Cartagena de Indias: amor a primera vista | love at first sight
I fell in love as soon as my taxi conducir drove through the narrow, balcony-shaded laneways of Cartagena’s old walled town. Charming, beautiful, cute, photogenic, insta-worthy? Si Si Si! Like a slightly bigger and busier version of Galle, a cleaner and shinier version of Zanzibar, this old Caribbean city is a photographer’s dream and oozing with beauty and charm.
Back in the 1500s, Cartagena was an important port for the Spanish Empire for exporting riches from South America back to Europe. Like Zanzibar, it was also a trading post for slaves from Africa. Today, Cartagena is a popular vacation destination for Colombians and international visitors alike. The streets in the core old town area are full of boutiques, designer brands, emerald shops, and restaurants designed to lure visitors to spend.
There are direct flights to Cartagena from several Canadian & American cities, meaning lots of North American tourists flock here for short getaways. I’d also heard from a New Yorker I met in Medellin that Cartagena is a popular bachelor party destination. Who knew…
I happened to meet a group of guys from Columbia (the university in NY), here for a long party weekend. They are a massive group, 18 guys in one giant Airbnb house in the old town of Cartagena, and smaller groups of girls in a couple other houses. In total there are about 40 of them from Columbia, here for the weekend. WOWee. I’m invited to their house party, where dozens of cans of beers, many bottles of aguardiente, and a load of other stuff I don’t want to know about are consumed. At one point I spot a giant box of at least two dozen Macca’s cheeseburgers…and that’s only what’s left I’m told. Excessive.
Aside from the party scene, there are lots of boutique hotels, hostels, cafes, and restaurants to entertain. As I stroll the streets at sunset, watching the sun’s golden light bounce off the walls and snap photos of porches spilling over with bougainvillea, I can’t help but think how romantic this city is. If you’re looking for a honeymoon or romantic getaway destination, you can’t go wrong with Cartagena. In addition to the historic old town, the neighbouring islands offer beautiful beaches and cruises for a slight change of scenery.
A thousand photos won’t be able to capture the charm of this little town, but I tried anyway! A few highlights below…