The small city of Cartago lies on the main road between Cali and Pereira. It is hot. Uncomfortably hot. And fairly ugly – every single block in town looks exactly like the other. There’s not much to detour a tourist traveling between those cities, but if you’re interested in churches, Cartago has two nice ones and a few others.
Cartago is pretty big, but most sites are within walking distance. A good place to start is a wonderful little church, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. It has a classic colonial whitewashed exterior and is a Colombian national heritage site.
The interior has a simple elegance to it that complements the exterior very nicely.
The church sits on a small park, Parque de Guadalupe.
Behind Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a large public park, Parque La Isleta. This park has basketball courts, a small skate park, benches, a playground, and different activities for children.
Walk a few blocks from the church and you’ll come to another church, Nuestra Señora de la Pobreza, dating back to 1643. It also sits on a small park.
A block from there is the very large Parque de Bolívar. It is filled with tall trees and benches. Street vendors sell their goods while children play with squirrels and giant iguanas on the trees.
On the plaza is a small church, Iglesia de San Jorge. It isn’t as tall or grand as the others but has a nice façade with a bell tower.
A few blocks from the plaza is the Catedral Nuestra Señora del Carmen. It was built in 1944 and looks like a Roman temple. It has a very tall bell tower as well.
Not far away is the Alcaldía (City Hall). It is a beautiful building that we drove past twice in a taxi. I wasn’t able to get a shot.
For food, a friend of Marisol’s recommended Casa Vieja. It’s quite far from the sites in the city so a taxi may be necessary. Although a bit expensive for Colombian standards, the food was excellent and well worth the price. The menu was generally traditional Colombian food. I had a teriyaki Chilean salmon dish while Marisol had a róbalo filet. Both came with arroz con coco (coconut rice) and were very tasty.
To get to Cartago, any bus traveling between Cali and Pereira can make a stop there. From the Pereira bus terminal, four companies make the 30 minute direct trip every 10 to 15 minutes. They are Colectivos del Café, Coochoferes, Expreso Alcalá, and Tax Cartago. From Cali, the trip is about two hours. There is no bus terminal in Cartago. Each company has its own garage.
Getting around Cartago will involve a taxi at some point. While all the sites are located within walking distance, its easier to use a taxi to get to points further out from the city center. Also, if you need a bus to Cali or Pereira and aren’t sure where to get one, jump in a taxi and ask the driver to take you to one of the bus companies. Taxi fares for pretty much anywhere in town were COP$3,300 at the time of writing.