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Cartagena
Travel Guide


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Cartagena at a glance

The coastal city of Cartagena embodies the mystery, magic and romance of a Caribbean port. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, old town Cartagena stuns visitors with its charming narrow streets lined with colourful buildings and plant-filled balconies, the heady mix of colonial and defensive architecture and the spectacular fortified wall that separates this enchanting enclave from the bright blue waters of the Caribbean sea beyond. Aside from its visual delights, Cartagena has held its place as a destination worth visiting because of the warmth of its people and its fascinating military history, which is laden with stories of triumph and resilience.

Our Cartagena Travel Experts Recommend:

  • Highlights of Cartagena Walking City Tour
  • Excursion to Isla Majagua
  • Historic Bike Tour of Cartagena
  • Learn how to Salsa in Cartagena
  • Cooking Class at Casa Colonial

Experiences around Cartagena

What not to miss

Cartagena was founded in 1533 and became a major port that connected the Spanish colonies of South America to the imperial capital of Spain in Europe. Cartagena became a key trading hub for Peruvian silver and African slaves, and as such it became a target for pirates, who sought to loot the city of its wealth. Numerous raids and sieges plagued Cartagena until construction started on its defensive wall in the mid 1600’s, with the fortress taking over 200 years to complete in its entirety. This 8 mile (13km) colonial stonewall guards a city of immense beauty whose romantic atmosphere woos visitors from the second they set foot in it, and one of the highlights of the defensive enclosure is the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a castle on a hill that dominates the approach to the city by land or sea. Amble around the cobbled streets that are peppered with colourful flowers offset  against spires and domes that rise in the background, and watch the world go by in one of Cartagena’s many leafy squares. The old town is steeped in history, but Cartagena also has another, more modern side, where high rise apartment buildings and hotels line the seafront, giving the impression of a South American Miami. Some of the best beaches are to be found here, so head for Bocagrande if you want a bit more room to swim, as the smaller beaches in front of the old town are often thronged with tourists. For those wishing to have an authentic Caribbean experience, take a boat an hour off the coast to the Rosario Islands, a collection of idyllic islands that are surrounded by protected waters and national parks.

Highlights of Cartagena Walking City Tour

Your local guide will pick you up from your accommodation to begin your private walking tour of Cartagena’s highlights. The city is shrouded in history and fascinating stories from when the Spanish first discovered gold in the tombs of Sinu to the five dreadful sieges on the city by pirates in the 16th century, including the most famous (or infamous) one which was led by Sir Francis Drake! Nowadays, as you’ll find out while walking through its pleasant and colorful streets Cartagena is among one of the world’s most beautiful cities. On today’s walking tour you’ll visit the Santo Domingo Square, the iconic Clock Tower, Cartagena’s Cathedral and the Palacio de la Inquisición, among a number of other highlights on the tour. Walking through the cobblestone streets of the historical city center you will also be treated to the city’s most traditional buildings, enchanting squares and museums.

Excursion to Isla Majagua

Situated 1 hour off the coast of Cartagena, the Isla Majagua is one of the 30 islands that make up the Rosario Islands archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. This boat journey takes you to discover this paradise, far from the bustling city, crossing the bay and docking at the coast of Majagua Island. Before arriving to the island, you can take an optional trip to the San Martín de Pajarales Natural Aquarium, where you can see a wide variety of marine life including sharks and dolphins. Majagua Island is the perfect place to enjoy the beach and tropical Caribbean climate, and a great opportunity to taste the local cuisine, mostly consisting of fish and rice flavored with coconut. Later that day you will board your motor boat back to Cartagena where you will get a stunning panoramic view of the city.

Historic Bike Tour of Cartagena

The Caribbean weather, colonial architecture and Caribbean flair will keep you more than busy on your guided bike tour of Cartagena’s historical center (the walled city). Your professional guide who will show you the city in a very funny way and will tell you the stories that historic Cartagena keeps. You will pass by the most important tourist sites of ”Cartagena de indias ” (streets, churches, parks, squares, monuments, and more).

Learn how to Salsa in Cartagena

Today you will learn a few Salsa steps that you can practice later on that night in one of the many salsa clubs in Cartagena. Learn how to move your hips and enjoy Salsa as much as Colombians do!

Cooking Class at Casa Colonial

This is a great tour that allows you to see where the people from Cartagena buy their products, how they live and what the typical dishes of Cartagena are. This cooking class is done in a Private house in a real Colombian family environment, tasting wines and having lunch as a family. At first you will stop at the Market of the city where you will spend around 1 hour, there you will have the change to try tropical fruits. Afterwards you will head out to the house and start with the cooking class, where you are free to participate as much as you can in the preparation of the recipe. You will learn about the most typical recipes of the Caribbean region, then you will choose the menu and start cooking it! Private transport, Guide, All ingredients to prepare the dinner, Juices, etc…

Fast Facts on Cartagena

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Cartagena.

When to go

Anyone wanting to visit Cartagena should know that the weather is always hot, and it is always humid. The sun beats down on the Caribbean coast even in rainy season, and if you are averse to the heat, you might want to plan your trip to Cartagena between low and high seasons. This will also allow you to beat the crowds, and perhaps the best times to visit the city are in low season from May to June, between mid-January and April in dry season, or in October and November, although these months are usually the wettest. Cartagena’s festival of Independence takes place in November and this is a great time to see the city really come alive.

How to get there

Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez Airport receives domestic and international flights, and is located about 2 miles (3km) from the historic Old Town. Domestic flights arrive from Medellin, Cali, San Andrés Island, Bogotá, Pereira, Montería, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta, and some of the most frequent international flights arrive from Panama City, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York and Atlanta in the United States. Internal flights will be arranged for you as part of your itinerary, as will airport transfers, so just speak to one of our travel advisors and they will tell you about the best route to take.

Infrastructure

Cartagena is a well developed centre of commerce and tourism, and as such, it is easy for travelers to find somewhere to stay, whether they are looking for a luxury hotel or more affordable accommodation. Most of the upper-tier lodgings are found inside the city walls, whereas budget accommodation is usually located outside of the city walls in Getsemani. Beware; such is Cartagena’s prestige as a holiday destination that anything above a mid-range hotel will carry a high price tag. Exploring Cartagena’s Old Town is best done on foot, as all of the city’s highlights are within walking distance of each other. Buses run from the city centre to destinations further afield such as Bocagrande or the San Felipe Fort. Taxis are safe and plentiful, but often the drivers will charge you tourist prices, so fix a price before you get in the car.

Tour Packages to Cartagena

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