Colombia is a rich tapestry that many cultures have contributed their individual mark to, including indigenous tribes and the Spanish colonial conquerors. The country’s most mysterious archaeological site, the Lost City, can be found in the Sierra Nevada jungle-covered mountains. Built by the Tairona civilisation more than 1,200 years ago, the city featured networks of stone staircases and many houses, storage areas and ceremonial buildings. It was abandoned during the Spanish conquest and slowly disappeared under the forest. Only a fraction of the city has been uncovered, which you can now explore today.
Popular ports in Colombia
The port of Cartagena sits on Colombia’s Caribbean Sea coast and it’s around a 10-minute drive to the city of Cartagena. The city blends the past and present beautifully, with the historic old town Cartagena’s biggest draw. Within its 17th-century walls are colourful, Spanish colonial buildings and a number of fascinating sites. Highlights include the Palacio de la Inquisición and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, a church dating to the late 16thcentury. Despite the inside of the church featuring relatively modest architecture, its ornate exterior makes it one of the most attractive buildings in the city.
However, it’s not all about times gone by in the old town, as you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to modern restaurants and sampling some delicious local food. Try a seafood ceviche or pargo rojo frito: fried red snapper served with fried plantain and coconut rice.
Santa Marta Port
Santa Marta is the oldest European-found town in Colombia and sits on its Caribbean coast. The town centre is under a 10-minute drive from the port of Santa Marta, with its historic area being a fun, colourful place to appreciate the lively atmosphere. There are numerous restaurants here, so take the opportunity to try some traditional cuisine. Popular delicacies include cayeye, a dish made from mashed green bananas and sancocho, a cross between a soup and a stew made with meat or fish and root vegetables.
There are plenty of places to visit close to Santa Marta port, including Museo del Oro Tairona. Originally the customs house during Spanish colonial rule, this museum tells the story of the town’s past and how it has shaped the present. It features many impressive artefacts that relate to the importance of gold in the area, such as jewellery from ancient times.
What are the best cruise ships for a cruise to Colombia?
Choose a cruise to Colombia and enjoy the holiday experience before you even arrived, with the fantastic dining and entertainment options that are available on board a luxury ship.
Marella Discovery 2
Marella Discovery 2 offers All Inclusive as standard and a huge choice of restaurants and activities that’ll keep you happy and entertained all the way to your destination. Being All Inclusive means that the majority of your activities, meals and drinks are included in the price, providing great value for money. The ship boasts a total of seven restaurants that cover cuisines from Italian to Asian, with plenty more in between. During the day, have a go at mini-golf or rock climbing while the kids enjoy a club that’s designed for their age group. When you’ve had a delicious dinner and night falls, head outside for Movies by Moonlight, an atmospheric open-air cinema experience, or take a seat at the Broadway Show Lounge.
Shore excursion ideas
With such diverse and exciting landscapes, towns and historical sites of interest to its name, Colombia offers almost endless experiences for intrepid explorers to enjoy.
Discover the past at Cartagena’s walled city
Explore the old town area of Cartagena and you’ll be walking with history, with numerous fascinating buildings that showcase the best in colonial architecture all around you. If you take a guided walking tour then you’ll be learning even more about them as you go. Within the walls are streets bursting with plazas, courtyards, museums, churches and a clock tower. Modern life bustles throughout the area, with street vendors selling all sorts of goods and produce. Buy some fresh fruit and a cooling drink as you stop for a break within one of the plazas and soak up the atmosphere.
Boat tour to Oceanario
Around an hour’s boat ride away from Cartagena are the Rosaio Islands and Oceanario, an open aquarium-style park. Enjoy a tour to learn all about the animals that live here, including birds, turtles, sharks and dolphins, and watch as the guides feed many of them. You can also catch a dolphin show during your visit and even have a photo taken with the dolphins. The scenery here is absolutely stunning, so why not relax and drink in the views with an ice cream after you’ve finished exploring the park. There’s also a chance to enjoy delicious tapas for lunch.
Indulge your sweet tooth at ChocoMuseo
Colombia makes some of the best chocolate in the world, so you really should try some when you visit. Just a short walk from Cartagena port is ChocoMuseo, a cocoa and chocolate museum that explains the history and process of chocolate making. Knowledgeable guides reveal how a humble seed pod can be transformed into the sweet treat we all know and love. They also explore how different cultures had their own chocolate-making processes, such as the Mayans. You can try a range of chocolates and hot drinks during your tour and even take some free samples away with you.
Go on a wild journey at Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Around 90 minutes by coach from the port at Santa Marta is the eco-tourism park of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. A trek through even a small area of its 37,000 acres will have you exploring beaches, reefs and forests. The park seeks to protect native species and their habitats, and you can see conservation in action here. On a walk through the forested areas you’re likely to spot creatures such as birds, insects and frogs. You’ll end up on a beautiful beach at some point, making it the perfect time to relax and take in the sea views.
Top ports of call in this destination
- Santa Marta