Colombia is known for its rich history, vibrant nightlife and abundant natural beauty, and few cities exemplify these qualities as does Cartagena. Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, this bustling northern outpost dates back to 1533 and served as an important port city for the Spanish Empire during the Age of Exploration – and while the city may be approaching half a millennium in age, Cartagena is anything but obsolete. , with a wealth of modern accommodations spread across the country’s borders.
Located in the heart of the ancient walled city of Cartagena, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is a shining example of the city’s seamless blend of old and new. While the property itself is packed with modern amenities and plush drinking and dining options, the building itself dates back centuries, having been built in 1621 to serve as a monastery for members of the Order of Saint Clare. Over the years, the fabled walls took on a new lease of life as a hospital, medical school, and even prison before becoming the Santa Clara we know today – and there’s a lot more to explore around the property than just its long history.
In terms of drinking and dining, the property is equipped with five different concepts for guests to enjoy. While each has its own unique charm, Jardín Santa Clara is a haven for visiting nature lovers in particular, offering the opportunity to dine in the property’s lush colonial garden. Fitted out with a centuries-old well accented by native orchids and ferns, this open-air venue offers guests the opportunity to sample fresh seafood while being serenaded by native Colombian birdsong and the unmistakable chirping of the coquí, a small frog native to Puerto Rico. .
Meanwhile, serious wine aficionados would be remiss to skip dinner at 1621 Restaurant, a fine dining establishment just beyond the garden. Centuries ago, this storied hall served as the dining hall for the complex’s resident nuns, and in modern times it offers guests the opportunity to sample refined French cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients, all commissioned by Chef Robinson Herrera. In addition to top-notch cuisine, the property excels in the delicate art of wine pairing and offers a diverse array of selections, orchestrated by head sommelier Ana Maria Buitrago.
After a long night of good food and wine, a little rest is essential – and luckily the Sofitel SPA is the perfect place to relax, complete with seven separate massage rooms, a gym and a hammam. After a relaxing facial or couples massage, you can take a seat just steps away by the hotel pool. This sprawling outdoor hangout currently serves as the largest swimming pool in the city of Cartagena, with the adjacent open-air Botika bar opening just in time to catch an amazing sunset.
While the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is certainly one of the city’s most palatial accommodations, no trip to Cartagena is complete without exploring the surrounding neighborhood. The hotel’s location gives guests direct access to the historic walled city, a fascinating district that was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984. For a little insight into the wealth of sights and attractions in the area, a guided tour with Nexperience is an essential activity, while charming bars such as Beer Lovers Cartagena and El Barón offer a welcome relief from the sun in the early afternoon.
While there is no shortage of spectacular destinations on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena offers an experience that is as exciting as it is fascinating. Between the nightclubs and fresh local seafood lies a wealth of ancient monuments and structures just waiting to be discovered – and when it comes to luxury, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara certainly tops the list. If you are planning your next trip to this legendary city, don’t miss this timeless gem.