Christmas in Cartagena, Colombia

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cartagena, Colombia the most important port in all of Latin America and the place we chose to spend our Christmas celebrations. Three blissful nights in the spectacular boutique hotel Bantú in The Walled City and several previous nights in the edgier Getsemani neighbourhood by the backpacker famous Calle Media Luna. A Christmas consisting of Baileys by the rooftop pool on Christmas Day as the festivities echoed the rooftops around us. The city itself during Navidad is drenched in glistening fairy lights and soaked in general Christmas spirit, Cartagena was definitely the place to be for Christmas.


Cartagena, Colombia at a glance

✓ Language: Spanish 

✓ Currency: Colombian Peso

✓ Street food: $1

✓ Restaurant food: $3-$5 in Getesmani -  Naturally expect to pay more in The Walled City

✓ Drinking: $1 Cerveza

 Taxi: $2-$5 

✓ Where to stay: Getsemani, Calle Media Luna 

Must doVisit Donde Fidels salsa club

All prices in US Dollar


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The iconic Torre del Reloj Público (Clock Tower) is a must see sight in Cartagena and is the main entrance to tourists entering The Walled City from Getsemani and surrounding areas

Christmas - Our time in Cartagena

We were fortunate enough to spend Christmas underneath the twinkling lights of Cartagena, Colombia. Spending Christmas in Cartagena was made extra special with the addition addition of familiar faces, Jamie's mum and Brother flew out to spend some time in Cartagena and Christmas with us. The arrival of familiar faces was even better when they shared with us the British Christmas favourites they had brought along with them. Is Christmas even Christmas if you don't eat shortbread?

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Christmas in Cartagena, Colombia 

Rooftop antics - Christmas day fun at Hotel Bantu, Cartagena, Colombia


We left Cartagena after a week of fun on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and travelled north to Santa Marta to do the Lost City Trek - Click here if you're considering booking

Map of Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena Map - Source: Google Maps


From Panama to Colombia by air

We regrettably skipped doing the popular trip to the San Blas islands and flew from Panama City to Cartagena. We had a strict time scale to stick to during the Christmas period and unfortunately a pre-booked flight to Cartagena left us no time for the wild and wonderful boat trip. It's probably more worth while taking the boat for the spectacular experience and I know very few travellers heading North or South pass up this opportunity.

We arrived in Cartagena around midday and headed to a hostel we had booked via hostelworld in a panic that we wouldn't have a bed during the busy Christmas period. I'd read that this was common and I really didn't feel like going through 'no room at the inn' situation when I started researching temperatures. I'd wholeheartedly recommend Hostal Getsemani. It's quiet, clean and in the perfect location. It's more homely and has a nice family feel because all the workers are friends and couples. If you're planning to be in Cartagena for a longer period of time then Hostal Getsemani is your place to go.

Palm trees line the sunlight streets of Cartagena, the main boat dock situated outside the old town is always packed with people and the whole area surrounding The Walled City entrance is always alive with the hum of tourists and locals. Getsemani although busier has a much more chilled atmosphere, the backpackers who arrive very rarely pass by and most get to know the city. Getsemani feels like a home from home or most and it doesn't come with the same cost as The Walled City.

Fresh fruit seller - Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia

Getsemani culinary delights - Cartagena, Colombia

The quirky neighbourhood of Getsemani is the go to place in Cartagena for backpackers. The streets are filled with budget eateries, street food shacks, bargain bars and convenient stores. There's several snazzier more upmarket restaurants close by if you're tired of eating pizza slices, pastries and meat on a stick.

The airport is close to the main city, taxis are cheap and worthwhile as usually air conditioned when the busses are not

Cartagena is all about the street food and street cocktails, Getsemani is a budget  backpackers paradise and the endless selection of new cuisine and cheap drinks keep the budget travellers coming.

The street food available in Getsemani rand from whole Italian pizza or slices by the dollar to meat and steak on a stick, topped with chilli sauce and a well cooked potato. Most will set you back roughly COP $2000 which is less than $1.

The streets of the Getsemani neighbourhood of Cartagena, Colombia

Before Jamie's family arrived the day before Christmas eve, we figured we knew Cartagena well and we wanted to make sure their limited time in the city was as good as possible through the new knowledge we'd obtained. We even set our sights on a restaurant for our Christmas dinner. No turkey on the menu for us just Thai/Indonesian food in a perfectly located restaurant in The Walled City seated outside table outside a beautiful old church. Check out Restaurant Cafe San Pedro in The Walled City of Colombia's Cartagena.

Many of the colonial buildings in Cartagena have extremely photogenic balconies

The restaurant overlooks the famous Monasterio de San Pedro, many special services are held during the festive period and the churches welcome all.


If you're looking to experience the best of both worlds spend your time split between The Walled City and Getsemani - the budget friendly backpacker paradise


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Christmas decorations

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Christmas spirit - The residential streets of Getsemani decorated for Christmas
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More from Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia
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Collecting Jamies mum and brother from the airport in time for Christmas Day


The Walled City is most packed at night time when the sun isn't too hot and families join together to enjoy dinner, salsa and Cerveza 


Getting to know Cartagena, Colombia

You can do almost anything in Cartagena regardless of the area you are in Getsemani brings the party vibe to all backpackers and most spend their days exploring this neighbourhood and trying out the cuisine available. The Walled City of Cartagena is breathtaking, the architecture and culture sweeps through the small streets and its easy to get lost in exploration of the many small streets and plazas.

The dangers often associated with travel in Colombia cross most peoples minds when researching or planning a trip to Cartagena. And although dangers are ever present in any country you visit Colombia always felt particularly safe to us. Always be vigilant and keep your possessions safe and out of reach. The tourist areas of Cartagena are fun and always busy but dangers could be lurking.

The streets of The Old Walled City of Cartagena
Saying this, don't let a countries reputation put you off visiting. Colombia is a vibrant and happy country with incredible cultural values along with a turbulent history. But like any country Colombia's history only makes it stronger and more compelling.

Te Bocagrande is the more modern and less attractive area of Cartagena, the concrete jungle overlooks a concrete beach and many of the restaurants are fast food chains that play no rivalry to those in Getsemani or The Walled City.

We found ourself visiting the waters of the Bocagrande several times during our days in Colombia as it is the perfect place to cool down. Frequent busses leave The Walled City and transport tourists back and forth along the strip.

Playa Blanca, Isla Baru, Cartagena

Click here for more about the beaches of Cartagena


Cartagena's Walled City - Walking the walls

Cartagena old town is a fortified walled city. The Walled City draws tourists from around the globe each year and this is very apparent during the holidays and at Christmas time. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the decorations and celebrations in the streets.

Each narrow street has its own special charm featuring balconies, flowers and salsa. Donde Fidel's world famous salsa bar is not to be missed in Cartagena's Walled City.  Don't sit outside with the other tourists grab an Aguila and pull up a perch by the bar and watch the locals salsa the night away. If you can dance then good on you, if you can't then prepare to dance anyway. The vibe is exactly right and you couldn't really feel any more in South America if you tried.

The Walled City of Cartagena is home to many of Cartagena's main tourist hotspots, bars and restaurants - restaurants fill up fast especially during the Christmas period - booking is recommended

Besides the festivities and the copious amounts fairy lights that line the main streets of Cartagena. The Walled City is a beautiful city to be. The architecture and coloured buildings compliment each other perfectly and hours of exploring and photographing never seems to be long enough.

The Walled City offers enough shade to not die in the harsh heat of Colombia and the many great bars offer cooling spots and the Aguilla is always served cold in Colombia.

During the Christmas period Cartagena comes alive with a religious pulse of welcoming charm. Spirits are high and cheer is wide, people are all about celebration which makes Christmas in Cartagena really unforgettable. This is all evident in even the most unlikely of streets in the most unlikely of neighbourhoods - Getsemenai for one. 


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Cartagena's Old Walled Town - Christmas with the moon

Feliz Navidad from Cartagena, Colombia

Christmas in Cartagena means family and friends, you can see this from the families dressed in their best all white outfits. Christmas in Cartagena means 'Feliz Navidad' covering every imaginable surface, wall and shop window. Our Cartagena experience was one filled with kindness and friendly locals and calles filled with life, music and merriness Spending Christmas in Cartagena is festive without being tacky which means you don't feel tacky about being overly festive.

Feliz Navidad & Feliz Año Nuevo from Colombia!


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Christmas in Cartagena

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2 comments

  1. It looks so beautiful! I have heard such great things about Colombia. Christmas sounds so fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always nice to spend Christmas in a county that celebrates Christmas in such a fun and festive way.

      Delete

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