I recently had the good fortune to make a flying visit to Cartagena, Colombia’s lively Caribbean port city. Cartagena is a culturally rich city with great eating and nightlife; also a beach destination and jumping-off point for some Scuba diving islands. The colonial city of Cartagena is one of those places you will never want to leave. The picturesque cobbled streets are lined with brightly coloured houses with wooden balconies and dripping with blossoms. Every other building seems to be a bar, café or boutique, and wide, leafy plazas provide shade from the intense Caribbean sun. The old town is surrounded by fortified walls and filledwith colonial-era churches, plazas and old palaces. For more-natural attractions head to the nearby mangrove swamps. Canoe tours are usually piloted by members of a nearby village. The close-by Rosario Islands consist of more than two dozen coral islands designated as a national park. The islands can be reached by boat, with the trip averaging about an hour, one-way. The coral reefs of the Rosarios are a favourite underwater destination for guided dives, or Baru Island, just off the coast is also popular. The star of Cartagena’s culinary scene is seafood, with ceviche, fish marinated in lime juice, a local favourite. Combine these elements to create a unique, memorable holiday. Within the walled city are some beautifully restored boutique hotels such as the Anandá.

RELATED: How to spend the perfect day in Cartagena

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