Trip to Cartagena, Colombia - November 2006 
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Our trip to Cartagena was just a short little visit to the neighboring country of Colombia.

The distance from Caracas to Cartagena is not that far (1 hour flight) but it is too unsafe to drive.  The capital of Colombia is Bogota, which is inland and supposed to be nice... but we decided to visit Cartagena since we heard nice things about it and it is on the ocean.

As mentioned above, Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coastline, in the north-western part of Colombia.

The main attractions are not far from the airport, which means getting an expensive rental car is not necessary.  The cheap taxis can take you safely to the hotel strip, the beach area, the old town, or to the fort with minimal hassle.  The main body of Cartagena doesn't have much to offer for tourists, so we didn't visit it.

We flew over multiple sets of islands during the flight.

 The Colombia coast is relatively flat and has many bays and rivers flowing to the Sea.

Cartagena: Airport to the left, Old Town in the middle and the Beach/Hotels on the right.

We flew in later in the afternoon and the weather was nice and sunny, with scattered clouds.

<=== Old Town

Beach & Hotels ===>

On the first pass past town we saw the port, business center & some beaches. 

As we came in for the final pass, you could see that many poor people lived around the airport.  In South America there are obvious separations between those who 'have' and those who 'have not'.  

On the good side though, we did not see anyone starving or lacking medical attention.

 Our Hilton resort was at the far end of the hotel strip. 

The resort was on the water and we had a nice westward view; there were also 3 pools to cool off in!

From the pool area we could walk down to a nice & secluded beach area; there were not many guests.  
We didn't swim much here as there were few waves and the water didn't seem very clean.

Most of the tall buildings turned out to be apartments; some up-scale but most were run down. 

Along the strip back towards Old Town, there were more tall buildings and nicer beaches, with cute little huts that you could rent.  There was lots of construction and ads for high-rise apartments.

 The waves were still pretty small, as the water gets deep slowly and dissipates any energy.

The beach area wasn't crowded, as it was still low season.

The beach had an interesting mix of people; above the local fisherman are pulling in a big net.

The real draw for Cartagena is not the beaches, but the old part of town.  After seeing this area we agreed that it is one of the best places to see the old colonial buildings in south America.  

Old Town is surrounded by water and by a rather large wall.  The main fort of the era, was located across the river and it's another must-see.  We lucked out and found a GREAT micro-brewery while walking around; it became our favorite Happy Hour place. 

Old Town was kept clean and was patrolled to provide security.

The streets were narrow and about half the buildings had been renovated.  This whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and owners are given funding for building restoration.

The doors were ornate and surprisingly short.  The shops were cute, but touristy.

As with most older cities around the world, the churches are the best & prettiest buildings.

We found a quiet little bar situated above another plaza and took a break; it was hot walking around!

The mix of tourists, locals and security was interesting to watch.

The government and museum buildings were also very nice, as were the multiple squares & parks.

In this particular park we saw crowds of people.  Above, a reporter is ready to go live, but why?
Below we saw pretty girls getting interviewed; why?  We laughed when we found out that the Miss Colombia contest was starting this week, which is one of the biggest events of the year!

These shots are from our favorite Happy Hour bar, where we had a few 'sundowners'.  The building was located on a part of the wall which surrounds the area and probably housed the guards.
The views & drinks were fantastic... especially since we live in a place that has only 'light' beer.

From our 'barrel' we could see the fort/castle across the river; we will visit there tomorrow.

The ambiance was very special and provided a relaxing break between the activities of the afternoon and our evening meal. 

We visited the old Spanish fort, called Castillo San Felipe. It was quite large & interesting; more like a large bunker than a comfortable place to live.

No wonder no-one attacked the fort with much success. 

This structure is amazing when you think about the effort involved to make it ... in the 1700s!

There were good views of the city from each side ... and many little hiding spots in every corner.

We explored some of the tunnels and found prisoner cells & ammunition rooms... but no bathrooms!

I will finish the story of our visit to Cartagena with some panoramic pictures from the fort.  The picture above shows the entire skyline, from the high-rise hotel/beach area to the walled Old town.

A little closer view of the high-rise hotel and beach; we bet it will be much more developed in 10 years!

A little closer view of Old Town; we hope that in 10 years it looks the same; maybe more restored!



This concludes the story of our trip to Cartagena, Colombia...  

... a growing place with beaches, new buildings, green vegetation,
and nice skyline sunsets!