There's a reason Cartagena made our list of top travel destinations for 2017. Actually there are a few. For starters, travelers can wander the charming cobblestone streets, spectacular churches, open-air cafes, relaxing beaches, and leafy public squares by day, and experience the energetic nightclubs pulsating with salsa music, horse-drawn carriages, and thriving gastronomic scene when the sun dips below the horizon. The vividly-painted colonial buildings and equally colorful palenqueras, who can be found selling fruit on the streets, are also enough to have you reaching for your camera every few seconds. But remain attentive—traffic swirls in dizzying patterns, creating a chaotic, yet vivacious vibe.
The architecture—some of which has been carefully restored, while the rest continues to gracefully crumble—isn't just photogenic, though; there’s a lot history packed within the walls. Dating back to 1533, the coastal city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, is just as heavy on the historic sites (think palaces-turned museums, forts, and former convents) as it is on the sunshine and waves. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera," not only took up shelter in the city, but also used it as his muse.
Interestingly enough, the South American country did not top many (if any) traveler’s bucket lists a decade ago, as it was rife with drug cartels, kidnappings, gang violence, and guerrilla warfare. In the past few years, cities like Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena, which have since done a 180, have seen an increase in traveler numbers. In 2015, more than 2.5 million foreigners visited Colombia (in 2005, less than 900,000 visited), and every year, the tourist crowd swells a bit more. If you need any more convincing to book a trip here, watch our video below, which will take you on a tour through Cartagena.
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