Colombia: Suggested Itinerary
Day 1: Land in Cartagena and compose before strapping on some local footwear before heading out onto the cobblestones. Move from plaza to plaza on bougainvillea-vined streets, pausing before the hushed roar of fountains or to sip a tinto, a local sweet coffee delicacy. Look out for the wonderful Botero sculpture in Plaza Santo Domingo, while if you’re not heading on to Bogotá, the Museo de Oro warrants a visit. Take dinner in one of the many outside outlets off the Plaza de la Aduana. Later, head to one of the many bars and clubs that line Calle del Arsenal in the lively Getsemaní neighbourhood for more serious dancing and drinking.
Day 2: Las Islas de Rosario. Get up early to the Muelle Turistica to guarantee a spot on a small boat to the blue waters of Las Islas Rosario for some sun. You can get excellently-priced deals that also include a local lunch and there’s extra for snorkelling. Head out to Getsemaní, where you will find many affordable and tasty local dishes on the menu.
Day 3: It’s time to visit colonial Cartagena. The wall surrounding the city is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Climb up and slalom along it, taking in long, lovely views of the ocean and admiring the city’s impeccably preserved Spanish architecture. Walk or take a cab to the Spanish fort of Castillo de San Felipe, just outside the walls. To keep the local tour guides afloat, there are no signs describing the history and significance of this monument. Either marvel in how the bare precipices, cannons, and unmarked passageways bring your pirate siege games to life or hire one of the knowledgeable guides sure to approach you.
Day 4: Santa Marta, the city by the sea is your destination today. No Colombia itinerary would be complete without a trip to Tayrona National Park. Buses to the laid-back jumping-off point, Santa Marta, leave hourly and Berlinas has some of the most modern and well-outfitted vehicles. Rest up at your hotel and ready yourself for a big night out. Hop on one of the shuttle buses running regularly to nearby Taganga, a tiny fishing village. Get directions to El Garaje, where both locals and foreigners dance like they mean it in the low, tropical light of a palm-thatched gazebo.
Day 5: Catch a local city bus heading for Parque Nacional Tayrona. 35km of bumpy jungle road and a 3.5 km hike later, a dazzling beach appears like the proverbial mirage. Whether you plan to spend the night in a hammock, tent, or cabin, make sure to bring cash. In the few miles of park – all of it right on the beach, there are only three places to eat. Each beach offers a new attraction: social hub, protected cove, perfect bodysurfing waves and even nude sunbathing. Buy a bottle of rum and make friends with the small crowd surrounding the guy with the guitar.
Day 6: Start by hiking to Pueblito, the ruins of a village of the indigenous Tayrona people. During the steep uphill climb, that’s as challenging as it is exhilarating, keep an eye out for elusive howler monkeys. Treat yourself to the significantly more upscale (but only slightly pricier eats) at the Aviatur restaurant near Arrecifes Beach.
Day 7: Hop on a bus back to Santa Marta and then head on to Cartagena, where you can cab it back to the airport.