Cartagena (or called by its full name, Cartagena de Indias), is the fifth-largest city in Colombia with a population of nearly a million. There is a distinct Afro-Caribbean feel to this northern city, different from other cities. Cartagena's tropical climate is hot and humid with rains in April and May and from October to December. Temperatures average over thirty degrees Celsius every day.
Cartagena's jewel is Cartajena Vieja, the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As it's surrounded by high walls with colonial-style buildings by the Caribbean, walking through the gates feels like stepping into the scene of a pirate movie. Buildings are painted bright colours, the narrow, cobbled streets are shared by cars and horse carts. It is very well looked after and arguably the nicest city in the whole of South America. There are street vendors selling jewelry and souvenirs and performance artists keeping visitors entertained. On warm days it is no problem to find a cafe for a cool refreshment or for some of Colombia's famous coffee.
For a rather unique experience, leave your hostel, pack your swim gear, and book a tour to the Volcan de Totumo. This is a bubbling volcano, where you bathe in the mud pool at the top. You will be covered from head to toe in mud before cleaning off in the lake. There are water taxis that bring tourists out to the beaches at Playa Blanca or Rosario, as the beaches in Cartagena are not clean. Not too far from the centre is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a magnificently preserved fortress built by the Spanish.
A popular activity at night is to do a "Rumba in Chiva" tour. These are old, colourfully painted buses with benches where you bring alcohol and the chiva bus drives around Cartagena, a great way for people staying at Cartagena hostels to mix with locals! Cartagena has plenty of nightlife and is a destination for many Colombians. The areas of Getsemanai and the modern Bocagrande are good for a night out.
Most Cartagena hostels are located in the Getsemanai area of the city. More hostels are opening their doors as the safety situation continues to improve in Colombia and tourists flock to the region.
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