Top Takeaways from Cartagena, Colombia
Updated: Aug 5, 2022
In October 2021, I was lucky enough to visit Cartagena, Colombia through a collaboration with the Colombia tourism board and a local tour company. I didn’t know much about Colombia before visiting but I absolutely fell in love with the country and can’t wait to return and explore more. Here are three of my biggest takeaways from my time in Cartagena and the surrounding area.
1. It is incredibly diverse.
I visited right before Disney’s Encanto was released. Watching that movie, I can say that it certainly appears that they got the diversity aspect right with the Family Madrigal. Colombians are visually diverse, but also have unique cultural groups. One village that we visited is called San Basilio de Palenque and it was the first “free town” in the Americas for African slaves. This African village has held on so tightly to the cultures that they were ripped from, that they actually have traditions alive today that no longer exist even in Africa. It was an honor to visit the school that they have dedicated to traditional African arts and see the amazing kids who are holding on to Africa while also blending in some modernity. Colombia has 69 native languages, and the Palenque language of San Basilio de Palenque is one of them.
2. It feels safe.
I never felt uncomfortable during my time there. There is a large police presence inside the walled city which felt reassuring, never menacing as can be the case in some countries. They were taking Covid precautions seriously and police were reminding pedestrians to wear their masks inside the walled section. There is a sizable homeless population and it was explained to us that a couple of the main contributors are Venezuelan refugees as well as Covid. There were some individuals selling their wares on the streets but no one was pushy. Overall, everyone felt friendly, welcoming, and proud of their country.
3. It is an explosion of art and color.
Everywhere we turned there were murals and statues and artists selling their work. The palenqueras serve as inspiration for a lot of that art with their brightly colored dresses and fruit bowls balancing on their heads. The Getsemani neighborhood is particularly vibrant and a great place to pick up a couple of oil paintings to bring home.
Colombia has truly become my favorite country that I have visited. There is a beautiful, new, all-inclusive resort, but I think the best way to visit is through a completely customized itinerary with a mixture of small group tours and solo exploration. If a Colombian adventure sounds appealing to you, send me an email at email@example.com so we can get to work planning the perfect trip for you!