The first time I made a conscious effort to take photos for blogging and Instagram purposes, was during my trip to Colombia. I discovered that my love of creating content warred with my resolute desire to live in the moment and my distaste for being attached to my phone.
How could I balance the two? How could I be present in my life AND #doitforthegram without compromising the quality of either? I could never be that kind of person who treks for an hour to an awe-inspiring waterfall only to snap a quick photo without really enjoying the view IRL.
The moment/memory/experience would always take precedence over the photo but was there was happy medium?
My solution is two-fold:
1/ Prioritize: Take a deep breath in and really soak in the moment – the view, the sounds, the smells, the feeling – and only after you've locked that memory down in your heart and the wonder starts to ebb, then I start to consider snapping a photo.
2/ Double Duty: Pick a culturally authentic experience that really gives you a feel for the place you’re in –whether it’s the rice fields of Bali, sailing in Greece, or a light-filled restaurant in San Francisco – that also happen to be gorgeous, Instagrammable spots. Kill two birds with one stone.
The entirety of Cartagena is a hardcore Instagrammer’s wet dream (too explicit?) and there’s so much to add and simultaneously check off the bucket list. Also, THE COLOURFUL WALLS! Here were some of my favourite things to do in this Colombian city that also provided amazing photographing opportunities:
1/ Enjoy City Views From Castillo De San Felipe De Barajas
Located at the top of the 40m-high San Lazaro hill, this fortress was the greatest the Spaniards ever built. Admire the construction of this mighty bastion then climb your way to the top and enjoy the sweeping views of the Cartagena cityscape.
Get some unobstructed shots (hopefully minus pesky tourists) of the city from afar or within the crumbling alcoves at the very top corners.
2/ Relax In The Lush Courtyard At Convento De La Popa
At 150m-high, Convento de la Popa is at the highest point in Cartagena so if you missed the photo opp at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, no worries because the view of the city is even better at this convent.
Capture a breathtaking panoramic shot or if your memory card is exhausted of city shots, turn the lens towards the inner courtyard of this cloister, vibrant with lush Birds of Paradise (the plant) and tropical blooms, crawling the walls.
3/ Gorge On Pinterest-Worthy Seafood At La Cevicheria
If your heart needs a reprieve from all the artery-clogging fried street food, check out the infamous La Cevicheria that got the Anthony Bourdain seal of approval. Indulge in all the seafood your belly can contain – tangy bowls of lobster ceviche, local coco rice, and crab pincers with honey mustard vinaigrette (my fav!).
With windows aplenty, not only will your food shots be well lit and served on cute, hand-painted dishes, but the space is bright and accented with turquoise and marble.
4/ Eat All The Paletas
Whether it’s in Mexico or Colombia, paletas are always a good idea. Traditionally made of fresh chopped fruit and juice, the popsicles that line inside the display case at La Paletteria are delicious and eye-catchingly colourful. How do you choose?!
For the sake of the ‘gram, sample several just to ensure that you get the perfect shot. Restaurante Maria is right up the street if you want to enjoy an awesome octopus carpaccio in a gorgeous interior. Think white lacquered pineapples and impressive murals of tigers.
5/ Wander The Getsemani Neighbourhood Graffiti
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the colourful buildings in the walled city, wander over to the Getsemani neighbourhood and lazily meander the graffitied streets. The vibe here is artsy with locals setting up camp at Plaza de la Trinidad, socializing the day away surrounded by impressive murals.
Take a patacones and cocktail break in between exploring and photographing the graffiti at El Bar del Sur or get good use out of the daylight by shooting and end it with tapas at the trendy Demente Tapas Bar (just off the plaza). If you’re craving some Italian food, grab a patio seat at Di Silvio Trattoria and you’re lucky, street dancers will throw down tableside.
6/ Spend A Sun-Filled Day Exploring Islas Des Rosario
Hop on a boat and take a quick day trip over idyllic crystalline waters to the white sandy beaches of Islas del Rosario. Spend the day snorkelling in the clear ocean and devouring a lobster feast on a private beach, or work on your tan at Playa Blanca. You can even visit an aviary!
7/ Get A Mud Facial At El Totumo Volcano
An hour’s ride of the city is Volcan de Lodo El Totumo where you descend into the open maw of the volcano, submerging yourself in oozing, viscous mud. It was the coolest most surreal experience of my entire visit to Cartagena and well worth having my squishy bits rinsed off in a nearby lagoon by the women of the village.
For 4,000 COP (less than $2 CAD), hand our camera or phone over to one of the local boys working at the volcano and he’ll take photos of the landscape as well as you swanning about in the mud.