This ain't your mama's day spa.
Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, or the mud volcano, is an iconic but off-the-beaten-path tourist destination for Colombian nationals and foreign tourists alike. Located about an hour's drive (local hotels offer bus trips if you don't have your own transportation) outside of Cartagena, a 16th century port city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the mud volcano offers adventure-seekers a unique spa treatment.
The mud pit is located at the top of the volcano: a 50-feet climb up rickety wooden stairs, where the some local young men hang out in the pit and instruct you on how to climb in. Once you're inside of the pit, they will encourage you to fully recline, and will give you a massage (the duration of which will likely depend on how crowded the volcano gets, which will range from extremely to not so much on any given day). The bizarre feeling of being in the mud volcano is that you will be completely suspended, almost defying gravity. The mud itself is silky-smooth, and no matter how hard you try to swim downwards, you cannot sink. The attendants working claim that the mud goes down 1,000 feet, and is full of 51 different minerals like calcium, aluminum and magnesium.
It's up to you how long you want to stay in the mud, and about a half hour seemed the right amount of time for me. We took a minute to revel in the spectacular panoramic view from the top, and climbed down the back side of the volcano. After a stroll to the brackish bog, older local women wait to rinse off the gray mud caked to every part of your body (which requires taking your bathing suit off in the water). You tip your masseuse and bather on the way out, and the whole experience (not including travel) ends up costing about $12 American. A truly bizarre experience that's worth the trip.
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