Love in the Time of Cartagena

Walking through the streets of Cartagena’s old town is all the inspiration this writer needs to paint an eloquent portrait of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. After passing through the main gates and under the center’s clock tower, it is almost as if you are stepping out of 2011 and into the 19th century setting of Gabriel García Márquez’ novel, Love in the Time of Cholera.

The Torre del Reloj guards the entrance to the old city

Beautiful and abundant colonial buildings

Fruit and cold drinks are on every corner

Leah shows off the Caribbean-European fusion

The cheerfully-colored colonial style buildings line the streets with bright pink bougainvillea spilling over the side of their second story balconies. Tall palm trees offer shade in the center’s hidden plazas and a gentle sea breeze blows over the high city walls.

In the 1500’s, as one of the wealthiest cities in the Caribbean, Cartagena became a favored target for pirates and buccaneers looking to pillage. The old city’s walls were erected to deter pirates and protect the city’s residents.
Today the city as emerged as one of the most popular beach resort towns on the coast. High sky-scrapers in the downtown area look like Miami while the old city architecture resembles Barcelona.

A view of the modern, luxury beach resorts from the fortified historical centre

Gillian doing the obligatory cannon pose. It was far too hot to sit on

Leah taking in the walls that kept away pirates like Sir Francis Drake

We first heard of Cartagena’s charms in Ushuaia, Argentina. Another traveler and fellow Canadian gushed about the Caribbean coastal city over a breakfast one morning. At the time we were South America newbies (barely three weeks into traveling) so we made a mental note of his comments and scheduled Cartagena into our itinerary. But the city was in Colombia, the far North, and at the time we were in the tippity-tip of the South.

Yet, here we are seven months later and after exploring seven different countries, not to mention countless cities, it is hard not to agree Cartagena is magical. The city is a combination of old school charm, colonial architecture, romantic nooks, sun and ocean. Cartagena is unlike any other we’ve seen so far. It’s Europe and the Caribbean rolled up into one sexy little package.

The historical centre has 8 beautiful plazas including this one - Plaza de los Coches

Colonial churches, cobblestones, and clock towers...what's not to love?

Plaza de Bolivar features a statue of the man to which South America owes its independence, Simon Bolivar

The ever-refreshing and filling "agua de coco" (coconut water) lines the sidewalks

Blogging, writing postcards, and drinking homemade lemonade - we love Cartagena

Tip to tip - we made it!