TRAVEL TO COLOMBIA surged since the signing of the historic Peace Agreement in November 2016, ending a half-century-long conflict. A record 4.4 million visitors came to the country in 2018, up a staggering 300 percent from a decade earlier, when reaching 1 million travelers was a lofty goal. This surge in demand led to better international flight options, which should only continue to increase visitor numbers from abroad as long as the country remains stable.
While Bogotá remains the business and financial core of Colombia, more and more meetings now take place in far more picturesque Cartagena, a Spanish colonial city that seems to be built with the traveler in mind. Behind the fortress walls the city boasts narrow streets; large plazas; 17th-century churches; and row after row of charming restaurants, boutique shops and salsa dance clubs. Walking the pedestrian-only streets of the Old Walled City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, compares to strolling the French Quarter of New Orleans. Bougainvillea flows from the terraces of the colorful homes, and under a historic Clock Tower local merchants sell candy produced from tropical fruits such as guava, mango, papaya and coconut.
As an added bonus, Cartagena sits on the Caribbean coast and serves as a welcome mat to a long stretch of beach and warm waters for swimming. Within an hour by boat from the city lie the Rosario Islands, home to the country’s only underwater national park. Snorkel or scuba dive and be treated to wonderful coral formations and large schools of neon-colored fish. You also have the option of sea kayaking in the mangroves, even spending a night on an island at the secluded Hotel San Pedro de Majagua. But first you have to get that deal done.
Many business meetings take place at Cartagena’s finest hotels. Dress is Caribbean casual; usually men wear a nice short-sleeved collared shirt, slacks and shoes. For women, a colorful sundress is not uncommon.
It’s hard to top the location and enviable space of Cartagena’s first luxury resort, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, housed in a former convent that dates back to 1621. Have lunch in the lush courtyard under the shade of palms or head to El Coro Lounge Bar for your first mojito of the day. The most popular non-alcoholic drink at lunch is the coconut lemonade, especially thirst-quenching during the humid summer months.
If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, head down the block to El Santísimo. Owner and chef Federico Vega honed his skills at Le Cordon Bleu in France, and the result is French/Colombian fusion fare that tantalizes the tastebuds. Start with crunchy triangles of Camembert cheese, breaded with toasted sesame seeds over a sauce of sautéed uchuvas (Colombian groundcherries). Then move on to The Lord’s Pardon, large prawns with a mango, ginger and cilantro sauce. For dessert, sample The Envy, a crunchy tulip filled with mango mousse.
For meetings later in the day, don’t overlook the more contemporary Bocagrande section of the city right along the beach. Taxis and Ubers are easy to find in Cartagena, and a five-minute drive gets you from the Old Town to the InterContinental Cartagena de Indias, where you can have your drink poolside overlooking the expanse of beach and ocean. It’s particularly enticing at sunset, when the orange/reddish orb practically melts into the sea. Closer to town, the boutique property Movich Cartagena offers glorious views of the city from its rooftop bar and pool.
Don’t be surprised if your contact in Cartagena takes you to Club de Pesca for dinner, a local favorite. Dine alfresco near the illuminated walls of San Sebastian Fort overlooking the city’s bayside. As the name suggests, the large restaurant is known for its local seafood, like fried red snapper or seafood stew doused in fresh coconut milk. Prefer entertainment with your meal? Then take a horse and buggy ride in the old walled city to El Burlador de Sevilla, known for its flamenco dance show and Spanish tapas.
Cartagena knows how to throw a party, so don’t expect your day to end with dinner. The salsa dancing at Café Havana starts around 10 p.m. and doesn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning. Couples dance around the bar and small dance floor to talented singers backed by a lively horn section. If you prefer to end the night in relative quietude at one of the majestic outdoor plazas, grab a nightcap at El Barón, a cocktail bar set under the towering San Pedro Claver church.
The options for upscale dining and lodging in Cartagena will only improve in 2020 and 2021 as both Four Seasons and the Viceroy announced the debut of new properties. As long as Colombia holds to the tenets of its Peace Agreement, you can expect top-shelf hoteliers and the numbers of travelers visiting Cartagena to swell.
The ultimate vacation indulgence involves a bathtub, solitude and amenities to enhance the bathtub experience. Bathtubs come in all shapes and sizes, from clawfoot to wooden ones, each offering unique experiences. These hotels across the world boast some of the finest bathtubs for those looking for the most luxurious bath experience ever.
From 24-Hour Butler Service to a Sky Pool: Boutique Luxury Awaits at Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences in Los Cabos
Set on a seaside bluff overlooking Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas, Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences is a Baja paradise specializing in serene vistas and impeccable hospitality, offering a Pacific coast lifestyle with authentic Mexican touches. Guests can now earn a fourth night free at the stunning resort, plus a $100 resort credit, when booking through March 20, for travel through June 15.
Ravens, casks, walled-up ex-friends … grab a glass of sherry (perhaps avoid Amontillado) and celebrate all things Edgar Allan Poe during the fifth-annual International Edgar Allan Poe Festival and Awards (or, in shorthand, Poe Fest International). It’s all happening in Baltimore Oct. 8 and 9, with a mix of in-person and virtual events. To commemorate the 173rd anniversary of Poe’s death, this year’s festival includes music, theater, vendors and tours.
Park Hyatt New York unveiled its latest rotating art exhibition, and it’s by contemporary abstract artist and hotel bellman of eight years, Jeffrey Okyere-Agyei. This marks his third exhibit at the hotel.
IHG® Hotels & Resorts certainly has a lot to celebrate, starting with an incredible growth story. Over the past five years, IHG has acquired or launched six new brands: Six Senses® Hotels Resorts Spas, Regent® Hotels & Resorts, Vignette™ Collection, voco™ hotels, avid® hotels and Atwell Suites™. Most recently, IHG reached an important milestone with its 6,000th open hotel. The company looks to further expand its portfolio by 30 percent with 1,800 hotels in the development pipeline, with significant focus on growth in the luxury segment where IHG is positioned as one of the top two hotel chains.
Developer Viaggio Resorts soon debuts Palazzo Ricci in Abruzzo, Italy. Built in 1799, the palace is in restoration mode ahead of its 2023 debut. The project is being offered as a private residence club, fractional or co-ownership model.
The world-renowned Italian fine-dining group with eight Michelin stars to its name, Da Vittorio debuts its new two-story restaurant, Da Vittorio Saigon in the hotel Reverie Saigon. The new restaurant reshapes Vietnam’s high-end culinary industry through its blending of contemporary and sophisticated design with traditional Italian food.
Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.
Desolation Hotel, named for the Desolation Wilderness near which it resides, opened in August 2022 in South Lake Tahoe. Immersed in the scenic alpine beauty of the Sierra Nevada range and inspired by preservationist John Muir, this dog-friendly hotel commits to supporting the local Tahoe community, leading in sustainable hospitality and helping guests enjoy the natural experiences the region offers.