The pearl of Colombia's Caribbean coast, Cartagena De Indias was founded by the Spanish in 1533, and still boasts an imposing fortress wall that surrounds the old city. It was a vital trading post for Spain to ship goods out of the South American continent and today it has become a convenient entry point for Westerners looking for a vacation destination that has yet to be "Westernized." You won't find a Ruby Tuesday's or an Olive Garden here. Cartagena is authentic where other Caribbean destinations can feel plastic at times.
Colombia's turbulent 1980's are well documented, but even in the country's most challenging times, Cartagena was a city that rose above. The positive, beachy personality of the people; a blend of Spanish, African, native Indian and even MiddleEastern cultures, all works together in a complementary way. As Colombia has opened up for tourism in the last decade, Cartagena has really emerged as a world-class destination.
Must See: Cartagena is the most important tourist destination in Colombia. In this magical city, you can experience authentic and restored architecture from the Spanish Colonial times and direct access to 26 virgin islands, just 45 minutes away by boat. Cartagena's modern side is also the venue for large international events year-round.
Lodging: Sofitel Legend Santa Clara - The jewel of Cartagena, the Sofitel is a converted monastery from Spanish colonial times. It offers incredible views of the old city and the new high-rises across the bay and is equipped with the latest technology for events and conventions.
Ground Transportation: After landing in your private jet Colombia is best experienced by diving into the local culture and arranging a Chiva Bus, which is a local tradition where Latin bands play live music from the back while revelers party their way through the streets and bars along the way to your hotel.
Packing Tips: Cartagena is Colombia's top destination for night-life. You'll want to pack beach clothing for daytime boat excursions to the virgin islands just off the coast, and you'll need to bring your best evening-wear for the clubs when the sun goes down.
Recommended Books: Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez (1985) - The Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author tells a story of love in all of it's forms - small and large, passionate and serene through the main character's lifetime.
Currency: The Colombian peso is the local currency
Calling Code Colombia: 57
Best Travel Dates: The dry season in Colombia ranges from December to March, so this is the recommended time to travel. You'll find the old streets of Cartagena much more enjoyable without the summer humidity.