Best things to do in Cartagena de Indias ?
One of the most beautiful, romantic and colorful cities in the world, Cartagena is full of history, friendly Colombians and, of course, tourists.
The walled city is made of colonial buildings in pastel colors bordered by flowers, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, many restaurants and shops to satisfy all its visitors.
You can walk around the city during the sunset, explore the fortress that has been protecting the city for hundreds of years and try all the Caribbean cuisine, from fresh fish to exotic fruits.
Between markets, tours, shopping and the nearby beaches of the Islas del Rosario, you’ll marvel at the beauty of Cartagena for days on end.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Cartagena :
Best things to do in Cartagena during the day ?
Visit the Old Center
Every building within the walled city of Cartagena is like that of a Latin fairy tale. The walls of the buildings are brightly colored in reds, yellows, blues and oranges.
Flowers are tied through windows and doors in the style of colonial architecture, with cobblestone streets and statues in the plazas …
all this creates the reputation of Cartagena. It is easy to spend a day simply walking and taking pictures of the walled city of Cartagena.
Visit the Bovedas
In the old city of Cartagena, Las Bóvedas were structures attached to the walls.
Originally built as dungeons for prisoners during the civil wars in the 19th century, these structures were brutal prisons because at high tide the ocean water entered the cells that covered the poor prisoners.
Today, dungeon cells are one of the most popular things to do in Cartagena because they house shops and boutiques selling traditional Colombian products.
Visit the Castillo San Felipe
One of the best things to do in Cartagena is to visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas built by the Spanish in 1536 and later expanded in 1657.
The castle is located on the hill of San Lazaro, in a perfect position to protect the city from land and sea.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour of the castle is to discover the many catacombs tunnels underneath the castle. A real fortress for battle.
Visit the Covento de la Popa
The Convent de la Popa is the highest point of the city, and is home to a call due to its shape resembling the aft deck of a ship.
With a height of 145 meters, the Popa is one of the most important reference points when arriving in Cartagena.
Sailors named the mountain this way because it resembled a ship.
Testing food and shopping in the historical Center
The squares in the Historical Center are excellent for tasting local drinks, relaxing while watching people pass by, or enjoying the entertainment offered by street artists.
You can walk around the shops that are full of souvenirs for your shopping.
Visit Bazurto Market
The Bazurto market is often described as a place just for adventurous travelers.
This bustling market just 15 minutes from downtown Cartagena is huge. It is chaotic. It is noisy. It is extremely dirty and lacks the typical tourist traveler.
Do you want to get in touch with the locals? Then this extremely large market full of dirty twists and turns is the place to go.
You can find everything from fresh fish and fruit to spices and real Colombian culture in this chaotic market.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable taking on an experience like this alone, many tour agencies offer guided tours of Bazurto market, some of them in conjunction with the street food tour.
Visit the Beaches
During the day, the many beaches of Cartagena will fascinate you with their hectic life or their tranquility if they are far from the city.
The Islas del Rosario are one of the most popular destinations from Cartagena with its crystal clear waters, majestic corals and white sand beaches.
Located 45 minutes away by speedboat, the Rosario Islands are a group of 30 islands that offer quiet accommodation and a multitude of activities for all tastes.
Best things to do in Cartagena at night ?
Have a sunset at Cafe del Mar
On the edge of the wall surrounding the Old City, Cafe del Mar is one of the best places in Cartagena to have a drink and enjoy the view.
The bar is located at the top of the far end of the old wall, with beautiful sunsets.
The view from the bar overlooks the beautiful endless sea with a view of history in front of you.
Have a drink and enjoy the view in this perfectly located Cartagena hot spot.
Sunset on a catamaran
You will enjoy the relaxing yet exciting catamaran ride in the Bay of Cartagena de Indias.
Accompanied by good music while enjoying a cocktail of Sangria, Cava or a soft drink and a delicious appetizer in a magical atmosphere during the sunset on the catamaran and the lighting of the lights of the spectacular skyline of the city of Cartagena.
Take a horse drawn carriage tour
Cartagena at night is very different from that of the day.
The beaches close at 6pm and a horse-drawn carriage ride is an unforgettable experience for the tour of the historic centre.
See a Folkloric Show
Palenque’s folk dances and spectacular entertainment provide significant entertainment in many places in the city such as Bolivar Park, Plaza de Santo Domongo, Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Trinidad and Parque Fernando Madrid.
Visit Getsemani District
What was once a quiet neighborhood full of locals and youth hostels, Getsemani has become an ideal place for nightlife, the arts and a taste for the Colombian spirit.
The neighborhood is full of colorful houses and filled with epic street art.
You can take tours here that are similar to the gastronomic and historical tours.
The neighborhood is full of incredible restaurants and cafes, as well as salsa and champeta clubs.
This is also the neighborhood that is home to Plaza de la Trinidad, a favorite night spot.
Have a Romantic Dinner
There is a great place for romantic dinners and it is the Intriga Tropical restaurant in Laguito, near the Hilton hotel.
This restaurant is well hidden and with its terrace at the edge of the lake, you will have a romantic evening that is very affordable and of delicious quality.
The fish soup is well worth the detour, as well as the seafood dish for two people.
The many restaurants offer typical Cartagena meals and a varied gastronomic offer for all tastes.
The plazas offer both full meals and live music from street artists that are great.
Vallenato groups are the most in demand.
Dance Salsa at Donde Fidel
An essential night activity in Cartagena is dancing in the old city.
Cafe Havana is a crowded place with live Cuban salsa music.
Located on Calle Media Luna in the Getsemani neighborhood, the Cafe Habana salsa bar offers live salsa music groups on Fridays and Saturdays.
Between the Plaza de la Aduana and the Plaza de los Coche is the bar Donde Fidel which has a fabulous sound system and is located right in front of the picturesque clock tower of the walled city.
One of the most popular places to listen to salsa music and have a beer or a drink.
Take a Chiva Tour
One of the traditions is the famous rumba in chiva in a frenetic atmosphere for those seeking strong emotions.
These colorful wooden buses with party lights and loud music run through the streets of Cartagena at night looking for the best places to party.
When backpacking to Colombia, this is a highlight of the party.
As the bus tours the beautiful city of Cartagena at night, feel free to dance on the bus through the streets to the flowing rum and loud music.
Best things to do in Cartagena cheap ?
Taste Street Food
While you should definitely buy arepas stuffed with cheese and fresh lemonade from the street food vendors, you may want to sign up for a street food.
Cartagena Connections will take you into the world of food and culture while collecting samples of exotic fruits, fried snacks such as empanadas and buñuelos, patacones, Costa Rican cheese, frozen treats and red wine.
Touring Cartagena de Indias by bike is the best way to visit the city and discover the main historical and cultural sites.
A 2 or 3 hour bike ride in the Historical Center.
Have time to take some pictures, enjoy the surroundings, get to know Cartagena through the view with a very healthy activity.
Take Walking Tour
Enjoy the atmosphere and character of the old city is one of the favorite things to do a walking tour in Cartagena.
Stop for a coffee or juice from a local vendor, take pictures with the fruit ladies dressed in Caribbean attire, or just relax and enjoy beautiful Cartagena.
Pick up some of the golden vendors from the streets or even better, grab some fruit cups from the colorful ladies selling them on the streets of the old city.
Known as Palenqueras, these iconic women will accept gold or pineapples, and allow you to take a picture.
Originally from the town of San Basilio de Palenque, they are known for their traditional Caribbean dress and their ability to balance heavy bowls of fruit on their heads.
Taste Palenquera’s fruit
While in the Plaza de los Dulces, be sure to walk through the covered arches in front of the clock tower.
This is known as the Portal de los Dulces and is filled with vendors selling traditional Colombian sweets.
Whether you want to try them or not (they tend to be super candy), it’s still a fun place to walk around and look at all the handmade candy displayed in glass jars.
Visit Tierra Bomba
Just a short boat ride from Cartagena is Tierra Bomba Island with its clear water and white sand beaches.
Connect with Cartagena’s colonial history with a visit to the ancient forts of San Fernando and San Jose.
Both nearby forts on the island of Tierra Bomba and on a nearby islet, respectively.
Best things to do in Cartagena with children ?
Visit the Oceanarium
Located on the island of San Martin in the Rosario islands, the Oceanarium Aquarium allows you to see a dolphin show and some species of fish found in the region.
The aquarium is small and an entrance fee is required.
You can admire sharks, turtles, fish and the boat tour will give you a spectacular view of the islands in order to take impressive pictures.
Visit The Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden
Only 45 minutes from Cartagena (Turbaco) is one of the most important ecological attractions of the region, the Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden.
It has a living collection of more than 300 species of plants from the Colombian Caribbean and one of the few virgin native forests in the region.
The Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden has several special collections and about 2 km of trails of beauty and charm.
A very special spring of water flows into the forest all year round.
Visit Los Lagos
Located 20 km from the historic center of Cartagena on the road that leads to the city of Turbaco, Los Lagos is a privileged place to spend a pleasant day, in the rest and fun.
No matter if you want to be with your family, with a group of friends or as a couple, this place offers an unforgettable experience different from the usual tours that are offered.
Visit the Chocolate Museum
The Chocolate Museum is the perfect place for chocolate lovers.
Here children can learn about the process that the cocoa fruit goes through to become chocolate, learn about the cocoa plantations in Colombia and see how the artisan chocolate factory works.
ChocoMuseo has a shop where you can buy things like liquor or beauty products made with cocoa and buy souvenirs.
The ChocoMuseo is located in front of the Plaza Fernández Madrid in the center of the city.
Find sloths and iguanas in the Parque del Bicentenario
Cartagena has many parks, but the one that children will enjoy watching wildlife is the Parque del Bicentenario.
The park is located near the Camellón de los Martires in Getsemani and is an ideal place to rest, as it has beautiful gardens, fountains and cozy shadows to protect you from the sun.
Have a Crepe & Waffle
One of the small outings with children that you should not miss is to go for ice cream at Crepes & Waffle.
There are two places available, one in Bocagrande and the other in the Historic Centre.
Activities to do in Cartagena
Visit Totumo Volcano
Visitors to Cartagena can take mud baths at the Totumo Volcano and they say it has healing properties.
Once you arrive, there is a staircase that leads to the crater where you can climb the volcano to experience what I consider to be the strangest sensation.
The mud is neither hot nor cold.
It’s not thin, but it’s not thick either…
you feel weightless, as if you were floating in space.
After a while, this lack of body control gets a little creepy, so you get out and head to the next lake for a swim, often done by local Colombian women.
If you want to experience an incredible sea, this is your chance to perceive with your 5 senses the qualities of a Pink Sea, where you can breathe the purest air of the region.
Take the perfect picture for your memories, feel the breeze of the Caribbean Sea, learn about the salt process in the second largest salt mine in the country and taste it in its natural state.
But it doesn’t end there, you will also visit the village of Galerazamba, place of your tribe, and visit the ethno-industrial museum where their arts and ancestral beliefs are still preserved.
Visit San Basilio de Palenque
To see where these colorful palenqueras come from, visit San Basilio de Palenque which is only 60 kilometers from Cartagena.
One of the first cities in the Americas composed of escaped and freed slaves, it is the birthplace of popular Colombian musicians and musical genres such as champeta and palenque.
The language and customs here are unique, although tourism is slowly becoming part of the local economy.
Visit La Boquilla
La Boquilla is a small fishing village located on the outskirts of Cartagena, where its poorer streets and shacks contrast with the old city of Cartagena.
This small fishing village is known for its delicious seafood and its canoe trips in the mangroves towards the end of the beach.
The beach itself is not too spectacular and sometimes very discreet, but the water is often a few degrees warmer than in Bocagrande.
Discover Pablos Escobar’s Plane Underwater
At about 5 meters deep, near Isla Grande in the Islas del Rosario, there is a small plane that belongs to Pablo Escobar.
The site is beautiful for diving.
See the Phosphorescent Plankton
The phosphorescent plankton in the Enchanted Lagoon in the heart of Isla Grande is famous for the impressive and surreal spectacle of phosphorescent plankton that, on a dark night without stars, seems to shine and oscillate with the light at every touch of the water.
Swimming in the lake at night, seeing little green lights dancing around your body is one of the most unique and memorable reasons to visit the Islas del Rosario.
Visit San Jacinto
Tour the land of the big hammock in San Jacinto, which you will see where the town begins and ends, in a street full of hammocks, peyons, backpacks and green, yellow, blue and any color sashes; all of them hanging in the streets as a colorful and beautiful artistic display.
What to do in Baru, Cartagena ?
Visit Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca is not in Cartagena but to Baru Island about 75 minutes by car or 35 minutes by speedboat from the Bodeguita dock in Cartagena.
Baru Island is one of the Rosary Islands in Colombia.
Visit Bendita Beach
Bendita Beach very close to Baru has a great variety of services to complement your stay and in this way you can have a good time and enjoy being surrounded by beach, breeze, sea and sun.
It is a private island with 3 beaches of the best white sand, which together with the beautiful Caribbean sun with tranquility for an unforgettable day.
Cholón is located inside Baru Island, and it is without a doubt a destination that cannot be missed in your vacation itinerary, since it is one of the most fun and exciting destinations.
You will be able to enjoy a party inside the sea since you arrive until you leave, and of course you will be able to delight with its delicious gastronomy.
Visit the Aviary of Baru
The best way to spend a day observing nature and improve your photographic skills by shooting your camera is to visit the Aviary of Baru.
Even if you only bring a smartphone or a professional device, you can take good pictures and videos.
Enjoy an eco-friendly photo experience with 138 species of birds, including species such as the harpy eagle, Caribbean toucan, pink flamingos, and crane wreath, among others.
You will fill your soul with happiness by sharing with all this variety of nature gathered in one place, so you won’t miss the opportunity to explore and learn more about each one of them.
Visit Rosario Islands
The most beautiful beaches of Cartagena are not those of Baru Island or Playa Blanca, nor those of the Rosario Islands, they are certainly the beaches of the San Bernardo Islands, two and a half hours away by car to reach Tolu and then one hour by boat.
Located in the gulf of Morrosquillo, the San Bernardo islands are composed of 10 islands with an area of about 250 square km.
This archipelago is part of the National and Natural Park Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo.
Best things to do in Cartagena if it rains ?
The best things to do if it is raining in Cartagena is to visit museums.
The most popular museums are the ChocoMuseo, elmuseo de Arte Moderno, el Museo de Oro Zenu, el Museo Caribe de Esmeralda, el Museo Naval.
Visit the Palace of Inquisition
Located around the Bolivar Park, the Palace of the Inquisition is splendid with its baroque style and wooden balconies of great splendor.
This important construction was finished in 1776 and is the main witness of the power given to the Holy Church, which was in force before the independence in 1896.
Visit the Churches
Cartagena has many beautiful churches that can be visited during rainy days and here are the most recognized : San Pedro Claver, the Cathedral, Santo Domingo,Santo Toribio, la Trinidad, San Roque.
What to do After Cartagena ?
Located 320 km (250 km by Magangue) south-east of Cartagena, on the banks of the Magdalena River, and classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the city of Santa Crux de Mompox is exceptional for its colonial architecture, the magnificence of its churches, its squares, its houses and its history.
Visit Tayrona Park
The Tayrona Park is located 260 kilometers from Cartagena, passing by the road that borders the Caribbean Sea and surrounding Barranquilla and Santa Marta.
It is one of the main attractions of the Caribbean region for its beauty and beautiful white sand beaches.
Located 32 kilometers from Santa Marta or 45 minutes, you enter the park by the place called Zaino.
They are some of the magical beaches of the Tayrona Park that total about twenty on its territory of approximately 15,000 hectares where most are not accessible than walking through the spectacular nature.
Visit Santa Marta
The city of Santa Marta is located 226 kilometers north-east of Cartagena de Indias.
The beauty of Santa Marta is unmatched by the proximity of the Sierra Nevada and its snowy Pico Bolivar, the highest coastal mountain in the world.
San Pedro Alejandrino’s farm is the most visited attraction, where the Colombian liberator Simon Bolivar died on December 17, 1830.
The place is magnificent with its gardens, its fauna and its abundant flora.
Here you will find ancient trees and more than 150 species of plants on display, including several varieties of orchids, cactus, fruit trees, mangroves and medicinal plants.
You can even observe live animals, such as iguanas, parrots, lions and hummingbirds.
Best things to do in Cartagena in 3 days ?
Planning an itinerary is stressful and often requires a lot of research.
You never know how much time to allocate for an activity.
I literally spend hours researching different places to visit and reviewing safety and important travel information when planning our trips.
Therefore, to make things easier for others, I always like to design our complete itinerary in the hope of saving you time and effort.
This is how we spend our three days in Cartagena.
- Explore the Historic Center
- Crepes & Waffles Ice Cream
- Horse-drawn carriage ride
- Day trip to Islas del Rosario and aquarium
- Lunch on the island
- Dinner at Intrigue Tropical
- San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the Stern
- Sunset in Cafe del Mar
- Dinner in Santo Domingo Square
Best things to do in Cartagena in 7 days ?
- And since we spent our seven days in Cartagena.
- Complete City Tour
- Lunch Crepes & Waffles
- Sunset in Cafe del Mar
- Day trip to the Rosario Islands and aquarium
- Lunch on the island
- Dinner at Trinity Square
- San Basilio de Palenque
- Typical lunch at Palenque
- Nightly catamaran ride
- Dinner at Santo Domingo Square
- Pasadia a la Boquilla, Volcan del Totumo and Mar Rosado
- Seafood Lunch a la Boquilla or Manzanillo del Mar
- Horse-drawn carriage ride in the Historical Centre
- Botanical Garden
- Lunch and visit to the Lakes
- Dinner at Intrigue Tropical
- Day Tour to Santa Marta
- Lunch at Popeye a la Cienega
- Visit of the Quinta de San Pedro de Alejandrino
- Dinner at Rodadero
- Las Bovedas, Bazurto and San Jacinto
- Lunch at Bazurto
- Rumba in chiva
I hope yhat you like this new guide about the best things to do in Cartagena
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Do you have any questions about Cartagena ?
Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite things to do ?
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.