Main Cities on the Colombian Caribbean Coast Part I

Taking advantage of the fact that I live on the Colombian Caribbean Coast, I want to tell you about some of the major cities in this region of Colombia. Today, I want to focus on the cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla, my current city.

Cartagena

Cartagena is not only one of the biggest cities on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, but is also one of the most popular tourist destinations for both Colombians and foreign tourists. Cartagena, more so than any other Colombian city on the Caribbean Coast, is a living historical city. The overly charming historic city centre (also known as la ciudad amurallada) of Cartagena is still contained within the massive stone walls constructed by the Spaniards, and the historic buildings within the walls are impressively preserved. In addition to offering a unique historical experience, Cartagena also offers a remarkable variety of beach and water experiences.

Colombia Cartagena

Part of the remaining fortress structure around the historic center of the “walled city”

A short walk, or ride, from the historic city centre you will find the public beaches of Bocagrande, where you will find a good mix of both locals and  tourists soaking up the sun, enjoying local food, and participating in various water sports and activities. In Bocagrande, you can also find a host of boutique shops and local handicrafts. If you want a more exclusive experience, you can catch a boat to the nearby Islas del Rosario, a beautiful island chain, where you will find crystalline waters, pearl white sand, and coral reefs waiting to be explored. Cartagena offers the perfect mix of cultural, historical, and tropical beach experiences. It is a city that you will most definitely want to visit during your time in Colombia.

Islas del Rosario

Islas del Rosario

To get to Cartagena, you can fly directly to Rafael Nuñez International Airport, or you can catch a bus from almost any major city in Colombia, including Barranquilla (2 hours) and Santa Marta (4 hours) on the Caribbean Coast.

Barranquilla

Located about 2 hours to the northeast of Cartagena is the biggest city on the Colombian Caribbean Coast: Barranquilla. Home to the second largest Carnival celebration in the world, Barranquilla is a great city to explore for a couple of days. Hands down, the best time to come to Barranquilla is during the annual Carnival celebration when the city comes alive with colors, music, aromas, and dances that will leave you breathless! However, if you cannot make it during Carnival, there are other things you can check out in Barranquilla as well.

Marimonda floats in Barranquilla’s Carnval

Marimonda floats in Barranquilla’s Carnval

Unlike Cartagena, Barranquilla does not have many historical options, but does offer an impressive variety of culinary experiences. Barranquilla is known for its incredible Arabic food, its traditional costeño (coastal) food (especially at the traditional Narcobollo restaurant), and locally caught and cooked seafood in riverside restaurants in the neighborhood Las Flores. There are also the local beaches in Puerto Colombia and Salgar—small municipalities about 20 minutes outside Barranquilla—to check out, as well as St. Nicholas Cathedral in the city centre and the historic neighborhood of El Prado, which is definitely worth a walk through.

St. Nicholas Cathedral and Plaza in Barranquilla’s city centre

St. Nicholas Cathedral and Plaza in Barranquilla’s city centre

To get to Barranquilla, you can fly directly to Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport or you can catch a bus from most major cities in Colombia, including those on the Caribbean Coast.

Until next time,

Paige M. Poole

About the author:

“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie.  You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com

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