FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Cartagena Sets the Stage for the Return of Travel

by Steve Jermanok

Feb 10, 2021

PHOTO: © JESSE KRAFT | DREAMSTIME.COM

January/February 2021

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 continue to increase visitor numbers from abroad as long as the country remains stable. However, current COVID-19 travel advisories and restrictions greatly reduced the number of visitors, with fewer international flights to the country remaining in service.

While Bogotá remains the business and financial core of Colombia, 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, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, housed in a former convent that dates back to 1621. Enjoy a lunch of healthy and sustainable cuisine under the shade of palms at the outdoor Restaurant Jardín Santa Clara. In Colombia, the most popular nonalcoholic drink at lunch is coconut lemonade, especially thirst-quenching during the humid summer months.

© ULITA | DREAMSTIME.COM

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   (Colombian ground-cherries). 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 Old Town to 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 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 coming years, as both Four Seasons and the Viceroy announced the planned debut of new properties. As long as Colombia holds to the tenets of its Peace Agreement, you can expect the number of top-shelf hoteliers and travelers visiting Cartagena to swell.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
March 2021
Mar 8, 2021

Venture Out in Vienna, a City of Opulence and Grace

Brewing long and deep at its center before radiating out to the rest of Europe, Vienna boasts an illustrious history and lasting intellectual impact. The Austrian capital dates back to Celtic and Romen rule, the latter inhabitants using the center city as a military hub among many other employments.

The Greatest Show on Earth

Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.

Daily
Mar 8, 2021

Redeem AAdvantage Miles for At-Home COVID-19 Testing

Whether taking a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight or looking up different travel restrictions before planning your trip, travel has looked a little bit different this past year. With all the extra steps for traveling, American Airlines is committed to finding ways to provide ease and more flexibility and choices for passengers when traveling.

Daily
Mar 5, 2021

3 Recipes for Lent from New Orleans’ Top Chefs

The Lenten season continues through April 3. This year, New Orleans’ top chefs share some Lent-friendly recipes for at-home dining.

Daily
Mar 4, 2021

SoJo Spa Club: Tranquility with an Urban View

When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.

eFlyer Deals
Mar 3, 2021

Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel’s Reopening Offers

Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.

eFlyer Lead
Mar 3, 2021

4 Travel Experiences for Women’s History Month

March marks Women’s History Month, and there are a number of ways to celebrate through travel. Here are just a few ideas to honor women in history.

Daily
Mar 3, 2021

The Galt House Hotel Updates Meeting Offerings

The Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, introduces new meeting offerings starting this month. Louisville’s only waterfront hotel recently underwent a property-wide $80 million renovation on all guestrooms, meeting spaces and new food and beverage concepts.