Sam Bentley. Travel + Social Media Entrepreneur Forbes 30 Under 30 / Co-Founder of UNILAD

Things To Do In Cartagena, Colombia

I visited Colombia with the great guys at FTLO Travel to design an awesome group trip. Our first stop was Cartagena and here are some of the best things we did there!

Eat Inside A Women's Prison At Restaurante Interno

This restaurant is part of a women’s prison where the inmates cook and serve the food. The money from the restaurant goes towards skill workshops for the inmates and many of them go on to work at the best restaurants in Cartagena after they’re released. A great idea, delicious food and friendly people!

Wander The Streets Of The Old Town

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Here are some of my favourite things I did in Cartagena! Restaurante Interno! This restaurant is part of a women’s prison where the inmates cook and serve the food. The money from the restaurant goes towards skill workshops for the inmates and many of them go on to work at the best restaurants in Cartagena after they’re released. A great idea, delicious food and friendly people! Wandering The Streets! Whenever I land in a new city I love to just wander the streets and get lost. Cartagena has some of the most beautiful and colourful streets I’ve ever seen, especially in the Old Town, and you’ll no doubt stumble upon hidden gems like Abaco Libros y Cafe. I didn't get chance to explore Getsemani much, but I feel like that would have been a super cool neighbourhood to wander round! Volcano Mudbath! A short drive out of Cartagena is Totumo Volcano, an active volcano which is full of warm mud that you can bathe in. Definitely the most unique/awkward/hilarious experience I had in Colombia. Also, there's a nice surprise after you get out the mudbath. Being In The Warm Sea! Between shooting we didn't get much time to chill, but for 5 minutes during our Rosario Islands tour I managed to escape and fanny around in the sea for a bit and it was glorious. Though it's not the clearest water, it's so warm, and that's good enough for me. La Perla Negra! The best food I had in Cartagena was at La Perla Negra, a restaurant that sits on the beach in La Boquilla. The floor is literally sand too and there's a couple of hammocks in the restaurant to add to the beach vibes. Next door is a drum workshop too that's definitely worth checking out! Would love to go back and explore more one day, do you have any Cartagena recommendations?

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Whenever I land in a new city I love to just wander the streets and get lost. Cartagena has some of the most beautiful and colourful streets I’ve ever seen, especially in the Old Town, and you’ll no doubt stumble upon hidden gems and it's a haven for those insta photos!

Take A Mudbath In An Active Volcano

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My funnest experience in Colombia was chilling in a mudbath on top of an active volcano! I was the first to get into the grey slimey mud and some random local dude kept telling me to dunk the back of my head in. We had a short battle of me saying "no" and him saying "yes" back until I eventually decided to just go for it. It's been over a week since that happened and i'm still finding bits of grey mud down my ear. He then went on to give me a very questionable mud massage which I'm still not sure was supposed to feel pleasurable or painful. I just remembered looking left and right and seeing @taracappel and @rayawashere either side of me laughing but with the same confused expressions as I had. After this we were set free and had a bit of time to fanny around in the mud. It's hard to explain what it's like. You can't sink, but you're not touching the floor, you're just stuck in one position in mud. It's very relaxing though, maybe it's like being back in a womb again, who knows, I can't remember that far back in my life. Next you're taken down to a swamp/lake where local women come with small bowls and wash all the mud off you. A language barrier makes this experience quite awkward. Halfway through the lady washing me tugged on my swim shorts and said "off". I responded with "no it's cool I can wash down there". She said "off" and tugged again. At this point i'm nervously laughing looking around to see what's happening with everyone else. I look to @funforlouis and @realestebangast for help. Louis looks at me and the next moment I see his swim shorts bobbing next to him. So I thought "alright we're doing this" and got naked too. It turns out the women just wanted to wash the shorts thankfully. So the lady took my shorts and washed the mud off them whilst i'm sat there holding my crown jewels, completely naked in a pretty stanky swamp, waiting for her to finish and hand me my dignity back. A lot of confusion. A lot of mud in places mud should never go. But a lot of laughter and fun.

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A short drive out of Cartagena is Totumo Volcano, an active volcano which is full of warm mud that you can bathe in. It basically feels like you're floating in custard. Definitely the most unique/awkward/hilarious experience I had in Colombia. Also, there's a nice surprise after you get out the mud bath...

Explore The Vibrant Neighbourhood Of Getsemani

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De COLOMBIA para el MUNDO🎨 ๑ Ya era hora de empezar a subir fotos de mi aventura por Latinoamérica y que mejor momento que el día de mi cumpleaños🎉😃 ๑ Esta foto es en el barrio de Getsemaní de Cartagena de Indias! Una zona que se caracteriza por sus coloridas calles y su gran ambiente😍 ๑ ¿Qué os parece el colorido de este lugar?🌈 ๑ 📍Cartagena de Indias, Colombia🇨🇴 ๑ #cartagenadeindias #cartagena #cartagenacolombia #getsemani #colombia #colombian #colombianos #colombiano #colombia🇨🇴 #colombiatravel #visitcolombia #loves_colombia #travelcolombia #incolombia #explorecolombia #igerscolombia #igcolombia #ig_colombia #colorgram #colombiaespasion #wonderful_places #traveling #travelphotography #travelblogger #traveler #iamtb #latinoamerica #southamerica #sudamerica #travelsouthamerica

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I only briefly got to visit Getsemani one evening when we went to Café Havana to get some salsa dancing on the go, but if I went back to Cartagena this is probably where i'd be based! It seems like a neighbourhood that's becoming super trendy, with loads of bars, street art and a good mix of visitors and locals.

Grab Coffee In Abaco Libros y Cafe

One of the cutest coffee shops in Colombia fo sho. Ábaco Libros y Café (Abacus Books and Coffee) is one of the best places to try Colombian coffee in Cartagena. If you want to feel intellectual it's also the perfect place for that too, as you can pretend you're reading a book whilst jazz plays in the background

Get Stunning Views Over Old Town At Movich Hotel

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Rooftops in Cartagena > rooftops in Manhattan

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We ran here and missed sunset by a few minutes but even with the sun gone from the sky we still experienced some beaut views of Cartagena's old town. There's a pool on the roof and some delightful drinks also.

Eat On The Beach At La Perla Negra

The best food I had in Cartagena was at La Perla Negra, a restaurant that sits on the beach in La Boquilla. The floor is literally sand too and there's a couple of hammocks in the restaurant to add to the beach vibes. Next door is a drum workshop too that's definitely worth checking out!

Take A Drum Workshop In La Boquilla

You may remember I just mentioned about a drum workshop. Young musicians run drum workshops to promote their culture and raise money to help their local community. You learn some theory, get a presentation and then get to have a go yourself. It's fun and for a great cause and supports a passionate community so defo give this a go. Find more info here.

Island Hop Round The Rosario Islands

Between shooting we didn't get much time to chill, but for 5 minutes during our Rosario Islands tour I managed to escape and fanny around in the sea for a bit and it was glorious. Though it's not the clearest water, it's so warm, and that's good enough for me. We took a boat tour round to see one of Pablo Escobar's sunken planes, some pretty islands and to do some snorkelling but I think if you want more flexibility you can look to hire your own boat.

Check Out The Great Work At Cafe Stepping Stone

There are a lot of great social good projects in Cartagena, from the drum workshop, to Restaurante Interno and also this place, Cafe Stepping Stone. This Australian Social Enterprise Cafe looks to fighting inequality through inclusive employment, education and conscious consumerism. And not only that but the food is delicioso too.

Take A Day Trip To San Basilio de Palenque

Benkos Bioho© Wehwalt/Wikimedia Commons

San Basilio de Palenque is the first free slave town in the Americas. It's about an hour drive from Cartagena and is the one thing I'm really disappointed I didn't get to visit during my time there. Palenque was founded by Benkos Biohó, a former African king, who was sold into slavery but managed to escape the slave port of Cartagena in 1599. He formed an army of escaped slaves and helped more escape through creating an intelligence network and set up the town of Palenque (which means 'walled city'). Of the many palenques of escaped slaves that existed, San Basilio is the only one that still stands to this day and has a population of around 3,500 people. A statue of Benkos Biohó stands in the main square with his arm reaching towards Africa.

If you're interested in visiting Colombia and would like to do it with an awesome group of people check out the trip I helped design with FTLO x Live The Adventure here.

Find me on insta @sambentley