What’s a crazy romantic way to spend a morning of a wedding anniversary? How about a mud bath inside a volcano? Sounds a bit radical but that was how we started our celebration during our anniversary trip in Colombia, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
An easy 45-minute drive from Cartagena, El Tutomo Volcano in the municipality of Santa Catalina is popular among locals and tourists for its therapeutic mud bath.
Local legend has it that El Tutomo was once an actively wrathful volcano spewing lava, fire and ashes. Believed that the volcanic rage was caused by the devil, a priest appeased El Tutomo by sprinkling it with holy water and transformed the molten lava into a mineral-rich healing mud.
Standing at 50 ft. tall, the volcano was much smaller than we imagined. The more we appreciated our decision to time our visit before the arrival of large tour groups from Cartagena. This volcano is notorious for being crowded.
The crater of the volcano is accessed via steep wooden stair steps.
The view of the lagoon and the surrounding stalls as we climbed up the stairs.
From the top of the volcano, we had to descend via shaky ladder to get into the muddy crater.
As we stepped off the ladder, we floated on the mud with such ease! Just like our experience in the Dead Sea, we found that we cannot sink in this volcano! As we floated dreamily, the attendants splattered us up with mud. (One of the attendants was holding our camera and snapping these photos.)
Then the attendants started massaging us with gentle strokes…on out feet, the calves, the thighs, the abs…
…then they asked us to go vertical so they can massage our shoulders, backs and heads. It was not your kind of luxurious spa massage but pleasant enough. It lasted for a good 30 minutes… which was long as we learned that it lasts for only 3 minutes if you were there during a crowded time.
Then we floated for a good half-hour more. Enjoying this small volcano all to ourselves was such a nice treat. The mud felt comfortable and very silky and didn’t smell sulfuric at all. It was very relaxing. And our skins did feel smooth afterwards.
After the mud bath, we were led to a lagoon where we were met by women who poured buckets of water over us to cleanse the mud off. They meant serious cleansing! To our surprise, they yanked out our bathing suits off us, washed the mud off and helped us put them back on. Whew!
Relaxed, cleansed and changed, we refreshed with fresh coconut juice at one of the stalls.. and then the tour vans started coming one by one…..
As we were leaving, we got curious as to how the scene was on top of the volcano with five van-loads of people. We climbed up and saw a lot of people waiting to get into the crater mud.
We looked down and saw that it was a very crowded affair…..a party we were happy not to be part of.
We then headed back to Cartagena to continue our celebration in a more traditional way – luxurious spa treatment at our hotel, champagne by the pool and a romantic dinner. We did enjoy them all but we say that the mud bath was a truly unique and special experience.
- We arranged for a private car service through our hotel in Cartagena for a cost of about US$100, That is about equivalent to the cost of joining a tour group for the two of us.
- We arrived at the site before 9 am. The tour groups start arriving at 10:30 am.
- The entrance fee is $2 per person.
- Bring small change to tip the volcano attendants. Recommended tip is at least $1.50 for the masseurs, for the attendant who hold your camera and take your photos, and for the women who bathe you in the lagoon. Since we were in the volcano longer than usual, we tipped the masseurs double.
- Don’t bring any valuables with you. We only brought point and shoot camera.