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Mompóx, Colombia (pronounced MomPOSH or MomPOSS, and sometimes spelt Mompós) is a town frozen in time. Beautiful yellow colonial architecture, cobbled streets and chalupa longboats taxiing people across the river make this a special place to see for yourself. Though it’s been on people’s travel radars for a while, there aren’t many tourists in the town still. When you read on to the “How to get to Mompox” section, you’ll understand why. There aren’t many things to do in Mompox, and for some on a tight travel schedule the effort of getting there doesn’t equate to the value of being there. However, for us it was the perfect chance to escape city life, mill around and recharge our batteries for our next round of travels.
After reading this guide to Mompox, Colombia, you may also be interested in:
P.S. Sadly, we’re having to sell our souls to SEO at this point, and since people are far more likely to google Mompox without an accent (who even knows how to find those on a keyboard?!) we’re going to be writing it as ‘Mompox’, not ‘Mompóx’, from now on. Spanish-speakers and pedants, we are eternally sorry.
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Where is Mompox, Colombia?
In the Northern department of Bolivar (though also on the border with the Magdalena department), Mompox sits on Colombia’s largest inland island, Isla Margerita. It’s separated from the mainland by the Magdalena river. This made it a very important town back in the day, though it was eventually dwarfed by Magangué downriver.
It took us approximately 9 hours to get from Cartagena to Mompox, even though they’re in the same department. It wasn’t terrible though, as the bus/boat route from Cartagena to Mompox was one of the most interesting we’ve travelled in Colombia, with terrain transforming from Caribbean coastlines to rice fields and flat marshland. Prepare to see a Colombia you hadn’t imagined before!
What’s the Mompox climate like?
Now, Mompox is HAWT, like 36 degrees Celsius hot, so if you were uncomfortable in Cartagena you just wait. At night it’s the ideal temperature to sit on a veranda with some beers, so use that thought to get you through the day.
How to get to Mompox Colombia
Well, isn’t this just a joy. The journey to Mompox is not for those who like to travel fast, and the only way to travel to Mompox time-efficiently is to let a night bus take you while you sleep. This is a complicated section, so bear with us.
How to get to Mompox from Cartagena
1. Take a taxi to the Cartagena bus terminal
Helpfully, the Cartagena bus terminal is nowhere near the walled centre of Cartagena. The taxi will take you around 45-60 minutes, traffic-dependent.
2. Buy bus ticket to Magangué at the Brasilia/Unitransco desk
Contrary to what our hostel told us, these buses do not run ‘all day long’. We bought tickets for the 8:30am for 25k each; the only other option was 9pm (which would have gone directly to Mompox, but it’s only 6.5 hours away so you arrive at silly o’clock – not ideal in a small town). Costeño also have this route a few desks down so check if their times are better for you. We really need to get better at taking phone photos whilst running for the bus.
3. From Magangué, get a taxi to the port
As soon as you get off the bus, there will be taxi drivers asking where you want to go. Lots are actually moped drivers; if you feel comfortable riding a moped with your luggage then it will work out cheaper – just note that the ride is about 15 minutes long and there will be no helmet offered. Don’t be hesitant to ask for a car instead, there will be plenty ready to take you for 8k COP.
4. At the port, buy a chalupa ticket to Bodega
Head to the ticket office to the very top right of the terminal, near the doors to the river. This chalupa boat ride is 15-20 minutes and will cost you 9k. The last chalupa boat leaves at 5pm, but there’s not really anything to see in Magangué that would keep you from going directly from the bus to the port. The chalupas are colectivos, so there’s no telling how long they take to fill up and leave. We were pretty bummed to see we were the first people on a new boat of 25 or so, but we only had to wait 20 minutes in the end. Once you’ve bought your place, you can wait in the terminal to be called, but since we almost missed this we recommend that you instead head down to the river and sit on the boat until it fills up.
5. Taxi to Mompox from Bodega
Now, the last leg of your journey, getting a taxi to Mompox once you landed at Bodega. The roads are pretty rough most of the way, so the journey will be a slow 45 minutes. Again, there are moto taxis available, but we’d recommend getting a colectivo car taxi.
There are day and night buses that go directly to Mompox from Bogotá Terminal Salitre, or to nearby El Banco, from which you’ll need to take an hour 4×4 ride to the town. Note that the buses tend to be slower than expected, so the 14 hours journey was actually 19 hours on our return to Bogotá. To get back to Bogotá, you can buy bus tickets at the Copetran terminal, behind the cemetery, or online at redbus.com (you’ll still need to go to the Copetran desk to validate your ticket just before getting on the bus). In case you were expecting something official-looking, this is the terminal:
A lot of people actually warned us against this bus, saying the roads were too bad, but in our opinion it felt a much safer and more comfortable bus ride than some of the hair-raising experiences we’ve had around Antioquia or Quindío. Admittedly we were put a little on edge when the bus driver asked the passengers to join him in a group prayer, stating “I alone do not have the skill to drive this bus from Mompox to Bogota, I need Jesus to drive with me”. Jesus did indeed take the wheel, and ‘Los extranjeros’ (that us) did get a special shout-out in the blessings, so we’ve got give the guy some credit.
How to get to Mompox from Medellín
Expreso Brasilia and Rápido Ochoa are bus companies that both offer 11 hour night buses from Medellín Terminal del Sur to Magangué. From there, you’d have to get the chalupa to Bodega and then taxi to Mompox, as in the Cartagena to Mompox section above.
The other option is to get a 9 hour bus to Aguachica and then another bus to El Banco, then taxi to Mompox, but the times that this would get you into Aguachica would noooot be too pleasant, as it leaves from Medellín at 16:45.
How to get to Mompox by plane
While there is no public-use airport at Mompox, the other option is to fly to Mompox’s vicinity via Corazol Las Brujas Airport near Sincelejo, get a colectivo to Magangué and then continue the journey to Mompox via chalupa and taxi as above. If doing this on the return, you need to factor in the fact that colectivos can take hours to leave if no one turns up to fill them, so book a later flight and get started on your journey to the airport as early as possible.
Safety in Mompox
According to some Colombians, the Magdalena area has a reputation for sexual assaults. We still got to know plenty of comfortable solo female travellers there; just remember to be extra vigilant. We met a Colombian girl travelling solo as a tourist who arrived at Bodega late, and instead of a mototaxi she opted to hitch a lift with a delivery van, because she was worried about the area’s reputation and felt that he was more restricted to main roads than moto taxis. We’re not sure we’d 100% recommend this plan of action, but liked her initiative!
Walking around Mompox at night, things did feel small-town safe in the centre. Further out, the areas are decidedly less pristine and public funding is very obviously cut sharply, so just take normal precautions if you venture away from the historical centre after dark. Generally, we felt completely comfortable in this town, and although the locals seemed to stare at us a lot they were all extremely welcoming. We found ourselves strolling around town dropping ‘Buenas’s like they were going out of fashion.
Where to stay in Mompox
There’s not a huge amount of choice in the town, nor any extreme budget options, but there are a few nice-looking hotels to consider, such as the famous Casa Amarilla or Portal de la Marquesa with its beautiful patio, and also a couple of hostels in Mompox.
We stayed in Pueblito Mágico, which we had mixed feelings about. The common areas are really beautifully put together, with both indoor and outdoor spaces to relax. The room we were given – the ensuite double right next to reception – was incredible, but we had a peek in at the other double for the same price and the dorm rooms and they looked pretty cramped and dank.
Our room was spotless but the kitchen didn’t feel so clean, nor well-equipped. The owner was away and one of the remaining staff was a new volunteer, so although very friendly knew absolutely nothing about the hostel or local area. The other member of staff did his best not to do any work or answer questions fully. This led to some mix-ups with a couple of people’s travel plans that they tried to arrange through the hostel. The hostel also ran out of drinking water for a couple of days as they kept forgetting to buy a new tank. The hostel was good enough for what we needed but a few tweaks could really transform the place. The location is really perfect, riverside and right next to one of the Mompox’s prettiest churches.
If we had our time in Mompox, Colombia, again, we’d probably opt to stay at Casa Isabelita because JUST LOOK AT WHAT A BEAUTY THAT IS. Nicely located with one of the lower price points in Mompox.
Where to eat & drink in Mompox
It may not be very tradish, but Luna de Mompox is a wonderful little curbside restaurant in a quiet plaza. The pizzas are great and it’s very popular with locals.
For coffee and/or breakfast, Sol de Agua Café is a must. Wifi is strong here so it’s the perfect place to head to if you need to get some work done with views of the river.
Things to do in Mompox, Colombia
There’s not a lot, really, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. We came across a few people who had planned a 4-5 day stay in Mompox because it takes so damn long to get there but left after 2 days because of lack of things to do. As suggestions, check out the bird-watching river cruises for 60,000 COP, rent bikes to explore nearby towns or stroll around to see all the churches and the beautiful cemetery. Other than that, sit back and soak up those small town vibes.