Colombia In 18 Days! Part IV — Cartagena

exhausted after a long journey from San Gil to Cartagena

After our rafting adventure near San Gil and our sightseeing in Barichara our adventure continued in mesmerizing Cartagena. I don’t think that you could find many people who’ve visited Colombia that would not conclude that Cartagena is an essential place to see in Colombia. In Cartagena we saw a Spanish fortress, the colonial Old Town, the beach at Bocagrande, enjoyed incredible nightlife, and visited a nearby mud volcano!

If you’ve missed any of the previous entries about our trip, 18 Days in Colombia!, you can click on these links below:

Part I – Bogota

Part II – San Gil

Part III – Barichara

Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this article to see more photos from Cartagena and to see what it was like to be inside a mud volcano!

One of the best experiences in Cartagena is free! Just walking around inside the walled city is free. There are a number of sculptures, shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in the colonial Old Town.

Clock Tower Building entrance into the walled Old Town

a street inside the walled city

shops in Old Town

the wall surrounding the city

You’ll most likely be staying near the Old Town in Cartagena. So to get to Bocagrande I recommend a short taxi ride, especially if you’re traveling in a group. We enjoyed our time on the long beaches there. Unfortunately one of our group ate some clams and received a beachfront shoulder massage without negotiating the price previously. After the massage he was followed down the beach by hawkers demanding more payment. The hawker was demanding an exorbitant amount and eventually was assuaged with a lesser payment.

Bocagrande skyline

walking on the beach

relaxing at the beach stand

enjoying some coconut water on the beach

Another enjoyable activity in the city is to see Castillo de San Felipe, a Spanish-built fortress constructed in 1657. It was built to protect shipments against pirates.

Spanish fortress - Castillo de San Felipe

Mathieu stands below the Colombian flag with Bocagrande in the background

another view of Bocagrande skyline from the fortress

inside the Spanish fortress

a tunnel inside the fortress

cannon inside the fortress

inside the fortress

the fortress at night

Definitely the most unique experience in Cartagena is a visit to Volcán del Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano. The mud volcano is actually 30 miles outside the city so you’ll probably want to arrange a tour at your hostel or hotel. Make sure you bring some smaller bills with you to tip the people working in and around the volcano. You can bring your camera as well. While you are in the volcano someone will be taking your photos for you. You won’t be able to take any photos as you’ll be covered with mud head to toe!

While you are inside the volcano you actually float on the top of the mud without any effort. In fact, as you lie on top of the mud you will be slid across the surface like a block of ice. After a massage inside the volcano you will be escorted to the lake to be washed off, in the nude if you desire. There a few small shops around the volcano should you want a small meal. After your experience is complete your masseuse, washer and photographer will be wanting a tip for their services rendered so be sure to have smaller bills with you to avoid any hard feelings.

Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the article to see more of the fun in the mud!

Volcán del Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano

gliding across the top of the mud

exiting the mud volcano

Between the abundant nightlife, incredible colonial atmosphere of the Old Town, and the funny time in the mud volcano we had a blast in Cartagena. Check out more in Colombia in 18 Days! Part IV – Cartagena, the video right below.

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