Colombia: Cartagena de Indias & Bogota Travel Tips
Colombia, in South America has a lot to offer… From white sandy beaches and tropical landscapes, to mountains, beautiful architecture and friendly people
In this post, I share travel tips of the Colombian Caribbean and Bogota.
Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias is a beautiful city full of history, colourful architecture, friendly people and music. Staying in the historical walled city is a very good idea because you can walk everywhere, day and night. There are beautiful boutique hotels, as well as a couple of big luxury hotels. Colombia may be regarded as an unsafe country however, that does not apply to Cartagena de Indias. It’s safe even when it’s dark. It’s a vibrant city with many good restaurants, bars, live music, and dancing all around.
Bocagrande is a modern area with high rise buildings, and large hotels. This is another option for accommodation. The city is small so you can easily move around by taxi. The taxi ride from the airport to the historical walled city takes only ten minutes.
Not to be missed
The horse carriage tour of the historical walled city at night.
There are three routes, 20, 30, and 60 minutes with set prices, so there is no need to bargain.
The tour is available from 17h – 23h.
The carriages fit four people maximum.
You will find them in Plaza San Diego or you may ask your hotel concierge for other locations to take the tour.
Places to eat and drink in Cartagena
La Cevicheria*, great place for fish and seafood. It’s always crowded and lively. The ceviche and lobster are worth going back for more.
Malanga Bistro Caribe*, is a nice place with good food for lunch or dinner. You can sit upstairs in the balcony, overlooking Plaza San Diego with a cold drink to overcome the heat, or you may choose to sit at a table inside the restaurant.
Mistura*, is one of the best restaurants in Cartagena. The atmosphere and decor are lively and colourful, just like the food. It has a live band … feel free to dance to the rhythm of latin vibes!
El Santisimo*, is a chic restaurant with great service and creative food.
Cuzco*, is a cosy Peruvian restaurant with very good Peruvian food and a beautiful atmosphere.
Donde Fidel Salsa Club, is a good place to go for a drink and see some people dancing salsa. It’s great to people-watch.
Café Havana, is a party place with live salsa music, and a big bar in the middle. The place gets very crowded, and the dancing and party atmosphere are contagious.
Alquimico, is a bar known for its creative cocktails. You may enjoy the atmosphere of the bar on the ground floor or you may go up to the rooftop bar which has a different vibe.
*Reservations are highly recommended.
Breakfast in Hotel Santa Clara
The beaches in Cartagena de Indias are not the Caribbean paradise one might imagine, this is why it’s a good idea to go to Islas del Rosario, or San Bernardo, for a couple of days to enjoy beautiful beaches. You may also go for the day to nearby islands, and return to Cartagena in the afternoon however, I think this option includes too much travel for one “relaxing” day.
If you want to relax and not have a worry in the world, I recommend Mucura Island, in San Bernardo.
The Hotel Punta Faro is a rustic, small hotel with an all-inclusive scheme – a great place to relax, enjoy a private beach, and beautiful gardens full of hammocks and exotic birds.
What I loved about this place
- The greeting upon arrival. We were greeted with a coconut drink, and briefed about the hotel installations and activities (bicycle tours around the island, boat tours, paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkelling, and more.)
- The candle-lit buffet dinners in the beautiful gardens.
- The no music allowed concept. This is a place to relax.
- The no room key concept. It made me feel in a safe and friendly place.
- The hammocks scattered around the garden, outside every room, and even in the sea.
- There is a spa right next to the sea.
- The open air shower in the bedroom. Enjoy showers under the sun, or under the stars.
- The bar by the private beach with a rustic decor. Perfect place for an after dinner drink.
- Breakfast with beautiful views of the garden, the private beach, and different kinds of friendly exotic birds like the ‘Maria Mulata.’
If you are feeling more in the beach party mood, Baru island might be a more suitable choice. I went to a big resort with nightclubs, live music, different restaurants, more than one beach option, and a lot of people. Beautiful place but without the privacy and personalised service that I prefer. It depends on your travelling style.
Bogota, the Capital of Colombia
Bogota is a different story. It is in altitude so you might feel a little out of breath at times. It rains a lot in Bogota therefore, you see green mountains which I think look beautiful. The architecture is modern, except in the historical part of town, and they use a lot of brick. The vegetation and the modern brick buildings make a nice contrast of green and orange.
Places to eat and drink in Bogota
Andres Carne de Res Chia, is a restaurant with live music, kitsch decor, bustling atmosphere, and more than one dancefloor. It’s located an hour away from Bogota by car, but the experience is worth the trip.
Gaira Café, is a restaurant with live music and dancing in Bogota. It belongs to the famous Colombian singer Carlos Vives, and his brother. If you are lucky, you might see Carlos Vives go up on stage and sing a song or two. People go for the music, dancing, and fun more than to have a gourmet dinner. It gets very crowded and you might end up meeting local people and having a good laugh.
Live music at Gaira Cafe
Osaka, is a Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese fusion) restaurant with an amazing quality of food and drinks. There are Osaka restaurants in Lima, Peru, and in other South American countries, one of them being Colombia.
Prudencia, was recommended by the hotel’s concierge, and I cannot thank her enough. It’s located in the Candelaria neighbourhood, which is the historical part of town. We arrived without a reservation, and the place was full. The host suggested we sit in the open kitchen area while we waited for a table. Watching the chefs cook in a wood oven, on a grill, and in stoves, was such a fantastic experience that we decided to eat there instead of on a table.
Not to be missed in Bogota
Museo Botero, – located in a beautiful house with a central courtyard, in the historic part of Bogota, within walking distance from Prudencia Restaurant. I enjoyed the beautiful setting and the art. I loved the style of this Colombian artist. On top of that, the entrance is free.
Colombia is a wonderful destination for a holiday. You find culture, relaxation, good vibes, good places to eat and drink, and a service oriented culture that adds to the experience.
I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section, if you go to Colombia, and decide to visit any of my recommendations!
You might like to read more travel tips from other destinations.