If you’re trying to go somewhere warm and beautiful, Cartagena is your answer. And if you’re going to Cartagena, Getsemaní is the neighborhood to be in right now.
Like many other southern-raised New York transplants, I often suffer from severe cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder come January. Any time the temperature drops below freezing I am, more than usual, prone to sudden outbursts of rage. The past few years, to celebrate my late-January birthday, I have been sentenced to celebrate amidst a snow storm named after some unfortunate baby boomer. This time around, I was determined to bring in my big day shirtless. Colombia’s colorful Spanish-Caribbean culture, beautifully clear waters, and 90 degree mid-January weather forecast resonated with me in a special way this birthday season. All that, plus I found an insanely cheap deal on plane tickets and convinced a big group of friends to come with me.
We decided to stay in a coastal barrio, thanks to a line I read on This is Cartagena, my literal Colombian travel guide: “If Centro is Manhattan, Getsemani is more Brooklyn—an up-and-coming hipster hangout trying desperately to cling to its roots.” (Anybody who knows me knows I’m a diehard advocate of both Brooklyn and root-clinging.) Here was a part of the city that hadn’t yet been infiltrated by tourism, but was safe enough to host a tourist or two. Plus, it’s still populated by real Colombians—their art, food, and all the things that make the country great. I was sold.
Where to stay
The battle begins with accommodations. Luckily my battle was brief, and the victory rewarding. Cartagena has a collection of gorgeous, open-layout colonial homes with modern tweaks, which give you proper Cartagena vibes, but simple luxuries like AC and Wi-Fi. The last thing you want to do when traveling to a cool country with a rich aesthetic tradition is stay within the westernized walls of a pseudo-tropical resort. Our group of 10 and I opted for Casa Cuba, a beautiful testament to historical architecture that’s been dressed up by modern Bogotá-based architect studio, Meteoro Estudio, with contemporary touches like the modernist furniture and a central elongated pool. If you’re looking for something with fewer than 5 bedrooms, Airbnb is your best bet—you can find lots of super-stylish colonial homes for pretty reasonable prices.
What to do