Cartagena has streets and buildings dating back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Mompox is a remote island town that seems to have changed little since it was established in the 16th century and Santa Marta puts you in direct touch with the culture, history and descendants of the people who populated this fascinating country in pre-Colombian times.
London – Amsterdam – Cartagena
You fly from London to Amsterdam to meet your connecting flight to Cartagena.
The author affectionately known as Gabo spent several years working in the colourful city as a journalist. Two of his greatest novels, Love In The Time Of Cholera and Of Love And Other Demons, started life here. As soon as you arrive you’re plunged into the history of this ancient port that speaks of English pirates and Spanish gold. Great fortified walls, their cannons pointing menacingly out to sea, confirm the city’s turbulent past; you’ll walk along them on your tour of the San Felipe fortress, perched high on a prominent hill.
You’ll find that the hated Tribunal of the Inquisition and the equally despised Dominicans left their legacy here. In the old city you’ll also find colonial buildings, churches and monasteries and even a gold museum featuring treasures from the Zenu pre-Colombian era. In a parade of archways built into the city walls you’ll discover an erstwhile armaments store and prison, now an artisan centre displaying local handicrafts.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at the Sofitel Santa Clara.
An interesting, 200 km drive takes you to Mompox (as it is known locally) standing on the Island of Santa Cruz de Mompox on the western bank of the Magdalena River.
Founded by Alonso de Heredia in 1537 it’s a well preserved jewel of colonial architecture, and many draw parallels with the fictional setting of Macondo in Marquez’s Nobel Prize-winning book One Hundred Years of Solitude. Beyond the town lie areas of outstanding natural beauty – and you’ll have an opportunity to visit them, as well as touring both Mompox itself and Cienaga de Pijino.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at Hostal Dona Manuela.
Today you’ll be driven to Aracataca, the birthplace of Marquez, and onwards to Santa Marta. It’s a journey that takes seven hours, but one which is packed with superb scenery and jaw-dropping vistas, passing through the banana plantations which feature prominently in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Stopping off in Aracataca, you’ll visit two museums: Gabo’s former family house and the small office where his father worked as a telegrapher.
Then you arrive at Santa Marta, reputedly the oldest surviving city in the whole of South America. As well as having plenty of time to stroll around its ancient streets at your leisure – visiting the cathedral and the Anthropological & Ethnographical Museum – you’ll embark on excursions to Palomino and Kogui Serhviaka. The latter is a town populated by indigenous people, giving you the chance to gain an insight into local culture and history and visit mud houses known as bohios. Marquez always had a fascination and respect for Colombia’s original people.
Stay: Four nights in a standard room at the Hotel Boutique Don Pepe.
Santa Marta – Amsterdam – London
From Santa Marta your flight takes you to Amsterdam and onwards to London, arriving the following day.