Is it even safe ? That’s the first thought that came to my mind when Mandar suggested Colombia. Narcos (yes the Netlix series) was still fresh in my mind and that was the only Colombia I had known. After reading multiple blogs it was clear – Colombia had changed significantly. It still is continuously developing and has long revamped the notorious image it once had.
We planned Colombia for 6 days and considering it was first international trip with our toddler wanted to keep it spaced out and relaxed. We decided to do 2 cities – Cartagena and Minca.
Here’s our comprehensive Colombia itinerary that you could reference while planning your trip.
Day 1 : NYC to Cartagena
Our flight was delayed by 5 hours due to the infamous Jan’19 government shutdown. From being at the point of not knowing whether the plane will even take off to actually making it to Cartagena was beyond relief. Stepping from the brutal cold of NYC to the mild warm tropical weather of Cartegena was a divine feeling. Since it was a long day for us, we decided to step out for a quick take out and crash for the nite. But Getsemani had other plans for us!
We were staying steps away from Plaza Trinidad which is one of the central areas of Getsemani. It is surrounded by numerous bars and restaurants playing live music in the open – a very bohemian vibe. Entire area was bustling with hundreds of people walking around with drinks dancing to the traditional Colombian music. Restaurants with bold pastel colors bustling with outside seated patrons really upped the vibes for us.
With our little one enjoying more than us our plans changed quickly. We spent couple of hours having a good dinner soaking in those vibes. People here are super friendly especially if you are traveling with kids. When we asked our waitress for the nearest deli to buy milk and water she actually went herself to the store and got us what we needed!
Day 2: Cartagena
Here a few things to see when visiting Cartagena;
- Wander around the Old city
- Explore wall art in Getsemani
- Soak the vibes in Plaza de la Trinidad
- Visit Castillo de San Felipe (evening is the best time)
- Take pictures of fancy door knobs and colorful windows
- Enjoy Colombian food and local drinks
- Visit the city beaches – Rosario island, Playa Blanca
After having a good Colombian breakfast at the hotel, we set off to explore the Old city. The city is so colorful with beautiful wall murals, colonial architecture and local artists selling their beautiful art work all around.
The whole fun of Cartagena is aimlessly wandering around the streets of the old city, soaking in the Caribbean vibes, having coconut water or freshly cut tropical fruits from roadside fruit carts, or getting lost in the narrow bylanes window shopping for local wares. It reminded us of the thelas you would see in a lot of towns in India selling fruits and vegetables. Colombia has a wide spread of exotic tropical fruits some we had never seen before. But for us it was always fresh sliced mangoes. Following lunch we went back to our hotel for a nice siesta all ready to party in the evening!
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
We couldn’t resist trying an arepa while passing by Colombitalia Arepa – a walkup eatery near trinity square in Getsemani. Favorite among the locals and tourists, order wait time can be 20-30 mins especially in the evenings. We then took a cab to the fort that have some amazing views of the city and the famous wall. Little did we know we would also see a beautiful sunset from here. The entry to this castle is 10$ and is a short uphill walk to the top. A good way to whet your appetite for some fabulous Colombian dinner.
We headed back to old city again to have dinner at one of the popular restaurant in town – La Mulata. Known for its seafood, vegetarian food was equally good.
Day 3: Cartagena to Minca
The best way to get to Minca is from Santa Marta. Take a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and from there you could either take a taxi/moto-taxi or have your hotel arrange for private transportation (at an additional cost).
We made bookings at the Sierra Alta Finca boutique hotel located in the mountains of Sierra Nevada – hour n half from Santa Marta. Little did we know the hour long treacherous journey on unpaved road would make us reconsider our decision of booking here! Once we saw the hotel and the views it had to offer is another story. Welcomed by special drinks, specially curated Colombian meal and an outdoor hot tub with mountain views was enough to make us forget the horrible jeep ride.
We spent rest of the day hanging at the lounge area watching sunset, making bonfire and gazing stars.
Day 4: Minca
Did you know Colombia has the highest no. of bird species in the world?! We were woken in the morning to beautiful and unique sounds of so many different birds. Having a binocular on us would have been a plus, something you should add to your list of items to bring.
Here are some activities to do when visiting nature lover’s paradise Minca;
- Plenty of hiking trails leading to cascading waterfalls
- Tour coffee plantations – La Victoria farm
- Chill at world’s largest hammock in Casa Elemento
- Visit Pozo Azul swimming holes
- Bird watching
- Visit cacao museum
We knew our trip would be incomplete without a hike so we carried hiking carrier for our toddler. Today we ventured out for a 4 mile hike to the lesser known yet beautiful waterfalls in the mountains. The hike we took was pretty scenic – Sierra Nevada mountain peaks, giant bamboo plants and some toucans!
Famished after the long hike, we stepped into a road side stall cum house, where we had cold local beer with sheer view of the mountains. Preparing a veg meal was a first for them; though I never could have guessed had the chef not mentioned.
We spent our evening relaxing in the hot tub sipping fresh coconut water enjoying beautiful sunset views. Later we enjoyed dinner with the rest of the guests staying here – in short a fun evening!
Day 5: Minca
To recover from previous day’s hike we lazed around in the morning and later visited the La Victoria coffee plantation. By the way you have to visit the cafe inside this plantation for mouth watering sandwiches and delicious cakes. Our ride back home was moto-taxi – basically you pillion ride on a motorbike – nothing short of an adventure on the unpaved road.
Day 6: Cartagena
We woke up fresh on Day 6 morning after the long road journey back from Minca. On our last day in Colombia we did some shopping at the local market. Explored Bocagrande area, Plaza Santo Domingo, took pictures of the umbrella lane and just idle walked. Cartagena is known for its beautiful artistic doors and windows.
We also headed downtown on foot, visited the old church and basically soaked in as much sun as we could before heading back to our chilly abode.