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Barranquilla

Introduction: Barranquilla is located on Colombia's Caribbean coast, halfway in between Cartagena, to the west, and Santa Marta to the east. It's the capital of the tiny but busy Atlantico department, where the mighty Magdalena River, Colombia's largest, flows into the sea. At 1.9 million people in the metropolitan area, it's Colombia's fourth largest city, after Bogota, Medellin, and Cali. It's not a typical tourist destination, but during Carnaval, it springs to life with thousands of Colombian and international tourists who come to witness the world's second largest Carnaval festivities; only Rio de Janeiro's are larger!

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Orientation and Location: Barranquilla is located in the middle of Colombia's Caribbean coastline, roughly half-way in between Panama to the west and Venezuela to the east. Cartagena is just 120km to the southwest, while neighboring  Santa Marta is just 100km northeast.

How to Get There: Transportation to and from Barranquilla is easy; it's served by the Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport, and an excellent highway system that links to Santa Marta, Cartagena, and further south to the interior of the country.

If you're flying into Barranquilla, the airport is just 12km from downtown, in the municipality of la Soledad. The airport is serviced by Avianca, Copa, LAN, Satena, and Viva Colombia, for domestic flights. There is currently just one international flight directly to Barranquilla from the United States; an Avianca flight to Miami. Keep in mind that nearby Cartagena does offer numerous international flights, and it's just 2 hours away by bus, taxi, or private car.

If you're heading to Santa Marta or Cartagena, it's about 2 hours by bus from Barranquilla. There are also special buses that will pick you up at your hotel and take you to downtown Cartagena and Santa Marta. The service is just $21.000: it's a great option because you can avoid going to Barranquilla's downtown bus terminal. It's also about 20 hours to Bogota, and 16 to Medellin. However, with the increasingly low cost air fares in Colombia, it's a much better idea to fly between Barranquilla and Bogota or Medellin. Lengthy bus trips in Colombia can and should be avoided; especially as they often are delayed by heavy traffic, roadblocks due to political protests, or landslides.

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What to See: Barranquilla is the antithesis of Cartagena; it's enormously vast, sprawling, and difficult to navigate. Get yourself a good map, learn how to use the Transmetro bus system, and head to the principal attractions of the city, many of which are located on the city's northern end.

One of the city's top destinations is the spectacular Plaza de San Nicolas. Here you'll find a sprawling brick-lined plaza with amazing views of this massive red and white fairy tale cathedral.

 

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Ambience: It is impossible to be bored in Cartagena. Whether you're interested in low-budget backpacking or five star luxury, you'll find it all in Cartagena. Backpackers would be well advised to head to the budget hostels in Getsemani along Calle de la Media Luna, while San Diego and el Centro offer up some of the finest (and most expensive) hotels in the country.

If you're on a backpacker budget, stroll around Getsemani for some of the best Italian food you'll find anywhere. Even the pizzerias, which are not typically Colombia's finer point, are excellent. There are also a number of good places serving up almuerzos ejecutivos. For finer dining, the area around Torre del Reloj/Plaza de la Aduana, and further into the Centro offer up world-class cuisine. The area is particularly strong in seafood and Peruvian cuisine.

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