Volcán de Lodo El Totumo
About 50k northeast of Cartagena, a few kilometres off the coast, is Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano. Instead of lava and ashes, the crater is filled with warm mud as thick as cream. A makeshift wooden banister leads the way to the top of the volcano. We climbed down in the crater and took a mud bath and a mud massage from an experienced locals. The mud contains minerals and seems to have therapeutic properties. It's enormous fun and highly recommended. The nearby laguna Cienaga de Totumo serveD as a natural bath for washing off the mud. Our skin felt amazingly smooth after that.
The mud bath is offered free of charge but you are excpected to tip anyone who helped you: the guy for storing your clothes and your belongings, other for holding onto your camera and taking pictures while you are immersed in the mud, and the woman who helped you wash off the mud in the lagune. Expect to tip the workers for their good deeds - anywhere from 2.000 – 5.000 COP, depending on the service.
The easiest way to get there is to take a tour. Several tour operators in Cartagena offers minibus trips to the volcano. I did the tour with Los Pinos and booked it through hotel Porvenir where I was staying. The tour was 35.000 COP (January 2010) and included a transportation to the volcano and lunch in Manzanillo del Mar fishing village on the return journey.
more pics in the travelogues
Manzanillo del Mar
On the return journey from Volcán de Lodo El Totumo we made a stop for lunch in a lovely pueblo Manzanillo del Mar. It's a little fishing village with the population of nearly 1.200, just a short drive from Cartagena. Basic infrastructure is deficient; the community has electricity but no sewage or potable water. Its seaside is vulnerable to sea storms that occasionally wash off the road on the seaside edge of the village. The community depends on fishing and handicraft production for their living, and lately also on tourism. There is not much to do here except for the beach, which is rather empty during the week, with more people coming from Cartagena on weekends.
The lunch was not ready yet when we arried in Manzanillo del Mar so I took the opportunity to take a walk along the long sand beach. There were only a few local people on the beach and us tourists who came with the tour for lunch in one of the simple restaurants under the thatched roof. I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and would gladly spend the whole day here. Well, perhaps another time.
more pics in the travelogue
- Food and Dining
- Hiking and Walking
the old port is now a tourist port
This is hardly off the beaten but not exactly a must see anymore either though surely it its day it was! The old port of Cartagena has been reduced to a much smaller function than its industrious past but still retains a certain charm with large old sailing vessels still on display. It is also the departure port for boats going to Playa Blanca and Isla del Rosario, the two main places tourists are likely to be heading by boat.
You can get some great shots of the walls of Cartagena as well as its skyline from here at dusk.
- Sailing and Boating
- Historical Travel
La Iglesia de San Roque
La Iglesia de San Roque will likely escape your attention unless you are staying in the Getsemani section of Cartagena but it is a very pretty small church built in 1674. It was named after the patron saint of pandemic diseases, San Roque who died before the plague reached Europe.
At the wall end of Calle de la Media Luna in Getsemani
- Religious Travel
El Monumento a la India Catalina
El Monumento a la India Catalina is a simple if touching tribute to the native people who lived in this area prior to the Spanish Conquest. The strong and beautiful woman depicted is Catalina who was Pedro de Heredia's interpreter so obviously a key figure in the town's development. It dates back to only 1974 and is not overly impressive but it's worth the small walk to see not only in its own right but also to see the surrounding area which gives you a small glimpse into the “real” Cartagena that is less about a fairy tale town and more of a typical South American metropolitan area. It's a great area for authentic and cheap snacks too!
At the far end of Avenida Venezuela on the way out of the walled city.
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
Parque del Centario
Parque del Centario looks very promising on the free map the tourist information center gives you. It is by far the biggest park in town and the entranceways are painted in a luscious yellow with white trim and picturesque statues atop. It was right next to the area we were staying to it was easy enough for us to visit and we hoped for a lush green oasis to escape the city's noted heat. So, it was not unusual that we walked through it our very first day in town en route to the more famed Old Town area. It was spacious and there were a fair amount of trees though not as lush as we had anticipated. That said, it would have been a perfectly pleasant place to sit and read a book if it were not for the preponderance of derelicts that seemed to have the same idea as us albeit the book. It was also generally run down compared to the gorgeous entranceways that beckoned us in. We never went back into the park again but passed it often and took many photos of what we found to be its best feature, those very entrances we first noticed.
The large area between Avenida Daniel Lemaitre, Cale de la Media Luna, and Avenida del Centario
- Budget Travel
The Aquarium (Oceanario)
The tour boats to Islas del Rosario stops at Isla de San Martin de Pajarales where there is an aquarium. I was the only one from my boat who visited the aquarium, but there were many other boats there and lots of visitors. We had to go in a group with a guide. In the big pools of the aquarium there are dolphins, sharks, turtles and rays. There are also a few small aquariums with small fish and there is a crocodile. They had a dolphin show and as this was the first time I saw one I absolutely think I made the right decision to visit the aquarium (and not go snorkelling, or just wait outside the aquarium as some other tourists did.). By the entrance there are snacks and a few souvenirs for sale.
Admission to the aquarium was 15 000 pesos (August 2008).
- National/State Park
Islas del Rosario
Islas del Rosario is an archipelago situated about 35 km southwest of Cartagena. The islands and the reefs are part of a national park, Parque Nacional Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo. The archipelago consists of around 30 coral islands with low vegetation. Some of the islands are very small with only one house. Many of those smaller islands are privately owned. But for those who want to stay over night there are a few hotels and houses for rent on the bigger islands. Most people visit Islas del Rosario on a daytrip from Cartagena though, and so did I.
There are no big beaches on the islands but there are smaller strips of white sand where you can swim (if you are visiting on a daytrip you will probably stop at the larger Playa Blanca on the way back to Cartagena) and the reefs are good for snorkelling and diving. But unfortunately the reefs are not as good as they used to be as warm water currents have destroyed much. On one of the islands there is also an aquarium to visit.
- National/State Park
- Diving and Snorkeling
Playa Blanca with its fine white sand is supposed to be the best beach around Cartagena. I only visited for a few hours as part of an Isla Rosario trip (and so do many other people). We came here to eat lunch (a good fish meal) and then we had time for swimming and sun bathing. Before going to Isla Rosario the boat had dropped a few people who were spending more time at Playa Blanca. You can rent snorkel equipment on the beach. I didn’t so I don’t know how much it cost and what there is to see, but it is supposed to be quite good conditions.
Playa Blanca is not exactly an off the beaten path place, but it is outside Cartagena. It is situated about 20 km southwest of Cartagena.
Day trip to the Lodo del Totumo
A day trip to the Lodo del Totumo is a great way to spend a different day in cartagena, especially at weekends, when everyone seems to be going to the beach.
Lodo del Totumo is a mud volcano located about 1 hour from cartgagena... there are regular cheap day trips there and it's fun. You are taken to this tiny volcano which is filled with natural mud. You can simply soak in mud or have local men massage you in there. When you come out of the volcano there's a lagoon a few hundred metres away, where you can wash off the mud.. and maybe relax a bit in one of the stalls selling coconut juice.
Keep in mind that everyone expects a tip.. for taking pictures of you, for massaging you, for helping you in the lagoon. The fixed untold price is 2000 COP to each person (as per July 2008)
A walk in Avenida San Martín in Bocagrande
Avenida San Martín is the main avenue in Bocagrande and the center of Bocagrande's social life. You will find in Avenida San Martín many retail shops, restaurants and hotels, catering to locals and those tourists, generally recurrent Colombians, who spend their vacations in Cartagena and get a place in Bocagrande.
Nothing to impressed of indeed, this is neither Manhattan's Fifth Avenue nor Paris' Champs Eliseé, you will just find a handful of mid-class retail shops and local-chain restaurants in between a lineup of high-rise condos, but it is nice to have a walk and even a meal and get a good taste of mid-class life in the city of Cartagena.
If you are taking a Night-tour on a chiva (See my tip on the subject in the Nightlife Section), the tours depart from Avenida San Martín. My understanding is also the city-tours on the horse-pulled carts pass from here. If you are not taking either one, not a bad idea coming on purpose. Every taxi can take you here or you can walk from the Historical City Center.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Day on the Islands
Take the trip to the Rosario islands over 28 islands with lunch, hammocks, beautiful carribean waters. HAVE THE KIDS CATCH YOU A LOBSTER FOR 5 DOLLARS.You can find the trip easily in Boca Grande at any hotel. Don't miss
To see this river was my dream, and it was a great trip. The delta is covered by thick and tall grass, which gradually turns to palm forests and farms as you sail upstream. It is connected to Cartagena by a canal dug out during colonial times.
El Volcan de Totumo
Halfway between Cartagena and Barranquilla you can find the Volcan de Totumo is a giant mud volcano in which you can take mud baths. one of the most bizare and cool things I have done. The Volcano rises above the surrounding area about 45 feet and gives you a great view of the surounding lake and countryside.
Once on the top, you can ease yourself in to the tepid mud and feel yourself suspended in the stuff, you cannot sink in the stuff, it is too thick so you float there and it is a rather pleasent sensation. There are guys up there who will give you a nice mud massage. very odd. When you are done, carefully climb down the stairs, slick with mud, and make your way to the lagoon where women will unceramoniously strip you and wash you clean in the lake. Don'y forget to keep any parts you want private below the watterline and tip yoiur massause and washer when you finish up.
Real Pearl White Beaches!!!
Most transportation for a beautiful beach involves an hour or too in a boat and you arrive right on the shore right?
With Playa Blanca the story is a bit different, You might have to take 3 buses but its soooooo worth it.
You could also go with a local if possible.
This beaches are amazing for camping and there not a soul around some of them so you can tan nude or have lunch with the locals.
They also have like little set ups for hamacs and tents if you wish to stay longer.
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