Just 100 km from Cartagena is the official party capital of the Caribbean coast, Barranquilla.
In the four days before lent Barranquilla comes to life with one of the biggest Carnivals outside Brazil. Scintillating concerts, parades steeped in tradition and a raucous disregard for 'normal' behaviour are the order of the day.
Festivities start after Christmas so if you're trip doesn't coincide with the official dates it is worth taking in the pre-Carnivals that build up to the main event. Finding a hotel can be complicated but tours can be arranged from Cartagena.