Magical realism springs to life in Cartagena de Indias, the Caribbean jewel in Colombia’s crown. Akin to an open-air museum, the walled UNESCO World Heritage Site hides a wealth of colonial architecture and monuments, but you can also escape to one of the nearby beaches, a boat ride away, for a tropical experience.
Lose yourself in the Walled Town
Colonial pastel façades, lofty wooden entrances, incredible doors knockers, cobbled streets and an abundance of churches are enveloped within 16th-century walls. That’s right, Cartagena de Indias is an architecture Instagrammer’s wet dream. Wandering the old town is enchanting but if you’re keen to know the meanings behind curiously named roads and that dolphin knocker, take a guided tour with super-knowledgeable Australian transplant Kristy Ellis from Cartagena Connections (cartagenaconnections.com).
Conquer las murallas
On them, alongside them, sitting in the middle, even drinking atop them; almost seven miles of fortified walls have seen more than a few pirates come a-sailing over the last 400 years. Construction began in 1596, finishing two centuries later, and the beefy murallas, comprising ramparts and bastions, are the sombre gateway to the old city. Catch a gorgeous sunset from the embrasures next to Teatro Adolfo Mejía – the perfect setting for stealing a kiss.
Dance your socks off
If you thought the streets of Cartagena were humid all day and all night, prepare for the ultimate sweaty workout on the salsa dancefloor. First, take a class at Crazy Salsa (crazysalsa.net) to discover whether your salsa style is Cali, Puerto Rico or Casino; one-hour group class cost 30,000 Colombian pesos (£7.60). Then put those moves into practice at Café Havana (cafehavanacartagena.com), a classic corner bar featuring live bands in the Getsemaní neighbourhood. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 8.30pm-4am.
You can eat atop las murallas (fortified walls) (Cartagena de Indias)
Go bird spotting
The world’s second most biodiverse country, Colombia is home to an incredible array of fauna and flora as colourful as Cartagena’s old town itself. The well-kempt National Aviary (aviarionacional.co), which opened in nearby Baru in 2016, is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of 138 bird species. Bird spotters can get close to the harpy eagle, Caribbean toucan and pink flamingo all going about their daily business. Admission 35,000 Colombian pesos (£9).
Cast yourself away
While Cartagena is a…