Fancy my world

Carthagène – Beauté de la Colombie

Cartagena – Beauty of Colombia



San Ramon - Moyogalpa
1h30 - 20 NIO

I leave my little paradise, the Finca Mystica, towards San Jose in Costa Rica from where I take off the next day. I have already visited this country 5 years ago. Nice but super expensive. In the meantime, prices have risen again. On the other hand, flights from San Jose cost on average 3 to 4 times less than Nicaragua. The economy is serious, it worths the trip. In fact, we all do it. It is full of emotions that I watch the landscapes of my magical island Ometepe pass behind the windows of the chicken bus (découvrez l’article Ometepe). The journey is direct. Cool !

Moyogalpa - Port San Jorge
1 heure - 50 NIO

By ferry. The crossing is calm. There are few people. I sympathize with a German and an American. We decide to share the taxi that will allow us to reach the Las Rivas bus terminal. 

Port San Jorge - Las Rivas
15 mins - 30 NIO

By taxi. Easy to find, negotiation is fast. I will only share this trip with my 2 foreigners because they take other directions. The taxi will offer to drop you off at the bus terminal or along the interamericana. All buses leaving from the terminal, I recommend this option. At least you will be waiting with some comfort. That is what I think to myself, posted along the road in full sun, to be booed by all the flirts in the area 😂.

Las Rivas - Peñas Blancas
45 mins - 30 NIO

By chicken ​​bus. There are about every 20 minutes. I have always seen over the months chicken buses crowded to the point where they are driving with people outside standing on the step. Today, I am happy, it is my turn. The bus leaves while I cling to it hair in the wind. I know, many will say to themselves, “but hey, and security?”. The what? 😂Vast subject in Central America. Personally, I see it as something crazy, a unique experience. So I positive and I savor. Then comes the moment when other people climb on the bus. So I crash inside among the others. You think it will not happen. Again, think again! 🤣. The more, the merrier. And here is the border. Everyone get down!

A first check is carried out before entering the building. I get arrested. I am not compliant, but I know that. My visa expired three weeks ago. The gentleman kindly explains to me that my visa was valid for 6 months to visit 4 countries: Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador and Nicaragua. I therefore have to pay a daily fee which amounts to 75 dollars. I do my Nabila, hair on the side, round eyes and pretend not to understand. Adorable, he explains to me again. So, I make him repeat 3 times alternating bewildered look, pretty smile, repeating with rotten Spanish then finally nodding. I then explain to him, me love your country very much, me want to come back. He makes me wait, comes back and lets me pass. On the spot, I tell myself that I will have to pay further at the control office. Well not at all! After 45 mins of waiting in line, I will pay the $3 exit tax like everyone else. And that is all ! It is therefore with a smile on my face that I walk straight the 300 meters that separate me from Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, an endless queue has formed. I sit in it, thinking I am going to spend the afternoon there. One controller out of 5 is at work. The others left for lunch! 😂I swear, it is true. We will therefore wait 3 hours to obtain the territory entry sesame. Full sun, a little rough but I can deal with it. 

Peñas Blancas - San José
5h00 - 10 dollars

Barely passed the customs, I ask the first bus driver that I see where he goes. San Jose for 10 dollars, perfect ! Air-conditioned and new bus. I even have a place near the window. A little guy comes on board with his cooler. I welcome him as the messiah. Water and a sandwich for a reasonable price, I am happy. Hassle-free trip with bonus intermission. It is luxury ! The bus drops us off at the airport. I booked on Booking one night in a dorm near this one. Super clean, comfortable, inexpensive with an incredible welcome from Katty. This woman is so kind. I highly recommend this accommodation Le Flor de Katty, book here 

Airport - hotel
6 mins - 5 dollars

Taxis are overpriced and take you for fools. I am not a fan of Costa Rica for that. You are for its inhabitants just a dollar on legs; that is why I just came here to catch a flight to Colombia. 

Hotel - Airport
6 mins - 5 dollars

6 am at the hotel, I meet Benjamin, a Frenchman who is looking for an Uber to get to the airport. Exhausted the day before, I had chosen to book it through the owner who offered a good deal. Uber not working, he finally joins me to share the ride. Top !

San Jose Costa Rica - Cartagena Colombia
3h10 - 150 dollars.

2 flights with a connection in Panama. Benjamin, who is also going to Cartagena, finds himself on another flight to Panama. We are therefore traveling separately. On the other hand, his 2nd flight is in the same plane as mine. The most amazing thing is that his place is right next to mine. What a surprise ! He was doomed to meet me😂

Cartagena Airport - Cartagena center
35 mins - 20000 COP (4,50 euros)

The control to enter Colombia is very fast. Basically, Welcome to Colombia !   Rebelote, with Benjamin, we decide to share a taxi to go to the center. It is really cheap. Time to share a beer and bye bye. He leaves for the Isla grande. I do not know yet, I have to find a hotel. Obviously, the center is full. I am going to have to offset myself a bit. 

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias is a port city founded in the 16th century, located on the caribbean coast of Colombia. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, the old walled city is certanly one of the most beautiful cities in all of Latin America and undoubtedly the most visited in Colombia. It offers a colonial and colorful architecture, an attractive gastronomy, an interesting historical heritage as well as a dynamic local life. In addition, the city enjoys a tropical climate and is therefore an ideal destination to enjoy the beach. It would be idyllic if it did not display mass tourism today.

What to do in Cartagena?

Cartagena Colombia
Carthagene Clock Tower
Click on a photo to start the slideshow

The Historic Center of Cartagena

Photogenic city par excellence, its historic center surrounded by very well preserved ramparts marvels at every street corner. Each detail makes you want to take your time: fruits, flowers, old doors, colorful walls, pretty squares. Everything has charm and captures you. At nightfall, the streetlights come on, creating a cozy atmosphere with their orange-yellow light. 

  • Clock Tower. Located above the main Gate of the district, it was historically the only possible entry inside the walls. The Clock Tower overlooks the Plaza de los Coches, formerly Plaza de los esclavos where the cruel slave market took place. Cartagena was considered the largest slave port of the South American continent. Today, you will find the Portal de los dulces (sweets portal), a series of arcades where there are a host of traditional sweets vendors and horse-drawn carriages for a romantic ride.
  • Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandria. Emblematic monument of Cartagena that we find on all the postcards, the one that we see everywhere while strolling through the streets from different angles. In the evening, its lighting accentuates the beauty of its bell tower. Built in 1577, it has undergone many transformations. Most notable is its stucco covering which gives it a marble appearance. The visit allows you to access the 3 soberly decorated naves and the main altarpiece covered with gold leaf. 
  • Church and Convent of San Pedro Claver. It was founded by the Jesuits in the 18th century. It bears this name in homage to San Pedro Claver, a canonized Spanish Jesuit, patron saint of slaves, known as “the slave of slaves”. He devoted his life in the port of Cartagena to relieving the suffering of thousands of black slaves. His remains are buried in the temple. 

  • The Vaults of Santa Clara. These are former ammunition warehouses as well as former prison cells now transformed into a series of small shops selling local and artisanal products. The building has 47 arches and 24 vaults. You will find a pleasant atmosphere, a certain quality but unfortunately, prices a little high.
  • Heredia Theater.Built to commemorate the centenary of Independence (1911) and restored in 1998, this building copies the Italian operas of the 18th th and 19th centuries. Inside, the theater is built in the shape of a horseshoe, with a ceiling decorated with a mural depicting the nine Muses of Arts and Sciences, painted by the Colombian artist Enrique Grau.
  • Sunset at Cafe del Mar. Ideal place to end a day in Cartagena sipping a cocktail. It is located at the foot of the ramparts, which offer a view of the city, the sea and the sunset.  
  • Also worth seeing is the Palace of the Inquisition, the historical museum, Bolivar Square...


3h15 - 300 NHL

San Felipe de Barajas Castle

Price: 25000 COP (6 dollars)

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Plus d’infos en cliquant ici

Strategically built on the San Lazaro hill between 1536 and 1657, on the outskirts of the ramparts, this military castle is the largest construction built by the Spanish conquistadors. It required more than a century of work. It prevented the arrival of invaders. It consists of corridors, footbridges, underground galleries, drawbridges, evacuation tunnels but also a secret passage. 

San Felipe de Barajas Castle
Click on a photo to start the slideshow
Getsemani Carthagene

The Getsemani district

A must to visit in Cartagena. Bougainvillea and urban art decorate this district which has remained authentic despite the influx of tourists. Its maze of alleys and colorful walls charm the visitor.

Want to party ?

In the evening, Getsemani comes alive. The music sets in, the terraces fill up, for a wild night. The concentration is particularly on the Plaza de la Santisima Trinitad where street food abounds with its share of live concerts.

Click on a photo to start the slideshow

Bazurto Market

If you want to see the other side of Cartagena, go to the Bazurto market. Located outside the “walls”, a favorite spot for tourists, this market gives you the other side of the city, more authentic to local life. The inhabitants meet here to buy fresh produce, fish, fruits, meat, spices. Lively, noisy, it may scare some people but you can visit it with a local guide.

Bazurto Market
Popa Hill

Popa Hill

Hill located 150 m high, it offers an unforgettable view of Cartagena, the Caribbean Sea and the island of Tierrabomba.

Formerly a place of worship for the natives, this sacred place saw a church built by the Spanish colonists in order to eradicate their pagan customs. Therefore, you will find at the top the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria perceived as the patron saint of Cartagena and a convent serving as a museum.

  • Museum hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Prices: 13,000 COP (2.50 euros)

The beaches of Cartagena

When talking about the beaches in Cartagena, there is often confusion because there are 2 types of beaches there: 

Those in the center:

  • Bocagrande & Castillogrande, not very pretty and above all tourist traps.
  • La Boquilla, quieter, more typical but not particularly dreamy
  • Tierra Bomba, a small island near the center, less famous, but which may be an alternative to the crowded offshore islands.

Those further offshore:

Baru and the Rosario Islands

Las Islas del Rosario is an archipelago made up of 27 islands, more or less large, from the bay of Cartagena, about an hour by boat. This is where you will find the postcard images of the Caribbean.

  • Playa Blanca on Baru Island: the best known and most popular. Some will sell you this place as a must where you will be in paradise. Others will tell you to flee at all costs from this mass tourism which looks more like hell on earth. The experience may depend on the time of year you go there. For my part, I have other projects so I will not go.

The best is to rent a private boat and go to the beaches recommended by the locals which are:

  • Isla de Cocoliso
  • Isla del Encanto: uncrowded private island
  • Isla del Pirata, considered one of the best islands in the region, ideal for snorkeling and water sports. 
The Rosario Islands Cartagena
The Rosario Islands Cartagena
La Boquilla Colombia

La Boquilla

Fishing with locals

Less known but authentic, this small fishing village located near Cartagena (8 kms) offers a change of scenery between the sea, lagoons and mangroves. It is possible to fish with the inhabitants on boats.  

Volcano Totumo Colombia

A mud bath in the crater of the Totumo volcano

An unusual experience

Price: on average 20 euros

Between Barranquilla and Cartagena, is the Totumo volcano, called mud volcano. According to local legend, this volcano spewed lava until a priest turned it into mud with holy water. A few years ago, it was discovered that this mud contained sulphates, phosphates, magnesium and that in addition to refreshing, it had healing properties to treat acne, ulcers, rheumatism, arthritis , mushrooms, etc. Every day, groups of people come to enjoy this natural phenomenon and its healing properties. The density of the mud creates a phenomenon of weightlessness preventing swimmers from sinking. 


The Mango Tree Hostel

Frankly, I do not recommend it. Everything was complete in the center when I arrived in Cartagena. Since I book everything at the last minute, it is the game. So I find this hostel 15 minutes walk outside the ramparts. The staff who do volunteer work are super friendly. They have compensated for the rest. Overall, everything is clean but the quality of the accommodation leaves something to be desired: little comfort, poor bedding, noisy, very outdated. Luckily, I met some great people there. 

On the other hand, a friend was staying at the Viajero Hostel Cartagena located in the center. She was delighted. Great value for money. To book Viajero Hostel, click here


On this 1st day in Colombia, I arrive late at my hostel. Being tired from my trip, I try to eat as close as possible to the establishment. The receptionist tells me a small take-out restaurant around the corner. I go there and place my order. The manager, with a complicated speech, explains to me that he has no more burgers, although he is cooking some in front of me, and tells me that he only has dogs left, I do not know what. Dumbfounded, I tell myself that I do not understand anymore Spanish, so I make him repeat it twice. I understand again "dog something" so nothing ! I leave empty-handed at the hostel. The receptionist is surprised to see me come home with nothing. I explain my misfortune to him. He laughs and asks me to follow him. So we go back together to the said restaurant. Most naturally, he orders 3 Chiens Chauds in front of me. The manager complies and cooks 3 large sausages. Horrified, I think to myself that he is still not cooking dog food. Well no ! The good joke is that in Colombia, ' Chiens Chauds' is literally translated into Spanish as 'Perro Caliente' or 'Hot Dogs'😂 . It begins well !


Benjamin, a farmer in his thirties who travels 3 months a year. We met at the San Jose hostel in Costa Rica Flor de Katty Hostel. Uber not working that morning, I will offer him to share a taxi to get us to the airport where chance will make us take the same plane to get to Cartagena. 

Awaina, I find the young lady still on her trip around the world. (see article Guanajuato – Mexique ). A journey that ultimately evolves according to his desires. She realizes that she will not be able to do what she had originally planned because she prefers to let life guide her too. She therefore benefits more from certain places, even if it means having to abandon others. She savors her moments and her encounters. Nice state of mind ! She never ceases to amaze me. It is with great pleasure that we meet over a drink to tell our reciprocal adventures. Great times !


Cartagena is a lively city full of charm, ideally placed to start a trip to Colombia. The various encounters I have had there, even short ones, have greatly contributed to my well-being here. Everything seemed easy and pleasant. The discovery of this country promises to be full of promise. 

Next destination:  Santa Marta – Colombia. 

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One Comment

April 3, 2022 5:16 pm

tu arrives à visiter des endroits tous aussi insolites, géniaux, magiques mais aussi à rencontrer des personnes tout au long de ton périple. c’est la vraie richesse que tu auras accumulée tout au long de ton voyage en Amérique centrale et du sud. ce sont des moments qui restent à jamais gravés dans ta mémoire.Bravo

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