My cousin Anna and I wanted to have easy access to some of the highlights of Cartagena outside the walls of the old city. One of the “vultures” outside of the old city named Angelo convinced us to buy a chiva tour from him. A chiva is a colorful bus that was historically used in more rural parts of Colombia (and sometimes used today). Many cities now use them to give tours.
Our chiva tour began at 1PM just outside Puerta del Reloj. Angelo accompanied us to the bus where we paid him COP$40,000 for the tour and he walked away. There was a little confusion when the tour operator asked us for our tickets. I thought Angelo had pulled a fast one. When I explained the situation to them, they knew exactly who he was and tracked him down. He came back and smoothed things over.
The tour began in a downpour flooding the streets of the city. We first drove through the modern section of the city called Bocagrande. It is a small strip of land populated with skyscrapers towering above a beach. Many modern hotels, shops, nightclubs, and restaurants are located there. The Miss Colombia pageant also takes place in Bocagrande. I couldn’t take any photos because of the terrible rain, so the photo below is from a boat the following morning.
As the rain subsided, we drove up to an interesting monument called Los Zapatos Viejos (The Old Shoes). The name says it all – they are two large bronze shoes. The fortress in the background would be visited later in the day.
Next, we took a ride up to the highest point in Cartagena for a visit to Convento de la Popa, a monastery founded in 1607. We had to pay an extra COP$9,000 each for admission because it wasn’t included in the price Angelo had sold us. Read about it here.
We came back down from the monastery and were able to visit one of the most important spots in Cartagena, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. It was originally built in 1536 and is the strongest fort ever constructed by the Spanish anywhere in the world. It’s included in the UNESCO World Heritage listing for Cartagena. Admission was included in this tour. Read more about it here.
The chiva tour ended with a quick shopping stop at Las Bóvedas in the old city and a short walking tour of San Diego and El Centro. The walking tour didn’t cover many important places and we were happy we had taken a more thorough tour with our guide Mauricio that same morning.
The entire tour finished at about 6:30PM. Overall, it was enjoyable and the guide did a very good job explaining everything about the history of Cartagena and the significance of the places we visited. The tour was all in Spanish.