During my stay in Colombia, I spent a lot of time in and around Cartagena. Since I had to work during the week, I was really happy to find out, that there is plenty of day trip-opportunities around Cartagena.
So here are my two favorites 🙂
- Volcàn de Lodo el Totumo
This one was by far my favorite. I mean… how often do you get the chance to bath in a mud volcano?
To get there you simply book a tour , which you can do around every corner in the city center of old town Cartagena and in the area of Bocagrande. The busrides there and back cost between 15.000 to 20.000 COP, included is the entrance fee to the volcano area, you will also stop at a beach on the way back and the trip even includes lunch. Warning for vegetarians and vegans … you might be on the safer side if you bring your own snacks to those kind of organized tours in Colombia. Chances are that you will be offered „pollo“ ( chicken) as a vegetarian option.
The drive to the volcano takes about 30 minutes. The bus stops right in front of the volcano, where lots of locals already wait for you, offering you services like mud massages, taking pictures for you while you are in the volcano and the post-mud-volcano-wash. NOT taking the last one is almost no option, as I figured out after my mud volcano experience. There is no showers or anything that comes close to a shower in the area, so after your volcano bath , the only option to get the sticky (but really healthy) mud off you is to wash yourself in the nearby river. Doing that without the help of local women proved itself much more difficult than I imagined. So my advice is, pay the extra 3.000 COP. 🙂
The mud volcano experience itself is simply surreal. You climb down a steep ladder and then let yourself float into the suspicious looking and weirdly bubbling mud. The funniest thing about being in there is, that you feel kind of weightless and since the mud is really dense, you don’t sink, quite the contrary, it’s almost impossible to keep your limbs under the surface.
I spent about 20 minutes in the warm mud, which is about the time they give you anyway. There is always a line waiting to get into the mud, so you better stick to the „normal“ mud bathing time.
After washing off in the river, the bus will take you to either back to Cartagena, or, when you booked the all day long tour, to a beach on the way back , where you’ll be having lunch and the chance to wash of the last bits of mud.
2. Playa Blanca , Isla Baru
A trip to Isla Baru is a must do when in Cartagena. Since the beaches in Cartagena itself aren’t that special, you should at least once get to see the gorgeous ones on the islands close to Cartagena. Isla Baru is probably the most known and most popular of those islands.
There are boats going to Playa Blanca, Isla Baru every day, official ones and then, not so official ones , where silent men take you there on their tiny , crammed boats. Of course these boat-rides come with a bit more of „adventure“ than the big cruises! 😉 You can buy the tickets at the Port of Cartagena, which is located about 15 minutes of walking from the city gate of ciudad vieja. When taking the cruises, they will offer you a round trip with a meal included. I wouldn’t recommend buying these tickets to anybody. You’ll arrive at the Beach around noon, waste time eating your lunch ( which definitely isn’t the best food you can buy at Playa Blanca), and then you’ve only got about 2 hours of beach-time left, because the cruises leave at 3 pm.
I went to Isla Baru twice, the first time I took one of the more adventurous boats to the island and I also booked a tour that took me on a detour to Islas del Rosario as well… which is basically a bunch of tiny Island (very touristy) , where you can go snorkeling for about an hour… It’s not really worth booking that tour, even though ALL the vendors will tell you , that this package deal is the best you can get! 😛 Having two hours more to spend at Playa Blanca is waaay better.
Arriving at Playa Blanca is breathtaking. In the morning, before the big cruises arrive , the beach looks like a scene straight out of a cheesy Hollywood movie. Little huts along the beach, most of them you can rent for the night, some are places where you can buy food and drinks, countless palm trees and the color of the ocean is so turquoise it looks fake.
I slept in one of the huts , on an actual mattress, even thought the thought of sleeping in a hammock on the beach was also tempting.
All day long locals walk around selling fruit bowls , coconut drinks or smoothies , there is also women who offer massages on the beach and occasionally there will be a vendor coming by, with beautiful handmade jewelry on his/her portable stand.
If you aren’t the hammock or hut type of traveler, there is also a bunch of hostels and a hotel on the Island.
Tips for your day-trip to Playa Blanca
- Spend the night, because then you’ll be able to enjoy the gorgeous beach outside of the day tourist hours (12 -3 pm).
2. As mentioned above, there is various ways to get to Playa Blanca, boat rides, cruises and probably the best way of all, driving there with a car. This way you won’t be part of the tourist masses and you can stay as long as you want ( the only way to leave Playa Blanca without a car, is the cruise that takes off at 3 pm).
3. Head to the end of the beach. Although there won’t be as many ( or let’s say… hardly any) stands to buy food or drinks, the beach gets more beautiful the further away you get from the cruise landing stage.
Posted by Lisa