While visiting Cartagena, it’s likely you will hear about this famous mud “volcano”. During our first trip to Colombia, we took a day trip to El Totumo Mud Volcano and had a great (touristy!) time, but there were a few things we wish we had known before our trip. Read our story so you know what to expect!
A busload of tourists + a volcano filled with mud = a rather interesting and surprisingly fun experience!
We made a day trip to this crazy mud pit during one of our very first days in Colombia. And while super touristy, we actually had a lot of fun!
We’re sharing an excerpt from our travel journal below so you can get an idea of what to expect and decide if this is a day trip you’d like to take from Cartagena.
Related Reading: Top things to do in Cartagena — we’ve traveled to this city 3 times and have rounded up our favorite experiences.
Day trip to Volcan Totumo
Travel Journal Entry, February 2014
Even before arriving in Colombia we had heard lots about this “mud volcano”, and decided that it was worth a visit.
If you are planning on doing this trip, we want you to know that the mud volcano is a really cool experience, but let’s just say it is not exactly culturally authentic.
It is a pretty touristy experience but if you have mindset from the start, it will be a pretty fun day.
In the morning, we boarded a bus with other foreigners and locals alike, all excited for the experience that lay ahead. After an hour drive, we arrived at El Volcan del Totumo.
No, this volcano is not spewing with hot lava or seeping smoke, but rather, it is a 50-foot mound filled in the core with yep, you guessed it – mud!
Legend has it that Totumo used to spew fire and lava, but a priest who believed it was the work of the devil sprinkled it with holy water, turning it into the muddy attraction that it is today.
We climbed to the top and looked down into the muddy pit, crawling with giggling mud-covered people I can only describe as “creatures”. One man in our group compared the scene to watching catfish flop around in a watering hole. A pretty good description, I’d say.
Once it was our turn, we climbed down the ladder into the crowded, gooey, muddy pit and discovered what all the laughter was about.
We were immediately greeted by a local man who slid us across – yes, we skidded across the mud on our backs – to other men who proceeded to give us “massages”. I thought it was rather relaxing, but Ben felt a bit uncomfortable as the man rubbed his stomach and upper thighs. All this time, another man above the mud pit snapped a dozen pictures of the awkward massages with our camera.
After our massages, we were passed to the other side of the pit where we could play and laugh with the others.
Though the people in the pit were of all ages, speaking several different languages, from different walks of life – we were the same once we were immersed in the pit. Giggling, splashing, floating, and covered in mud!
Our guide told us that the mud supposedly has “healing and therapeutic properties”, but I’m not convinced. My skin didn’t really feel rejuvenated after immersing in the mud, but the weightless feeling of floating on top of the dense mud was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
After splashing and floating to our hearts’ desires, we climbed out of the pit on a slippery ladder and made our way to a lagoon where local women were waiting to wash us. Now this was also quite the experience.
The woman who approached us took a bucket of water and threw it over my head, and repeated this for some time – digging her fingers in my ears and nose to clear out the mud. Next, she… well, I’m not going to describe it in detail, but let’s just say my swimsuit was nearly removed and she scrubbed enough to get me clean. I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched her do the same to Ben.
We were informed before reaching the volcano that the people who provided services – such as photo-taking, massage-giving, and mud-cleaning – were from an impoverished town nearby, so it was customary to tip for their “services”. If you do this trip, please tip appropriately.
After tipping to locals, the group headed to a beautiful restaurant on the beach. We swam in the ocean while our food was being prepared, then enjoyed the traditional Colombian meal of rice, salad, plátanos (smashed, fried plantains), and chicken or fish.
Eating a fresh and delicious meal while watching the waves roll in was the perfect way to conclude our mud volcano experience.
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Does visiting El Totumo Mud Volcano sound super fun or way too touristy? Comment with your opinion below!