Colorful Cartagena: Flights with Feeling Featuring Axelle Atchade
Updated: May 29
A trip to Cartagena isn’t complete without a trip to Playa Blanca, a long, gorgeous white sand beach with gentle warm turquoise water. I got a secret tip from a local that the best way to enjoy Playa Blanca is to simply stay a night on the island! The beach is full of tourists during the day, but the day-tripping tourists will usually empty out the beach by 3 pm. Then the beach is all yours to enjoy! I stayed in this cute cabana-styled villa right on the beach and enjoyed a delicious fish dinner while watching this amazing sunset. After dark, we took a boat ride out to swim with glow-in-the-dark, bio-luminescent phytoplankton! My only regret is that my phone died before I could get photos of that magnificent sight! In addition to traveling to Playa Blanca, you could enjoy a muddy adventure at El Totumo Volcano! About 45 mins outside of Cartagena is El Totumo, an active volcano known for its spiritual and cleansing mud bath. Legend has it that this natural volcano once spewed fire and lava until a local priest doused the volcano with holy water, transforming its fiery eruptions into viscous mud with healing powers! After a nice mud bath and a relaxing massage, you can walk to the nearby lagoon and wash the mud off with the help of local Colombian women.
The best of the city
Where to stay: In my solo travel trips, I usually stay in Airbnbs. This option has proven to be the cheapest and most flexible option for me. Due to trying to fit in various flight times around my medical school schedule, I have often arrived in a city either very late at night or very early in the morning. But with Airbnb, you can talk to the host ahead of time and mention that you will be arriving at a certain time and make sure they will be okay with accommodating you at the time. You can even do this BEFORE you book the apt/ room for the night so that you can be sure you won't have any awkward time in between landing into the city and being able to settle in, unpack, or rest up in your Airbnb before beginning your adventures. In Cartagena specifically, I recommend staying inside the walled city. There are so many bars, restaurants, tourist attractions around the walled city, and it will provide you with a level of security that I do not think you can gain in any other part of this city. If Airbnbs are not your thing, no worries, the walled city also has some of the best hotels in the city located there.
Where to eat: One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to explore their various food options. I have found that the best way to do this is to join a free tour. Many different companies host these in various cities, you just have to google search it and see which companies offer this. In Cartagena, I did a free walking tour in the afternoon for food tasting and culture and it was delicious! Ceviche is a signature dish. I loved it, but if you don’t like seafood then there are other options. The tour will give you a taste of various fruits, seafoods, fried foods, and refreshing drinks & desserts at the end. It is also a good opportunity for you to ask the tour guide for recommendations on places to eat which are not so touristy and might be more budget-friendly, but still delicious! I ended up liking the places my tour guide suggested more than the highly ranked places listed on TripAdvisor. In general, restaurants inside the walled city are super nice but somewhat not cheap either.
What to do: San Felipe de Barajas Castle – I had a great time here. The enormous castle was the greatest fortress built in a Spanish colony and is composed of a maze of intricate, underground tunnels. An amazing source of history built in 1536, its incredible grand entrance will be sure to impress. Ensure to have an audio guide or actual tour guide to appreciate one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It will likely be hot and humid on your trip to visit this castle, but the views are worth it!
Wanna know does Axelle recommends this travel destination? Can you guess? A total YES to all kinds of trips from solo adventures to family trips!