Cartagena Travel Guide: Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

Welcome to the Cartagena travel guide! Situated on the picturesque Caribbean coast of Colombia, Cartagena is a city that exudes charm, history, and vibrant energy. With its unique blend of colonial architecture, colorful streets, and captivating cultural heritage, Cartagena has become a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a memorable experience.

At the heart of Cartagena lies its historic walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage site that transports you back in time. As you wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter an enchanting array of pastel-colored buildings adorned with ornate balconies overflowing with flowers. The historic center is home to numerous plazas, each with its own character and charm. Plaza Santo Domingo, with its iconic sculpture by renowned artist Fernando Botero, is a popular gathering spot where you can relax and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.

One of the city’s most impressive landmarks is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a formidable fortress that played a crucial role in defending Cartagena against pirate attacks during the colonial era. Explore its labyrinthine tunnels, climb to the top for panoramic views of the city, and immerse yourself in the history that permeates the walls.

For a taste of the Caribbean’s natural beauty, venture beyond the city to the stunning beaches surrounding Cartagena. Playa Blanca, located on the nearby Isla Barú, boasts pristine white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Spend your days lounging under swaying palm trees, taking refreshing dips in the ocean, and savoring fresh seafood delicacies.

A visit to Cartagena is incomplete without indulging in its vibrant culinary scene. The city offers a delectable array of flavors, blending traditional Colombian dishes with international influences. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor local specialties like ceviche, arepas, and the famous Colombian bandeja paisa. The streets are lined with charming cafes, trendy restaurants, and street food vendors, all serving up mouthwatering dishes that will tantalize your taste buds.

When it comes to accommodations, Cartagena caters to every traveler’s preferences. From luxurious boutique hotels housed within restored colonial mansions to budget-friendly hostels and cozy guesthouses, you’ll find a wide range of options to suit your style and budget. Many accommodations are nestled within the walled city, allowing you to soak up the historic ambiance right outside your doorstep.

Getting around Cartagena is relatively easy, with taxis, buses, and even horse-drawn carriages readily available. Exploring the city on foot is a delightful way to soak up its vibrant atmosphere, but if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bicycle or hop on a chiva, a colorful open-air party bus that takes you on a lively tour around the city.

If you have extra time to spare, consider embarking on day trips from Cartagena to further explore the region’s beauty. From the picturesque Rosario Islands, known for their vibrant coral reefs and turquoise waters, to the historical charm of Santa Marta and the natural wonders of Tayrona National Park, there are plenty of options to extend your Cartagena adventure.

As you conclude your visit to Cartagena, you may be wondering where to go next. Colombia offers a wealth of diverse destinations to continue your exploration. Consider visiting the lush coffee region of Salento, the vibrant capital city of Bogotá, or the breathtaking landscapes of Medellín and its surrounding mountains.

In this travel guide, we aim to provide you with comprehensive information and recommendations to ensure you have an unforgettable experience in Cartagena. From the top things to do and see, to the best restaurants, accommodations, and transportation options, we’ve got you covered. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of Cartagena, discover its hidden gems, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

In addition to the must-visit attractions mentioned earlier, there are several other notable experiences to consider during your time in Cartagena. Immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture by attending a live music performance or dance show featuring traditional Colombian rhythms such as cumbia or salsa. You can even take dance lessons to learn a few moves yourself and truly embrace the local spirit.

For art enthusiasts, Cartagena offers a thriving arts scene with numerous galleries and exhibitions showcasing the works of talented local and international artists. Explore the streets adorned with colorful murals and street art, and perhaps even find a unique piece to take home as a memento of your trip.

If you’re seeking a deeper understanding of Cartagena’s history and culture, consider joining a guided tour or hiring a knowledgeable local guide. They can provide insightful commentary and take you off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and lesser-known historical sites.

When it comes to shopping, Cartagena offers a wide range of options, from artisanal crafts to high-end boutiques. The city’s markets, such as the bustling Mercado Bazurto, are perfect for exploring and finding unique souvenirs, while upscale shopping centers showcase renowned designer brands and local fashion labels.

As the sun sets, Cartagena comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Enjoy a romantic dinner at a rooftop restaurant, where you can dine under the stars with stunning views of the city’s illuminated skyline. Afterwards, head to one of the lively bars or clubs in the Getsemaní neighborhood, where you can dance the night away to a mix of Latin beats and international music.

Finally, as you conclude your visit to Cartagena, take a moment to reflect on your experiences and the beauty of this captivating city. The warmth and friendliness of the local people, the rich history that permeates every corner, and the vibrant colors and flavors that surround you all contribute to the unique charm of Cartagena.

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, a food enthusiast, or simply a curious traveler, Cartagena offers a wealth of experiences that will leave a lasting impression. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the magic of Cartagena, and let the city’s vibrant energy and captivating beauty take you on an unforgettable journey.

Cartagena Travel Guide: Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena City Guide: A Brief History Of Cartagena, Colombia

The history of Cartagena is deeply intertwined with the rich tapestry of Colombian and Latin American history. As you explore the city, you’ll discover a fascinating blend of indigenous, Spanish colonial, and African influences that have shaped its cultural heritage. Here’s a brief overview of the historical significance of Cartagena for travelers:

Pre-Colonial Era: Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area around Cartagena was inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Calamari and Zenú peoples. They had established settlements and engaged in trade with neighboring communities.

Spanish Colonial Era: Cartagena was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia, who named the city after the Spanish city of Cartagena. It quickly became a strategic port for the Spanish Empire, serving as a major hub for trade and the export of precious metals and goods from South America.

During the colonial period, Cartagena became an important center of political, economic, and cultural activity. The city’s strategic location made it a target for pirates and buccaneers, including famous figures like Sir Francis Drake and Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard. To defend against these attacks, massive fortifications were constructed, including the iconic Castillo San Felipe de Barajas and the walls surrounding the historic center.

Cartagena also played a pivotal role in the transatlantic slave trade. African slaves were brought to the city to work on plantations and in the construction of its fortifications. Today, the influence of African culture is evident in the city’s music, dance, cuisine, and vibrant Afro-Colombian communities.

Independence and Modern Era: Cartagena was a center of rebellion during the struggle for independence from Spain in the early 19th century. On November 11, 1811, the city declared independence from Spanish rule, becoming the first territory in Colombia to do so. The struggle for independence continued, and Cartagena played a significant role in the formation of the Republic of Colombia.

In recognition of its historical and cultural importance, Cartagena’s historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. This designation has helped preserve the city’s colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and iconic landmarks, making it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts.

Today, as you explore the streets of Cartagena, you’ll witness a living testament to its rich history. From the well-preserved colonial buildings and fortifications to the vibrant street life and cultural traditions, the city’s past comes alive at every turn.

By delving into Cartagena’s history, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for its cultural heritage, understand the significance of its architectural treasures, and connect with the resilient spirit of its people. So, as you wander through the historic streets, take a moment to reflect on the centuries of history that have shaped Cartagena into the vibrant and enchanting city it is today.

Cartagena Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Colombia

Serving as the backdrop of the movie Romancing the Stone, the history of the city of Cartagena is far more intriguing and exciting then the movie lets on. Serving as a well-fortified port that shipped much of Latin America’s gold wealth to the Spanish Empire, this was a city that was prosperous, and as a result, it attracted many interlopers that sought to raid it over the years.

While things are far more tame in the present day, the mix between modern infrastructure and this city’s colonial past make Cartagena a place that should be a lock on your travel itinerary in Colombia.

Dedicate your first couple of days towards exploring the Old Town of Cartagena. This walled city contains scores of Spanish colonial buildings that will take at least that amount of time to explore properly.

When you aren’t enjoying the many restaurants and bars (including many local favorites, which serve some of the Caribbean coast’s best cuisine) located within its boundaries, make time for churches like Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, which was headed by a priest that dedicated his life to helping newly freed slaves from the West Indies to begin a new life in a new country.

Another place you should check out is the Palacio de la Inquisición, which is the museum that explores the horror of the Spanish Inquisition, as this was a place where many people accused of crimes against Catholicism were charged and tortured for their sins.

While there are many great contrasting views of Cartagena’s modern skyline from the top of the walls of this city’s old quarter, the best overall views of the entire area can be had from Convento La Popa de la Galera.

Situated atop a hill that stands 150 meters above sea level, the panoramic shots of both the skyscrapers that stretch along the best beaches that Cartagena has to offer and the historic districts of Getsemani and the Centro Historico are legendary, but the intimate interior of this convent and its beautiful courtyard also make this attraction a must do when in Cartagena.

Equally great views can be had from the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, which was a mighty fortress that helped keep this vital Spanish trading port safe throughout much of the colonial era.

Designed with superior sight lines from land and sea approaches, and with a nested bunker design that made attacks on it extremely difficult, it played a huge role in making Cartagena an effective part of Spain’s efforts to ship the golden wealth of the new world to the coffers of the Spanish crown back in the old world.

Walking its ramparts will yield views that one can have at the former attraction, while allowing you to take in an attraction that played a vital role in this city’s past history.

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Cartagena, Colombia

As far as Latin American cities in the tropics go, Cartagena is one of the few cities that can challenge Panama City in terms of heat and humidity. If the intense equatorial sun is starting to get to you after a few days of exploring this area’s historical attractions, then taking a day to go out on an excursion to some of its best beaches will refresh your body and spirit.

The beaches in town tend to be crowded, dirty, and plagued with touts, so hiring a tour company to take you out to either the Rosario Islands or to Playa Blanca will prove to be a smart investment.

The latter destination isn’t as far as the Rosario Islands, but the beach is no less beautiful, as the white sands, light blue waters, and droopy palms that everyone expects in a Caribbean beach destination can all be found here.

The snorkeling that can be had off the Rosario Islands are truly remarkable, as there are many marine life species such as sting rays and dolphins that often frequent its waters, and with a well-appointed (but very expensive) resort, you may find yourself staying here when the time for the tourist boat to leave for home arrives.

Have you always been intrigued with the mud treatments that some spas offer, but never took advantage of the opportunity that it presented to you at the time? By taking a trek out to the Volcan del Totumo, you can make good on this desire for a fraction of the price that you would pay at home.

Forming a caldera above the surface of the Earth, this pool of geothermally heated mud is hot enough to soothe your aches and pains, but cool enough to bathe in safely. With massage attendants on site, and a lagoon nearby to wash the muck off your body after the fact, it is a relaxing day trip for those stressed out by the trials and tribulations of the road.

Want to experience some of the best nightlife that Colombia has to offer? When in Cartagena, do not miss the chance to ride the Chiva Bus, which is a mobile bar and dance party that will allow you to meet travelers from across Latin America and around the world.

With musicians playing the best of local Colombian folk music, and countless bottles of rum being passed around the bus throughout the tour’s duration, it will be the start to one of the more legendary nights that you will have on your Latin American adventures.

source: Alina McLeod on YouTube

Top 18 Things To Do in Cartagena, Colombia For Visitors

Here are the top 18 things to do in Cartagena, Colombia:

  1. Explore the Walled City: Wander through the historic center of Cartagena, strolling along its colorful streets, admiring the colonial architecture, and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere.
  2. Visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas: Explore this impressive fortress, the largest Spanish fort in the Americas, and learn about its history while enjoying panoramic views of the city.
  3. Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride: Experience a traditional mode of transportation and enjoy a leisurely tour of the city’s historic sites.
  4. Relax at Playa Blanca: Take a boat or bus to Playa Blanca on Isla Barú, and unwind on its white sandy beaches while enjoying the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
  5. Take a Boat Tour to the Rosario Islands: Embark on a day trip to the beautiful Rosario Islands, where you can snorkel, swim, and relax in paradise.
  6. Explore Getsemaní Neighborhood: Wander through this vibrant and bohemian neighborhood, known for its colorful street art, lively atmosphere, and trendy bars and restaurants.
  7. Visit the Palace of the Inquisition: Discover the dark history of the Spanish Inquisition at this museum, which showcases artifacts and provides insights into this controversial period.
  8. Take a Sunset Cruise: Enjoy breathtaking views of the city’s skyline as you sail along the coast during a romantic sunset cruise.
  9. Visit the Gold Museum: Explore a collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts and learn about the ancient cultures that inhabited the region.
  10. Enjoy the Local Cuisine: Indulge in the flavors of Cartagena by sampling traditional dishes such as arepas, ceviche, and fried fish. Don’t forget to try the refreshing local drink called limonada de coco.
  11. Take a Salsa Dancing Lesson: Learn some moves and immerse yourself in the rhythms of salsa, an integral part of Colombian culture.
  12. Visit the Church of San Pedro Claver: Admire the beautiful architecture of this church and learn about the life and work of the patron saint of slaves, San Pedro Claver.
  13. Explore the Bocagrande Neighborhood: Discover the modern side of Cartagena with its high-rise hotels, upscale shops, and bustling beaches.
  14. Visit the Naval Museum: Learn about Cartagena’s maritime history and explore exhibits featuring naval artifacts and ship models.
  15. Shop at the Mercado Bazurto: Dive into the vibrant local market scene, where you can browse through stalls selling fresh produce, seafood, crafts, and more.
  16. Take a Chiva Party Bus Tour: Hop on a colorful open-air bus known as a chiva and enjoy a lively tour of the city, complete with music, dancing, and drinks.
  17. Explore the Convento de la Popa: Visit this 17th-century convent perched on the highest hill in Cartagena and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
  18. Attend a Cultural Festival: If you’re lucky enough to visit during one of Cartagena’s lively festivals, such as the Hay Festival or the Cartagena International Music Festival, make sure to immerse yourself in the cultural celebrations and performances.

These activities offer a glimpse into the rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty that Cartagena has to offer. Whether you’re interested in history, seeking relaxation on beautiful beaches, or eager to experience the lively local scene, there’s something for everyone in this captivating city.

Arepas are a must try food for visitors to Cartagena, Colombia

What To Eat and Drink in Cartagena, Colombia

When it comes to food and drinks, Cartagena offers a delightful array of flavors and culinary experiences. Here are some must-try dishes and beverages in Cartagena, Colombia:

  1. Arepas: These savory cornmeal patties are a staple of Colombian cuisine. Try them filled with cheese, meat, or other delicious ingredients.
  2. Ceviche: As a coastal city, Cartagena is known for its fresh seafood. Sample ceviche, a dish made with raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice, onions, and spices.
  3. Fried Fish: Don’t miss the opportunity to savor a plate of crispy fried fish, a local favorite. Enjoy it with coconut rice and patacones (fried plantain slices).
  4. Bandeja Paisa: This hearty dish originated in the Paisa region of Colombia but can be found in Cartagena as well. It typically consists of beans, rice, ground beef, fried egg, plantains, chorizo, and avocado.
  5. Arroz con Coco: This traditional dish combines rice with coconut milk, giving it a deliciously rich and creamy flavor. It’s often served with fish or seafood.
  6. Sancocho: A comforting and flavorful soup made with chicken, various vegetables, and herbs. It’s a popular dish for locals, especially on weekends.
  7. Empanadas: These delicious turnovers can be found throughout Colombia. Try the Cartagena-style empanadas, often filled with beef, chicken, or cheese.
  8. Limonada de Coco: Stay refreshed with this popular local drink made from coconut water, lime juice, and sugar. It’s a perfect thirst quencher in Cartagena’s tropical climate.
  9. Aguardiente: Colombia’s national spirit, aguardiente, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from anise and sugar cane. Sip it neat or mix it with soda for a refreshing cocktail.
  10. Fruit Juices: Colombia is known for its abundance of tropical fruits. Enjoy refreshing fruit juices like maracuyá (passion fruit), mango, lulo, or guanabana.
  11. Posta Negra: A traditional Afro-Colombian dish, Posta Negra is a tender beef stew cooked with a rich, dark sauce made from panela (unrefined cane sugar) and spices.
  12. Buñuelos and Arequipe: Treat yourself to these sweet delights. Buñuelos are deep-fried cheese balls, and arequipe is a creamy caramel sauce—combine the two for a heavenly indulgence.
  13. Chicha: Try chicha, a traditional fermented corn-based beverage that has been enjoyed in Colombia for centuries. It has a mildly sweet and tangy taste.
  14. Cocadas: These sweet coconut candies make for a delightful treat. They come in various flavors and are often sold by street vendors.
  15. Tinto: For coffee lovers, don’t miss a cup of tinto, the Colombian version of black coffee. Sip it slowly and savor the rich flavor.

Cartagena’s culinary scene is diverse, reflecting its vibrant mix of cultures. Whether you’re indulging in traditional Colombian dishes, fresh seafood, or sipping on refreshing local beverages, you’re sure to discover a range of delicious flavors that will leave a lasting impression.

Top Restaurants In Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena boasts a vibrant culinary scene with a plethora of excellent restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. Here are some top restaurants in Cartagena, Colombia, known for their exceptional food and dining experiences:

  1. La Vitrola: This iconic restaurant is a must-visit in Cartagena. With its lively atmosphere, live music, and classic Cuban dishes, La Vitrola offers a unique and memorable dining experience.
  2. Carmen: Known for its innovative Colombian cuisine, Carmen offers a modern twist on traditional dishes. The menu highlights local ingredients and flavors, resulting in creative and delicious dishes.
  3. Don Juan: Located in a beautifully restored colonial house, Don Juan serves up exquisite contemporary Colombian cuisine with a focus on fresh seafood and local ingredients. The restaurant has a warm and elegant ambiance.
  4. María: Situated in the heart of the walled city, María offers a fusion of Colombian and international flavors in a charming courtyard setting. The menu features dishes made with seasonal ingredients, and their tasting menus are highly recommended.
  5. El Boliche Cebichería: Specializing in ceviche and seafood, El Boliche Cebichería is a popular spot for seafood lovers. Enjoy a variety of ceviche options, as well as other seafood dishes prepared with a creative touch.
  6. La Mulata: This local favorite is known for its authentic Caribbean and Afro-Colombian flavors. Try their famous coconut rice, fried fish, and traditional stews for a true taste of Cartagena.
  7. El Santísimo: With a menu that blends Mediterranean and Caribbean influences, El Santísimo offers a delightful range of dishes bursting with flavors. The restaurant has a stylish and contemporary ambiance.
  8. Restaurante 1621: Located within the luxurious Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel, Restaurante 1621 offers a fine dining experience with a focus on Colombian cuisine. The elegant setting and impeccable service make it a memorable choice.
  9. La Cevichería: If you’re a fan of ceviche, this casual and vibrant eatery is a must-visit. Enjoy a variety of fresh and flavorful ceviche options, as well as other seafood dishes.
  10. Marea by Rausch: Helmed by renowned Colombian chefs, the Rausch brothers, Marea offers a culinary journey through Colombia’s coastal flavors. The restaurant showcases the freshest seafood and innovative preparations.
  11. Restaurante Interno: This unique dining experience takes place within San Diego Women’s Prison, where inmates are trained as chefs and servers. Enjoy a delicious meal while supporting the rehabilitation program.
  12. La Perla: Located in the heart of the walled city, La Perla offers a blend of Colombian and international cuisine. Enjoy their rooftop terrace for beautiful views while savoring their flavorful dishes.

These restaurants represent just a taste of the vibrant dining scene in Cartagena. Whether you’re seeking traditional Colombian flavors, international cuisine, or innovative fusion dishes, Cartagena’s culinary landscape is sure to satisfy even the most discerning palates.

Tours For Visitors To Cartagena, Colombia

When visiting Cartagena, there are numerous tours available that offer unique experiences and opportunities to explore the city and its surroundings. Here are some popular tours for visitors to Cartagena, Colombia:

  1. City Sightseeing Tour: Take a guided tour to discover the highlights of Cartagena’s historic center, including the walled city, Plaza de Bolívar, the Cathedral, and other iconic landmarks. Learn about the city’s history and architecture from knowledgeable local guides.
  2. Cartagena Food Tour: Embark on a culinary adventure through Cartagena’s vibrant food scene. Sample local dishes, visit food markets, and learn about the traditional ingredients and flavors that make up Colombian cuisine.
  3. Rosario Islands Boat Tour: Explore the stunning Rosario Islands on a boat tour. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing on pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters. Some tours also include a visit to a private island or lunch at a beachfront restaurant.
  4. Cartagena Mangrove Tour: Venture into the mangroves surrounding Cartagena on a guided tour. Discover the unique ecosystem, spot wildlife such as birds, crabs, and fish, and learn about the importance of mangroves for the environment.
  5. Getsemaní Street Art Tour: Explore the colorful streets of the Getsemaní neighborhood on a guided street art tour. Discover vibrant murals, learn about the artists behind them, and gain insights into the local art scene.
  6. Castillo San Felipe de Barajas Tour: Dive into the history of Cartagena’s most impressive fortress, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Explore its underground tunnels, learn about its strategic importance, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
  7. Chiva Party Bus Tour: Hop on a chiva, a colorful open-air party bus, and experience the lively side of Cartagena. Enjoy music, drinks, and dancing as you tour the city’s landmarks and vibrant neighborhoods.
  8. Cartagena Sunset Cruise: Embark on a romantic sunset cruise along the coast of Cartagena. Admire breathtaking views of the skyline, enjoy a refreshing drink, and witness the magical colors of the sunset.
  9. Bazurto Market Tour: Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Cartagena’s largest market, Mercado Bazurto. Explore the stalls, sample local fruits, vegetables, and snacks, and learn about the daily life of Cartageneros.
  10. Birdwatching Tour in La Boquilla: Visit the nearby fishing village of La Boquilla and embark on a birdwatching tour through the mangroves. Spot a variety of bird species and learn about their habitats and behaviors.
  11. Coffee Farm Tour: Take a day trip to a coffee farm near Cartagena and learn about the coffee-making process. Roam through the plantations, participate in coffee tastings, and discover the art of Colombian coffee production.
  12. Bicycle Tour: Explore Cartagena on two wheels with a guided bicycle tour. Pedal through the city’s streets, visit historic sites, and gain a unique perspective on the local culture and lifestyle.

These tours offer different perspectives and opportunities to discover the diverse facets of Cartagena. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or cuisine, there’s a tour to suit every interest and provide an enriching experience during your visit to Cartagena.

Cartagena Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

When it comes to accommodations in Cartagena, you’ll find a range of options to suit different budgets, preferences, and travel styles. Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels, boutique guesthouses, or budget-friendly hostels, Cartagena has something for everyone. Here’s a guide to help you find the perfect place to stay:

Luxury Hotels:

  1. Sofitel Legend Santa Clara: This iconic five-star hotel is located within a former 17th-century convent and offers luxurious rooms, elegant amenities, and a beautiful courtyard. It’s known for its historical charm and impeccable service.
  2. Hotel Casa San Agustín: Situated in the heart of the walled city, this boutique hotel blends colonial architecture with contemporary design. It features spacious rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a pool surrounded by lush gardens.
  3. Casa Pestagua Hotel Boutique Spa: Housed in a meticulously restored 18th-century mansion, this luxury hotel offers lavish rooms, a spa, and a tranquil courtyard. It provides a serene oasis within the bustling walled city.

Mid-Range Hotels and Guesthouses:

  1. Hotel Casa Lola: Located in the Getsemaní neighborhood, this boutique hotel offers stylish rooms with modern amenities. It features a rooftop pool, a bar, and a vibrant atmosphere.
  2. Hotel Quadrifolio: Set in a beautifully restored colonial mansion, this boutique hotel offers elegant rooms, a courtyard pool, and personalized service. It’s located within the walled city, near popular attractions.
  3. Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo: Situated in a renovated colonial building, this boutique hotel features comfortable rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a central location in the historic center.

Budget-Friendly Accommodations:

  1. Hostal Casa Escallon: This budget-friendly hostel offers dormitory-style rooms and private rooms. It’s located in the Getsemaní neighborhood and provides a sociable atmosphere and basic amenities.
  2. El Viajero Hostel: Situated in the heart of the walled city, this popular hostel offers dormitory-style rooms, private rooms, and a lively social scene. It has a rooftop terrace and organizes activities for guests.
  3. Media Luna Hostel: Located in the Getsemaní neighborhood, this vibrant hostel offers a mix of dormitory-style rooms and private rooms. It features a courtyard, a bar, and a communal kitchen.

These are just a few examples of the accommodations available in Cartagena. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred choice. Consider factors such as location, amenities, and reviews to find the accommodation that best suits your needs and enhances your Cartagena experience.

Day Trips From Cartagena, Colombia

Here’s a more detailed description of the day trips from Cartagena:

  1. Rosario Islands: Embark on a boat trip to the enchanting Rosario Islands, an archipelago consisting of 27 coral islands. Feel the soft white sand beneath your toes as you relax on pristine beaches and soak up the warm Caribbean sun. Dive into the crystal-clear waters teeming with vibrant marine life, or go snorkeling to explore the colorful coral reefs. Indulge in delicious seafood at one of the beachfront restaurants and enjoy the laid-back island atmosphere.
  2. Playa Blanca: Located on the idyllic Isla Barú, Playa Blanca is a must-visit destination for beach lovers. Immerse yourself in the postcard-perfect beauty of this paradise, characterized by powdery white sands and stunning turquoise waters. Unwind in a hammock, sip on a refreshing coconut drink, and let the gentle ocean breeze transport you to a state of pure relaxation. Feast on fresh seafood delicacies served by local vendors along the beach and take in the breathtaking coastal scenery.
  3. Volcán del Totumo: Experience a unique adventure by visiting the Totumo Mud Volcano. Located a short distance from Cartagena, this natural wonder offers an extraordinary opportunity to immerse yourself in warm, therapeutic mud. Climb up the volcano’s ladder and descend into the mud-filled crater, where you can float effortlessly due to the mud’s high salt content. Enjoy a relaxing mud bath, get a soothing massage from the locals, and wash off in the nearby lagoon—a one-of-a-kind experience that leaves you feeling rejuvenated.
  4. Ciudad Perdida (Lost City): For intrepid explorers, the multi-day trek to Ciudad Perdida, also known as the Lost City, is an unforgettable journey. Set amidst the lush Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, this ancient archaeological site offers a glimpse into the mysterious world of the indigenous Tayrona civilization. Trek through dense jungles, cross rivers, and ascend stone staircases to reach the hidden ruins. Marvel at the terraced structures, learn about the site’s cultural significance, and relish the awe-inspiring panoramic views from the mountaintop.
  5. San Basilio de Palenque: Delve into the rich Afro-Colombian heritage by visiting the village of San Basilio de Palenque. Located a short distance from Cartagena, this historic town holds the distinction of being the first free town in the Americas, founded by escaped African slaves. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, listen to traditional music, and witness lively dance performances. Engage with the friendly locals, taste delicious Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and learn about their unique customs and traditions—a cultural immersion that offers deep insights into Colombia’s diverse history.
  6. La Boquilla: Just a short trip from Cartagena, the fishing village of La Boquilla provides a captivating glimpse into the coastal way of life. Embark on a canoe tour through the dense mangrove tunnels, guided by skilled local fishermen. As you glide through the tranquil waters, marvel at the diverse ecosystem teeming with bird species, crabs, and other wildlife. Gain insights into the traditional fishing techniques and listen to captivating stories about the village’s history and folklore.
  7. Islas del Rosario National Park: Embark on a captivating journey to the Islas del Rosario National Park, a marine sanctuary renowned for its spectacular coral reefs and abundant marine life. Hop on a boat and cruise through the turquoise waters, passing by picturesque islands. Dive beneath the surface to witness the mesmerizing underwater world, filled with colorful coral formations, tropical fish, and even the occasional sea turtle. Whether you choose to snorkel, scuba dive, or take a glass-bottom boat tour, the beauty of the marine biodiversity will leave you in awe. Explore multiple snorkeling spots, marvel at the vibrant coral gardens, and encounter a myriad of tropical fish darting through the clear waters. Capture stunning underwater photographs and create memories that will last a lifetime.
  1. Mompox: While Mompox requires an overnight stay, it’s well worth the visit for those seeking a glimpse into Colombia’s colonial past. Situated on the banks of the Magdalena River, this UNESCO World Heritage site boasts well-preserved architecture and a rich cultural heritage. Stroll through the charming streets adorned with brightly colored houses and admire the intricately designed colonial buildings. Visit historic churches like Santa Bárbara and San Agustín, and explore workshops where artisans create exquisite filigree jewelry, a specialty of the region. Mompox offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city and provides a captivating experience of Colombia’s history and culture.

These detailed day trips from Cartagena offer a range of experiences to suit different interests. Whether you seek relaxation on stunning beaches, cultural immersion in historical towns, adventurous treks to ancient ruins, or encounters with marine life, each excursion promises unique memories and an enriched understanding of Colombia’s diverse landscapes and heritage.

Cartagena Transportation Guide

Getting around Cartagena is relatively easy, as the city offers various transportation options. Here’s a transportation guide to help you navigate Cartagena:

  1. Taxis: Taxis are a convenient and widely available mode of transportation in Cartagena. You can easily hail a taxi on the street or find them at designated taxi stands. It’s advisable to use registered taxis with meters or negotiate the fare before starting your journey. It’s also a good idea to carry small bills for payment. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Beat are also available in Cartagena.
  2. Transcaribe Bus: Cartagena has a modern public bus system called Transcaribe. It offers an affordable and efficient way to travel around the city. Transcaribe buses operate on dedicated bus lanes, helping to avoid traffic congestion. You can purchase a rechargeable card called a “Tarjeta Transcaribe” to pay for your bus rides. The routes cover various parts of the city, including the historic center and popular neighborhoods.
  3. Bicycles: Renting a bicycle is a popular and eco-friendly way to explore Cartagena. Several bike rental shops offer bicycles for rent on an hourly or daily basis. The city has designated bike lanes and cycling routes, making it relatively safe for biking. Riding a bike allows you to leisurely explore the narrow streets of the historic center and enjoy the coastal breeze.
  4. Walking: Cartagena’s historic center, known as the walled city or Ciudad Amurallada, is compact and pedestrian-friendly. Walking is a fantastic way to soak in the colonial charm, admire the colorful buildings, and discover hidden gems like charming plazas, boutiques, and street vendors. Wear comfortable shoes and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone streets.
  5. Chivas: Chivas are colorful, open-air buses that are a popular mode of transportation for group outings or festive events. They are often used for party tours or cultural excursions, offering a lively and vibrant atmosphere with music, dancing, and drinks on board. While not a typical means of getting around the city, you can book a Chiva tour to explore Cartagena in a unique and entertaining way.
  6. Private Car Rental: If you prefer the convenience and flexibility of having your own vehicle, you can rent a car from various rental agencies in Cartagena. Having a car gives you the freedom to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace. However, it’s important to note that traffic in Cartagena can be congested, and parking can be limited in some areas, especially in the historic center.

As you navigate Cartagena, it’s advisable to plan your routes in advance, especially during peak hours, to avoid unnecessary delays. Take precautions to ensure your safety, such as using registered taxis or ride-hailing services, particularly at night. Embrace the local transportation options, and choose the mode of transport that best suits your needs and preferences.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Cartagena?

After your trip to Cartagena, there are several fascinating destinations in Colombia and neighboring countries that you can consider visiting. Here are some popular options:

  1. Santa Marta: Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Santa Marta offers beautiful beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and easy access to the stunning Tayrona National Park. Explore the city’s colonial center, visit the Gold Museum, and enjoy water activities such as snorkeling and diving in the nearby Taganga Bay.
  2. Tayrona National Park: Just a short distance from Santa Marta, Tayrona National Park is a tropical paradise known for its picturesque beaches, dense jungles, and ancient ruins. Hike through the park’s trails, swim in crystal-clear waters, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the park.
  3. Medellín: Known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín offers a captivating blend of modernity and natural beauty. Explore the city’s innovative architecture, visit museums like the Museum of Antioquia and the Botero Plaza, and take a cable car ride to experience breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding mountains.
  4. Cartagena Islands: Extend your island-hopping adventure by visiting the San Bernardo Islands or the Islas del Rosario. These archipelagos near Cartagena offer pristine beaches, coral reefs, and opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and relaxing in a tranquil setting.
  5. Bogotá: Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, is a vibrant metropolis with a rich cultural and historical heritage. Explore the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, visit the Gold Museum, take a cable car to Monserrate for panoramic city views, and indulge in the city’s renowned culinary scene.
  6. The Coffee Region: Journey into Colombia’s lush Coffee Region, known for its scenic landscapes, coffee plantations, and charming towns. Visit the coffee farms to learn about the coffee-making process, hike through the Cocora Valley with its iconic wax palm trees, and enjoy the hospitality of towns like Salento and Manizales.
  7. The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida): For adventurous travelers, consider embarking on a multi-day trek to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida). Located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this archaeological site predates Machu Picchu and offers a unique and challenging hiking experience through dense jungles and indigenous villages.
  8. Panama: If you’re interested in exploring beyond Colombia, you can consider visiting Panama, which is easily accessible from Cartagena. Experience the cosmopolitan Panama City, marvel at the engineering wonder of the Panama Canal, and explore the idyllic islands of Bocas del Toro or San Blas.

These are just a few of the many exciting destinations you can visit after your trip to Cartagena. Consider your interests, available time, and preferred activities to choose the destinations that align with your travel preferences.

Cartagena colourful buildings in Colombia

Cartagena Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Cartagena is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty. As you plan your trip, keep in mind the following final thoughts to make the most of your visit:

  1. Explore the Historic Center: The walled city of Cartagena is the heart and soul of the city. Get lost in its narrow streets, admire the colorful colonial architecture, and discover its hidden gems like charming plazas, churches, and museums. Take a leisurely walk along the city walls for panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea.
  2. Embrace the Local Cuisine: Cartagena is a culinary delight, offering a fusion of flavors influenced by African, Indigenous, and Spanish cuisines. Indulge in local specialties like ceviche, arepas, fried fish, and coconut rice. Don’t miss the chance to try street food like empanadas and mango biche. Explore the vibrant food scene and savor the authentic flavors of Cartagena.
  3. Enjoy the Beaches and Islands: Cartagena is blessed with beautiful beaches and nearby islands. Spend a day relaxing on the white sands of Playa Blanca or take a boat trip to the Rosario Islands. Snorkel, dive, or simply unwind in the crystal-clear waters while soaking up the tropical sun. Each beach and island has its own unique charm, so explore and find your favorite spot.
  4. Immerse Yourself in Culture: Cartagena is a city rich in culture and history. Visit the Palace of the Inquisition, the Museum of Modern Art, or the Naval Museum to delve into the city’s past. Attend a live performance of traditional music or dance, or catch a vibrant street parade filled with colorful costumes and lively rhythms.
  5. Stay Hydrated and Mind the Heat: Cartagena’s tropical climate means it can get quite hot and humid, especially during the day. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, wear lightweight and breathable clothing, and take breaks in shaded areas or air-conditioned spaces when needed. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.
  6. Respect the Local Customs: Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality. Embrace the local customs and traditions, and show respect for the culture and beliefs of the people you encounter. Learn a few basic Spanish phrases to communicate with locals and enhance your overall experience.
  7. Stay Vigilant: While Cartagena is generally a safe city for travelers, it’s always important to remain vigilant. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. Use registered taxis or ride-hailing services, and avoid walking alone in dimly lit areas at night. Stay informed about the latest travel advisories and follow common-sense safety precautions.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your trip to Cartagena. Immerse yourself in the city’s beauty, history, and culture, and create unforgettable memories in this enchanting corner of Colombia.

In the land where the Caribbean breeze does blow, Lies a gem of a city, where travelers love to go. Cartagena, enchanting and full of delight, A place where history and beauty unite.

The sun-kissed walls, centuries old, Guard secrets and stories yet to be told. Cobblestone streets, lined with vibrant hues, Lead you to plazas where time seems to fuse.

The walled city whispers tales of the past, Colonial splendor, a memory that lasts. Archways and balconies adorned with grace, As if inviting you to explore this timeless place.

Step into the squares, alive with the beat, Where salsa rhythms and laughter meet. Dance with the locals, let your spirit sway, As the music carries you through the day.

Beneath the azure sky, the beaches unfold, With sands of white and waters of gold. Playa Blanca’s serenity beckons near, Where worries dissolve and troubles disappear.

Board a boat to the islands, a tropical retreat, Rosario’s beauty, an aquatic feat. Snorkel the reefs, where colors come alive, In the underwater world, where wonders thrive.

Savor the flavors of Cartagena’s cuisine, A fusion of cultures, a gastronomic dream. From street-side bites to gourmet delights, Your taste buds rejoice with every bite.

But it’s not just the sights and tastes that amaze, It’s the warmth of the people, their genuine ways. From the smiles of strangers to friends yet to meet, Cartagena’s spirit makes your journey complete.

So, wander and wonder, let your soul roam free, In Cartagena, where beauty is the key. Let this city captivate your heart’s desire, And ignite within you a forever burning fire.

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