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Rather than spend 22 hours to get up to the Caribbean coast, we took advantage of the great sales for internal flights and flew to the north for less than the bus fare.

As soon as we walked off the plane, the heavy tropical heat smothered us, even though it was late at night. In the fresh morning light we explored the perfectly preserved city of Cartagena. Described as the architectural jewel of Colombia, its colonial buildings inside the small stone walled area are a delight to wander through. Although the streets are full of tourist traps – boutique clothing shops, emerald jewellers, and expensive bars and restaurants – there is a beautiful ambiance about the place. Tall houses with window balconies line the streets, with flowering climbers spilling out; every direction seems to lead to one of the lovely shady squares, perfect to sip a juice or coffee and watch the city life pass you by.

We found a great place for lunch, filled with locals having their daily almuerzo, and later, when the sun had disappeared (and after a lovely siesta) returned for some street food and beers on the edge of a little plaza, with music flowing from the bar while the men gathered around playing chess.

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