco-limon and enjoy the gentle ocean breezes, visit the old maritime antique stores and the colossal fort Castillo de San Felipe, dance with strangers in the streets, visit the countless museums including the creepy Palace of the Inquisition, and take a boat ride out to the archipelagos around Playa Blanca including an aquarium in the middle of the bay.
However, don't waste your energy on beaches yet, the best is in store just a couple hours further south from Cartagena in where Colombians prefer to vacation, the perfect little beach towns of Tolu and Coveñas. You can actually walk the beach in between the two towns and find numerous coves perfect for splashing in the waves, and select from a multitude of hostals and restaurants at affordable prices. See our full article on Tolu.
- On this route:
- Santa Marta |
- Santa Veronica|
- El Totumo |
- San Onofre |
- Tolu |