I first learned of Mompós a couple of years ago when researching this trip, and knew almost immediately that we had to make to there.
Images of a colonial town seemingly stuck in time, baking in the hot sun on the bank of the Magdalena River in Colombia’s swampy inland tropics were ones I wanted to be part of.
The slow paced town of Mompós, which also goes by the name of Mompox, was founded in 1540 and was once a more important port than the bigger northern city of Cartagena. That all came to a screeching halt when the Magdalena, the lifeline from the ocean to the Andes, silted over and the port economy nose dived in the mire.
The town was also off limits a couple of decades ago during the war between paramilitaries and narco-terrorists.
These days it’s very much a peaceful and very safe local’s town, with a handful of Colombian tourists and even less international ones. And thanks to it’s relative isolation, no-so-straight-forward-access and appalling roads around it, it may remain that way for quite some time.
Casa Amarilla, where we stayed.
Iglesia Santa Barbara.
Explorations can start in Plaza de Santa Barbara in front of the canary-yellow church that shares the same name. Not the most lively of public spaces during the day’s blistering heat, but come the afternoon visitors can join the locals and catch a cool breeze beneath shady trees by the river.
Here you’ll also find a couple of kiosks that keep everyone boozed-up well into the night, especially during its Semana Santa celebrations at Easter, when we were in town.
For something a little more serene, walk along the riverfront path to Casa Sol de Agua, a cute cafe and bar that puts on breakfast, sandwiches, crêpes, cold drinks and coffee. Grab yourself a rocking chair in the shade and get right in to the Mompós vibe.
Casa Sol de Agua – check map for location.
Queso de capa.
The town doesn’t offer a plethora of activities, not that you want to do anything too strenuous in the stinking heat and high humidity.
Wander up to Cementerio Municipal and gawk at the all-white tombs and gravestones, the many black cats and even join the locals and take a seat beneath a tree and enjoy the peace. This is the second cemetery I’ve visited in South America where locals simply come to relax and socialise; the other one’s in Sucre, Bolivia.
In your wanderings you’re bound to spot a peddler selling small bags of queso de capa, a delicious mozzarella-like cheese that’s made up of many layers. Try the plain one, or if you have a sweet tooth, go for the ones stuffed with arequipe or jam.
Comedor Costeño – check map for location.
Plaza de la Concepcion.
The food scene wasn’t in full swing during Semana Santa as many places were closed for the holiday, but we still managed to eat well. Head to Plaza de la Concepcion in the afternoon and choose from several cafes and restaurants that spill onto the pavement. Here you can enjoy pizza, crêpes, burgers or a simple beer, vino or cocktail.
If you’re up for some pasta, head to Nonna Beatrice Ristorante and tuck into a divine pasta fruti di mare (30,000) or a panino, grilled carne, or for dessert – some of that delicious local queso de capa with arequipe or sweet lemon.
If riverside dining has more appeal, there’s the ever-popular Comedor Costeño with its great value set lunch for 22,000 pesos. Mojarra frita (fried fish) with chorizo or coconut rice, salad patacones, plus a soup and juice.
Or just next door is Jhon Parrilla, which fires up its outdoor grill and puts on the same kind of lunch or dinner deal as its neighbour. Sit beneath the huge mango tree on the riverside and enjoy a plate of grilled chicken, pork, fish or beef with all the usual Colombian trimmings.
Nonna Beatrice Ristorante – Calle 16, #1-48
Jhon Parrilla, Calle 16
Get the Cotra Sangil minibus from the south side of the plaza in Barichara back to San Gil Local Terminal. Cost is 4,800 pesos per person.
From San Gil Local Terminal get a taxi (5,000 pesos) to San Gil Terminal de Transport in the west part of town, then a Contra Saravita bus to Bucaramanga. Leaves at 11am and arrives 2pm; cost 20,000 pesos per person.
We decided to overnight in the nearby district of Girón, which is a short taxi ride away.
To get to Mompós from Bucaramanga Terminal de Transport, get the Copetran bus at 10am (arrival 5pm), via Aguachica. Cost is 95,000 pesos per person.