After 2 days on a remote hostel in the middle of nowhere, it was time to head back to mainland. A 2 hour speed boat ride brought us back to the port, from where we got a cab to our accommodation at El Laguito. This touristy area is filled with luxury resorts and rental apartments.
Our accommodation was located at the top of the ‘El Nuevo Conquistador’ building, with an amazing view over the sea. It was a penthouse apartment, and the communal areas were shared with 3 other couples. Our room was lovely, with a beautiful large balcony, good aircon and handy mini fridge (perfect for storing beers to enjoy at sunset). All for $68 AUD per night.
We used the first day to stock up on food and relax.
On the second day, we decided to visit the famous walled city of Cartagena. It is the old historic town from where all Cartegena’s famous pictures are taken.
After avoiding a big storm in the morning, we made our way to the old town (3.5km away) by foot.
Nick risked a Colombian haircut (which turned out very nice), before continuing towards the walled city, dodging some big puddles at times because of the morning storm. Other times requiring the help of friendly locals and make-shift bridges!
Cartagena’s walled city is simply gorgeous. Narrow streets, colourful colonial buildings, boho stores. Everything there was so beautiful, we didn’t know where to look.
We checked out the different plazas, Santa Teresa and Santo Domingo, and then went to Las Bovedas market.
From what we read, Las Bovedas market used to be old jail cells where prisoners were put to suffer when the tide brought water in to their cell. Now it is just a nice area filled with Colombian art and craft shops.
Lucky we went, as we found some incredible paintings from a local artist that we loved and purchased to bring back to Sydney. They were so bright and colourful, we had to buy one.
We continued browsing the streets, going in and out of stores after a lovely lunch at La Tumbamuertos (where we ate some very tasty empanadas, our favoured tasty and cheap lunch option).
We then headed back to our apartment to enjoy the sunset on our balcony, cold beers in hand. Bliss.
The following day we decided to take a tour to Playa Blanca, the best beach close to Cartagena, located about 45 minutes away.
Cartagena’s beaches aren’t amazing, the colour of the water is grey and so is the sand. It doesn’t make for a nice beach day. Instead, locals and tourists head to Playa Blanca or Rosario Island to enjoy clearer waters and white sand.
Our bnb host organised the tour for us, including a 20,000 pesos discount. For 70,000 pesos for the both of us, we got a tour that would deliver us to Playa Blanca for the day, feed us lunch, and get us back home.
At 8.15am, we made our way to the entrance of our building to catch our shuttle. It was a big bus, and unfortunately for us, we were the first pick up stop and it stopped another 4 or 5 times before starting to actually head to Playa Blanca. It took us 1h30 alone to leave Cartagena, and then another 1h30 to drive to Playa Blanca.
On the way to the beach the tour hostess did not stop talking in her mic, discussing the different activities available as add ons, but also talking about how careful we needed to be, how there are thieves on the beach etc bringing very unnecessary stress to an already annoying morning.
As her speech was all in Spanish and we couldn’t understand much, a nice couple who could speak English helped us translating. We decided to share a beach cabana with them for the day to split the cost, and they had excursions planned so it worked out well for us.
When we finally arrived at Playa Blanca, we realised the mistake we’d made. Overcrowded wouldn’t be a fair description of how busy it was. It was full of tourists, but also (even more so) full of people eager to make a dollar off the tourists. They don’t take no for an answer easily either! Massages, drinks, jewelry, you name it. It’s anything but relaxing. Small boats and jet skis also litter the water, bringing petrol smell in to the mix. After having visited some amazing beaches already, we really weren’t impressed at all and couldn’t wait to get back home.
By 4pm, we finally started to head back. When we got back to busy Cartagena, our bus driver got into a fight with another bus driver who had smashed his mirror because he didn’t give way at a T-junction, so that left us stranded for a good 30 min. It was kind of a funny way to finish an average day, we had to laugh as we watched the police come and break up the heated argument that was being conducted in the middle of the road. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
- The Walled city is gorgeous. Spend a whole day there browsing the shops and aimlessly walking the streets. There are dozens of restaurants and bars to chose from for lunch or a drink too.
- Skip Playa Blanca. It’s just not worth the hassle to get there, and you won’t enjoy your time being constantly harrased by people selling you stuff. Also, we didn’t see any space to put your towel if you’re not getting a hut.