What to see in Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia, offering a wide variety of attractions and activities for visitors.

The heart of Cartagena is its Walled City, a walled historic center that transports you to colonial times. You can explore the cobbled streets, admire the colorful facades of colonial houses, visit historic churches like the Cathedral of Cartagena and the Church of San Pedro Claver, and discover charming squares like Plaza Bolívar. You can explore this area on foot at your own pace. The entrance to most churches is free or has a minimal cost.

Where is Cartagena de Indias?

Cartagena de Indias, commonly known as Cartagena, is a city located on the northern coast of Colombia, in the Caribbean region of the country. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia and is recognized for its well-preserved historic center, beaches, colonial architecture, and rich cultural heritage.

More specifically, Cartagena is situated on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, in the northern part of Colombia, in the department of Bolívar. The city is surrounded by bodies of water, including the Caribbean Sea and the Bay of Cartagena.

The geographic location of Cartagena makes it an important port and tourist center in Colombia, attracting local and international visitors looking to enjoy its history, culture, beaches, and nightlife.

Cartagena de Indias

Map of Cartagena de Indias

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Cartagena de Indias is located on the northern coast of Colombia, in South America. It is a port city located on the Caribbean Sea and is known for its beautiful historic center, surrounded by walls and colonial fortifications.

Cartagena is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia due to its rich history, well-preserved colonial architecture, and nearby beaches.

Best Time to Travel to Cartagena de Indias

The best time to travel to Cartagena de Indias, a city located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, depends on your preferences regarding the weather and the number of tourists in the area. Cartagena has a warm and tropical climate throughout the year but can be divided into two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.

Dry Season (December to April)

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Advantages: During these months, Cartagena experiences warm temperatures and generally dry and sunny weather, ideal for enjoying the beaches and outdoor activities. The amount of rainfall is minimal, ensuring sunny days and less humidity. This is the high tourist season in Cartagena, with many festivities and cultural events. The city is full of energy and life.

Disadvantages:

Due to favorable weather conditions and festivities, beaches and tourist spots may be more crowded.

Rainy Season (May to November)

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Advantages: Being the low season, beaches and tourist sites will be less crowded, allowing for a more peaceful and relaxed experience. Lower prices, during this time, it’s possible to find deals on accommodation and activities.

Disadvantages:

Intermittent rains: You may experience occasional rains, but they are generally short bursts, and most of the day is usually sunny. Humidity may be higher during these months.

If you prefer dry and sunny weather, as well as participating in festivities and cultural events, the dry season is the best choice. If you prefer to avoid crowds and get lower prices, the rainy season may be suitable, as long as you are willing to deal with some occasional rain.

Getsemaní neighborhood

What to Visit in Cartagena de Indias?

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Explore the Historical Richness and Coastal Beauty of Cartagena de Indias Through Its Fascinating Scenarios. Cartagena de Indias, the jewel of the Colombian Caribbean coast, is a city that captivates with its mix of colonial history, vibrant culture, and beautiful beaches. For adventurous and discovery-seeking travelers, this walled city offers a wide variety of tours that will immerse you in its unique charm.

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Historical Tours of the Walled City

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Immerse yourself in the old town of Cartagena and let yourself be carried away by narrow cobblestone streets, historic squares, and vibrant-colored facades. Walking tours will take you through centuries of colonial history, while bike tours allow you to explore the city actively and entertainingly.

Thematic walking tours about the history of Cartagena de Indias are an excellent way to delve into specific and fascinating aspects of the history of this colonial city.

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Here are some common thematic topics usually covered in these tours:

Inquisition Tour: This tour focuses on the Palace of the Inquisition, a historic building that used to be the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in Cartagena. Visitors can learn about inquisitorial practices, witch hunts, and other dark aspects of colonial history.

Slavery Tour: Cartagena has a significant history in the slave trade in the Caribbean. This tour explores places related to the slave trade, such as the Slave Market and the Afro-Caribbean Museum.

Piracy Tour: During colonial times, Cartagena was a frequent target of pirates and privateers. In this tour, visitors can learn about the city’s sieges and the bravery of its defenders, such as the famous Blas de Lezo.

Castle Cannon Cartagena de Indias

Literary Tour: Cartagena has been a source of inspiration for numerous writers and novelists. This tour explores places mentioned in famous literary works and provides information about authors like Gabriel García Márquez, whose work “Love in the Time of Cholera” is set in the city.

Independence Tour: Cartagena played a key role in the struggle for Colombia’s independence. This tour visits historical places related to the independence movement and the heroes who led it, such as Simón Bolívar.

Architectural Tour: This tour focuses on the colonial architecture of Cartagena. Visitors can learn about architectural styles, the construction of the walls, and the city’s iconic buildings.

Castle Cartagena de Indias

These are just a few examples of the thematic topics that can be explored in walking tours about the history of Cartagena de Indias. Depending on your personal interests, you can choose the tour that most appeals to you to gain a deeper understanding of the history and culture of this beautiful colonial city. Guides are usually passionate and knowledgeable, making the experience educational and enriching.

Colombian Bus

Visits to the Fortifications

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Cartagena is famous for its fortification system, which once defended the city from pirate attacks. Tours of the walls and the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas will immerse you in the military history of the city and provide breathtaking panoramic views.

Visits to the fortifications of Cartagena are an essential part of the city’s historical experience. These well-preserved defensive structures bear witness to Cartagena’s military past and offer visitors the opportunity to explore their architecture, learn about their history, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Castle Views

Walls of Cartagena: The walls of Cartagena are an iconic feature of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 16th century to protect Cartagena from pirate and privateer attacks, you can walk along the walls and enjoy stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and the historic center of the city. In some sections, you’ll find ancient cannons and viewpoints offering a panoramic view of the city.

Castle views
Castle drawing

San Felipe de Barajas Castle: This imposing castle is one of Cartagena’s largest and most recognizable fortifications. Built in the 17th century to strengthen the city’s defense, it is a masterpiece of military engineering. Inside the castle, you can explore a network of underground tunnels used for secretly moving troops and supplies. From the castle’s heights, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the city and the harbor. This impressive colonial fortress is located on a hill near the Walled City and offers panoramic views of the city and the sea. It generally opens from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The entrance fee is around 25,000 COP (Colombian pesos) for adults and may vary for students and children.

Castle drawing

San Fernando de Bocachica Fort: This fort is located on Tierra Bomba Island, in front of Cartagena. Built to defend the entrance to Cartagena’s harbor, it is part of the city’s fortification system. You can visit the fort on a boat trip from Cartagena and explore its walls and cannons.

Fort with cannons
Castle drawing

San Sebastián del Pastelillo Fort: This small fort is located in the Manga neighborhood, near the historic center of Cartagena. Built in the 18th century, it was used to defend the city from attacks from the bay’s interior. The fort offers a panoramic view of Cartagena’s skyline and the Puente de las Américas.

Street in Cartagena de Indias

Gold Museum and Emerald Museum

These museums are located in the Walled City and offer a fascinating insight into the history of gold and emeralds in Colombia. Opening hours and entrance fees may vary, but they are generally open from Tuesday to Sunday.

Visits to these fortifications not only allow you to learn about Cartagena’s military history but also to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Tour guides typically provide detailed information about the construction and purpose of each fortification, as well as historical anecdotes that make the experience educational and exciting.

Gold Museum Bogotá Colombia

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

If you’re looking for a nostalgic experience, taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the cobblestone streets of Cartagena is a charming option. You’ll hear stories of the city while relaxing in this traditional mode of transportation. Prices vary but are generally negotiable and can range around 50,000 COP for a one-hour tour.

Horse-drawn carriage

Excursions to the Rosario Islands

Escape the city’s hustle and bustle and head to the crystal-clear waters of the Rosario Islands National Natural Park. Boat excursions will take you to beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and dreamy lagoons.

Isla Grande Hotel Isla del Sol

Gastronomic Tour

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Cartagena’s gastronomy is a delightful blend of Caribbean and Spanish influences. Embark on a culinary tour to taste traditional dishes such as ceviche, coconut rice, and arepas de huevo.

Restaurant in Cartagena de Indias

Cultural Tours

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Discover the cultural richness of Cartagena through visits to museums, art galleries, and music and dance performances. Immerse yourself in Afro-Caribbean culture and local cultural traditions.

Nature Experiences

Cartagena is not just history and culture; it also offers opportunities for outdoor adventure. Take bird-watching tours, snorkel in the reefs, or hike in the Tayrona National Natural Park.

Tayrona Beach

Rosario Islands

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To enjoy white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, you can take a trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena. Prices and schedules for excursions vary depending on the tour operator and the type of tour you choose. Typically, tours include boat transportation, lunch, and free time on the beaches.

Turquoise Water Beach

Getsemaní Neighborhood

Getsemaní is a charming neighborhood located in the heart of Cartagena de Indias. It is one of the most picturesque and popular neighborhoods in the city, known for its bohemian atmosphere, colorful streets, and a vibrant mix of culture, art, and nightlife. Here, I’ll tell you about the Getsemaní neighborhood and some of its standout streets:

Trinidad Square

Trinidad Square is the heart of Getsemaní. It’s a lively place where locals and visitors gather to enjoy live music, street food, and a relaxed atmosphere. In the center of the square stands the Church of Trinidad, a beautiful historic building.

Sonia Street Art Murals

Sierpe Street

This is one of the most famous streets in Getsemaní. It’s filled with colorful street art murals and graffiti that bring an artistic vibe to the area.

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Umbrella Street

Arsenal Street

This street is known for its restaurants and bars, where you can indulge in local cuisine and nightlife. It’s an ideal place to savor Cartagena’s gastronomy.

Bunting Street Cartagena de Indias

Media Luna Street

Another emblematic street in Getsemaní, Media Luna Street is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s a popular spot for outdoor dining and enjoying the sea breeze.

Getsemaní Neighborhood

Guerrero Street

This street is named in honor of Pedro Romero, a famous fighter for Cartagena’s independence. It’s a historic street that connects you with the city’s history.

Traveler Sonia Around the World

Espíritu Santo Street

Here, you’ll find a series of craft shops and boutiques where you can buy souvenirs and local products. It’s also known for its brightly colored houses.

Traveler Sonia Around the World

Media Luna Street

This street is known for its lively restaurants and bars, which often offer live music and nighttime entertainment.

Fruit Stand

In general, Getsemaní is a neighborhood full of life, art, and culture. Its cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and welcoming atmosphere make it a charming place to explore during your visit to Cartagena de Indias. Additionally, it’s a significant hub for the city’s artistic and cultural scene, with numerous art galleries and cultural spaces promoting local creativity.

Getsemaní Street

Book Your Excursions in Cartagena de Indias

But Cartagena de Indias offers much more; it is the “base city” for a multitude of activities as mentioned below, and here you can book them directly. The best Tours from Cartagena de Indias.

Is it Safe to Travel to Cartagena de Indias?

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As of my last data update in September 2021, Cartagena de Indias is generally considered a safe destination for tourists. However, it’s important to consider some safety considerations when traveling to any destination.

  1. Personal Safety:
    • Like in any tourist city, it’s important to take basic safety precautions, such as not displaying valuables conspicuously and avoiding areas known for high crime rates, especially at night.
  2. Historic Center and Tourist Areas:
    • The historic center of Cartagena, which is the main tourist area, is usually well-patrolled by the police and is safe to walk and explore during both day and night.
  3. Safe Transportation:
    • Use official taxis or recognized transportation apps to move around the city. Avoid the use of unauthorized taxis.
  4. Caution in Beaches and Isolated Areas:
    • In some less crowded beaches or less-traveled areas, extra precautions should be taken, and it’s advisable to avoid carrying valuables.
  5. Scams and Frauds:
    • As in many tourist destinations, be cautious of scams and frauds. Make sure to deal with reliable tourist services and operators.
  6. Check Updated Sources:
    • Before traveling, it’s recommended to check travel warnings and safety advice from your country’s government and international organizations such as the Embassy or Consulate of your country in Colombia.

Being informed and taking precautionary measures is essential, but this shouldn’t discourage you from visiting Cartagena. Thousands of tourists visit the city safely each year and enjoy its history, culture, and beauty.

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Where to Eat in Cartagena de Indias?

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Don’t miss the opportunity to try the delicious local food in Cartagena. Restaurants vary in price, from budget-friendly street food options to gourmet restaurants. Try traditional dishes like arepa de huevo, ceviche, and fried fish.

Cartagena de Indias offers a wide variety of restaurants with quality options at reasonable prices. Here are some recommendations:

La Mulata: This restaurant is known for its authentic Caribbean and Colombian cuisine. They offer dishes such as seafood casserole, ceviche, and coconut rice. It’s a popular spot among locals and tourists.

Cande: Cande is a restaurant that combines Colombian gastronomy with international influences. They offer a variety of creative and delicious dishes in an elegant atmosphere.

La Cocina de Pepina: This restaurant is famous for its homemade and authentic food. They serve traditional Colombian dishes such as bandeja paisa and ajiaco. It’s a cozy and affordable place.

El Boliche Cebicheria: If you like ceviche and fresh seafood, this is an excellent place. They have a variety of ceviche options and other delicious fish and seafood-based dishes.

Ceviche

Don Juan: Don Juan is known for its Colombian gourmet cuisine. They offer creative and tasty dishes that highlight local ingredients. Although it is a bit more expensive than some other restaurants, the quality of the food makes it worth it.

Restaurante San Valentín: This was one of the restaurants we chose to eat at, and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Attached are photographs of a delicious ceviche and several dishes they suggested that were delightful.

Keep in mind that prices may vary depending on the exact location and menu. Additionally, it is advisable to make reservations at the more popular restaurants, especially during the high tourism season in Cartagena.

San Valentín restaurante

Di Silvio Trattoria: If you’re craving pizza or pasta, this Italian restaurant is a good choice. They offer delicious and authentic options at reasonable prices.

El Santísimo: They offer Colombian and Caribbean fusion cuisine in an elegant setting. Although it can be a bit more expensive, the quality of the food and the experience are exceptional.

La Vitrola: This restaurant is a classic in Cartagena. It offers Caribbean cuisine and live music. It’s a lively and fun place to have dinner.

Krioyo: If you’re looking for authentic Creole food, Krioyo is an excellent choice. They serve typical dishes from the coastal region of Colombia in a relaxed atmosphere.

Where to Stay in Cartagena de Indias?

Cartagena de Indias is a colonial city with unparalleled charm and many options to stay for every budget. Here, I’ll indicate some of the best value-for-money options and their respective areas that could be interesting:

hotel dibujoCasa San Agustín

This charming boutique hotel Casa San Agustín is located in the historic center of Cartagena and occupies three restored colonial houses. It offers stylish rooms and a pool in a beautifully decorated courtyard. This luxury boutique hotel usually has prices ranging from 200 to 400 euros per night, depending on the room type and the season.

Hotel Casa San Agustín

hotel dibujoHotel Intercontinental Cartagena

The Hotel Intercontinental Cartagena is a gem on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where elegance and comfort merge to offer a unique experience. What sets this hotel apart is its privileged location in Bocagrande, a vibrant area of Cartagena, allowing you to enjoy the beach and explore the city with ease.

This hotel prides itself on its high-quality service and attention to detail. The staff is friendly and always ready to assist you with any requests during your stay. Additionally, it offers a range of facilities and amenities, including an outdoor pool to relax under the Caribbean sun and a well-equipped gym to maintain your exercise routine.

Hotel Inter Continental Cartagena, an IHG Hotel

Gastronomy enthusiasts will find a variety of culinary options in the hotel’s restaurants and bars. You can indulge in local and international dishes, all accompanied by stunning views. Direct access to the beach gives you the opportunity to enjoy the Caribbean Sea just steps away from your room. Additionally, the historic center of Cartagena, with its colonial charm and cultural attractions, is a short taxi ride away.

In summary, the Hotel Intercontinental Cartagena is an ideal choice for those seeking a high-quality experience on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where elegance combines with natural beauty and Colombian hospitality. Price between €150 – €180/night HD.

hotel dibujoHotel Dann 

The Hotel Dann is a Colombian hotel chain known for providing a high-quality lodging experience in various cities across Colombia. With a strategic location in key points such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, and other destinations, Dann hotels offer travelers convenient access to business centers, tourist attractions, and points of interest.

One standout feature of Dann hotels is the diversity of accommodation options they offer. From standard rooms to executive suites and luxury rooms, guests can choose the type of accommodation that best suits their needs. These rooms are typically elegantly decorated and equipped with modern amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

hotel Dann Cartagena de Indias

Regarding gastronomy, Dann hotels’ restaurants and bars offer an exceptional culinary experience. Diners can enjoy a wide variety of local and international dishes prepared by expert chefs, all in a cozy and elegant atmosphere.

In addition to rooms and gastronomy, Dann hotels typically feature additional facilities and services to meet guests’ needs. This may include pools, gyms, business centers, meeting rooms, and event spaces, adding value to the lodging experience. Approximate price between €100 – €150/night HD.

What to buy in Cartagena de Indias?

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In the Walled City, you’ll find a variety of shops selling crafts, clothing, jewelry, and other products. You can purchase unique mementos and souvenirs.

Cartagena de Indias offers a variety of interesting products and souvenirs that you can buy as mementos of your visit to this beautiful city. Here are some suggestions on what to buy in Cartagena:

Emerald Jewelry: Colombia is known for having some of the most beautiful emeralds in the world. You can find jewelers in Cartagena selling emeralds and jewelry made with them. Make sure to buy from a reputable store and obtain a certificate of authenticity.

Vueltiao Hats: These traditional hats are handmade by the indigenous people of the Guajira region in Colombia. They are famous for their intricate designs and are an iconic souvenir of Colombia.

Wayuu Bags: Wayuu bags are handwoven by the Wayuu indigenous community in the La Guajira region. They are known for their colorful patterns and are a popular fashion accessory in Colombia.

Tienda de bolsos típicos de Colombia

Filigree Crafts: Filigree is a metalworking technique that uses metal threads to create jewelry and decorative objects. Cartagena is known for its filigree, and you can find rings, earrings, and more in this beautiful technique.

Wooden Crafts and Tagua Carvings: Tagua is a natural seed used to make beautiful figures and jewelry. You can also find hand-carved wooden crafts, such as figurines that represent Colombian culture.

Traditional Clothing: If you’re interested in fashion, look for stores that sell typical Colombian clothing such as ruana, backpacks, and linen shirts. These garments are usually comfortable and come in a variety of styles and colors.

Colombian Coffee: Colombia is famous for its high-quality coffee. You can buy freshly roasted and packaged coffee in local stores or markets.

Café Juan Valdez

Local Art and Paintings: Cartagena is a city with a rich artistic tradition. Explore local art galleries to find unique paintings and artworks that capture the essence of the city.

Leather Products: Cartagena is known for its high-quality leather. You can find handcrafted leather bags, wallets, and shoes in local stores.

Traditional Sweets: Try traditional Colombian sweets such as cocadas (coconut sweets), arequipe (similar to dulce de leche), and guava snacks. These make delicious gifts to take home.

Jugos Naturales

Before making your purchases, be sure to haggle at local markets, as it is a common practice in Colombia. Also, consider the import restrictions of your country if you plan to bring certain products with you.

SIM Card or E-SIM for Internet During Your Trip

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I recommend that you learn about E-SIM cards; these are virtual cards, you download a QR and it is installed on your mobile, allowing you to have internet from the moment you get off the plane and throughout your stay to make calls without cost and without surprises on your bill upon your return from your vacation.

These cards cover virtually the entire world, including Argentina, Australia, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, the Philippines, India, Israel, Montenegro, Oman, Peru, Sri Lanka, Turkey, or Vietnam, among many others.

Physical and virtual, referred to as ESIM, and its activation is faster because you don’t have to wait for it to be sent by mail. Book it in advance and make sure to stay connected on your journey!

What are the plugs like in Cartagena de Indias?

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  • Voltage: 110 V
  • Frequency: 60 Hz
  • Plugs: Type A / B

In Colombia, the common voltage is 110 V. The frequency is 60 Hz. The plugs and outlets are Type A / B. In the following images, you can see the types of plugs (prongs and outlets).

The need for an adapter or converter depends on the voltage, frequency, and plugs in the country you live in. If you’re unsure, you can select the country in the right column.

The plugs to use in Colombia are Type A / B:

The plugs to use in Colombia are Type A

Type A: Japanese Type A prongs can be used in the USA but often not the other way around.

 
The plugs to use in Colombia are Type B
Type B: Sometimes valid for Type A prongs
 

If you need to buy a travel adapter, and I personally buy power plug adapters on Amazon; there, you can find a wide selection of Travel Adapters. If you need more information about plugs from any part of the world, you can visit the Plugs of the World page.

National Festivals in Cartagena de Indias

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In Cartagena de Indias and in Colombia in general, there are several festivities and celebrations throughout the year that reflect the rich culture, history, and traditions of the country. Some of the most prominent national festivals include:

  1. Barranquilla Carnival (February or March):
    • Although not directly celebrated in Cartagena, the Barranquilla Carnival is one of the most significant events in the Colombian Caribbean region and is easily accessible from Cartagena. It is a colorful and joyful festival filled with dances, music, costumes, and parades.
  2. Independence Day (July 20):
    • Colombia’s Independence Day commemorates the country’s independence from the Spanish crown. In Cartagena, there are parades, cultural events, and patriotic ceremonies to celebrate this day.
  3. Cartagena Independence Festival (November 11-15):
    • This is one of the most important festivities in Cartagena, celebrating the city’s independence from Spanish rule in 1811. During this time, there are parades, concerts, cultural activities, and traditional events commemorating this historic milestone.
  4. Holy Week (March or April):
    • Holy Week is a significant celebration throughout Colombia and in Cartagena. During this week, religious processions and Easter-related events take place in the city.

These festivities offer visitors the opportunity to experience the vibrant culture, traditions, and joy of the local community in Cartagena and Colombia in general.

Hope you enjoyed this Travel Guide, and to not miss upcoming posts, don’t forget to subscribe! You can also follow me on my YouTube Viajera por el Mundo.

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