Mompox, an enchanting colonial town, forgotten by time, located along the Magdalena river in the north of Colombia.
Mompox is a stunning Colombian town renowned for its architecture, culture and its great natural surrounding landscape. Mompox is a town frozen in time. While the rest of the country has evolved and modernised, Mompox looks pretty much as it used to be during colonial times, for this reason, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1995.
Santa Cruz de Mompox (its official name) is located in an island surrounded by an arm of the Magdalena river, in the Momposina depression between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Sierra de San Lucas. The town was founded in 1540 and was an important trading centre during the Spanish rule due to its strategic location. The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river and was the main transport route from the Caribbean coast to the centre of the country during colonial times. Mompox was also a safe place for the Spaniards to keep gold and other treasures protected from the siege of pirates and a refuge for the families running away from the pirate attacks in Cartagena.
Some of gold from the great quantity kept in the town was used to manufacture precious artefacts to celebrate the religious ceremonies in the new evangelized communities. The high demand for skilled artisans rose the interest of various goldsmiths and silversmiths from Spain to travel to Mompox and settled there, bringing their skills and techniques to the New World. This delicate and detailed work style that came from these artisans has been kept throughout the years, making Mompox famous for its filigree jewellery. If you decide to travel to Mompox make sure you check the amazing work done by the local metal artisans; you might even be tempted by the chance to buy a set of delicate gold or silver filigree earrings, rings or bracelets.
Wandering around Mompox‘s main streets (middle street (Calle del Medio), back street (Calle de Atrás) and the street in front of the river (La Albarradas)), you will see the magnificent colonial churches (five churches in total: Santa Bárbara, La Concepción, Santo Domingo, San Francisco and San Agustín), mansions, houses and one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Colombia. Any Momposino will tell you the curious story about the cats frequently visiting one of the tombs in the cemetery, the tomb of Alfredo Serrano, popularly called “El Gato” (The Cat). After he passed away, his family used to visit his grave every week, one day they found a cat on his grave, they gave him some food and since then you will frequently see around 20 cats surrounding his tomb.
Easter is one of the most important times of the year in Mompox. Celebrations start one week before Easter; the first week is called: “La Semana Santica” (The little Holly week), during this week kids and teenagers are the main actors, they dress up in traditional costumes to carry statues of saints, as it is usual during Easter. The celebrations during this week started many years ago when the local priest banned the parties and mundane celebrations alongside the Easter religious ceremonies. The community decided to have two weeks of celebrations in response: one week for parties and the other for religious ceremonies. The ban was lifted up many year ago, but the tradition continued and was turned into a celebration for the younger generations.
The gastronomic offering in Mompox is quite good, starting with local fish cooked in different ways, the capa cheese (a type of mild cheese), butifarra, chorizo and delicious desserts made of lemon or pineapple. The cheese and the desserts are definitely recommended.
There is a nice restaurant, called Fuerte San Anselmo, run by a friendly couple, an Austrian and his Colombian wife. This restaurant has a great atmosphere, pizza and beef are our recommendations here.
On top of the cultural richness and the beautiful architecture of Mompox, you will also fall in love with the nature surrounding the town. You will hear the sound of the birds, monkeys and other animals every morning as you wake up. During your visit to Mompox you can take a short tour (2 hrs) to a nearby marsh where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the beautiful landscape, take photos of eagles, herons and other birds and have the opportunity to see monkeys and other animals.
Finally, if you are a Jazz lover, you will be fascinated with the Jazz Festival held here in October, where apart from enjoying the concerts, you will be absorbed by the beautiful and intact mix of history and nature found in Mompox.
¿How to get to Mompox?
It’s not exaclty straightforward to get to Mompox. If you are not keen on finding your way through buses and ferries, the best option is to book a tour with a travel company (like us), so you don’t need to worry about the transport or accommodation. If you want to organise you own trip, follow the directions below depending on where you are:
From Cartagena or Barranquilla:
Take a bus to Magangué (5hrs approx). In Magangue, you can take either a ferry boat (1.5 hr approx) or a motorboat (chalupa) (15 min) along the Magdalena river to La Bodega. From La Bodega, take a taxi (shared or express service) that will take you to Mompox (45 minutes). On the road you should try Diabolines (a typical snack made of tapioca flour, salty cheese, milk, eggs and butter). A great snack for your journey, you will find people selling it by the roadside.
From Santa Marta or Valledupar:
Take a bus to the northern coast of Bosconia (6hrs approx), from there to Santa Ana and then Talaigua Nuevo, where you have to take a 15 minutes ferry to Mompox.
From Bucaramanga, Cucutá or Bogotá:
You can take a bus that goes through the Troncal del Magdalena (the main road to the northern coast) up to the village of El Burro, 10 kilometers before the municipality of Pailitas. Take the road to El Banco and from there a 4 hours trip to Mompox. During the rainy season you can take the ferry or the chalupa from El Banco to Mompox.
It is very important to plan this trip and check the departure times of the buses and boats, otherwise your trip could take longer than expected.
As you can see, it is not easy to get to Mompox but it is definitely worth the hassle.
We hope you find this review useful. As usual, we would welcome your comments below.
The Uncover Colombia Team
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