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The 411 on the Mud Volcano Cartagena

Are you planning to visit Volcan del Totumo (the Mud Volcano)?


It’s likely you have heard of the Mud Volcano while doing research on things to do in/around Cartagena. Volcan del Totumo (or Mud Volcano) is fairly remote, about 1.5 hours east of Cartagena and about an hour west of Barranquilla. This “unique” adventure was unlike anything I’ve experienced. Read below for the good, the bad and the ugly when visiting the Mud Volcano (Volcan del Totumo) outside Cartagena, Colombia.

the stairs going up to the top of the mud volcano

Getting to Volcan del Totumo


If you plan to visit the Mud Volcano, there are a few ways to get there from Cartagena. You can take a tour of the Mud Volcano, choosing from several different companies. Or you can hire a private driver. We booked a private driver through our hotel for the day for 250,000 pesos (~$65 as of Feb. 2024). If you are 2-4 people, this may be a cheaper, more customizable option. Your driver likely won’t speak much English (so no guiding of the area) and lunch won’t be provided (as with other tours) but it provides the flexibility to come and go at your leisure. We chose a private driver so we could time our visit outside the likely times of the tour groups --- selecting to arrive at lunch time (1 pm). You can also take a cab or Uber but the prices were about the same as the driver and you would need to negotiate with a cab/Uber for the driver to stay and wait for you as there are NO cabs in the area.

a view of the entire mud pit overlooking the road

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly about the Mud Volcano


Let’s start with the fun things about visiting the Mud Volcano. This is truly a unique experience. Floating in the dense mud (it’s almost impossible to push your feet down or even swim around) is more challenging than the Dead Sea. The guides claim therapeutic properties and while I didn’t feel those, I have to admit my skin was pretty soft afterward. It’s also an easy day trip from Cartagena, making it the perfect outing to get outside the city and see a little bit of the countryside.


Moving on to the bad: This is a massive tourist trap. The volcano is not much more than a 15 meter hill with rickety stairs leading up and a wobbling ladder going into the mud. The mud pit is only about 12’ x 12’ (I was definitely expecting something a LOT bigger) and the only locals around are there to make a buck. The surrounding area is quite basic, with a water spicket in a holey bathroom for rinsing off (if you don’t get it all off in the lake).

jordan and her friend smiling up from the mud pit while floating

Lastly, don’t forget the ugly! I now know what a pig feels like. I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that dozens of people “swim” in this mud every day. It’s hot, and just felt like a cesspool of dead skill cells, sweaty bodies and nature. I can’t imagine there is a way to clean the mud, so I couldn’t seem to keep my mind off of this. My friend was more concerned about the shallow lake we wadded into afterward to clean off, saying “I hope I don’t get a flesh-eating bacteria.” Oh joy! Don’t you want to go now?!


All in all, if you go into the day with this knowledge (small mud pool, tourist trap, basic facilities) you will have a better day – what an adventure, right?!


jordan stepping out of the mud pit covered in mud

Packing Essentials for the Mud Volcano


  • Wear an old (preferably black) swimsuit. The mud does rinse off (with extra care) but can permanently stain any light colors.


  • Bring a change of clothes. You will have the opportunity to rinse off in the nearby lake and/or pay for a shower at one of the restaurants (don’t spend more than 5,000 pesos/person).


  • Bring easy to rinse flip flops. You will need to walk up and down the small volcano (read small hill) in the thick mud left from previous users, so be sure to wear a pair of shoes that can get completely muddy and then rinsed off.


  • Stay hydrated. The heat and the hot mud will dry out your skin, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.


  • Bring a camera and/or waterproof cover for your phone. You can opt to have a “guide” take pictures of you while you are in the Mud Volcano (for a small fee – usually 5000 pesos or $1-2), so come prepared. Trust me, you want footage of yourself in all your muddy glory!

  • Don’t forget extra money. There are “guides” for everything at the Mud Volcano (Volcan del Totumo), so make sure you are aware that accepting anyone’s help will require a tip: a tip for a camera man, a tip for a message in the mud, a tip for help rinsing off in the lake, a tip for a shower, etc.


  • Pack an old towel (not the hotel towel from Cartagena). This towel will get stained. My towel, even after washing 3x, is still stained with grey mud, so make sure you aren’t attached to it!

Whether or not you choose to go along with a tour for ease of mind, language barriers and provided lunch, I’d encourage you to get a “guide” for pictures. We had the best time AFTER the trip looking at all the b-reels our guy took, including some hilarious videos and comments we thought weren’t heard! Hope this take on the good, the bad and the ugly when visiting the Mud Volcano (Volcan del Totumo) was helpful! Be sure to check out my top restaurants in Cartagena!


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