If you look beyond the scuttlebutt about Colombia, you'll discover a South American country brimming with life, music and welcoming locals.
Expect to be be swept up in a world of festivals, colour, brightly painted colonial architecture and the most delicious seafood.
Cartagena de Indias is a northern port city that both tourists and locals rave about, for good reason. Cartagena feels worlds apart from Bogota. Gone are the cold misty mountains that surround the capital and in their place stretch the shimmering Caribbean, framed by brightly painted colonial architecture and a dazzling blue sky.
Surrounded by thick salt-licked walls, originally designed to keep treasure-greedy pirates out, Cartagena's old city has avoided the developers' bulldozers. Outside the city walls modern high-rises exist, but inside things feel unchanged: kids dawdle on their way to school, dogs pad slowly down streets, old men play endless games of chess in plazas shaded by perfumed almond trees.
There's a certain magic that permeates the air here and Cartagena's history is even more colourful than its architecture.
Top travel tips for Cartagena:
1. Lunch like a local
Eat lunch alongside the locals in one of the city's simple restaurants. A menu del dia will often include soup, fried chicken or fish, rice, salad and a freshly squeezed juice. Incredibly cheap and very filling, this is the best way to eat in Colombia.
2. Day trip to paradise
Cartagena may not have the most beautiful beaches; however, just off shore lie the idyllic Rosario Islands. These coral islands range from tiny islets only large enough to string a hammock, to lush resort-adorned islands.
3. Cocktails with a view
Join the locals at Cafe del Mar on top of the city's stone wall for unbeatable views and mojitos.
4. Take a mud bath
Take a day trip to Lodo el Totumo, a bubbling mud volcano. Jump into this warm, messy mud bath for a therapeutic, and fun, experience.
Have you enjoyed exploring Cartagena - any other tips you'd add to this list?