First off, let me just say that Cartagena is beautiful.
From the pastel colored buildings and rich history to the lovely weather, it was an amazing time. I spent about four days out there and it honestly wasn’t enough for me. Even though I didn’t get to make my way to the beach (ugh) I spent a good bit of time in the Walled City and the funky Getsemani neighborhood. I feel like those two made up for whatever I missed this first visit, but I’ll definitely be going back to see what else there is to offer. Sooner than later actually, like in a few months sooner. I loved it out there so much.
As I mentioned in my previous solo trip post, the thought of solo travel was never off-putting or scary to me. I was intrigued more than anything else. I want to see as much of the world as possible so when I can go, I’m going. Coordinating trips with other people isn’t always practical or easy because of work schedules, responsibilities, etc., so I decided to take full advantage of the times when I can just get up and go.
My flight left on an early Saturday morning—I wanna say it was like 6:30am. It was a comfy and quick 3 and a half hour flight to Panama with Copa Airlines. I switched planes then rode for another hour until I reached Cartagena.
My AirBNB was about a fifteen minute ride from the airport and lucky me, my taxi driver was bilingual and spoke pretty good English. He welcomed me several times and told me about some restaurants and historical sights to visit. He kept saying, "If you have time go here..” or, “If your schedule permits,” because he KNEW five days wasn’t gonna be enough time to really explore and see everything. Honestly, I didn’t have a whole bunch on my agenda (for vacations I never do) this trip was mainly for relaxation (which I did a LOT of), so mission accomplished.
By the time I reached my AirBNB, the weather had cleared up a bit. It was raining on and off which was annoying, but at that point it was sunny but still a little sticky out. The only thing on my mind was getting settled in and getting something to eat. I was staying in the heart of the Getsemani neighborhood and y’all, I’m so glad I did. Everything was so colorful, warm and within walking distance, including Bonche Gastrobar—the first place I made my way to for some food. It was right across the street from where I was staying, so it was perfect. Note to self for next trip: pack plenty snacks and then some more snacks in your carry on.
At Bonche, I ordered the Pulpo Crocante which was just crispy octopus served with creole-style mashed potatoes. This dish turned out to be pretty damn good with a lil bit of hot sauce. LOL. I got it in a to go box because I thought I’d wanna head back to my room and just eat there and catch up with my host, but that changed once I actually sat down. My tired ass didn’t even feel like walking across the street. I just chilled at the bar for a bit, sang along to some of my fave songs while enjoying that wonderfully fried octopus and margarita pictured below.
After I ate, I decided to walk around the neighborhood for a bit since the rain had completely stopped. I noticed some kids running around, some other solo travelers snapping it up and soaking up the sights which was cool, and there were a few locals just chillin’ on their porches, sipping beer. Sounds like a pretty chill Saturday afternoon if you ask me. This super sweet older lady offered me some mangoes from her cart and pointed me to a ducked off liquor store—like, girl yes! Thank you. I don’t know much Spanish; I don’t know any Spanish besides a few common phrases so it was soooo cool that my first few encounters were with people who spoke/understood a little English. That was literally the ONLY thing I was worried about with this trip. Lets just say, I did a lot of talking with my hands and google translating. It wasn’t bad at all, though.
The Getsemani neighborhood had such a home-y, retro and relaxed vibe, but it’s also hella lit. For various reasons, of course. There are vendors, cool bars/lounges, wonderful artwork, friendly locals…I would definitely recommend trying to stay in that area, especially if you’re traveling alone. A lot of restaurants are close by and there’s always something to do. If you’re “bored” there it’s because you choose to be!
I booked some fun outdoor activities for Sunday morning and that afternoon but due to inclement weather, they were cancelled. I wasn’t really too too upset about it, honestly because sleeping in and staying in bed most of the day seemed more appealing at the time anyway. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the thought of constantly having to be on the move while on a trip. Sure, you’re in a new place, but the point of a vacation is to relax. I knew I’d have plenty time to explore, so not doing any of that for a few hours really didn’t bother me. It was perfect, “stay in the room with the lights down low and just read for hours” type weather. Ain’t no complaints.
During my stay in Cartagena, I was able to link up with Isabel for a night full of drinks, laughter, salsa dancing. #LIT. I interviewed her on my blog last year so you haven’t already, check out that post here! Coincidentally, she was vacationing there the same time as me. I found out a few days before my trip, so we immediately made plans to link up when we could. Sunday night, we decided to go out for drinks at Alquimico, a really nice bar in the Walled City. The historic city reminded me a lot of the French Quarter here in New Orleans. I’m pretty sure that’s why I felt so at home. Has to be. We had a drink in the downstairs bar room area which was a great vibe, but after about a half hour, we decided to retreat to the rooftop to hear some better music and and get better views.
We were out alllllll night on Sunday. We went from spot to spot and bar to bar…y’all I hadn’t been out like that in a while, so I surprised myself with how well I was keeping up with the turn up lol. You can usually just catch me at a happy hour every now and then and dassit. We passed by spots like Cafe Havana in Getsemani (told y’all it’s popping over there), which had a live band and salsa all night. We also went to a club up the street from Alquimico that I can’t remember the name of but I remember those strong ass drinks. They were very generous with the liquor and for that I was #grateful.
The next day, I decided to get up a little early so I could head to brunch. The weather was absolutely beautiful (finally) so I was looking forward to being out and about in the streets. I ended up La Brioche, a cute and cozy breakfast spot in the Walled City. It was about a fifteen minute walk from my AirBNB, but the weather was great so I didn’t care. Sunny skies and a light breeze= perfection. I decided to be basic because starving, so I ordered pancakes and a mimosa. I knew it would be good AF. As a matter of fact, it was muy delicioso. Isabel recommended that place to me the night before, so I made it a point to put it on my list. As you’ll see in this post, I didn’t have many traditional Colombian dishes except for the meals my host cooked. That was completely fine with me. As long as ya girl eats, period..I’m good.
I booked a photo walk around the Walled City with Alex, a proud Cartagenian and local college student. We met up at La Caponera Bar around 3:30pm then walked over to the Walled City. Once there, we headed to Mirador Gastrobar for drinks. Mirador’s full menu wasn’t available yet, so we had a traditional Colombian cocktail to kick off the evening.
After a good two hours of walking, getting history lessons and having deliciously unhealthy street food, I was exhausted. There was so much going on in the city this day. Lots of travelers were out and about and there were a few wedding receptions going on. And of course, there were vendors galore. Handmade trinkets, artwork, keychains, etc. You name it, they had it. Alex made it a point to try to avoid the areas where there’d be too many tourists since she wanted to me to get a genuine feel for her city. Realistically there was only so far we could get away, as the Walled City has turned into a hotspot for tourists over the years.
This is the type of vacationer I am: I want to see things, oh and ah at breathtaking views, EAT, but I want to just chill more than anything. The freedom to do just that is probably one of my favorite things about traveling alone. My plans can change as much as I want. I don’t have to compromise and though I have no issues doing so, it feels great to not even have to consider it. My last few days were spent doing a bunch of random stuff. Big chilling. I went out with my host to hear live music one of those nights, but I was having such a good time, I didn’t take my phone or camera out for pictures. I was living in the moment, sipping whiskey cocktails and eating empanadas well into the morning.
I saw this cute restaurant near where I was staying, so I said I’d eat over there at least once. Basilicia Pizzeria gets 10 out of 10 stars from me. Straight up. I found that this spot got pretty packed at night, but when I went for lunch, I was the only one there. You know what that meant? There was zero wait. Quick service and amazing food= a happy Lyndsey.
I wandered into a museum after lunch….
So, are you considering Cartagena? Wanna make your way to South America? Cool. I think you should. I loved my time out there so I have no doubt that you will too. If you’re curious about traveling alone, don’t let fear stop you! This was my second solo trip and it won’t be my last. I think the main thing to keep in mind when traveling alone is the importance of being aware of your surroundings. Use your common sense. Don’t do no dumb shit you know you wouldn’t do at home. Also, carry yourself with confidence. When I walked down the street, I always had an idea of where I was going because GPS, so I walked like I knew where the hell I was going and what the hell was going on. Don’t be out fumbling with a map, pointing around and looking scared. Gather your path before you leave your hotel/hostel then just go explore. Cartagena is a beautiful destination so add it to you must visit wishlist ASAP!
peace and blessings,