Even during peaks of “La Violencia”, Cartagena remained a major tourist destination, domestic tourists as well as international travel groups, especially cruises ship, continued visiting. In the last few years the numbers have risen dramatically. In 2008, one million visitors wandered the historic center making it Colombia’s tourist destination number one, by far.
But the historic center is only an itsy bitsy tiny part of this city with one million inhabitants. Convento de la Popa, on top of a 180 meter high hill, provides the best view of the layout of this city, and only then one comprehends.
A first taste we got when we approached the center from the bus terminal. The bus ride took an hour in heavy traffic and we passed endless stretches of poor, neglected neighborhoods. This is where 75 % of the locals live, Cartagena’s less fortunate residents.
On the peninsula across the bay beams Bocagrande. This is where well-heeled Columbians check in high rising hotels or apartments for rent. This skyline plus an abundant number of trendy restaurants, designer shops and its long beach give it a certain Miami feeling. Maybe except the many Chivas running the streets day and night, hauling tourists around on city tours or nightly excursions with lots of rum and, you may guess, Vallenato music.