Its Colombia NOT Columbia
When I think of Colombia I think of the photos everyone takes with the smiling, darker skinned women, wearing loud colorful dresses, and fruit baskets on their heads. These Afro - Colombian woman are known as Palenqueras and they come from a small town near Cartagena, Colombia called San Basilo de Palenque, the first FREE town in the Americas . THE FIRST FREE TOWN IN THE AMERICAS! How dope is that?! You have the oppurtunity to visit this place, today in 2020. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site .
The people of Palenque speak a language that is a mixture of Swahili and Zulu and to this day they still preserve a lot of the culture and rituals from their African ancestors. The people of Palenque hold a strong sense of values for women, especially the black woman .
Tours to Palenque are not offered daily so plan accordingly! We booked our tour through Experience Real Cartagena. http://experiencerealcartagena.com/ a black owned tour company, offering a variety of tours.They pick you up from your hotel, or airbnb and offered lunch on this tour.
ASHLEY TIP - Make sure you wear sunscreen if you choose to take this tour. Palenque is about an hour from Cartagena and it felt 3x hotter!
Our tour guides shirts read " Let a black man tell you the black history" I neeeeeeeeed!
I loved, loved, loved Colombia! I will definitely be returning, whether its to Cartagena, Medellin, or a different city. While in Cartagena I felt extremely safe, the food was amazzzzzzing, the locals very friendly, and I couldn't ask for better weather.
ASHLEY TIP - As I mentioned in the Thailand post make sure to get the Currency App. This app works offline as long as you download your currency in advance. In #Colombia they use the Colombian Peso.
To get and idea USD $10 = COP $34,985
If you are bringing USD your dollar is VERY strong.
ASHLEY TIP ON TIPPING - When you receive a bill in a restaurant towards the bottom it usually says "Voluntario" or "Provisino" this means the tip is already included in the bill. Some servers will make you aware of this some will not, so you be sure to pay attention, if you don't like the service you can request they remove it.
WHERE TO STAY - The tourist areas in Cartagena, are The Walled City, Getsemani, Boca Grande, and El Laguito. We stayed in an airbnb in El Laguito, El Laguito is known as the beach town. These four cities are all next to each other, a cab ride from the furthest points El Laguito to the Walled City is bout $3 USD. A cab ride from the airport to El Laguito (passing the Walled City) is about $6 USD.
BEACHES IN COLOMBIA - Beaches in the tourist areas are a disappointment, especially if you have ever been to Antigua. (FYI I'll be making a lot of Antigua references - we have the best beaches its a FACT google it ) The Cartagena water is rough, needless to say I did not swim. Don't let this deter you Colombia has amazing beaches you just have to travel about an hour outside of the city to get to them. Some beaches I recommend are Isla Baru, Rosario Islands, and Playa Blanca you can find day tours to these beaches online or even once you arrive on island.
Our first full day in Cartagena we took a tour of San Basilo de Palenque. The next day we did my moms favorite.... Hop on Hop Off Bus! I won't lie Cartagena's Hop on Hop Off Bus Route is #NoBueno. Basically what they do is they have hotel pickups for about 7 of the stops, mind you there are only about 15 stops and one route. It was $15 USD it also came with a walking tour of the old city so if you need something to fill your day sure, learn a little of the countries history but if you don't make it you'll live!
ASHLEY TIP: I love Hop on Hop Off buses its the best way to see the city at a reasonable price at your own pace. If you ever consider doing one of these tours be sure to do your research first - see how many routes the bus offers and make sure the stops interest you. Also see if they offer tours on the side with purchase of your ticket - for example in Barcelona, we went to flamenco show and a Gaudi museum - things I probably wouldn't have done on my own, and fully enjoyed both experiences.
The following day we explored El Tutumo and Salinas de Galerazamba. El Tutumo, mud volcano is a huge tourist attraction, its all about timing. We arrived there at the perfect time and were able to avoid the lines! El Tutumo can be done on your own or through a tour company. We choose to do it through a tour company and also chose to complete the day by seeing Salinas de Galerzamba or The Pink Sea. So you arrive at El Tutumo and you can request for one of the guys to take your photos for you, you can also get a "massage" while in the mud, and have someone wash you in the lake afterwards. Each service is an extra $1.50 USD. The lady that washed me in the lake did an amazing job. She took my top off and my bottom off and washed them out for me. I was like ok sis we real friends now and I gave her a hug. My body was in the water so I wasn't exposed but she surprised me with how well she cleaned me up and got all the mud off. If you don't want to bathe in the lake just ask someone who works there for a hose. El Tutumo is one of those places you don't have to look cute, and I wouldn't recommend wearing an expensive swimsuit.
El Tutumo! Before and after.
We purchased this tour through hicartagena.com the tour guide wasn't my favorite, our tour guide didn't say much of anything, literally.....
We also took a street food tour that we found through Air BNB experiences, which was pretty cool.
FOOD ! FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! Everyone's favorite subject!😊 Food is very reasonably priced even in the most touristy areas. You can "blow a bag" on a healthy meal and still be spending less than $30 USD for two people to eat. Some restaurants that I recommend are Boca Rica, Palo Santo, Mar y Zielo, El Kilo, Cande, Elys for brunch, and Epoca for brunch . Pictured below is a typical Colombian meal. This meal for two persons including drinks and tip was about $22USD.
Colombia is known for arepas! Don't leave and not try some. For local arepas I recommend Donde Magola, Coin St Arepas #IYKYK (ask a local - how to get to Coin St) and get arepas con queso, thank me later, also go to Loncheria Polo Norte. For the eggroll empanada!
Top to Bottom: Coin St Arepa con Queso, Eggroll Empanada, Donde Magola arepa with fried egg and meat.
I sea pink! #NoFilter - me pictured at the Pink Sea
With that being said ,don't let the basic people in your life scare you from going to Colombia, I saw no evidence of drug cartels or any of that nonsense. I felt very safe and would travel there solo in a heartbeat!
Any questions or comments? LMK!
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