Cartagena

One of Colombia’s most incredible destinations, Cartagena de Indias is a city full of color, history and colonial style architecture. A flight that is just about an hour away from Bogota, this city is must if you want a true Caribbean experience in South America.

As soon as you get off the plane, you can feel the warmness of this place. The airport has an interesting taxi system in which you tell a cashier your destination and they give the driver a receipt with the amount that has to be charged to the passenger.

The hostel that Brittany and I chose was Casa Del Pozo Boutique, surrounded by cool restaurants and a short walk to Ciudad Amurrallada. The rooms are comfortable and breakfast is included (oh and as a new guest, you get a free beer at the hostel’s bar!). We started our day by having lunch at Bonche Gastrobar. A great place if you love a good greasy burger (it comes with lots of cheese inside of it!).

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Bonche Gastrobar

As you walk around this city, you’ll find many awesome murals on the walls that you can just stare for a while. We were lucky to see a work in progress artwork and at the end of our trip, it was completed. Our first stop was at Iglesia de la Trinidad. Around this church, there is a small plaza that gets pretty crowded at night while street performers do their thing. Then, we headed to the museum of modern art, located inside of Ciudad Amurrallada. Its relatively small, but contains good artwork from local artists as well as artists around the country.

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Museum of Modern Art

The next day, we went to Tierra Bomba Island. We were told to take the small boats that go to the island and depart from the hospital (turned out to be a bad idea). As soon as our taxi got there, we were surrounded by 10 men, trying to get us to go on their boat. It was kind of overwhelming so we told our cab driver to just drive away. We ended up going to a beach close by, which wasn’t too nice but at least we were able to breathe. We rented a beach tent and the person that sold us some beers told us that he could get us to the island with a friend. It was about 40k pesos for both of us and it seemed like a reasonable price.

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View from Tierra Bomba Island

When we got to Tierra Bomba, there were some small cabañas and food places. It was nice that it wasn’t too crowded but expect to be approached by some locals trying to sell you all kinds of things. The day was nice and clear and we had cool views of the Cartagena skyline.

For lunch, we went for tacos at Maria Bonita. Since it was kind of late, there were not too many people and our tacos were served quickly. If you eat a lot, I recommend ordering 2 portions of tacos. The chicken tacos with aji + a corona made the visit worth it.

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Walls of Cartagena

Afterwards, we visited Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. One of the most touristy places in the city but for a reason. The castle was built in the 1500s and used as a fortress against invaders and enemies. It has been renovated since then, but it’s still amazing to see such an old construction still standing on this day. You can see that canons they used as a defense mechanism and even walk under the castle.

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Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

If you love a good steak, pay a visit to Morzola Parrilla Argentina. You won’t be disappointed by their bife de chorizo with some good Argentinian wine. Ciudad Amurallada is not only full of colors and beautiful buildings and architecture. It also has some interesting bars like the KGB bar. It almost looks like a museum with all the cool items that they have. We wrapped up the day at Alquimico, a modern bar with good electronic music and atmosphere but most of all with 10/10 drinks that will make you want to come back to this place.

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One of the cool murals

Anyways, Cartagena is a city that is well worth the visit. Tons of things to do to keep you entertained and amazed for days. You’ll have to come and experience the colors of the streets and buildings on your own!

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Bogotá in 72 Hours

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and home to roughly 8 million people. It’s a South American city with a powerful combination of history and modernism and with world class restaurants and museums.

I stayed in Hotel Continental in the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria (around 65 USD per night). The location is ideal because is very close to Monserrate, Plaza Bolivar and many great museums that the city has to offer.

The first day started with an early morning walk to Plaza Bolivar (a few blocks away from my hotel). This beautiful plaza has some of the most important buildings of Bogotá; the Cathedral of Bogotá, the Palace of Justice, the National Capitol and Lievano Palace (Bogotá’s city hall). Of course, admission to the plaza is free! Duh!

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Plaza Bolivar

Next stop: Monserrate. One of Bogotá’s top touristic attractions, this hill is a pilgrim religious destination that includes a church, restaurants and souvenir shops. There are 3 ways to access the hill; by a funicular, a cable car and by a pedestrian trail. I chose the funicular which depending on the day (Sundays and Holidays) can cost from 10.000 to 17.000 Colombian pesos or around 3 to 5 USD. Once you get to the top, you’ll find amazing views of the city! At the top, I had lunch at Casa Santaclara Restaurant and ate the traditional “Ajiaco con Pollo” for 24.900 Colombian pesos or about 8 USD as well as the local beer “Club Colombia” for 5.900 Colombian pesos or 2 USD. I highly recommend this restaurant!

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Monserrate
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Ajiaco con Pollo

When the night came, I went to Zona Rosa or Zona T. An area of many fancy restaurants, shops and cool bars. Going to Andres Carne de Res is a must! The most legendary Andres Carne de Res is in Chia, about 40 minutes away from the city by car. But I can say that the one in Bogotá is definitely worth visiting! I finished the night with a couple of London Pride pints at the Irish Pub (open until 2:30am).

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Andres Carne de Res – Bogota

The next morning started with a visit to the Botero Museum, one of Colombia’s finest artists. The museum is free and it hosts a collection of Botero’s work throughout his lifetime as well as the work of some of the world’s most renowned artists including; Francis Bacon and Willem De Kooning.

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Fernando Botero – “Una Familia” 1989
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Willem De Kooning – “Mujer Sentada” 1970

Later in the afternoon, I took private transportation provided by the hotel (most hotels provide this service) to visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá (about 45 minutes away from Bogotá). This underground church also serves as a pilgrim religious destination in an abandoned mine. Depending on the tour you’d like to take, fees may vary and you can look at them here.

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The Salt Cathedral

I ended my day at the already mentioned Andres Carnes de Res Chia (reservations before going there are recommended). This restaurant filled with amazing decorations not only serves as a food place but also as a place to drink and party all night long! Try the traditional “Bandeja Paisa” or just settle with some world class beef tenderloin for 49.800 Colombian pesos or about 16 USD.

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Andres Carne de Res – Chia

My last day in Bogotá included a visit to the famous Gold Museum (on Sundays the museum is free). The museum has a broad collection of gold work from the Pre-Columbian period and is definitely a place to stop by in the city.

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Gold Museum

In the afternoon, my last stop was at El Campín stadium in Bogotá. If you ever visit any South American country, experiencing the passion in a soccer or football match is an experience that everyone should have! I saw one of the local teams (Santa Fe) play against Atlético Huila. Finally, my trip ended with a fine dinner at Club Colombia restaurant (main dishes around 15 USD).

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El Campin

During my 3 days in this city, I was able to cover some important places and I hope you now have a better understanding of Bogotá as this city is worth visiting.

Next Stop: Cusco.

Cheers!