Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be able to imagine Cartagena – the crumbling, colonial mansions, the beautiful, sultry women worth waiting a lifetime for, intertwining family histories going back centuries and love lost and found. However, this still doesn’t prepare you for the magic and charm of the old city when you arrive for the first time. The houses painted in every pastel shade, immaculate balconies from which bougainvillea hang down to the street below, the scent of flowers filling the air, the old mansions with their fortified studded doors. Simply walking around the old town, you find your mind drifting away, carefree and relaxed and it’s easy to forget there’s a modern world out there. The mix of colours, the heat, the smiling faces and the gentle music in the background all conspire to take you back to Sir Francis Drake’s day.

However Cartagena is not Colombia’s only colonial gem. Mompox, Villa de Leyva, Popayán and Barichara all provide a glimpse into the past of when the Spanish settlers first arrived. Barichara is named after an old indigenous word meaning place of relaxation. Its laid-back, bohemian vibe certainly lives up to the name, while the cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and whitewashed houses with their red roofs make it a perfect backdrop for films and TV shows, many of which are indeed filmed here. And if you like trying the local delicacy everywhere you travel, make sure you try the chocolate covered ants the town is famous for!

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