The northern coastline of Colombia flows to its own rhythm unique to the rest of the country.
Pulsing with the flavours of the Caribbean the city of Cartagena is the perfect destination to lose your senses and discover new sights, sounds and flavours.
Approaching the old imposing stone walls that surround Cartagenas old town they hide very well the winding colourful streets and secrets that lay inside.
It is these very walls that have ensured that the old city still stands today after centuries of attempted sieges.
Upon passing through one of the many tunnels that cut through the wall at various intervals you are immediately hit with a unique chaos.
Colours, sights and sounds jump out at you as you try and make sense of your bearings.
The first thing that you will notice is the old colonial buildings and many are painted bright reds, oranges, greens and blues.
Some are beautifully restored to their former glory with white painted wooden balconies overflowing with pink flowers and creeping vines.
Others are in a more rustic state with some boarded up undergoing works yet still maintaining a unique beauty of their own.
The streets wind and curve in a mysterious way and you will find it almost impossible to find your way around without getting lost.
Throw away the map and embrace wandering without a destination and explore each street and the many shops, cafes and art galleries that you can find.
After all with the big old walls surrounding you, you wont really get too lost or end up on the other side of town by mistake.
Take a break and rest in one of the many cafes and restaurants that are down every street and hidden alleyway.
Here you will find everything from upmarket restaurants to cheap local places as well as the odd vegetarian restaurant or two.
The dish you want to order is the typical meal of fried fish, coconut rice and fried banana on the side.
This perfectly captures the flavours of the Caribbean and the smell of seafood coming from the restaurants grabs at you as you walk past so if you try and resist you won’t be able to for long.
Fresh tropical is in abundance here with papaya, mango and watermelon sliced up and ready to eat.
Try and find the Las Pelenquera, or the fruit basket ladies, who wear brightly coloured dresses and carry baskets of fruit around on their heads through the city.
Fruit juices are also a specialty here and your imagination is the only limit to what you can order although with many fruits only found in Colombia Mora and LuLu are two to try for sure.
The stifling humid heat that envelops the city during the day means that many locals will stay well away from the streets in order to stay cool.
Yet come four o’clock the sea breeze that has previously in the day evaded the old town due to the city walls blocking it starts to whip its way mysteriously through the streets.
Everything comes to life with street vendors suddenly appearing and setting up shop selling a myriad of things from fresh mango, coconuts, juices, drums and hats.
Shouting their wares and waving and saying hola to their friends as they pass means that there is never a lack of noise and atmosphere.
Not known for their shyness, Cartagenans will reach out to engage with passers by, and it is easy to get caught up in a conversation in both Spanish and English and the locals love for their city shines through and they are quick to recommend places to go and things to see.
This is also the same time of day that the musicians suddenly appear out of the walls of the city and there is guitar playing on every street corner.
Rhythmic salsa tunes float down every street interspersed with the more bass infused Reggaeton blasting from shops and passing car windows.
As the evening sets in the old town wall is the perfect place to sit back and relax and watch the sun set across the sea.
Either perch yourself in one of the alcoves in the old wall between the many lovers that gather there or treat yourself at one of the trendy upmarket café bars that give some of the best views over the beach.
This is the time of day when the city really comes into its own with the bars and restaurants filling up later in the night and salsa clubs packed to bursting point with couples who expertly step their way around each other.
Cartagena is a beach side destination that has a lot more to offer than just the sun and surf and it is easy to lose a day or two just soaking up the Caribbean flavours in the old city walls.
Have you been to Cartagena, Colombia? What was your experience like? and did you leave as intoxicated by the place as I did?