48 hours in Cartagena, Colombia

Visiting Cartagena is like stepping into the magical world of Colombian writer and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. Its picture-perfect old city, rich culinary offerings, and vast cultural activities make it a favorite for travel connoisseurs. Here’s how to spend two days in the port town.

Where to stay

The Tscherassi Hotel and Spa is a small boutique hotel owned by one of the country's most celebrated fashion designers, Silvia Tcherassi. Located in the old city, it features seven spacious rooms that look onto a central patio surrounded by lush greenery and a turquoise swimming pool. The hotel is also home to celebrated restaurant VERA, where guests can enjoy authentic Italian cuisine al fresco.

Or book a room at Hotel Santa Clara. Housed in a former convent in the heart of the old city, it offers a nice blend of colonial architecture and world-class luxury. Many of the 123 rooms and suites have ocean views and balconies and there are multiple swimming pools, two restaurants, and a state-of-the-art fitness center on-site.

Day 1

Start the morning by grabbing breakfast at Epoca Espresso Bar. The healthy offering includes a selection of egg dishes (you can’t go wrong with huevos cocotte aka shirred eggs), and premium Colombian coffee. Then get ready to explore by bike with a guide from Bike Tours GN Cartagena. During the three-hour experience you’ll traverse the streets of the walled city, the bay, the modern city, and even ride along the beach, passing through mangroves and fishermen's villages.

For a casual lunch, head to La Cevicheria. The charming, no-frills eatery offers some of the best ceviche (chef Anthony Bourdain enjoyed the fresh fish on his travel show, Parts Unknown). Try the lobster ceviche and sit outside.

After lunch, pamper yourself with an afternoon at the Tcherassi Hotel & Spa. Start with one of the signature facials (which is personalized to meet the needs of your skin), then get a hot stone massage.

End the day by walking a couple of blocks to have dinner at La Perla, which is owned by one of Colombia’s top mixologists and boasts a one-of-a-kind Peruvian-fusion menu. Try the sirloin steak with mushroom-studded rice or the tiraditos, raw fish marinated in chili and served sashimi-style.

Day 2

Have a leisurely breakfast at your hotel and then make your way to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This 16th century fortress offers sweeping panoramic views.

Return to your room and dress up for lunch at La Vitrola. Frequented by local and international politicians, socialites, and taste-makers, the chic restaurant offers a wide variety of seafood and prime meats. Getting a reservation is hard, so make sure to plan ahead.

Walk around the old city before heading back to the hotel and changing into your swimsuit. Ask the concierge to book you a two-hour introductory class with Cartagena Kitesurf School. This adrenaline pick-me-up promises stunning views of the Caribbean sunset.

To cap off the trip, head to dinner at La Mulata for a stylish take on the traditional Latin American cuisine. The rotating menu is comprised of entree choices such as cazuela de mariscos, a stew of coconut milk, octopus, shrimp, calamari, and fish, served with plantains and coconut rice.

Photo: Getty Images