New Year’s Eve in Cartagena, Colombia- Walking the old city & fireworks!

Combing the streets of Cartagena!

Cartagena is a beautiful walled city that is almost a gateway to South America. Located in the northern part of Colombia, it has a very European feel to it, yet is as South American as they come! Always warm and inviting Cartagena is known for it’s ‘magical realism’.

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Its a wonderful city to walk around with interesting neighborhoods like Getsemani, San Diego and Centro inside the walls. There were more developed Miami-like beach areas which we avoided, preferring to get a feel for the real city, not only the touristy parts.

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To get a real feel for the city, we would recommend walking along the walls of old city Cartagena. Get lost exploring- walking through Centro and San Diego neighborhoods. This can take ~3-4 hours and along the way you can see many shops and restaurants or small cafes which provide a refreshing respite from the hot sun! You will walk past colorful houses, interesting street art, statues and murals.

The city looks even more beautiful in the evening as the sun sets. You can see the main gate all lit up and enjoy views of Christopher Columbus’ ship which is now a museum.

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If you still have energy left, Cartagena is famous for its buzzing night life, which starts only after 10 pm. Cafe Havana is one of the famous places to visit. It is supposed to have great music and drinks, but since it was New Year’s Eve, and we were completely unprepared (no reservations), we didnt get a chance to check it out.IMG_0099

New Year’s eve in Cartagena was another special experience! The whole city came to a standstill. Restaurants were completely full, as were the streets, and from the crowds it was clear that New Year’s eve celebrations and the fireworks were a family event, to be celebrated with everyone, children and grandparents included! We waited along the wall, like most of the locals, to see the fireworks.

While we called it a night after the fireworks, the city and its inhabitants carried on well into the wee hours of the new year 2016!

Day trip from Cartagena: Volcan de Totumo 

Volcan de Totumo is a day trip from Cartagena. It is highly reviewed and recommended in TripAdvisor and other travel sites, so it first came across as a tourist trap. We resisted but in the end were very happy we tried it out. Let me start by saying it is touristy but well worth the experience.

Approximately a one hour drive from Cartagena, the “volcano” is a giant mound of mud. It is claimed that the mud has therapeutic qualities and hence is very popular. You have to climb up a few steps and then down into the mud using the ladder.  The locals help you into the “volcano” and offer massages. May sound creepy but it isn’t and they just help cover your body with mud. You can choose to decline and spend time on your own, like we chose to do. The feeling of weightlessness you experience is unique and for us the most exciting part of the day. The mud pit is quite deep and even though your feet never reach the bottom, you stay afloat and bob around. Great fun!

We were lucky it wasn’t very busy and so got a little more time in the mud. The locals limit the amount of time to keep crowds moving so recommend going early in the day. The locals also clean you up as you leave the mud pit in order to preserve the amount of mud. You can see clearly that the levels have reduced over the years.

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Once you leave the “volcano”, time for cleanup. Nothing can prepare you for the thorough cleanse the local ladies will give you to clean all the mud of you. They walk you down to the river and may even pull your swim gear off. Just soak in the experience 🙂

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