Travel Mompox: a backwater river town frozen in time

The  Magdalena River
Mompox sits on the banks of the Magdelena River

A door in Mompox
A street in downtown Mompox

About five hours inland from the Caribbean coast is the intriguing town of Mompox – a perfectly preserved colonial town.  Founded in 1537 Mompox (also spelled Mompos) was an important port city for cargo and travelers during in the colonial era.  The Magdelena River splits in two just before Mompox. Back in the 1800s the branch, on which Mompox sits, silted up with mud and became unnavigable for big boats – so traffic was diverted down the other branch. Mompox became a sleepy, back-water town frozen in time.

A decorative gate looking into a villa courtyard

a Colonial building in Mompox
San Augustin church in Mompox

There’s no way to get here directly by car. You have to take buses from Sincelejo (if coming from Tolu) then another to Maragane then a small ferry boat up the Magdelena River to the port of La Bodega and then a collective taxi or motor-taxi to the city center. It’s a day-long hot trip from Cartagena or Tolu. From Cartagena there are air-conditioned buses.

The heat and humidity in this town is oppressive but the architecture of the center is fascinating, there are nice restaurants and boutique hotels along the river all nicely priced. A nice room in a tastefully decorated hotel in 400 year old building like the Hotel Villa Mompox that would cost you $500 in Italy is $14 a night with a ceiling fan – $25 with air-conditioning.  There are plenty of restaurants along the riverfront typically priced $5 for lunch or dinner.

The city center is like one huge museum.  All the Villas in town leave the huge doors and windows open displaying quaint courtyards and sitting rooms adorned with antiques. When the cool evening breezes float in at sunset,  the residents sit outside  their houses on the street to cool off and chat with neighbors while bats dive down the whitewashed streets for mosquitos coming up from the river.  There’s a languid charm to this place, quintessential colonial Colombia. There are very few cars here.  Most people stroll, ride a bicycle or take a motor-taxi.

A number of tourists, architectural enthusiasts mostly,  venture to Moxpox. But  I fear Mompox won’t stay like this long though. They’re currently building a bridge across the river which should be completed by 2020. With a road to town, the vibe of this river town will change in the next decade.

(For more on colonial towns in Colombia see the article:

Villa de Leyva and Mongui – the beautiful villages of Boyaca

Colonial Towns in Santander


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Author: Jon McInnes

Jon McInnes is a journalist who has been traveling to Colombia since 1972. He travels to Colombia and other parts of South America yearly and writes for newspapers, food, wine and travel publications. He currently lives between Colombia and Detroit. You can also follow him on facebook and contact him via email at: jonmcinnesjon@gmail.com

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