Often discounted as a narco trafficking hotbed of violence and aggression due to present and past realities, let us show you a different reality.  A pueblo of culture, art and talent, this is a must-see offbeat day trip destination in the Coffee Axis that visitors won’t want to miss. Come along and discover the Cartago Travel Guide. Welcome to tierra caliente, or hot earth!

Be sure to contact El Lugar Nordico for exclusive VIP day tour pricing and reservations! Transport included! facebook.com/ellugarhotel/   WhatsApp or phone: +57  321 5584848

Cartago Travel Guide

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We were really surprised once we began our investigation of this pueblo, or small town. In our humble opinion, this place has some incredible potential that you must see to believe. A climate that is hot, dry and not too high in altitude, you will find cool mornings, hot afternoons and comfortable evenings.

History

One of the oldest pueblos in Colombia, Cartago dates back to early colonization and was founded in 1540. It was once located in what is now known as Pereira. Having discovered flat, easy to work land to the west of Pereira, they decided to move it to its present location on the banks of the Rio Cauca and the Rio Vieja where it has endured to the modern day.

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A popular regional saying “Grande y feo como Cartago,” or big and ugly like Cartago, gives a hat-tip to the spread out nature of the pueblo as well as a long legacy that spans more than 480 years making it one of the oldest pueblos in Colombia. It was actually founded during the Colombian Conquista.

Fun Fact: In times where banks were limited or even unavailable, families once used to store their gold and valuables in the walls of their houses. Many interesting treasures have been found in the walls of the colonial houses of Cartago. (Source: Fabian – Director @ Casa Cultura de Cartago)

Despite its turbulent past with the drug trade, it has become much safer over the years. We do recommend that visitors take the typical precautions of bringing a friend, do not “dar papaya,” or give advantage. And always use your situational awareness. If things get weird, don’t be afraid to leave or move to another place.

Music

Prior to this investigation we met a musical group from Cartago named San Antonio Band, as we were working with Hotel Movich. A great musical group with a lot of passion and enthusiasm for what they do, they were also very professional about it too. As we began to do this investigation, we discovered that Cartago is full of amazing talented musicians and music schools and cultural centers which are focused on both regional music plus many international genres like Jazz and Samba.

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Casa Virrey Museum and Music Conservatory

This was a lot purchased by the son of Spanish nobles, and a house that was ordered to be built but was never lived in by said noble. Today it is a short but fun museum tour that documents the history of Cartago and its’ inhabitants. Visitors will find artwork, old pictures of the area, antique furniture and architecture that has endured since colonization. Half of this very large house, is used as a music conservatory for mostly classical instruments like piano and guitar.

 

 

Cartago Travel Guide

One of the inner patios of Casa Virrey

Cost: 1,500 cop. We recommend you opt for the guided tour – if you can speak Spanish. Otherwise, relax – enjoy the old style of architecture and relics of the past. Several picture displays will show you glimpses of  Cartago’s past. There is also an information card-file archive with transcriptions of documents and historical evidence.

facebook.com/pages/Casa-Del-Virrey-Cartago/

Fun Fact: There are old tunnels which once offered escape routes from most of the famous colonial houses in Cartago. Today most of them have been closed off but the network is rumored to be quite extensive. (Source: Fabian – Director @ Casa Cultura de Cartago)

 

Artisan Crafts

Many pueblos in the Coffee Axis feature different unique crafts like sombrero weaving, knitting, basket weaving and even jewelry. Alongside the sound of guitars, pianos and salsa orchestras, visitors will also find a special type of artisan craft called “Bordado.”  It’s a type of hand-stiched clothing style that is both lightweight and elegant.

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La Ruta del Bordado

The art of Bordado, or embroidery actually dates back more than 3,000 years to ancient Egypt and Babylonia. In Colombia, the Vincentian and Franciscan nuns brought the craft and taught it to women who were widowed as a special craft they could use to support themselves. From 1884 and onward, Cartago became the capital of bordado, a title that has endured to the 21st century after experiencing a rebirth of interest and practice, in 1982.

There are 3 principle types that are generalized as “Bordado.”

  1. Bordado – which is the embroidery styles and wrapping styles which create designs in the fabric.
  2. Calado – where threads are removed horizontally or diagonally, then the remaining threads wrappped and tied off in a way that creates a pattern.
  3. Patecabra – which is like a “tatted” or “knitted” shirt that looks quite lacey and is manufactured completely by hand. No machining involved in any way.

Today you can visit the “Museo de Bordados,” or embroidery museum (Spanish only) as part of a circuit that spans several blocks and includes most of the bordado shops. This is a fun activity for visitors and you will find a variety fashions for every age group, for men, women and children. They are beautiful, exquisite and often one-of-a-kind.

facebook.com/LaRutaDelBordadoCartago/

 

Parks and Recreation

In addition to the places we mention here, Cartago has many sports complexes for local residents including a brand new indoor basketball stadium, a velodrome for roller skates, and several swimming pool resorts.

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Take a walk along the pathways and observe nature and wildlife at Parque de Salud.

Parque de Salud

One of the recommended activities in Cartago is to visit the Eco Parque de Saman, or Parque de Salud as it is more commonly known. Featuring a large duck pond, bamboo rafts and walking trails, be sure to come here in the early morning or late afternoon for cooler temperatures and plenty of bird-watching opportunities.

facebook.com/ParqueDeLaSalud/

Eco-Yoga Farm Mayapurita

This town made international fame only recently when a missing traveler was found via social media and word of mouth. Where was she? She was discovered safe and sound at a yoga retreat in Cartago. Mayapurita is the home of a volunteer community that centers around the practice of yoga. For more information about their classes and retreat options, reach out to them with this Facebook link:

facebook.com/Mayapurita/

Las Piramides

An unconventional facility that functions as a family fun center during the day, and a gentleman’s club at night – The Pyramids, is a place that visitors might enjoy. They have pool facilities which are open to the public for a small fee daily and have swimming pools, which include a wave pool plus some big water slides.

facebook.com/centroturistico.laspiramides/

 

Gastronomy

Some of the typical foods of this pueblo include Pina-Naranja juice (pineapple/orange), or even mandarina (nectarine) juice. Salpicon is a type of juice with chunks of fruit in it. Local agriculture is focused largely on sugar cane and beef. Cartago is often associated with “fruit salads,” due to the plethora of fresh fruit grown locally.

Cartage Travel Guide

Entre Cortes Parilla

Carrera 5 # 7 – 107 (Featured above) One of the best steaks in the Coffee Axis, this is a must if you are in Cartago. The location may look simple from the outside, but inside you will be able to sit in the shade or on the veranda of a colonial house. Featuring a large variety of beef cuts, you will have some great options PLUS a preparation style that delivers quality and flavor. Oh, and to beat the heat – be sure to ask for their Jarra de Sangria, a refreshing treat! This is a great lunch or dinner place to visit and you won’t be disappointed.

facebook.com/EntreCortesParrilla/

Paulo Andres

This little restaurant features an old style plaza with a fountain. What we found there was a super-tender steak, well seasoned chicken and large portions.  Ask for their fresh-made lemonade, it was quite refreshing.

tripadvisor.com/Paulo_Andres_Parrilla_Bar-Cartago_Valle_del_Cauca_Department/

Mayapurita Vegetarian Restaurant

Surprisingly enough, Cartago has several health food shops and even a few vegetarian restaurants, this is one. We haven’t had the opportunity to try it.

facebook.com/mayapuritavegetariano/

Where to Drink Coffee

We found that Cartago had many nice outdoor seating spaces and coffee shops. A couple caught our attention in particular.

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Cafe Tatayamba

This is the cutest cafe in Cartago. Located in a Colonial house, you can find your own favorite nook for visiting with friends, reading a book over coffee or taking cute pictures. They had a great “cafe de origen” and their prices are appropriate for the quality.

facebook.com/Tatayamba-Cafe-Bar/

Where to Stay

Don Gregorio

There are two nice hotels in Cartago. Don Gregorio is one of them. They offer free breakfast, a small swimming pool and clean rooms. They are well-placed for popular attractions, nightlife and restaurants.

facebook.com/hotelhdg/

Conclusion

Cartago is small in size, but big in opportunity with a rich and vibrant culture which has it’s own unique identity. Here’s a secret: the bordados are popular among the rich and famous of Colombia’s upper class, and in this small town visitors will discover a great shopping scene with many boutique fashion shops at cheaper prices than you will find anywhere else.

Cartago Travel Guide

The old train station – one of the more well-cared for of the many old stations in the Coffee Axis.

Later be sure to catch a bite at the many restaurants which specialize in steak and local food. Or, go out on the town with a night scene that is rumored to include one of the most prolific gay bars in the Coffee Axis.

We feel like this pueblo has a tremendous tourism potential, especially since no one has opened a backpacker hostel yet. As an offbeat pueblo, Cartago is well placed and easy to get to with many direct buses running from Pereira and a commute time of only 30-35 minutes one way. We will continue to explore and bring you more information on this destination over time so be sure to check back for updates to the Cartago Travel Guide!

If you are local business in Cartago who would like some special promo, send us a message at openmindedtravel@gmail.com or on our Facebook page to learn more!

Owner/Editor of OpenMindedTraveler.com, Erin is also the Project Administrator/Editor of Pereira City Guide.com - She has been living in Pereira, Colombia for several years.
    jorn ludvigsen April 16, 2018

    From Cartago seel off beat tourist targets t. Alcala, river raft in rio negro, Anserma Nuevo y Viejo. Options to see real Colombia not infested by plastic tourism

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