Cartagena de Indias – The Most Beautiful Town in the World?

The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.
The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.

It’s just possible that Cartagena de Indias, on the coast of Colombia, is indeed the most beautiful town in the world. The old city, the “ciudad antigua,” is well preserved and pleasant for tourists, with lane after lane of prettiness and plazas. Wander from gelateria to ice cream shop (two are right next to each other which makes an comparisons much easier), after a dinner al fresco. The humid weather makes the juice (50 cents a glass) from the street vendor taste extra refreshing. Maybe try one of the “plantain hotdogs” which is a deep fried plantain stuffed with shredded meat and topped like a hotdog.

So pretty!
So pretty!

While this town is expensive, I recommend staying inside the walled city anyway. The city is different at night, and it’s nice to call it home for a while. During the day, enjoy the ridiculously picturesque lanes. Sure, it’s touristy but the vendors are not unpleasantly aggressive.

Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.
Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.

If you want, take a day trip to one of the nature reserves located out in the Caribbean. The main attractions in Cartagena for tourists seem to be the warmth, the beaches, the castle of St. Philip (“castillo san felipe”) and the walled city itself. Just outside the walled old city is the Getsemani, a neighborhood getting more publicity these days for its culture rather than for being the red light district.

The modern hotel strip of Cartagena (pronounced “Car-ta-heh-nah”), called the big mouth, “boca grande,” is a bit outside the walled city.

The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small portholes.
The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small gates under your feet.

Speaking of “Car-ta-HAY-nah” — If you go looking for scenes from the movie, Romancing the Stone, you will not find it since that was film was filmed in Mexico. But never mind, Cartagena de Indias will romance you (couldn’t resist!) even if you are made of stone. And yes, you can buy emeralds here (more on emeralds later).

The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena from the castle.

Colombia In My Mind’s Eye

Anticipation is the sweetest nectar. Here are some photos from my last visit to Colombia. Who wouldn’t look forward to more of this?

Night in the old city of Cartagena with touristy horse and carriage ride.
Night in the old city of Cartagena with touristy horse and carriage ride.

I also remember dancing at every turn, the Jack Daniels at the weddings, the fruit juices squeezed fresh, the soups topped with avocado, the fried cheese bread balls served in bags, the burger topped with shredded chicken, donuts bought at the airport like a duty free item, jeans worn tight as second skin, the fort in Cartagena hugging the town of dreams… will the Colombia of the future outdo what I can see in my memories?

Beauty for the tourists.
Beauty for the tourists.