Program & Schedule
This program was designed with you in mind, giving you a look back at Cartagena’s history and providing an opportunity to discover this happy place in real time. During this week-long introduction, you get to experience a blend of the old and new charm and traditions of Colombia, by visiting Cartagena’s museums, old monasteries, churches, and even the forts around the old city, which were built as protection from pirates. You will learn about the Spanish, African and Moorish influences on the region, as you explore local markets and neighborhoods. You will get to discover some of the nature and natural beauty in the region and relax on sun soaked sandy beaches. In just a short time you will get to know some of the important Colombian history and treasures, as you begin to understand some of the things that inspire local artists and artisans to produce their own expressions of creativity through food, music, dance, graffiti, sculpture and stories. When it’s all over, you too will be changed by these experiences.
Aims & Objectives
- Help you familiarize yourself with the local surroundings
- Practice some helpful Spanish words and phrases
- Broaden your knowledge of the local customs, history and culture
- Provide a full induction, preparing you for a longer stay
In the morning, after breakfast, we will provide you with a very basic list of commonly used phrases in Spanish, so that you can practice on-the-go, as you discover the city and meet its residents. We will take a short tour around some of Cartagena’s main points of interest. Along the way you will be have a chance to ramble around the enigmatic narrow streets of the old city, visiting the fortress, the underground vaults, emblematic churches, the Santa Teresa Convent and the Santo Domingo Church. Before it’s all done, you will have time to explore some traditional artisanal marketplaces with typical Cartagena materials and goods. We will return to the accommodation for lunch. The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore and/or relax. In the evening, join the other members of the group at our accommodation where dinner will be provided.
During the day or possibly in the evening, you will be taken to visit the more modern part of the city, with stops in Bocagrande, Laguito and Castillo Grande, these sites are the perfect combination between the old, the modern and the picturesque beaches, you get to choose to do this tour as a group on a bike or with a combination of public transportation and walking. We will return to our accommodation for lunch, afterward you will have free time to enjoy the many offerings of Cartagena. Dinner will be provided in the evening. After that you can take your time to relax back at the location or bask the glow of one of nicest sunsets from one of the viewpoints in the old city.
Get ready for a very full and eventful day. We will get an early start, leaving right after breakfast to head out to Baru. On the way there, we will stop for a visit at the impressive Parque Nacional Aviario, home to more than 1800 birds from about 140 different species. It is the largest park of its kind in Latin America and has the distinction of being a true bird and bird-lovers paradise. These colorful creatures include exotic flamingos, spoonbills and parrots. We will take our time here and try to observe as many of the species as possible. There will ample opportunity to enjoy this breathtaking experience and take lots of photos. After this awesome stop, we will make our way to Baru, where we will have lunch. Then we will spend the rest of our day enjoying the sun and fun at Playa Blanca beach, before returning to our accommodation where we will have dinner.
In the morning, right after breakfast, we will leave for a tour of the ethnic community of San Basilio de Palenque, which was one of those communities named after the wooden wall fortresses surrounding them. They were founded by fugitive slaves who were seeking asylum and freedom during the XVII century. After many social and political changes in Colombia, most of these “palenques” have all but disappeared, and their populations have integrated into the big cities and as a result the mestizaje raze emerged. San Basilio is now the last location that brings us back to the arrival of the Africans to America, after being kidnapped from their homeland and enslaved. The Palenque community and its culture with its African roots, are now considered to be a valued cultural space that embraces the social, medicinal and religious beliefs, as well as musical and oral traditions. In 2005 it was recognized for its historic significance and was deemed a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Before leaving this community you will have a chance to try a tasty local dish for lunch. Afterwards, we will return to Cartagena, where you can enjoy some free time and then join the cooking lesson, as we prepare own authentic Colombian dinner!
We will begin our day with breakfast at our accommodation and then we will leave for El Totumo, an active mud volcano in Santa Catalina. This mud in this volcano is enriched with minerals that are said to be therapeutic and to have healing or curative properties. Along the way we will pass some nice beaches and jungle landscapes. At the Volcano, we will climb the 15 meters to the top where you can dip yourself into a relaxing and rejuvenating mud bath and enjoy the unique swimming experience because of the high level of buoyancy. When done, we will clean up at the Sweetwater lagoon right next to it and afterward we will enjoy lunch. Before returning to Cartagena we will just cool down and relax at the Manzanillo del Mar beach. Later in the evening we will have dinner and then hop on a “Chiva” bus tour, where we will really be able to enjoy the city of Cartagena at night. It will be an experience like no other, full of local Vallenato music, fun and excitement!This schedule can be changed and/or amended depending on weather conditions, local conditions and unforeseen circumstances.
Participant Criteria & Requirements
Minimum age: -
Maximum age: -
Minimum English level: Basic
CRB required: On Signup
Passport copy required: No
Resume copy required: No
Required qualification: None
There are no further requirements for this program.
Living & Location
Welcome to Cartagena City, once known as Cartagena de Indias, it continues to be a majestic shining gem among the other jewels of the Caribbean coast. As the town grew in importance because of the trade riches passing through its’ port, the town erected a barricade of stone walls. Originally used for protection, the walls engulfing the old city add to its distinctive character and old-world charm.
Known for its striking architecture, Cartagena is a city full of life and vibrancy. When you stroll through its streets you feel as though you are moving through a painting, where the sights and sounds of the city have come to life.
Being able to speak some Spanish is definitely a plus, but even if you are a novice to the language, a few gestures and a sense of adventure with attempting what you have learned, will be helpful as you communicate with locals. Don’t forget that smiles are universal and they will likely help get you whatever you need.
You will be enjoying your stay in the vibrant neighborhood known as Barrio Alto Bosque in Cartagena Colombia, from where you can access numerous sites and attractions, as well as your program very easily via public transport or local taxi.
All participants are expected to be environmentally aware and to use all resources with restraint, especially water, paper and electricity. You will be expected to clean up after yourself, and to play your part to keep the accommodation neat and organized.
The food will be typically Colombian meaning lots of corn, beans, rice, chili peppers, potatoes and other grain, all very vegetarian friendly. Keep in mind that some local dishes may be spicy!
There are many local coffee shops and restaurants in the main township within walking distance of our centre. Restaurants & Cafes, the beach, mini-marts, fitness gyms, the supermarket, and shopping mall are all close by.
There is Wi-Fi in common areas at your accommodation, but there are also many internet cafes in the main township where you can access online information.
There are numerous shops and ATMs throughout the town.
Activities & Events
One to two evenings per week
Join your cooks as they prepare meals for you and other participants. Take notes, learn new recipes, traditional food preservation techniques and more! Try not to spoil your dinner as you learn!
Sights & Surroundings
Bicycle day tours
For a change of pace, an exciting way to experience Cartagena and the vicinity, is by hopping on a bicycle or joining an organized group bike tour around the city.
Horse and Carriage tours
Explore walled city of Cartagena via horse and carriage. Travel through narrow cobblestone streets as you venture to historical locations throughout the city, from the quaint comfort of a horse driven carriage.
Once used as local transportation, the Chivas of today are the new colorful life for old wooden buses. They come packed with people, music and good vibes, as they bustle down the streets of Cartagena! Jump on one if you see it coming your way and let the good times roll!
Make your way to La Plaza de La Trinidad in Getsemani for free classes which are offered to the public every weekend.
Centro Cultural Ciudad Movil
The place to be for a variety of live music and dance is the Centro Cultural Ciudad Movil. All types of music ranging from Folk to Cumbia, Rock to Funk, and Champeta to Jazz are performed her live. There are even nights where the DJ is the one pumping up the volume for the crowd. This place is not to be missed when you come to Cartagena!
Islas del Rosario
If you love the sea and all things related to it, then you will love Islas del Rosario. Located about a 100 kilometers away from Cartagena, this archipelago off the coast of Colombia is one of the national parks that is not to be missed. You can take tours, visit the aquarium and open-sea oceanarium or explore the coral reefs while swimming and snorkeling.
Baru, Aviario Baru and Playa Blanca (15 km or 1 hr away)
Playa Blanca offers one of the best beach experiences in the region. You can visit for the day or even stay overnight at one of the hostels or hotels in the area. You can get there by motor boat from the port or take one of the direct buses on Sunday mornings.
A bit further down the way is the Isla Baru which is located in the bay of Cholon. There are tours and packages available which will give you access to kayaks, water sports, boat tours, restaurants and even a private beach.
Parque Nacional Tayrona (Camping trips)
Imagine a clear dark night and a sky that make just about every twinkling star visible. This is more than a wish it is a near nightly occurrence at the Parque Nacional Tayrona. Here you can go camping in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Enjoy mountain views, mangroves, clear water and sandy beaches all in one place. You can partake in any number of outdoor activities here including swimming, snorkeling and hiking. You’ll never be at a loss for things to do in this wonder of nature.
Santuario de Fauna y flora Los colorados
This area of northern Colombia is a small but well kept sanctuary, with a huge ecological significance because of its endemic forest.
Jardin Botanico of Cartagena (Turbaco) (12km, less than 1 hr. Away)
Cartagena’s Botanical Garden is outside of the city limits and located in the municipality of Turbaco. It is home to a rare resource of a virgin native forest and hosts more than 300 different uniquely beautiful species of plants from the Caribbean and other tropical zones throughout the world.
From this location we do not provide free transport to other locations.
Name: Republic of Colombia
Population: 48.7 million inhabitants
Language: Spanish, 68 Regional/Ethnic Languages, English (San Andres, Providencia)
Currency: Colombian Pesos (COP)
Time zone: COT (UTC -5)
Colombia has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and covers about 440,000 square miles (1.14 million square kilometers). It is home to the Amazon rainforest, Andes mountains, and the Llanos ( grassland plains).
Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America and it has several islands in the Atlantic and Pacific (San Andres and Providencia, and in the Pacific, the Malpelo and Gorgona, respectively). It shares borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Some of the major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla.
Weather in Colombia can range from desert to tropical to freezing because it contains a variety of climate zones. To experience the most pleasant weather and the most local activity, you might want to visit during the months of December to March or July to August.
Culture in Colombia has been greatly influenced by its diversity. It is easy to recognize African, Caribbean, European, Middle Eastern and Native American impacts on the area as well as that of the Indigenous people of the region. Unfortunately during the colonial era many European settlers decimated the Indigenous population which left the Spanish influence as the most pronounced. What has evolved over time is now a melange of distinctive layers which make up Colombia today.
Early in the 19th century the country gained independence and in 1886 the Republic of Colombia was formed.