It goes without saying that one of the best parts of travel is the unusual traditions and ceremonies you encounter on your path. This post from Prasad, on his blog desitraveller, highlights one of those such ceremonies.
A show of pomp and bravado
“Somewhere between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan is Wagah Border between the two neighbouring countries.
Each side tries to outdo each other in a march, showcasing who can snap heels harder on the ground, while visitors shout patriotic slogans to cheer up the soldiers and photographers try to catch the fast-moving action.
If you are in Amritsar India or Lahore Pakistan I suggest you make this trip to Wagah to watch a flag lowering ceremony that has no parallel anywhere.”
I highly recommend this post, it goes above and beyond just telling you how to get there and why you should go. It explores the history of the ceremony and even John Lennon’s involvement. It will be one of the top blog posts you read today.
Whether your kind of thing or not, a Flamenco show in Spain is one of those must do experiences when visiting the country. The best shows are to be found in the south of Spain, a place where the Flamenco tradition is deeply rooted.
The Wanderlost Campaigner in Granada
This post comes from Kelly, on her blog The Wanderlost Campaigner, about her experience of Flamenco in Granada and has a great recommendation of where to go. It not only talks about the show, but has some great information about the traditions of Flamenco as well as one of the best paragraphs about it you’ll read in a long time (look for the one about 7 paragraphs in that starts “When the show begins, I suppress the urge . . .”
Here’s what Kelly has to say about the post:
“The Casa Del Arte Flamenco is in central Granada, you can easily walk there if you are centrally based, and it also means you won’t have to navigate the steep and uneven paths up into the cave venues.
It’s true that the famous cave venues are a spectacle in themselves, they nearly all offer incredible views of the Alhambra, but some friendly locals had told us they were just for tourists, we took the advice. We were not sorry.
So if you are thinking about what to do in Spain or want to learn a bit more about a Spanish tradition that doesn’t involve the death of an animal, be sure to read about Kelly’s flamenco experience in Granada.
Have you come across the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, India on your travels? I hadn’t, but if you are close to the region, it seems like a fun place to visit and I highly recommend checking out this post from Sandy, on his blog Voyager.
Visiting the Gol Gumbaz
As always with Sandy’s posts, it’s written so well and tells the story of his visit with plenty of helpful tips. It is also complemented with some wonderful pictures and video the captures the haunting sounds.
“Did you know that Gol Gumbaz, a mausoleum in Bijapur, India is the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican? Also, any sounds made inside the “Whispering Gallery” echoes back 7 -10 times! Another remarkable feature of the dome is that it stands proudly without the support of pillars!”
South America is a colourful, joyful and diverse continent. From the dizzy heights of La Paz, to the crystal clear Caribbean Sea in Colombia; whatever floats your boat, South America has oodles of it.
Our Taste of Travel talk food in South America
This post comes from Shannon on her blog that she runs with partner Adam, Our Taste of Travel. Their goal is to tell their stories through the food they eat and people they meet – sounds perfect to me!
“Those in search of foodie experiences, South America is a must-visit. We were expecting toblown away by the steaks and wine of Argentina, and fresh Peruvian ceviche. And, we were. But truth be told, there is way more to South America than this.
Each country is brimming with unique foodie experiences, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve put together the ultimate collection of fun foodie adventures to help you get started.”
As Colombia continues it’s travel renaissance, Cartagena de Indias is quickly emerging as one of the worlds hot destinations. This guide to the city has been written by Sasha who, with his wife Rachel, runs the travel blog Grateful Gypsies.
Starting off with a little bit of history, the post continues with the best places to visit in Cartagena as well as advice about where to stay, what to eat, nightlife and so much more. Enjoy!
A city of contrasts
Cartagena de Indias is a city of contrasts. On one side of the city you’ve got the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of cobblestone streets with stunning colonial architecture on every corner. On the other, high-rise condos towering above the beach with shopping malls and chain restaurants galore. In the intense mid-day heat, the city is quite tranquil. Once the sun goes down, however, raucous party buses and bumping salsa bars take over. With a fascinating history, beautiful surroundings, and vibrant nightlife, this city on the Caribbean coast is a great place to start when backpacking Colombia.
A Bit of History
Founded back in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, this city was named after Cartagena, Spain, which was also named after another city – Carthage, Tunisia. Thanks to its strategic location, Cartagena became a major trading port that helped to expand the Spanish empire. Silver from Peru was exported, while African slaves were imported. This made it an easy target for pirates, which led to the building of a defensive wall and several fortifications along the coast. For further protection, the Castillo de San Felipe was built in 1657. You won’t find pirates in Cartagena these days, but you can still walk on the old city walls and visit the fortress.
Fast forward to November 11, 1811, and Cartagena became only the second city in South America to claim its independence from Spain. It took a few more years, but independence became official with the help of “The Liberator” Simon Bolivar when he incorporated Colombia into the confederation of Gran Colombia. In Bolivar Park, you’ll find a statue of him on horseback with one of his famous quotes – “Cartagenians: If Caracas gave me life, Cartagena gave me glory.”
Free Walking Tours
The best way to learn about the city’s history is by joining one of the daily free walking tours. They’re led by friendly, knowledgable local guides every day of the week at 10 AM and again at 4 PM. Even though the tours are free, it’s advised to reserve a spot ahead of time as they cap the group size. Tours last a few hours and provide a fantastic introduction to the city. If you enjoy the tour, be sure to leave a decent tip for your hardworking guide.
Exploring the Old Town
Once you’ve learned all about Cartagena on the tour, exploring the Old Town on your own will be even more rewarding. For example, you’ll know what the several different designs on the door knockers mean. These beautiful door knockers (known as aldabas) signify what the family living there was known for. A mermaid or seahorse signifies a merchant, a lion is for military members, and a lizard is a sign of royalty.
There’s plenty more to see and do in the Old Town, including several museums, churches, and art galleries. In between, you can just walk around and admire the beautiful homes covered in bougainvillaea – a tropical, shrub-like vine covered in colorful flowers. Make sure you have your batteries charged up, because these make for some great photos.
The Old Town is very much the center of tourism in Cartagena, and this is where you’ll find the bulk of accommodation, shopping, dining, and nightlife. Places here tend to be a bit on the pricier side, though. Backpackers may want to consider basing themselves in another funky neighborhood not far outside the city walls.
This traditional Colombian ‘hood is quickly emerging as a backpacker hotspot in Cartagena. Full of hostels, street art, and super friendly locals, it’s a very welcoming place to call home for your visit. The main square here is buzzing at night with locals and tourists alike. Here you can grab some cheap street food and hit a Happy Hour while you watch break dancers bust a move. If you’re looking to class it up a bit, there are several great restaurants to choose from here as well.
Those looking for more sun and sand on their Cartagena trip may want to consider staying in the Bocagrande area. You don’t have to stay in one of the fancy hotels to base yourself near the beach, as you can find furnished apartments on Airbnb for a fraction of the price. The beaches here aren’t the best, but it’s hard to beat sipping on cold beers, munching on seafood, and listening to the sounds of the ocean and wandering musicians.
Out of Town
If you’re looking for those white sand beaches with crystal clear water, you’ll have to head out of town a bit. Every travel agent in the city has day trips to Playa Blanca, or you can just catch a boat from the port in the morning. Another popular option for a day tour is the Volcan del Totumo, where you can jump in the mud bath that’s said to rejuvenate your skin.
Those with a few days to spare may want to consider booking a stay at the Casa en el Agua. This eco-hostel out in the middle of the ocean is the perfect place to chill out after a busy couple of days exploring the city. Spend your days sunbathing, snorkeling, and visiting nearby beaches, and then enjoy dinner and drinks with the other lucky travelers who managed to snag a coveted spot at this little slice of paradise.
Food and Drink in Cartagena
As it’s on the coast, it should come as no surprise that seafood is big in Cartagena. Those on a budget will want to stick to local joints called corrientes, which feature set menus that typically run about $3-4 and include fish, coconut rice, fried plantains, and salad.
With so many good restaurants here, you’ve got to splurge on at least one meal. Fans of American chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain may want to check out La Cevecheria, where the host dined on an episode of his former show “No Reservations.” It ain’t cheap, but it’s well worth it.
Down in Bocagrande, there’s a fantastic local joint called Guatila. It’s very unassuming and easy to miss from the outside, but don’t let the simple appearance fool you. This is real deal Colombian home cooking. Sit down to a perfect plate of seafood coconut rice or a bowl of the mouth-watering mote de queso – a rich cheese soup typical on the coast.
If you’re looking to let loose at night, Cartagena is a damn good place to be. Once the sun goes down, you’ll start to hear the roar of the Chiva buses. These colorful open-air buses whisk tourists around town with music blasting and cocktails flowing. They’re a great way to meet people and get a little tour of the city at night while you get your buzz on.
Cartagena is all about the salsa, and there’s no shortage of places to go tear up the dance floor. One of the most popular spots to dance the night away is Cafe Havana, which is packed to the brim on weekends. If you’ve got two left feet, never fear – there are plenty of places where you can take lessons before trying out your moves in public.
The city is also home to a wide variety of bars and clubs. One of the most interesting places to grab a drink has to be the KGB Bar. Located opposite one of the city’s many churches, this theme bar is full of Soviet Union-era decorations and propaganda. The back room even looks like you’re in a submarine! It’s a great spot to have a few drinks and snap some cool photos before heading out to dance.
While a trip to South America can seem like such a difficult task to pull off, visiting Cartagena is actually quite easy. There are direct flights here from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta, and New York in the US, as well as some seasonal flights from a few Canadian cities.
For continuing your South America journey, there are super cheap flights from here to other cities in Colombia such as Bogota and Medellin. As far as visas go, citizens from 95 different countries are allowed 90 days visa-free in Colombia on arrival.
With its historical walled city, beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, and legendary nightlife, Cartagena makes an excellent choice for a vacation. It’s also a great way to get your feet wet when traveling in South America, as it’s got a very developed tourism industry and is quite safe. A few days of exploring the Old Town, lounging on the beach, and wining, dining, and dancing the night away here is the perfect warm-up for all the epic adventures this continent has to offer.
About the author
Bio: Sasha is an English teacher, videographer, and blogger from the suburbs of Detroit. He has taught English in China and studied Indonesian in Bali and is currently doing the digital nomad thing as he travels around South America. He and his wife Rachel run Grateful Gypsies, where they write about living abroad, teaching ESL, live music and more.
Sometimes when you are travelling amazing things happen. People often ask travellers where their favourite place was, most amazing animal, but very really do they ask who was the most amazing person you met. To me, that is travelling.
A forest encounter in the Armenian wilderness
This post comes from Anna, on her blog, The Wildest Tales. It tells of her chance encounter while hiking through a forest that led to a visiting a small village in the Armenian wilderness and the kindness she was welcomed with.
“An incredible story from a tiny village lost in the Armenian forest. It was the most fantastic thing that happened to me during my travels, or even perhaps in my whole life – I mean it. Tandzatap, with its amazing people, it’s where the magic happens. Yearning for an authentic travel experience? Don’t waste your time, visit Armenia off-the-beaten-track with me and my wildest tales!”
It’s stories such as these that get my wanderlust burning, a chance encounter that can lead to great memories. Check out Anna’s post from Armenia here.
The Colosseum. So iconic it gets to use the prefix the, not a or one of many, but the! The fact it still stands (well, most of it does) is a testament to the Roman Empire and has made it famous worldwide.
Did you know this about the Colosseum?
This post is from Abby, on her blog TheWingedFork. It was when she was visiting the Colosseum and she overheard another tourist asking her daughter that question, ‘What’s a gladiator?’, the inspiration for this post struck.
Abby says: “It was somewhat mindboggling that someone visiting this magnificent marvel didn’t know it’s history, or didn’t bother reading the boards on display there. So I decided to create a list of things people should already know about the Colosseum before visiting to get the most out of their time there. The list includes the gory, the good, the majesty and the history.
“Yes, it is beautiful, awe-inspiring and magnificent, but it is also sombre and macabre. The Colosseum must be respected for what it is, a reminder of what a few blood-thirsty men can do to entire civilizations.”
This isn’t your standard listicle, the way Abby writes sucks you in. There aren’t many list posts that also tell a story, this is one of the few and highly recommended if you are planning a visit to Rome and the Colosseum or even just want to learn a little more about the iconic Roman building.
Dudhsagar Falls, in Goa, look stunning. When I first saw a picture of them with that train passing underneath, looking like it could be swept away at any moment, I knew I needed to know more. Well luckily I found just the post.
Hiking to the Dudhsagar Falls
This guide is written by Sandy, for his blog Voyager. It tells of his visit to the falls including how to get there, what to expect from the hike to the falls, where you can swim and the cute tale behind how the Dudhsagar Falls got its name. Here’s Sandy:
“Dudhsagar Falls, Goa is an enchanting Waterfalls that one should not miss while in Goa. It is around 76 kilometers from Goa and the road trip itself is an exciting experience. The drive through the dirt roads across dense forest and water pools is a revelation in itself. The Dudhsagar Falls rank among the top 100 highest waterfalls in the world. The sparkling white waters cascading down steep mountain slopes are a spectacular sight to behold especially during monsoon.”
The beauty of travel isn’t just in the destinations you reach but the people you meet and the stories you discover. Each and every person has their own tale to tell, but when you are travelling you often encounter stories so different from your own. If you’re looking to find something magical in Dehli, I may have the answer.
Discover the Kathputli artist’s colony
This post comes from Mariellen on her amazing page Breathedreamgo, an award-winning travel site dedicated to transformative travel, or as Mariellen describes it, travel that changes you. In the post, she tells the story of Puran Bhatt, a puppeteer and his fight to save the Kathputli artist’s colony.
“The magicians, puppeteers, acrobats, and artists that call Kathputli Colony in Delhi, India home did not want to lose their beloved community. Though others may call it a “slum,” to them it is a place of freedom and creativity. After all, this is the place that inspired Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. Luckily, thanks to puppeteer Puran Bhatt’s efforts, they just might get to stay . . .”
The story has been featured on the BBC as well as an independently funded documentary. This is a great read and Mariellen really transports you to Puran Bhatt’s magical home. Read the full post, The puppeteer and the magician’s ghetto of Delhi, on Breathedreamgo.
Stories on The Travel Blogs
If you love personal stories be sure to check out a couple of others I have on The Travel Blogs. Read about Jimmy’s School and how he invests the money he makes from his tuk-tuk business into education the street children of Cambodia or how about Justo Gallego who has built a huge cathedral, just outside of Madrid, with recycled materials.
Legendary freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi used the power of pure will and peaceful protest to help bring an end to colonial rule in India. He was a huge influence in India gaining their independence in August 1947.
Sabarmati Ashram is the home of this amazing man. Situated in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a western state of India, here you can visit various sites, including Gandhi’s house, and view live shows that really bring his struggle back to life.
Experiencing Sabarmati Ashram and Gandhi
This post from Sandy on Vvjay, on their site Voyager, recounts the first time they visited the place and is complete with all the info you need to make your own visit to Sabarmati Ashram.
“The screams were heartrending, I could hear the wails of men, women, and children. The sound of the rifles was terrifying, and I shivered and reached out to hold my father’s hand.”
I was at the Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad and was watching the Son et Lumiere that was bringing to life the tragic events of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. I was a kid and this was my first of numerous visits to the Sabarmati Ashram, a place that was at the center of India’s Independence struggle and home to Mahatma Gandhi for 12 years.”
Continue to Voyager and read their post about the Sabarmati Ashram and how a visit to the place is sure to leave one transformed.