Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. photo: Imane Fiocchi

Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. photo: Imane Fiocchi

Visiting Cartagena has been on my to-do list for some time so I decided to make it this year's holiday adventure. I didn't know what to expect so I did what any pop culture connosisseur would do: set out on the 5 hour flight with no reference other than the 80s hit film Romancing the Stone.

Cartagena is everything I needed to escape the arctic New York winter: hot, historical, and floral.   Located a stone's throw away from the equator, I expected some heat but had no idea it would be this haute.  With a rich culture and dynamic history, this tropical getaway took my breath away.

Spaniards arrived and settled in Cartagena in 1533 and since then its been through the ringer in terms of battles and takeovers. Known to have the treasured finds from Spanish explorers back in the day, pirates often attacked this tiny jewel on the Northern Colombian coast making the rustic colonial vibe super charming and romantic. I was so enamored at one point whilst riding a horse drawn carriage as the sun set I told my husband I'd get married again there... (!)


But back to the plants.

I'm a total slut for Bougainvillea. I just can't get enough.  Native to Colombia and South America,  balcón upon balcón overflows with Bougainvillea blowing in the (hot!) wind . Heaven. As I wandered through La Popa monastery, our guide pointed out that the beautiful colors of the Bougainvillea bush are actually the bracts that surround the flower of the plant. The real flowers are white, very tiny and  usually in a cluster of three. (note:  he wasn't a plant tour guide he was a food tour guide taking my husband to the central market for turtle soup- but Colombians love their plants and know a lot!)  Muy bonita! 


We stumbled into a local farmer's market  in the walled city where a number of botanical delights like cacti, succulents, and custom terracotta planters met us with humble yet festive enthusiasm.   Unfortunately I didn't buy the donkey planter and still regret it. #theonethatgotaway  All in all, I loved my trip! Cartagena is a city small in size but botanically bountiful and definitely should not be missed by any plant slut. #itsplantporn


Since I'm  I am Cartagena's #1 fan at the moment here is my list of to-dos:


GO: Plan a 4 day trip. 5 days max. Jet Blue flies direct from JFK.

SEE: El Volcan del Totumo. Sit in an inactive volcano and enjoy a mud bath with the masses. Its actually quite fun. Once you finish a sweet abuela hand scrubs you down. Epic.

STAY: Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa (centrally located)  or St. Augustin (gorgeous)

EAT: Everywhere! The food in Cartagena is unreal. Emphasis on seafood. Some of my favorites: Carmen (haute Colombian), Moshi Moshi (sushi fusion), La Cocina de Pepino (local fare)

BUY: Anything at ST. DOM-  the Colette of Cartagena.  Joanna Ortiz galore. Also there's coconuts on every corner. Buy those too.