Cartagena is the Colombian coastal city that bursts with colour, character and culture as soon as you step foot within the stone walls that boasts beautiful history and gorgeous views. A place that has sun 24/7, fabulous cafes, beaches to lie on and party life to explore. It’s a place you can spend three days walking around in during the day, immersing yourself within the “walled city”, wander the streets full of colour and pretty art amongst the outskirts, salsa until the early hours or simply drink coffee and watch life go by. I spent the best parts of my time in Cartagena dancing until the early hours, travelling to islands on private boats with incredible friends I made at my home -otherwise known as the hostel Casa Del Pozo – and exploring the streets and shops, later having a drink whilst watching the sunset from the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the Colombian flag flying high and strong above our heads. At first I was told to spend only three days, but I fell in love with the place, the people and the ambience and ended up returning three times.
Travelling by yourself can be the best and also hardest thing you can do. I had heard of Casa Del Pozo through a friend in Medellin, and had been told it was a beautiful boutique hostel which was possibly one of the biggest understatements, considering some of my greatest days, nights, friends and breakfasts were made and had here.
Casa Del Pozo is run by two Italian men and their team of legends who make you feel at home as soon as you enter. Johnny the manager, greeted me with a smile, a hug and I knew I would fit in immediately. He ended up becoming an incredible close and supportive friend, who gave me fantastic advice as to where to explore. Amongst the blue walls and the fairy lights, the dorm rooms are comfortable, clean with curtains for privacy and plug sockets, shelves and separate showers and bathrooms. The hostel also caters for couples or those who don’t want to share with other people – there are two private rooms so you can have time together and socialise if and when you like. You can meet people in the cafe over a drink, by the pool or in the Netflix room (because yes they also have a café, bar, pool and Netflix room – winning)? The breakfast is fantastic and a generous portion included in the room price and coffee is free and unlimited. I found that Casa Del Pozo is the perfect size hostel for meeting people and making firm friendships, getting to know the establishment on a personal level or simply having a haven for time to relax if you’re not in the mood for socialising. I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels since travelling the world from November 2018 but never have I had the urge to return not once, not twice, but three times to the same place and I thank the hardworking team and the managers for playing a part in making my time there so incredibly special.
Explore the Old City on foot and get lost within the high walls.
Make friends, book a private boat and travel round the Rosario Islands- bare in mind food is expensive on these islands as well as drink, so bring your own to enjoy on your boat (don’t forget your portable speakers!) You can always ask (if it’s a private boat) to be taken to a few more secluded islands less likely to have tourists.
Go watch the sunset at Castillo de San Felipe de Baraja with a drink. Make sure to get there a little before sunset because it’s a beautiful view and people run to grab a table!
Book a tour to the Volcano Mud Bath. It’s a lot of fun and you get to be massaged in mud – what more could you ask for?
Take a day trip to Playa Blanca Beach, an hour away.
Every Wednesday there’s a party at Media Luna hostel. Grab some drinks at Casa Del Pozo bar (specifically their gin and tonics!) and head down there later (make sure you know the slight cover charge) there’s usually a busy crowd that arrives and sometimes a band.
Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays (or all three! Why not?) Start your night at Casa Del Pozo and then party the night away at either Café Havana, located in the Getsemani neighbourhood (a 5 minute walk from Casa Del Pozo) or Eivissa Nightclub, situated within the walled city.
Café Havana was visited by Bill and Hilary Clinton and feels like you’ve been transported into the 1960s, with the style of decor, the Cuban music and the live band which starts from 11pm. It’s a night not to be missed.
Eivissa is a large, multi storied nightclub playing a mixture of Reggaeton music and EDM music on the different floors and the rooftop.
Stepping Stone Cafe – I had got slightly bored of just eating empanadas (although they are the best) and was recommended to this incredible cafe that work on a social initiative, fighting inequality through inclusive employment. The cafe run by three Australians, employ young people that live in extreme poverty without opportunities and give them practical training and education to increase their future employability. I was desperate for guacamole, eggs, iced coffee and there are gluten free AND vegan options. A must.
Viva restaurant – Serves wonderful Colombian food with cheap set menus. I recommend trying one of their soups, the fish and their fried plantain.
Casa Del Pasta – A cute and quaint restaurant selling the best pasta dishes! Worth a lunch for sure.
The little square up the road from Casa Del Pozo has lovely restaurants overlooking street performers and the church, or you can try the street food – there’s an Empanada stand in the corner where I used to get dinner every day.
Cafe Del Mural – Café del Mural knows me because in the three times I’ve visited Cartagena, I have brought every single person I’ve ever even said hello to there. I have recommended strangers here and people I’ve met in different countries. As a die hard coffee fan, I’ve actually found it difficult to find good coffee in Colombia as a lot of the good coffee is exported – this was until I found Cafe Del Mural which reminded me of what Colombia is known for. A menu stating every single possible coffee creation you can have in the world (and I am not even exaggerating). From hot, iced, alcohol based, nitro based with options of milk for vegans or those intolerant, kind waitresses and a lovely place to relax outside. You can also book a coffee making course here! Be aware, this place opens at 3pm.
Beiyu– Coming in at #2, this place doesn’t have vegan milk options but also makes a great Americano – you can also have a bite to eat here.
These are the daily haunts, explorations, experiences and places I spent over three weeks at and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Cartagena is a magical city, full of colour, life, music and culture and I’m so happy that if I ever return, have a place in Colombia I can happily call my home.