Colombia – a trip to paradise

From Cartagena to Tolú and to the San Bernardo Islands

Once Colombia had the reputation of being dangerous, a country of guerrillas and drug lords, but those dark times are over. Nowadays it’s safe, and since it’s been spared from mass tourism, it’s truly pleasant traveling there. My trip took me from Cartagena, and to Tolú and the San Bernardo islands.

Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533 and is a colorful colonial city on the Caribbean coast. In 1984 UNESCO declared the colonial old town and its fortress a World Heritage Site.

I found a nice little hostel with a pool, hammocks, a tropical garden and sun bathers just a five-minute walk from the colonial old town. Cartagena is also the ideal starting point for day trips. For example it’s a day trip to visit the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, a volcano that spits “fango” (mud). Taking a bath in this crater full of fango is an unforgettable experience and good for the skin.

The colonial old town is full of colorful little streets and street vendors are all over the place. If you love salsa you will like the famous Café Havana, this is a place you shouldn’t miss as it is one of the top addresses in Cartagena’s nightlife.

After visiting Cartagena, my journey took me a little bit off the beaten track. I went to Tolú, a small town in the province of Sucre. Here you won’t find many foreigners, but you will find the typical relaxed Caribbean flair. There are mainly bike taxis that take you from one end of the town to the other in a few minutes.

Most people who get there either want to continue to Coveñas – a small beach resort village a few miles further down the coastal highway, which is very popular among locals. Otherwise they get stranded in Tolú on their way to the San Bernardo Islands.

These picturesque, peaceful islands – located about 25 miles off the coast of Tolú – were also my destination. The archipelago consists of ten islands and it truly is a little paradise, with white beaches and turquoise sea. It’s the perfect place to relax, swim and snorkel, and that’s exactly what I did. For lunch, I treated myself to some fresh lobster with rice and salad plus a fresh coconut juice. What else could you wish for?!

But as we all know, every dream comes to an end at some point. In my case this meant I had to go back to the mainland. From Tolú I made one last little trip to the Cienaga de Caimanera, a swamp area that is crisscrossed by water and mangroves. Here you can take a canoe trip with a nature guide through the beautiful, unspoiled nature. Oysters grow there in the mangrove. Our nature guide took some and when we stopped at a small floating house, where he prepared the oysters for us with a mixture of lemon and tomato juice and salt. I must say that although I’m usually not a big fan of oysters, these fresh ones tasted really quite outstanding.

And with this ends of my little trip to paradise, I had to go back to real life, but the unique and beautiful impressions of this trip will remain in my memory forever.

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