What comes to mind when you think of Cartagena (photos)? Ok, admit it, some of you are thinking about “Romancing The Stone”. The movie introduced lots of us to this city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It’s a modern city of over 1 million people with high rises lining the harbor. Yet the heart of the city is the old town which dates back to Cartagena’s beginnings in the mid 1500’s, particularly the inner city which consists of the historical districts of El Centro and San Diego. Here you can wander the narrow cobbled streets and alleys among gems of colonial architecture with churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions with balconies draped in bougainvillea. The outer walled city of Getsemani is less impressive but has its charms and is worth exploring. Continue reading
You know those commercials for Corona beer, the ones with small tropical islands, deserted white sand beaches, waving palm trees, turquoise water gently lapping the shore. Everywhere you look in the San Blas islands (photos) is a Corona commercial. Many of the islands are uninhabited, others may have only 1 or 2 simple bamboo huts with thatched roofs. Some 360 islands that sit along the northern Caribbean shore of Panama, they are part of the Comarca de Kuna Yala. The Comarca also includes a narrow 226km strip of land along the mainland coast stretching to the Colombian border. This area is occupied by the Kuna, an autonomous indigenous group which operates with minimal interference from the Panamanian government. Land ownership throughout the Comarca is reserved solely for the Kuna. We were told that even the Prime Minister of Panama was rebuffed when he asked permission to purchase one of the islands.