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Panorama of Cartagena. © 2009 Charles & Mary Love

Since we discovered Cartagena, Colombia several years ago, we’ve been enthusiastically sharing information about this charming colonial port on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

The Spanish fort overlooking the walled city is testament to an era when vast amounts of gold, silver and gems passed through Cartagena en route to the mother country. Today, the city is still full of treasures, most relating to Cartagena’s history as a melting pot of cultures—Spanish, indigenous American, Caribbean, Cuban, African, Arab and more.

At the top of the list of treasures are the city’s atmospheric accommodations. They include colonial-era houses, monasteries, and convents that have been converted into luxurious hotels, inns or B & Bs. There are also sophisticated dining options and music venues inside the city’s walls. Those who like to shop  appreciate the little boutiques that feature local fashion designers, indigenous crafts and, naturally, Colombian emeralds. Beyond the Old City, there’s good swimming, snorkeling and beachcombing in the laid-back Rosario Islands, a short speedboat ride from the city’s docks.

Yes, it’s safe to visit Cartagena. But go now, because Cartagena is heating up as a favorite destination among those in search of an exotic, nearby getaway.

Getting there is easy via a 2 1/2 hour flight from Miami on Avianca (www.avianca.com), Colombia’s excellent national airline (the second oldest airline in the world!) or on Spirit Air (www.spiritair.com) out of Ft. Lauderdale. For more information go to www.cartagenadeindias.travel and www.colombia.travel.

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