cartagena, colombia is not the most conventional place to vacation to. i received many puzzled looks and probing questions about what made us decide to spend christmas in colombia.
would you believe me if i told you that colombia has been on my travel list for quite some time? you see, i grew up listening to wonderful and frightening stories of the country. stories about the amazing and also stomach churning food, the welcoming people, the vibrant cities and the scary situations you can find yourself in. my dad lived all around colombia for 2 years in the 70s. he lived in bogota, barranquilla, ibague, bucaramanga and cartagena. colombia will always have a special place in his heart. it is the place he grew up and found himself. it is the place he lost a couple of toenails (long story). it is the place that helped him to see how much god loves him. and because of this my heart has always been curious about colombia.
b was a little apprehensive about traveling to colombia. i will admit it holds quite the reputation for violence and drugs (just watch narcos). we decided to compromise and start out by exploring one city in colombia–cartagena. i very much hope to explore more!
cartagena is the fifth largest city in colombia. it is a coastal town with a carribean feel. there are brightly colored buildings, street vendors selling everything from hats to fresh fruit, large historic churches and a plethora of mini city squares/parks to enjoy. it is a vibrant city and i loved the energy that i felt every day we were there. it is more quiet during the day because it is so hot but it really becomes alive in the early evening and into the night.
i felt completely safe everywhere we went. yes, we got completely scammed by some taxi drivers so i will give you some tips in those circumstances but overall the people were welcoming and accepting of my poor spanish.
one of my absolute favorite parts of cartagena was the food. i had some of the best meals of my whole life there. the prices for food can’t be beat which added to the deliciousness.
BEST PLACES TO EAT :
Mila – we were walking one evening trying to find a spot for dinner. i saw that there was quite a crowd for this place which made me curious. we grabbed a menu and decided to wait it out for a table. mila offers colombian cafe food with an assortment of pasteries. we sat by a couple of college girls who went to school in the states. they spoke perfect english and helped us with the menu a bit. they strongly encouraged us to try milo ( a chocolate shake type drink)– well thank you, sweet girls. my life will never be the same! we also tried arepas (corn pancake with cheese) and tacos. all the food was amazing! we may or may not have come back after dinner a second night to satisfy my milo craving .
the pastries looked delectable so i decided to try the cinnamon rolls. i hate to say it but, they were a let down after all the other things we had. maybe there is another pastry they are more known for?
Restaurante El Coroncoro – we stayed in the gesthamane district of cartagena so this restaurant was just a hop away from our hotel. it was filled with locals and the prices were so cheap (like $3 for an entree) so we decided to try it. b couldn’t stop raving. restaurante el coroncoro offers traditional colombian style food – meat or fish with vegetables, rice and fried plantains. nothing fancy but so tasty!
there is a similar restaurant located right across the street that serves the same type of food and was also good. we preferred el coroncoro though.
La Plaetteria - the days are hot but the plaeta options are endless. stop by here for a quick treat to cool you down!
Peru Fusion Sushi – another place that we just happened upon one evening. they serve amazing sushi and ceviche. everything tasted so fresh and was seasoned to perfection. it is on the smaller side so i would recommend reservations (we were very lucky to get in).
Cuzco – shout out to the college girls we met at Mila! i had heard of this place through my research and then they said it was their parents’ favorite place in cartagena so i knew we couldn’t miss it. cuzco offers amazing peruvian style food. we ordered a number of things (sushi, fish, ceviche, ice cream dessert) and all of it blew my mind. not a single item was below 5 stars in my book. it is a fancier place so no shorts are allowed and the prices are a little higher but completely worth it. it is still far cheaper than a similar style restaurant in the states!
i researched restaurants heavily via trip advisor prior to coming to cartagena. i have to say that none of the research really paid off. we went to one restaurant recommended online and were disappointed. it was mostly american food and definitely not worth the hype. prices were high too. we didn’t want that one instance to shape our experience so we tried two other highly rated trip advisor restaurants and studied the menu when we got there. it looked like more losers with high prices so that is when we took a different approach and decided to find restaurants based on what we saw. best thing we ever did!
next up, best things to do and see!