There are places in the world where reality and fantasy dissolve. Cartagena de Indias is one of them. Here the bougainvillea exhales a trail of yellow butterflies, a blue presence seems to float over the rooftops and furtive love stories flourish on tropical balconies like that of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, the protagonists of the novel Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez. For the Colombian Nobel Prize winner, this city in the Colombian Caribbean was always his “ecological environment”, as he confessed in an interview with the newspaper El Espectador. When you walk through the streets of this city, you understand.

Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533 by the explorer Pedro de Heredia and soon became the main Spanish port on the Caribbean coast and access point to northern South America. The spoils looted from the local populations were accumulated in the city to be transferred to Spain later, golden blood that attracted numerous pirates and, therefore, promoted the construction of the largest fortress built by the Spanish in the American continent. By 1811, oppressed Cartagena went on to become one of the first to proclaim its independence, unleashing a furtive microworld of magic and color to discover with the world heritage old town as its starting point.Ancient city.

Tour of the ancient city

Cartagena de Indias is a city as delicious as it is intelligent, in the most practical sense. There is a Cartagena for all tastes and palates, from its beaches to bohemian neighborhoods, historical complexes and colonial charms. In any case, the best way to locate us is to drop by the Clock Tower, an icon where life boils in the form of lemonade vendors, hurried tourists and vallenato rhythms, as if a magical and dreamy cloud cast a spell on all the inhabitants. contained within the walls. You advance, at the mercy of so many colors and wooden balconies swollen with birds of paradise and palm trees. 

The sound of horse hooves pulling a cart, there is no room for people on this sidewalk, and how delicious is the guava and cheese bread accompanied by a tintico – typical coffee -. You stay hungry, the heat is suffocating and the parrots sprout from the tricolor skirts of the palenqueras, with their baskets on their heads loaded with tropical fruits.Clock Tower of Cartagena de Indias.

The tourist alphabet of the old town of Cartagena is there, but here it is customary to get lost with its squares as references: the Customs Square, the largest in the city; Bolívar’s, pure summer relief; or Los Coches, a triangular former slave market where today we find the Portal de los Dulces, a corner that Gabo once compared to London’s Piccadilly Circus. 

Get lost in the yellow colors of the church of Santo Domingo or regain your orientation when you see the iconic bell tower of the cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandría watching from above. Of course, do not miss a visit to the castle of San Felipe de Barajas, built in 1657 and considered one of the wonders of Colombia.

Cartagena de Indias could be the center of the world if it wanted to, especially at nightfall

Parque de las Flores,located in Cartagena de Indias.

Back, you might want to ask the typists waiting in the Parque de las Flores for a love letter. Or touch the house of Gabriel García Márquez, guarded by tropical plants, and the remains of the wall next to the Caribbean. You can go to Café del Mar to fight for a photo of the sunset like the rest of the mortals, or get yourself a Club Colombia beer and choose the position where you can wait for the arrival of old galleons. Or even chat with a local while the yellow butterflies fly south towards Gethsemane.

Getsemaní, the most bohemian proposal

Taxis crowd in front of the Clock Tower, someone gives an electoral talk in a square, the rhythms of reggaeton, salsa and cumbia overlap and, beyond that, planes do not stop arriving. Cartagena de Indias could be the center of the world if it put its mind to it, especially after dark.Getsemaní neighborhood near the walled city.

The nights in Cartagena understand as many rituals as walks: you can let yourself be seduced by the streets of illuminated trees and the torrid romanticism of someone’s hand, or immerse yourself in the bohemian Getsemaní, a neighborhood located on the other side of the walls and linked to the ancient city by the picturesque dock of the Pegasos.

Getsemaní was at the time one more suburb of Cartagena touched by the wand of tourism. The urban art murals lick the walls, the colored pennants await eternal festivals and all its paths lead to the Plaza de la Trinidad, an oasis of litronas, up-to-date restaurants and street artists. Past and modernity come together to display stalls where they sell corn fritters and cheese arepas, but we also find pizzerias, Indian restaurants and houses with gardens set up for dinner while, further on, a neighbor from the neighborhood continues grating coconut.

The Bazurto market is the last bastion of good fried fish with yucca 

From Getsemaní tourist Cartagena fades to give way to the most authentic – and also paradoxical -: the neighborhoods of barefoot children and old fishing nets full of stories from the mangroves. Or the Bazurto market, the last redoubt of good fried fish with yucca where taxi drivers take turns also savoring their patacones, rice with seafood and all the delicacies from a Caribbean sea to discover in as many ways as blue.

Blue Colombia: the best beaches 

Talking about the beaches of Cartagena means talking about a range of options that range from the most authentic to the hackneyed but also unmissable. For the adventurous visitor, La Boquilla is a fishing village 7 kilometers from the old town where the kitesurf boards are confused with the cast nets – round fishing nets – used in the swamp, and the beach is full of beach bars where the Cartagena in search of rumba or family evenings. 

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