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Colombian Charm in Cartagena

Posted by on Jul 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Colombian Charm in Cartagena

After a brief return to the United States for a work commitment, it’s time to kick off this honeymoon in true Round-the-World style! Since RTW tickets dictate that you start and end in the same city, in order to finish our trip at home in Atlanta we needed to return from Italy and Greece to begin our journey there. So a re-positioning flight after Honeymoon Part #1 was in order.

But today we begin Part #2 of this 3-month, ridiculously lengthy honeymoon. This stage of the trip will include stops in Colombia, Amsterdam, England, Scotland, France and India before we return to the US for yet another work commitment/honeymoon interrupter (this time it’s work for both of us). So no, this summer travel extravaganza isn’t all fun and games, there is a bit of work squeezed in for good measure.

But for the moment we’re off to Bogota, Colombia! Why Colombia, you might ask? Well, I always like to start my RTW trips in South America and, to be frank, I’m running out of countries to visit there…so Colombia it is!

My research on Colombia revealed charming historic towns, beautiful beaches and offshore islands surrounded by coral reefs. My husband’s research, however, revealed State Department warnings. That’s the kind of trip planner he is. Too many years in the Army and now in corporate security means he approaches trip planning from a tactical standpoint while I often prefer the view from rose-colored glasses.

Yes, I know, we are a match made in heaven.

Undeterred by Dave’s internet searches on hostage and rescue incidents in Bogota, I was determined to see the beauty in Colombia and prove to him that it was a perfectly delightful honeymoon destination. But even I didn’t think we should spend all of our time in Bogota so we settled on flights to oceanfront Cartagena for our Colombian visit.

Arriving in Cartagena

Hilton Cartagena Colombia Suite View

Our view of Cartagena from the Hilton’s Presidential Suite

After an overnight layover in Bogota, we took a late morning flight and landed in Cartagena just before noon. We chose the Hilton Cartagena for our stay so we could make use of some Hilton Honors points (and because it was ridiculously cheap to upgrade to the Presidential Suite – we are on our honeymoon after all!). The hotel itself was a bit dated but the Presidential Suite was spectacular and all the rooms had terrific views of the city and beaches.

With the rest of the day still ahead of us, we settled into the room quickly and headed back out to explore. First stop, Cartagena’s historic walled Old Town.

Old Town Cartagena

Up until the late 16th century, the port town of Cartagena sat totally unprotected. After the attack by Francis Drake, construction began on the thick city walls – called Las Murallas – which surround the historical districts of El Centro and San Diego to this day.

City Walls Cartagena Colombia

Old Town Cartagena’s City Walls

Thanks to repeated storms and pirate attacks, the project took nearly two centuries to reach completion in 1796. Today, Las Murallas stand remarkably well preserved as an astounding example of military engineering and a walk along the walls is a great place to begin your tour of the Old Town, so that’s exactly what we did.

A leisurely stroll along the walls gave us the perfect birds eye view of the protected inner city with its cobbled streets, expansive squares, ornate churches and primary-colored buildings. Many of the buildings had overhanging iron balconies that reminded me a lot of the French Quarter in New Orleans. It was absolutely charming and a terrific glimpse into Cartagena’s history. Later, we got back to ground level and wandered the streets of the Old Town for a while passing quaint store fronts, markets and street art before stopping for lunch.

Old Town Cartagena Colombia

Old Town Cartagena

It was a great afternoon and I got the feeling my husband was finally starting to relax and enjoy Colombia a bit. Of course, the fact that we headed back to the sanctuary of the Presidential Suite that evening didn’t hurt!

The Rosario Islands

For day two in Cartagena it was time to head offshore and check out some of the islands Colombia is best known for. Located just an hour speedboat ride from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands National Park of Colombia is an archipelago of 30 islands covering more than 4,600 square miles. It was designated a national park in 1988 to protect the delicate ecosystem of the area which includes a coral reef filled with colorful fish and an abundance of sea flora and fauna.

Eco Hotel Isla del Sol Rosario Islands Colombia

Eco Hotel Isla del Sol – Rosario Islands, Colombia

Set amidst the coral reef are several islands offering resort amenities and day trip facilities. When planning our trip to Colombia we originally wanted to stay at one of the island resorts while in Cartagena. But most are all-inclusive and seemed fairly expensive for the area and with just 2 nights in the city it seemed impractical to drag luggage all the way out and back on a speedboat. So we settled for one of the many day trips offered through our hotel.

When booking a trip to the Rosario Islands, several island options are available, each with different amenities. We chose Isla del Sol, mainly because it looked like it had the nicest beach. We hadn’t been particularly impressed with the beaches of Cartagena so we were looking forward to getting off the mainland for more of a Caribbean-like atmosphere.

Our group consisted of about 30 people and after departing Cartagena harbor at 9:00am we arrived at the dock on Isla del Sol just before 10:00am. Just as the tour desk pictures promised, the island was idyllic Caribbean with a white sandy beach and crystal clear waters. And (surprisingly) it was completely empty except for staff. I’d assumed there’d be at least a few guests staying overnight at the island’s lovely little Eco Hotel but apparently the vast majority of its business is day trippers. The resort welcomed us with a quick briefing on the island’s facilities including the time lunch would be served and then we were free to relax and enjoy our day.

Dave and I assumed the position in two umbrella-shaded lounge chairs and proceeded to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the day. It was a much-needed day of total rest and relaxation interrupted only by a delicious seafood lunch.

Chiva bus cartagena colombia

On the Chiva party bus!

By 5:00pm we were back in Cartagena harbor and headed back to our hotel via one of the local, vividly-colorful, open air chiva party buses. With the bus’s Latin music filling the streets as we drove through town it was the perfect end to a fantastic day.

Back to Bogota

The next day it was time to catch our flight back to Bogota for one more overnight before flying on to Amsterdam the following day. It was a brief stay in Colombia but we thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I might even be able to get Dave back there someday for further exploration…maybe.

Tonight we’re headed back to Europe for a week…first stop, Amsterdam!

Click Below to View the Cartagena Photo Gallery

    View photos at SmugMug

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