Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast, a fairytale city of romance, legends and superbly preserved beauty lying within an impressive 13km of centuries-old colonial stonewalls. Cartagena's old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site – a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches casting their shadows across plazas.
But then there is the outer town, full of traffic, the working class, and a chaotic nature that can leave you dazed and confused in minutes. It is here that Cartagena becomes a typical workhorse South American city. To the south, the peninsula of Bocagrande – Cartagena's Miami Beach – is where fashionable cartagenos sip coffee in trendy cafes, dine in glossy restaurants and live in the upscale luxury condos that line the area like guardians to a New World.
Cartagena is a place to drop all sightseeing routines. Instead, just stroll through the old town day and night. Soak up the sensual atmosphere, pausing to ward off the brutal heat and humidity in one of the city's many open-air cafes.
Holding its own against Brazil's Ouro Preto and Peru's Cuzco for the continent's most enthralling and righteously preserved colonial destination, it's hard to walk away from Cartagena – it seizes you in its aged clutches and refuses to let go.
It’s hard to remember, on those cold days when you pile on your heavy coat and scarf, that there are places on the planet where the sun rarely stops shining...