Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, literally drips with history. It is redolent with every story of pirates, the Spanish Maine and buried treasure ever told. Wandering the ancient streets lined with beautiful buildings with overhanging flower-filled balconies, history seems to seep out of the walls.
There are some ‘must see’ places in Cartagena, but the best way to experience the life of the city is to discard the map and go wherever the sea breeze takes you. There isn’t a street inside the old walled city that doesn’t reveal some new delight, whether a shady plaza to sit and people watch or a tiny bar blaring out hypnotic music where a cold beer is obligatory in the heat of the day.
I’ve visited some old colonial towns that feel similar to Cartagena – Galle in Sri Lanka, or Ibo in Mozambique – but nothing compares to Cartagena for its mixture of vibrancy and history. It would be worth visiting for the food alone. Although photographs can’t evoke the people, smells, sounds or the humidity, here is a selection of my favourites.