Cartagena, Colombia is one of the fastest-growing places in South America for luxury travel — something that won’t surprise you when you hear what this Caribbean city has to offer.
Settled by the Spanish in the 16th-century, the city’s old colonial buildings and Spanish charm mixed with its Caribbean culture give this town a unique feel seldom found elsewhere.
Its proximity to the ABC islands in the Caribbean and its historical past give it a South American-Caribbean feel which gives travellers the best of both worlds.
The locals often dress with the vibrant colours of the Afro-Caribbean cultures while food is a Caribbean-European-South American fusion that makes for some incredibly interesting dishes.
When staying in the colonial old city — Cartagena doesn’t disappoint.
Within the walls of the old city, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena offers a resort-style getaway in the heart of the city. Built-in an old convent, this 17th-century building is an architectural jewel in its own right.
The grand balconies overlooking the courtyard with an extremely-inviting, and massive, swimming pool makes for the focal point of the hotel. World-class cuisine, concierge services and a spa are all on offer to guests once they arrive.
Rooms start at approximately $350 a night but the price quickly climbs with the more luxurious suites.
The hotel is perfectly situated to explore Cartagena’s old town. Make sure to take a walking tour of the truly majestic city — the hotel can provide you with recommendations.
The architecture itself is the attraction here. Terraced houses painted with blues, reds and striking yellow line the streets while those with a keen eye will notice Bougainville plants climbing the walls and adding to the scene with their colourful flowers.
From here walk along the old city walls catching a glimpse of the sunset or people watching a stylish local wedding — receptions often take place on the walls in the evening.
If you feel like a beer, locals with coolers often walk the streets of the old city and you can buy an ice-cold cerveza off them for around $1.50.
The charm is not lost on the eateries packed into European-style courtyards throughout the old town — try the ceviche, it’s made in its own Cartagena fashion and it is out-of-this-world.
Finally, there is the shopping. From premium cigars to clothes and souvenirs. This old city has everything a shopaholic would want.
Colombia is known for its high-quality, low-cost emeralds and Cartagena is no exception. You can find serious deals on opulent gemstones ranging from small earrings to massive gaudy necklaces.
Make sure you go to a reputable source to make sure the emeralds were sourced ethically and to be sure you don’t get ripped off.
Some spots that are known for being reputable are Caribe Jewelry and Emerald Museum or Lucy Jewelry — these are good places to start.
Whether here for a long time or just passing through as part of a greater adventure, travellers should take some time to immerse themselves in everything Cartagena has to offer, from its incredible architecture to its vibrant culture.