Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

"There are certain cities that win you over from the moment you arrive, but Cartagena won me over from the moment I laid eyes on her from the airplane window. The sunset fell over the horizon painting the clouds above the old city a stunning red-orange color while the turquoise-blue Caribbean ocean washed over its shores. The drive from the airport to the hotel felt like a journey through time. The buildings changed from modern architecture to old forts, cathedrals and cobble-stoned streets from the colonial era. When we arrived at the Santa Clara, we were greeted with the news that we had been upgraded to a Luxury Room thanks to the work of our travel agent at ALTOUR.

After settling in we took a stroll through the winding streets of the old city. The walls of the colorful buildings oozed with history and flowers rained down from the time-worn balconies. We let our noses guide the way until we finally found the source of the enchanting aroma. A little arepa stand hosted by one of the most delightful old ladies we encountered during the trip. I wish I had never tasted arepas, just so I could taste them again for the first time. There is something magical about the first bite, the mingling taste of the crisp maize filled with shredded beef, cheese and a red salsa that has just enough kick to relieve your sinuses. We continued to walk the narrow streets until we stumbled upon a placita where a man’s guitar wept beautiful melodies. We sat there listening, watching the people of this lovely city whose contagious happiness came over us from the moment we had arrived.

The next day we indulged in our complimentary breakfast along with French pastries and Colombian coffee out by the patio, whose lush vegetation and fresh air made it the perfect place to start the day. My girlfriend and I were picked up and taken to the Manga district where we boarded a private yacht that would take us sailing to Islas del Rosario. The breeze and the salty mist cooled us from the sun while the staff spoiled us with mojitos. Along the way we made a brief stop for us to snorkel. A lively, colorful world appeared below the calm ocean surface. Schools of fish swam effortlessly, seahorses and sea turtles moved slowly with the tide and we watched in wonder how such a beautiful place could exist. While the crew prepared our ceviche, we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance. Olivia was so excited she nearly fell off the yacht.

Immediately upon arrival at Santa Clara we were greeted by the staff who genuinely cared about how our day had gone. After a quick change of clothes we headed back out to watch the sunset on the top of the city walls. The old city was beaming with life. There were street vendors selling colorful bags, bracelets, hats and anything else you could possibly imagine. Palenqueras dressed in typical Colombian dresses balanced platters of fruit on their heads and the occasional street performers swayed to the rhythm of reggeaton. Believe me when I tell you, Shakira is not the only Colombian who can dance. We continued on to the walls and made it just in time for the sunset. We bought fresh fruit juice from a local vendor and sat there dangling our feet watching the sun sink into the ocean. After the last rays of sun had gone, we took a carriage ride back to the hotel. Even though the night had fallen, the city center remained just as lively. People walked around enjoying the cool breeze, eating freshly made sorbets or fruit. Locals sat outside restaurants letting the time pass by without any cares in their minds. They understand that life is meant to be savored with good company and a strong cup of Colombian coffee.

On our last day, we wondered around the hotel, getting to know its magnificent history dating back to the 17th century when it was the Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi. Paintings, crypts, and hidden windows still remain as part of the charm of this wonderful property. To top it off, the service could not have been any more perfect. The staff was genuine, caring and precise. We were always greeted with a contagious smile and were waived off with a “see you later,” knowing I will be back someday to this magical place.


If you have pictured yourself enjoying ceviche out on your private yacht or following the delightful smell of arepas, then take advantage of the exclusive rates ALTOUR has negotiated for you, our readers and enjoy a well-deserved break from your busy lives.

 


Great for
A long weekend with your significant other, families looking for a cultural and fun experience, singles looking to enjoy the vibrant night life of Cartagena.

With whom
Girlfriend

Memorable moment
Seeing dolphins on the private yacht.

Best time to go
November to May

With the kids
The hotel’s pool is a great way to relax and play with the kids.

Be aware
Make sure you book a reputable taxi service

Room options
Classic Room/Superior Room/Luxury Room/Colonial Junior Suite/Colonial Duplex Suite/Iconic Junior Suite Legend/ Imperial Suite Amaral Legend/Fernando Botero Presidential Suite

Service & vibe
The hotel has a contemporary feel with a modern touch. Service is impeccable.

Food
Arepas are traditional Colombian dish. It’s simple and delicious. Watch out for street vendors to satisfy your hunger!

Price
Rooms start at $240 a night

Costs less to go
August to November

To Do & See
The Old City, Plaza de los Coches, Puerta del Reloj, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and Islas del Rosario

Sport & Activity
Water sports, walking around the old city, relaxing at the hotel pool, and spa

Spa & Grooming
The Spa includes a gym, tea area, a solarium and 8 treatment rooms.

Most popular restaurant
El Boliche Cevicheria ran by chef Oscar Olmenares, who has fined tuned his ceviche skills over the years. Stop by for a well-crafted taste of Colombian fruits and ultra fresh seafood.

Best water activity
Private Yacht to the Islas del Rosario

Best shopping
The streets are filled with vendors selling everything from bags to bracelets. For more upscale shopping visit St. Dom in the Old City.

Best tour
Islas del Rosario

Where
Carrera. 8 #3929, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

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