Situated on a bay in the Caribbean Sea, one of South America’s top draws is the thriving port city of Cartagena. This UNESCO World Heritage Site founded by Pedro de Heredia in 1533, is steeped in pirate lore with charming colonial architecture and cobblestone streets.
You’ll land at Rafael Núñez International Airport, which is a short one-hour flight from Bogota, Colombia which is an easily accessible hub from most major airports.
After a 20-minute taxi ride, you will arrive in the walled city of Cartagena de Indias, which at first glance is a mix of good time New Orleans and tropical Jamaica mixed with a little rough around the edges Cuba. Upscale boutique hotels blend in with 400-year-old homes draped in Bougainville and courtyards are filled with local artists, expats and tourists sipping the famous coffee or rum cocktails.
English is widely spoken and it’s very easy to navigate the well-worn streets on foot, horse drawn buggy or by hailing a taxi, but no matter which transportation mode you choose, one way to experience the best of the city is by staying Historic Center at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara located in the old sector called Los Jagueyes, known since the 17th century as Barrio de San Diego.
Built in an old convent, the property offers the ideal combination of colonial architecture and French luxury with gourmet cuisine, modern technology, a first-class spa.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara has a new fine dining tasting menu experience combining French and Colombian flavors at 1621 Restaurant. There’s also a new al fresco bar, Botika Santa Clara Bar, inspired by the property’s past life as a hospital. The cocktails are positioned as “elixirs” and “potions.
Originally built in 1621, the hotel is also home to the Sofitel Spa, where ancient traditions of holistic treatments meet the refinement and skill of the latest French cosmetology. There are 7 modern massage areas, a fitness gym, a hammam and a relaxing area. The spa works with Sisley Paris and its full range of Phyto-aromatic products.
According to Spa Manager Carina García Girone, “The spa is renowned for promoting holistic rituals and wellness experiences that enhance body, mind, and spirit.”
One of the top treatments is The Legendary Emerald Ritual, which is a 150-minute experience that utilizes the benefits of the precious Colombian stone. There is a body scrub, aromatic pindas bath, relaxing massage, and facial.
“The emerald is known as the stone of wisdom, calms emotions, eliminates negativity, transmits mental clarity, and broadens your global vision and unconditional love,” said Carina. “The Ritual will allow a complete cleansing of your energy centers and fill you with new perspectives, in addition to taking deep care of your physical well-being with a sublime massage and deep hydration of the skin, based on precious stones.”
The hotel spa is also offering a new: 7-IN-1 RESTORE + REJUVENATE DAY. The goal is to take a moment for yourself, find your inner peace and balance through a full immersion well-being journey over two nights and three days that includes a workout routine, yoga, meditation, and different types of holistic facial and body treatments.
After a few days of restorative treatment, or wandering the streets of the old town sightseeing, you might want to get out of the city. While surrounded by a body of Caribbean water, one major misconception is that Cartagena is a beach town. The local beaches are, well, mostly for locals and not the picture postcard imagery one might expect. If you’re looking for that island vibe, you’ll need to get a on a boat and head out to one of the islands which will take about 40 minutes.
In December 2021, the Sofitel hotel opened a new sister property, the LEED-certified Sofitel Barú Casablanca Beach Resort. Now travelers can get the best of city and then head out to the island via an oversized luxury catamaran transfer. This second location on the secluded, tropical coast of Baru, is a complete contrast to the centuries-old streets of Cartagena. All the rooms have terraces and views of the Caribbean Sea and plenty of pools on the property gives guests the feeling of space and privacy.
To experience both hotels, travelers can book these distinct packages with two nights in each location:
Caribbean Flavors of Colombia: Cartagena & Barú
The Alchemy of Colombia: Cartagena & Barú
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