Before going to Cartagena I had researched various activities that I wanted to do. My flights were later changed so I had even less time in Cartagena than I had originally planned so I knew that I needed to be strategic about the order in which I did things. Once I was in Bogota I asked my friend Rose to weigh in on my list of stuff I wanted to do. She agreed that I should definitely go to the mud volcano as long as I was okay with strangers randomly taking your clothes off in public. Wait. What?! She explained that after the mud bath that you need to go to the little lagoon to clean off. Basically, unless you were with someone else and were very adamant that strangers not bathe you, that these women would grab you by the hand, take off your bikini piece by piece, wash it out, make sure there were no bits of mud in your hair or on the back of your neck, and then dress you again. She said that the water was so cloudy from so many people that, while you were crouched in the shallow waters, nobody could see anything. We decided to go for it! I booked the mud volcano tour with El Vijero Hostel to leave the morning after I arrived. The tour, including lunch, was 55,000 pesos (currently $23 USD at the moment) and lasted from about 9:30-3. I was surprised that only my friend and I were the only ones to go on the tour from our hostel. We quickly joined a large tour bus full of people from other hostels/hotels. We drove about 45 minutes to the “volcano”. My first impression is that it looked like a giant ant hill with humans scrabling up the rickety staircase to get to the top. Before going up our tour guide had to explain a few things to us in our VIP area. Helpful Tips for a Good Mud Volcano Experience: 1. Give your camera to the camera guy. Your hands will be covered in mud and you will most likely ruin your camera unless you have some fancy case for it. The guy works with all kinds of cameras every day so he knows his stuff. He might charge you more if you have a fancy DSLR or you asked him to make a video. He charges 3000 pesos.
2. If you want a “massage” in the mud you will have to pay another guy. The “massage” (I really hesitate to use that word) only lasts about five minutes. Basically a guy will take you off to one side and rub the mud into your skin. There is no special equipment and again it is only five minutes. He also charges 3000 pesos. 3. After you finish playing in the mud, getting your picture taken, getting your quick rubdown, it is time to climb out and get cleaned up. You carefully climb out of the volcano on a ladder and a man will scrape the mud off of most of your legs. Make sure you don’t have a ton of mud in your bathing suit bottoms because gravity might try to keep your bottoms in the mud while you are on your way out and you end up flashing everyone…not that this happened to me or anything… Sssshhh!
4. Then you will walk a few minutes over to the shallow lagoon where the ladies will rinse you off. My friend described it well. They clean you off like you are a baby. These ladies charge 3000 pesos too (but they might hint that you owe them more). My tour guide was standing right next to me and she said she had exact change for me because the ladies didn’t “have ANY change” even though most people pay in coins….
5. Watch out for the little kids on the bank of the lagoon. They will look for dirty shoes and then charge you for cleaning them. I don’t remember how much he charges because I told him not to touch my shoes. 6. The money is required! I have read online that you are “expected to tip” these people, but I don’t classify the money I gave them as a tip because each of people in charge of the services you used (camera, massage, bath) will search for you afterward to make sure you give them their required money. If you want to give them money on top of the prices I’ve listed THEN it is considered a tip. 7. Food! Our tour included a beachside lunch of whole fried fish, water or Coke, coconut rice (I seriously want this recipe!), and fried plantains. If you are really hungry they also gave an option for chicken which came out about 10 minutes earlier than the fish. We had a few minutes to get into the water and play on the beach (which I hear was much nicer than the bathrooms in the beachside hut where we ate).
I have used mud at various spas in Italy and at La Concepcion, but this was still one of the most unique experiences I have had in a long time. I highly recommend a trip to the mud volcano if you visit Cartagena! Have you done the mud volcano tour? What do you think? Would you do it again?