Travelogue: Cartagena an Old World Hub That's a Modern Destination


During this holiday week, is bringing you travelogues from destinations around the world that have a Latino flair. We’ll take you on journeys to Spain, Colombia and Cuba, as well as a peak at other destinations, to give you a respite from this busy time of year and to encourage you to start making travel plans for 2013.
Today CTLatinoNews writer Alexandra Lucia-Miller explores Cartagena on the Northwest coast of Colombia.
Cartagena, Colombia is a thriving tourist destination with lots to see and do.
By Alexandra Lucia-Miller

Where else can you balance the top of a jellyfish in your hand and guide it through the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean? … Give up?  Off the coast of Rosario Island in Cartagena, Colombia.
Cartagena de India or simply Cartagena is a beach city that sits on the Northwest coast of Colombia, an old fortressed trading center that brings adventurous travellers to the port city, founded by conquistador Don Pedro de Heredia.
The History
While the walled city may have been protected in the 16th century from pirate invasions and attacks by the French, Dutch, and English, it isn’t safe from the infiltration of international backpackers, families, Peace Corps volunteers and socialites from all over the world, which adds to the charm of Cartagenas colorful history.
Walking around the Plaza de Los Coches – originally established for the commerce of African slaves – it’s impossible to miss the local and international melange of tourists and backpackers, snapping photos of the colorfully decorated walls, Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower), the skyline of trendy Bocagrande, and the beautiful smiling faces of the Afro-Colombian people, direct descendants of a successful history of international commerce.
On the humid afternoons, it’s delectable to sip on watermelon juice, freshly prepared by local street vendors. The fruit smoothies from Crepes & Waffles give local vendors a run for their money; they also serve a variety of crepes stuffed with traditional and international flavors. If you’re feeling adventurous, the local restaurants offer fresh ceviche, sancochos (a traditional soup), and a variety of poultry and beef dishes.
Where to Stay
Hostel de Media Luna
If you’re looking for a relaxing place to stay then stroll to the Casa de la Chicheria hostel. The quaint establishment has a small pool, TV, semi-private and private rooms, and is an inexpensive way to get away from the bustle of the city.
But, if you’re more of a social butterfly, head over to Hostel de Media Luna. This giant fortress sits on a hostel street and boasts hundreds of beds, semi-private, private and dorm style rooms, and has free wifi, yoga classes, and a mega party on Wednesday nights. Make sure you grab a bottle of Aguardiente (licorice flavored courage)and head next door to listen and dance to salsa at Cafe Havana. Both hostels offer tours to local islands, Chiva (party bus) tickets around town at night, scuba diving, bike riding and other tourist attractions and are located conveniently in El Centro de Cartagena (Center of Cartagena).
Things To Do
During the day, head over to Heredia Theater to catch a performance and marvel at the architecture. Similarly, the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the oldest church in Cartagena in the Plaza de Santo Domingo is equally as opulent. After, weave your way through a variety of emerald shops, or barter on the street for indigenous Wayyuu mochilla’s, local art and handcrafted gifts.
Finish your evening by relaxing at Cafe del Mar, built on the ancient walls of the city. Gaze over the expansive Caribbean Sea as you sip extravagant cocktails and let your ears melt to the sound of Thievery Corporation, Bomba Estereo, and other down tempo and electronica music spun by the resident DJs.
Enjoy the sounds of laughter and music that fill the streets, and gaze at the sunset and Cartagena skyline as the paradigm of an old world trading hub evolves into a modern, and vibrant destination for all.
More information is available about Cartagena at the Colombian Tourism Office website.