In the middle of the Colombian wetlands in the north lies the sleepy city of Mompóx. This colonial gem situated on the banks of the Magdalena river seems to be coming right out of a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. Getting here by public transport isn’t easy peasy, but so worth the detour!
After a 6 hour long and bumpy ride from the coastal town of Santa Marta in a fully packed and way too small shuttle bus, we arrive at Mompóx (also written Mompós). There’s no time to get used to the burning heat hitting the town by day, but we’re falling for the charms of this city where time appears to stand still nevertheless. On the little square around the corner of our hotel are a number of older people playing chess in the shadow of a tree. Kids are playing along the riverside while their mothers are doing the laundry. It’s clear: life here is going at a different pace. When the sun sets and the temperatures go down a few degrees, Mompóx is coming alive. On the plazas and river boardwalk, Mompósinos are gathering to have a beer and talk the night away.
We’d have to admit there’s not sooo much to do around here, but with temperatures hardly going below 40°C during the day, you won’t feel like doing much anyway. Coming to Mompóx is all about discovering a piece of the real, authentic Colombia where tourists are not in control and the colonial style isn’t long gone glory. We’re betting you’d like to postpone your return to modern life just a little bit longer…
Colonial pride and glory
Walking around in Mompóx with your camera will guarantee nice pictures around just about every corner. Even if the centre isn’t much bigger than a handkerchief, there are no less than 5 beautiful churches to be found. In the early morning or late afternoon, enjoy a pleasant walk on the boardwalk with its colourful houses that line the Magdalena river.
Boat tour on the Magdalena river
Starting from Mompóx, you can explore the surrounding region through an organized boat tour (to be booked via your hotel). Although the tour takes up quite some time (a bit too much if you’d ask us), we were glad in the end to have stepped aboard. During the dry season you won’t see many animals, but the lazy iguanas or rare snakes you do get to see will make it worth the while. You’ll also get a glimpse of local live taking its course along the riverside with children having fun in the water and grown-up men gathering the livestock while you’re driving by. With the sunset as your background and a swarm of bats flying alongside the boat, you’ll get back to Mompóx. Upon arrival you’ll get to see the churches towering above the skyline, giving you an idea of what it must have been like for the colonists arriving here so many centuries ago.
Restaurants in Mompóx
One of the most beautiful, and also must busy, restaurants here is El Fuerte. Sitting on the gorgeous patio in the back of the restaurant is pure bliss on a sultry summer evening. The waiting times might make you a bit nervous, like in most places in Colombia by the way, but the wood-baked pizzas you’ll get on your plate will soon make you forget that minor bummer.
Many of Mompóx’s hotels are situated in old colonial houses. We picked out Bioma, a wonderfully restored building with a refreshing pool downstairs (which you’ll definitely love to have in these temperatures) and super friendly staff. There’s also a nice roof terrace with jacuzzi from where you can get a 360° view of the town. Highly recommended!
How to get to Mompóx?
From Santa Marta it’s fairly easy to arrange a collectivo shuttle via Toto Express (+57 310 707 0838 or email@example.com, Spanish speaking only) that offers a door-to-door service to Mompóx. They pick you up at 3 AM (yes, you’re reading that correctly) or 1 PM, to arrive at your destination a bumpy 6 hours later. It’s not the most comfortable way of travelling for big European people like us who’ll get propped in a mini van together with a dozen other smaller Colombian people. You’ll also be amazed by the quantity of luggage they manage to get in and on the car. But hey, that’s part of the experience, right 🙂 After staying in Mompóx for a day or two, you can take a more comfortable Unitransco bus which will take you to Cartagena in about 6 hours. Tickets can be booked online or at the little bus terminal in Carrera 3 con Calle 14.