The colonial city of Cartagena de Indias
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cartagena de Indias is the most touristy city in the whole of Colombia. In the time of the conquistadors, the city was the main port of the continent and one of the largest turntables in the slave, gold and merchandise trade. It still boasts a beautiful colonial historic centre and an extremely complete set of fortifications, all built in the 16th century by Pedro de Heredia.
Cartagena de Indias is the ideal place to stroll through the old quarters and be guided by the family atmosphere that reigns here. Take a stroll along the city walls, the best preserved in all of South America, and lose yourself in the colourful and lively streets of the city centre where the atmosphere blends the Caribbean and Latin spirit. At nightfall, San Felipe Castle is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the city.
History buffs will be delighted. Cartagena played a very important role during the time of the conquistadors. We will visit the Santa Catalina Alejandria Cathedral, the Monastery of San Pedro, the Gold Museum and the Plaza Bolivar to better understand the city’s tumultuous past while admiring breathtaking colonial monuments.
Without even taking an interest in the city’s history, Cartagena de Indias offers the perfect backdrop for a stroll. Under intense heat and a moist atmosphere, you will discover a peaceful and pleasant place to live. There’s nothing like strolling through the streets, amidst bougainvilleas and colourful colonial houses, to feel the special atmosphere that reigns here. The city boasts a multitude of vast squares decorated with historical monuments and café terraces where you can take a break and enjoy a refreshing coconut water.
Travelling to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia: a guide with tips and useful information
On the shores of the Caribbean Sea and with one of the best preserved colonial centers in the continent, Cartagena de Indias is one of the most important tourist destinations in Colombia. According to Juan, it disputes with Ushuaia the title of “the most beautiful city in Latin America”. For me, it’s undoubtedly the most romantic, and the one we chose for our last trip in pairs. In this post, all the information you need to know if you are planning to travel to Cartagena: what is the best time to go, how to get there, where to sleep and what things you can’t miss in your trip.
Travel to Cartagena de Indias, historical center
In this post you will find: [hide]
1 What is the best time to visit Cartagena de Indias
2 How to get to Cartagena
3 How to change money in Cartagena
3.1 Can I pay by debit or credit card?
4 Transportation in Cartagena de Indias
4.1 How to get from Cartagena airport to the city center
4.2 How to get around in Cartagena
5 How to get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena de Indias
6 What is the best area to stay in Cartagena de Indias
6.1 Walled City (San Diego)
6.1.1 Hostel República
6.1.2 Heredia Boutique House
6.2.1 Medialuna Hostel
6.2.2 Friends to Be
6.2.3 Big mouth
6.2.4 The Nozzle
7 Where (and what) to eat
8 What to see and do in Cartagena
8.1 Walled City
8.2 Naval Museum
8.3 Palace of the Inquisition
8.4 St. Peter Claver Church
8.5 Santo Domingo Square
8.6 San Felipe Barajas Castle
8.7 Tour of García Márquez
8.9 Watching the sunset from the bay (and if there is no sun, the same)
8.10 Visiting the Rosary Islands
9 Other excursions to do from Cartagena:
10 It is forbidden to travel to Cartagena de Indias without…
What is the best time to visit Cartagena de Indias
The first thing I’m going to warn you is that it’s always very hot in Cartagena. Throughout the year the temperatures range from 28°C to 32°C (with 90% humidity). Always. The climate is tropical so “winter” and “summer” do not differ by large variations in temperature, but by the chances of rain. That said, the high season runs from January to March (which is also the dry season) and from mid-June to August.
November is not the best time to travel to Cartagena
Although November is not the best time to travel to Cartagena because of the rains, the preparations for the city’s festivities give it another color, and the water soothes the heat (and is appreciated)
April-May and October-November are the least recommended months to travel because of the climate (but very good to get more availability and better prices). We just got back (late October) and although it did rain a lot, it was always intermittent, we got lower fares and didn’t suffer too much walking in the sun.
How to get to Cartagena
Plane: Cartagena’s airport is international, so many companies have flights, which do not necessarily pass through Bogotá. From Argentina there are no direct flights but you can get there with Lan, Avianca, Aerolíneas Argentinas or Copa, making the respective stops. If you are already in Colombia, Viva Colombia offers low cost flights from Medellín, Cali and Bogotá.
Bus: If you are already in Colombia, Cartagena is very well connected with the rest of the country, although trips are usually slow due to the state of the routes and traffic. If you have the possibility, I recommend you to invest a little more and fly: you will save many hours of bus that you can take advantage of on the beach.
to travel to Cartagena, it is always more advisable to do it by plane.
How to change money in Cartagena
The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP) and at the time of writing this guide the value was 1 U$D = 2989 COP. You can exchange currency at any exchange house, and both in Bocagrande and in the Walled City there are official places to do so. The most advisable thing to do is to bring dollars or euros. Although it is possible to get them to change Argentine pesos, the exchange rate is very unfavourable.
Is it possible to pay by debit or credit card?
Another option is to use a credit card. You can pay or withdraw money in any ATM of the same network. Although in theory it is enough to warn the bank before traveling, sometimes some banks block their accounts without much explanation, and you have to wait one or two days to withdraw again. I recommend that if you are going to use this option, take some cash with you as well.
Streets of the Walled City, a must on any trip to Cartagena
Better to walk these streets enjoying the scenery than looking for a cash machine to keep track of the journey!
Transportation in Cartagena de Indias
How to get from Cartagena airport to the city center
Rafael Núñez International Airport is located 5 kilometers from the historical center of the city, and although it receives flights from different parts of the world, it is a small airport so it is very easy to locate.
As soon as you leave the airport you will find taxis at the door.
If you travel at night or do not dare to get into any car, here you can hire a transfer in advance.
The cheapest way, however, is to leave the airport on foot and walk one block to Calle 70, where taxis pass frequently and the price can be negotiated. The trip from the airport to the walled city costs between 10,000 COP and 15,000 COP (3.3 U$D – 5 U$D).
How to get around in Cartagena
If you go for a walk in the most iconic places (Gethsemane, Walled City, San Felipe Castle) and you don’t mind walking, all distances are possible on foot. If they are not too hot and humid, the yellow taxis slow down at every corner and the minimum fare is 7,000 COP (2.3 U$D) which is what it costs to get to the main attractions or to Bocagrande, from the historical center.
Walking and being able to stop and take these pictures when you feel like it…
How to get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena de Indias
If you are in Cartagena and want to go to the beach (not the city beach, but one of those beaches that come to mind when you think of the Caribbean) Playa Blanca is the option. You can get there by boat (40,000 COP per person, from Bocachica); by taxi (60,000 COP per trip) or by bus + mototaxi (between 10,000 and 12,000 COP per person). To take the bus you have to go to the bridge of India Catalina and from there take the bus to Pasacaballos (about an hour and a quarter trip). Once in Pasacaballos take a mototaxi or taxi if you are going in a group to Playa Blanca. Anyway, if you are thinking of traveling to Playa Blanca, I recommend you read this article “How to get to Playa Blanca”.
Travelling to Playa Blanca from Cartagena
Just under an hour from Cartagena, these beaches
What is the best area to stay in Cartagena de Indias
Although Cartagena is a very large city (it is the fifth largest in the country) the tourist area is very small. Considering the main attractions, we could say that there are four main areas to stay:
Walled City (San Diego)
It used to be inaccessible to low-budget travelers, but the trend has changed. From boutique hotels to hostels with shared rooms, the walled city of Cartagena offers it all. The advantage of staying in this place is that you’ll be in the heart of history (as well as being close to museums, the best restaurants and the wall itself). It has its charm, without a doubt. The disadvantage is that it is a commercial area, with little authentic local life.
The walled city is one of the options for staying in Cartagena, Colombia.
The walled city (Barrio de San Diego) is one of the options to stay in Cartagena, Colombia.
If this is what you are looking for, here is my hotel recommendation:
If you’re planning on going to Cartagena for the party, this is THE place. Although the price is high for a hostel, the rooms are very equipped and the attention is remarkable. In high season the place explodes with travelers (it is one of the most popular hostels in the city). That, without counting the swimming pool, which is a great plus. If you go as a couple you can get double rooms for a better price elsewhere. If you travel alone, it’s a great place to meet people.
Heredia Boutique House
Like so many other hotels, this place is located in an old house in the historical center that was renovated as accommodation, without losing the style. It has an open-air swimming pool, which on hot afternoons, is quite appreciated.
In my opinion, this is the best area to stay in Cartagena. It is right “in front” of the Walled City, and it is the neighborhood where slaves and the last strata of society used to live. The first time we went there were only one or two streets with options for travelers, and the rest was neighborhood as such.
Staying in Gethsemane, Cartagena.
Today Gethsemane has become much more open to tourism, and although there is a strong bid from its inhabitants not to fall into gentrification (good!) the place seems to have found a balance. Thus, you can get accommodation in an old house converted into a hotel, and at the same time enjoy the local life that you can enjoy on the sidewalks or in the Plaza de la Trinidad at night. In my eyes, this last time I found Gethsemane much more beautiful than the Walled City and it seemed the best place to stay in Cartagena.
These are my recommendations of hotels in the area:
It’s a Gethsemane classic. We stayed there on one of our trips and it’s a landmark. It also has a pool.
Hostel in Cartagena de Indias, Gethsemane
Friends to Be
Of the places we slept on our trips to Cartagena, this was the one we enjoyed the most. The Friends to Be has fresh rooms, very spacious beds, breakfast included and lots of open space, as well as a swimming pool that although small, does its job well. In low season the prices are very accessible. In high season, however, they seem a bit expensive considering the offer. Check according to your dates, but if the number closes, go.
The biggest bed of all 🙂
It is the new part of the city, the one with the skyscrapers, shopping malls, mirrored glass and international chain hotels. The pro is that it’s close to the beach. Beyond that, it can be an interesting place to go for a walk, especially because of the contrast between that modernity and the domes of the colonial churches. I wouldn’t choose it as a place to stay since you have to take a taxi for everything.
There are many all-inclusives here facing the beach, and this is where I stayed on my second trip to Cartagena (I had been invited by the country brand, and I felt like I went from homeless princess to resort queen in the blink of an eye). I’m not going to say that I didn’t like it because I would lie (who doesn’t like a couple of days of all-inclusive) but I would say that it was a totally different experience and that I wouldn’t choose it for a first trip: everything interesting happens outside and far from the hotel. If it’s the kind of vacation you’re looking for anyway, I recommend you to stay at Las Americas; not because it’s far away did I stop visiting the most beautiful part of the city.
Where (and what) to eat
Like any other tourist city, Cartagena has everything. From typical traditional food to Italian restaurants, sushi houses, food trucks or Peruvian cevicherias. The walled city is a potpourri for all tastes and wallets.
If we talk about typical Cartagena food (and at a popular price), it is possible to find menus all over the city for about 9,000 COP (3 U$D). A menu includes soup (yes, I know what you are thinking: who wants to eat a soup with an average temperature of 25° in the shade, but wait to try it and then tell me about it), main dish (which is usually meat or chicken with rice, patacones or beans and salad) and drink (which if it is not natural juice is aguapanela). If you don’t like the menu, for between 15,000 COP and 20,000 COP you can select more elaborate dishes.
Menu with larded meat, rice, patacón, beans and salad. I never got the soup
If your thing is food on the go, you can find arepa stands in many squares and corners. A cheese arepa is around 3,000 COP and an arepa with a filling of your choice is around 6,000 COP depending on what you want to put on it. My recommendation: don’t leave Cartagena without eating an egg arepa. It’s a ninja kick to the liver but it’s worth it.
If you want to treat yourself and try coastal food with a gourmet touch, reserve a table at Candé, and order the picada for two, the eggplant stuffed with crab or the posta cartagenera. It’s not something you go for every day, but you won’t regret it. At noon the atmosphere is better (don’t miss the potus curtain at the bathroom door, it amazed me).
Candé is the best place to eat typical Cartagena food
This little bite with typical coastal fried foods is the downfall (and it stayed in my memory so much that it earned Candé my return)
And if you want to go for a few drinks, here are two (or rather three) recommendations:
In front of the Plaza de la Trinidad there is a little bar that has two or three tables (it’s diagonal to the door of the church, not the one in the corner) that always has 2×1 drinks. The good thing is that you can go in pairs and order a drink each and the 2×1 runs the same (not that you have to have two equal drinks per person). It’s a good place to sit and spend the afternoon and the strawberry daiquiri is the best.
If you’re looking for something more top, Alchemy is a cool bar (and it has the best window dressing I’ve seen in a long time)
Everyone’s going to recommend that you go to the Café del Mar. If you ask my advice, it’s not worth it: I mean, the atmosphere is very cool but the prices are too much. You can see the same sunset and even hear the same music two steps away, drinking a beer from the street vendors for a third (or a quarter) of what anything is worth there.
Backpackers for ever and ever
Other things to try:
Cheese fingers. Another snack on the way. They’re worth 200 each and they’re a vice.
Bonus bread. Oh my God the bonus bread, give me 5,000 units please. There are many places to buy, but without a doubt the best is the “Esquina del Pan de Bono”, which as its name indicates is dedicated not exclusively but especially to this delicacy. It is diagonal to the university, inside the walled city.
Oatmeal. It is excellent as a soft drink or at breakfast, and is 100% homemade. You can get it in stores, and you will notice it because it comes in filled bottles. It’s the best thing in the world.
This was our typical breakfast on our first trip to Cartagena: fresh blackberry juice, two cheese breads, and oatmeal for Juan, who is a big fan. All for less than two dollars. So, you know, you can have your oatmeal at the bar in some dining room…
…or they can flash advertising models and have oatmeal on the sidewalk. (Bench much eating on the sidewalk)
Cheese sticks. The difference between these and the little fingers is that the little fingers are fried and smaller and these are baked and have cheese on top too. (Yes, I’m a big fan of cheese, in case you haven’t noticed). There are many places to buy them, but the bakery I put in the next picture has the best ones and is very easy to find, because it is one block from the Clock Tower, walking straight ahead. You can’t miss it).
Go in the morning because it’s over quickly
Tree tomato juice. With water. Very cold. Tell me about it later.
Coconut rice. It comes with meals, but if you haven’t tried any menu, do it. Please try that delicacy. That’s crazy. And if you’re like me and want to eat that at home, the Olympic Supermarket sells packages. It’s not the same but it’s very close and it’s a delicacy.
Cokes. They sell them from the stalls in the gallery in front of the Clock Tower. The arequipe ones are the best in the world, but give the fruit ones a chance. And if you’re going to Playa Blanca, try the street vendors. They are worth twice as much (2,000 COP vs 1,000 COP in Cartagena) but they are fresh and a thousand times richer.
Cocadas are a typical Cartagena snack
What to see and do in Cartagena
If you didn’t get tired of all the walking and eating you did, here is a short list of the most important attractions in the city. For more details, don’t miss the post that Juan is preparing about unmissable experiences in Cartagena.
No need to mention it. More than a safety pin, the Walled City is a must: there is no way to travel to Cartagena and not miss the historic center. There are many ways to tour it: you can take a tour, get into a carriage (which I find completely discouraging, it seems to me a cruelty) or walk around aimlessly.
And here comes a brief story: we met Jose in 2011, during our trip through South America. My mother had come to visit us, the three of us were having lunch in a dining room and he, our waiter, offered to guide us through the city. We never imagined that we would learn so much on that private tour, which cost us so little. To this day I remember the explanations he gave us about the door knockers (which are those figures on the doors) and the history of the city. The thing is that later on I was robbed, I lost the notebook, and I could never contact him again. Seven years later, and in spite of the reforms, I found the restaurant and asked for José. They called the oldest employee and I got his number again. They all point out that Jose did not study to be a guide but that he has a vocation. And of that I am faith.
The door knockers are one of the attractions of the historical center of Cartagena
Cartagena’s doorknockers hold many secrets…
To talk about the history of this city is to talk about its relationship with the sea. That is why the Naval Museum is one of Cartagena’s must-sees. Even if the ships are not of your utmost interest, the collection of replica ships and stories of corsair attacks make the visit educational and very interesting.
Palace of the Inquisition
The role of the Catholic Church was also fundamental. The palace, where today the Museum and the Historical Archive are located, is one of the most representative facades of the city. If you are interested, there is also a museum dedicated to the methods that were used at the time to torture people accused of witchcraft. (Personally, I think there are much more spectacular things to see).
Church of San Pedro Claver
Another of the city’s meeting points, this church is dedicated to the Jesuit missionary who passed on to posterity for his dedication to alleviating the suffering of slaves. He is considered a defender of human rights and his remains are found inside the church. Three things I recommend about this place: go on a Sunday to see a wedding (and enjoy the church in full activity), eat a cheese arepa in the corner cart and take a typical photo with the cathedral dome as a background.
From further back you get a better angle, but well…you learn!
Santo Domingo Square
It’s a meeting point during the night. The surrounding restaurants and cafes bring this place to life, where many times there are also street shows set up for tourists. Don’t miss Botero’s fat one in front of the church.
San Felipe Barajas Castle
It is the largest fortress that Spain had in the New World and you can still see the canyons, tunnels and watchtowers. If you are interested in history, go: its construction is imposing and shows the constant threat that Cartagena suffered from pirates and corsairs. But be careful: go early because the sun is strong.
Tour by García Márquez
In many places they recommend going to see their house, but personally I didn’t think much of it (considering that it is not open to the public and that the facade is not spectacular). What I do strongly recommend is to take the tour dedicated to the life and work of this writer. This is an audio guide that allows you to do the tour at your own pace and that you can hire at the Cathedral (find out why I’m sure some agencies offer it too). If you like García Márquez’s work, take an afternoon (I think it lasts a couple of hours) and do it. It’s not the same to grope around the walled city as to do it saying: “That’s where Florentino and Fermina left each other letters” or “That’s where the dog bit Deer Mary”. #? love (Yeah, I know, nothing to do with putting a hashtag in the post but I just ah…loved that tour).
Garcia Marquez’s tour is a must on any trip to Cartagena
If you read this post I think it’s clear that this is my favorite part of town. When I first came here, the old slave quarters had only one “tourist” street. It wasn’t listed in the guidebooks, and although the area was quiet and characterized by the family life of its streets, many were intimidated by the prostitutes who offered their services in broad daylight and preferred to pass by (a shame, because it was the most authentic thing in the area and sex work didn’t bother anyone). Today, seven years later, Gethsemane seems to have found the balance between local life and tourism with a distinct and totally different imprint to that of the Walled City. I insist: it’s the place to stay, and where you can enjoy the most authentic nightlife.
Watch the sunset from the bay (and if there’s no sun, it’s the same)
From the Pegasus Pier, boats depart offering different types of tours: with dinner, with a party, short trips, longer trips. We took an hour and a half ride with Sibarita del mar and it was the perfect time to see the illuminated city, enjoy some drinks and come back in time for dinner in the city.
Visit the Rosary Islands
As you know, I think it’s best to spend a few days in Playa Blanca. However, if you are short on time and want to do a full day trip, several agencies offer tours that include trips to different islands, lunch and time to snorkel on the beach. Here are my recommendations:
You can book a full day tour to Playa Blanca
Or, if you want something more familiar but not so crowded, take a trip to Pirate Island.
Or visit the exclusive Isle of Enchantment, another of the islands that make up the archipelago.
Other excursions to do from Cartagena:
Gastronomic tour with cooking class: If you are a food lover and you also want to learn about the history, the ingredients and the recipes, this can be a good option. From the local market in Bazurto to the preparation of a typical local dish.
Bike tour of the city, visiting the most important neighborhoods.
Excursion to the Totumo Volcano: do you want to dive into a mud with medicinal properties? (Or at least have fun trying). This tour is quite typical when travelling from Cartagena to the Tayrona National Park, but it is also possible to do it from the city itself.
Tour to San Bacilio del Palenque: If you like history, this tour is a must. It is no more and no less than the first free town in America, where slaves who escaped from Cartagena settled. Their colorful houses reflect the spirit of those who gave their lives for freedom.
What to do in Cartagena: Tourist Guide
JULY 21, 20191277
Cartagena de Indias is one of the main tourist destinations in Colombia, and for good reasons: it is full of history, it has a beautiful historical centre full of places of interest, bars and restaurants, and in its surroundings you can also find spectacular beaches. In this complete guide we tell you about the best things to do in Cartagena so you don’t miss out on your next trip!
cartagena street in the historic center
Tourist Sites in Cartagena
These are some of the best places to visit in Cartagena:
San Pedro Claver Square
This is one of several squares in the historic center, where you can find the imposing church of San Pedro Claver, dedicated to a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary who dedicated his life to black slaves in the 17th century in Cartagena, thus becoming the patron saint of slaves.
st. peter’s church in cartagena
Saint Peter’s Church
The church is part of a complex of buildings that includes the adjacent cloister, where there is a museum dedicated to the life of Saint Peter. Admission is $12,000 pesos.
One of the best walks you can take from Cartagena is to visit Isla Tintipán, click here to read our guide to the island!
It is the largest square in Cartagena, located just steps from the San Pedro square. Here you can find a statue of Christopher Columbus and the square is surrounded by beautiful buildings that during colonial times served as administrative offices.
customs square in cartagena
Plaza de los Coches
This is the square you reach if you enter the walled city through the Clock Tower gate. During the colonial period, the slave market operated here. Under the porticos of the buildings in the square you can buy all kinds of typical local sweets.
plaza de los coches in cartagena
A couple of blocks away is another iconic square: Bolivar Park, dedicated to Colombia’s independence hero. It’s an oasis in the middle of the walled city, since it’s one of the few places where you can rest under the leftover trees.
Santa Catalina Cathedral
The most important church in Cartagena, and one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas. Its yellow and red tower is one of the main elements on the horizon of the walled city.
cathedral of santa catalina in cartagena
Santo Domingo Square and Church
Another of the iconic squares of the old city, and one of the main tourist attractions of Cartagena. It is located in front of the Santo Domingo church, and here you can admire a statue of the famous sculptor Fernando Botero. The square is usually quite busy, and is surrounded by restaurants that set tables in the square. Be careful because these can be one of the most expensive options to eat, so if you are looking to not spend too much, avoid eating in the main squares.
Plaza Fernández de Madrid
In the direction of the San Diego district you will find Madrid’s vibrant Plaza Fernández, surrounded by restaurants, pizzerias, bars and a few hotels. This is another place where you can rest under the shade of the trees, or sit down and have a cold drink for the heat. At night there are several options for eating, but like the Plaza de Santo Domingo, the places are quite expensive.
San Diego Square
In the heart of the neighborhood of the same name is this square that is very lively at night, and where you also find a variety of restaurants and bars. Some of the most beautiful and colorful houses in Cartagena are located around this square in the San Diego neighborhood. In our opinion this square is undervalued compared to other tourist sites in Cartagena, and we have noticed that many people stay in the squares of San Pedro or Santo Domingo, and do not get to know this part of the walled city.
Activities in Cartagena
In addition to visiting the squares and churches mentioned, we recommend the following things to do in Cartagena.
Visit the Historical Museum of Cartagena (Palacio de la Inquisición)
Next to Bolivar Park is the Inquisition Palace building, which in our opinion has one of the most beautiful facades in Cartagena (if not the most beautiful). To appreciate it better, with the doors closed, make sure you arrive early, before they open.
palace of the inquisition in cartagena
It was built in the 18th century as the seat of the Inquisition, and the Historical Museum of Cartagena is now located here. Admission for adults costs $21,000 pesos.
Enter the Gold Museum
On the opposite side of the square is the Zenú Gold Museum, operated by the Banco de la República, where you can find a quite interesting sample of pre-Columbian cultures’ gold work. The entrance is free.
To read our guide to Mompox click HERE.
Get to know the Emerald Museum
Right next to the Gold Museum is this other museum, also free, where in a brief tour you can learn about the different kinds of emeralds that exist, how they are mined and how they are worked to create beautiful jewels.
emerald museum in cartagena
Stimulate your senses at the Choco Museum
Yes, there is a museum dedicated to chocolate in Cartagena! Here you can learn about the cocoa plant, and the different stages through which the cocoa beans are processed and converted into chocolate and all its products. You can also try (and buy) an infinite number of products made from cocoa, such as chocolate bars (obviously), cocoa tea, sweets, liquors, skin products, and much more. You can also participate in workshops to make your own chocolate bar from scratch, following the whole process. There are two locations in the walled city, one near Bolívar Park and the other in Plaza Fernández de Madrid. Totally recommended as a different activity in Cartagena.
Go up to the San Felipe Castle
A visit to this imposing fortress will transport you back to the times when Cartagena was constantly attacked by pirates and foreign navies. It is about a 20 minute walk from the centre of the walled city, and is a must see on any visit to Cartagena.
san felipe castle in cartagena
The entrance fee is $25,000 pesos. Inside you can walk through the dark and narrow corridors built inside the fortress, and enjoy the views of the city from the top of the castle.
What to do in Gethsemane
Speaking of things to do in Cartagena, a tour of Gethsemane is a must. This bohemian, backpacker neighborhood used to be the place where slaves lived in colonial times. Not long ago this neighborhood was trapped by crime and drugs, but this place has undergone a dramatic change and has become one of the main tourist sites in Cartagena, standing out for its colorfulness. You can find hotels, hostels, restaurants, cafes and bars. These places are a must see:
Plaza de la Trinidad
This square is the heart of Gethsemane, located in the heart of the neighborhood. It is an ideal place from which you can explore Gethsemane in all directions. Here you will find a yellow church, sober but very beautiful. During the day there are usually not many people in the square but at night it is another story, as it fills up with both locals and tourists in the various restaurants and bars around the square, and even in the square itself to enjoy street food or a couple of beers.
plaza de la trinidad in cartagena
Gethsemane is famous for being an urban art paradise, so you’ll see lots of graffiti along different walls throughout the neighborhood. The most notable are in Calle de la Sierpe and Calle de San Juan. The great quantity and quality of graffiti makes, in our opinion, the neighborhood of Getsemaní one of the unmissable tourist spots in Cartagena.
graffiti in getsemani cartagena
In Gethsemane you find streets that are true explosions of color and stand out from all the others. First of all there is the Calle de la Magdalena, covered by these beautiful colored flags. Tell us if you don’t find it one of the most beautiful places in Cartagena?
magdalena street in cartagena
In second place is the Callejón Angosto, a very narrow street (worth the redundancy) covered by colorful umbrellas that give it a unique touch. In our opinion it is one of the most beautiful streets in Cartagena de Indias.
narrow alley in cartagena
To see our 10 most photogenic places in Cartagena click HERE.
In third place is the Calle de San Juan, with charming little houses full of color and contrast.
san juan street in cartagena
It is because of these colorful streets that we feel that getting lost in Gethsemane is one of the best plans in Cartagena.
Beaches of Cartagena
A very popular outing in Cartagena is to visit one of the several islands around it for a day at the beach. The beaches of Cartagena as such are not very nice, so to enjoy really beautiful beaches you need to go to Baru, Tierra Bomba or the Rosario Islands.
To take a boat to any of these islands you must go to the Muelle de la Bodeguita, located just outside the walls of the historical center, diagonal to the Clock Tower. Depending on which island you go to, the tour can take from 20 minutes to one hour. If you go to Baru, you can get to Playa Blanca by land in a combination of bus and motorcycle (more delayed, but economic) or you can drive if you have your own car.
To read our guide of San Andres Island click HERE.
Nena Beach Club
In Playa Blanca you will find a wide variety of places where you can spend the day or even stay overnight. In our case we went to Nena Beach Club, a place that clearly stands out from all the others in Playa Blanca. Nena has 10 beach beds that are large, comfortable and very attractively designed, located just steps away from a beautiful turquoise sea. The bar area is also quite nice, with an ocean view and some photo-worthy swings!
The place has rooms, some with an ocean view, in case you want to spend a night here. To check availability, prices and book your room through Booking.com, click HERE.
A detail that we loved is that the place has clean bathrooms and showers with fresh water, which is quite useful to bathe and change into dry clothes before leaving.
The service was impeccable, the lunch was delicious (it has a vegetarian option too) and the cocktails were very tasty, of good size and quite nice too. If you want to visit Nena Beach Club, you have the following options:
Day trip: includes transportation to and from Cartagena, beach bed, welcome cocktail, coffee, lunch (3 options), access to all facilities and personalized service. It costs $175,000 pesos per person, or $150,000 in case you arrive in your own car and do not require transportation.
No pass: you can rent the beach bed that costs $100,000 pesos all day and can accommodate up to 4 people, and pay separately for each food/drink you consume. In this case, you will also have access to all the facilities and personalized service.
Where to eat and drink
Restaurants in Cartagena
Di Silvio Trattoria
As lovers of Italian cuisine, this is one of our favorite restaurants in Cartagena. They are located in Getsemaní (our favorite), just one block from Plaza de la Trinidad, on the corner of Calle de San Juan and have another location in Bocagrande.
The place is famous for pizza and pasta, but they also have meat, chicken and fish dishes. The pizzas are big, thin dough and ingredients of the best quality and flavor. Without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Cartagena.
A friend of Mariana’s recommended this place and it was fantastic. If you love a good brunch, you can’t miss it. From 7am to 2pm they have a breakfast menu that includes various types of eggs, sandwiches, pancakes, French toast, as well as vegetarian and healthy options. We order pancakes and eggs Benedict, and two cappuccinos.
The portions are plentiful, the flavors very good, and in the end we only paid $52,000 pesos, which is a very good price considering that we were in the middle of the historic center and we were both full. From noon on they have a menu with salads, hamburgers, pizzas, pasta and sandwiches. If you are looking for cheap restaurants in Cartagena, this place is for you.
For a traditional Cartagena egg arepa, you can go at night to the Plaza de San Diego where you’ll find a fried food cart called “Fritos Dora” (look for the red shirts). For about $2,500 pesos you can enjoy a delicious egg and ground beef arepa. To accompany it, you can buy the drink of your choice at the corner store.
For a drink:
This place is a must if you want to enjoy some good cocktails in Cartagena. This bar is well known for being a “laboratory” for the creation of unique cocktails. You won’t find margaritas, piña coladas or mojitos here, as all the cocktails are original creations. There are several atmospheres, you can be inside with good music and dim light, or go up to the third floor rooftop (our favorite). On average each cocktail costs $25,000.
A few steps from the Plaza de la Aduana is this charming place to enjoy a coffee from the different coffee regions of Colombia. You can order hot or cold drinks, natural juices and infusions, and accompany them with pastry products.
The friendly staff will explain to you about the processing of the coffee, from its harvest, roasting, grinding and packaging to create the different products you can taste. If you wish, you can buy 100% Colombian Coffee to take home.
Located a few steps from Plaza Fernández in Madrid, this hotel has a rooftop bar where everyone can go. You can enjoy snacks and drinks with a fantastic view of the whole historical centre. The prices are a bit high, so if you don’t want to spend too much you can go upstairs to enjoy the sunset with a couple of beers and that’s it.
To go rumba:
Bazurto Social Club
To go out for a rumba/dance at night, we recommend Bazurto Social Club, located in Gethsemane in front of Centenario Park. The atmosphere and music are 100% local, focusing on champeta, salsa and merengue. The band that plays live music is spectacular and will infect you with their energy. The entrance fee is $20,000 pesos.
We hope you liked this guide on what to do in Cartagena, and that it will be very useful on your next trip to Cartagena de Indias. If you have any questions or would like to suggest other plans in Cartagena, leave us a comment!
( partagé 2700 fois sur pinterest )
The 10 most photogenic places in Cartagena
CARTAGENA COLOMBIA TRAVEL GUIDES
The 10 most photogenic places in Cartagena
21 MARCH, 201912591
If, like us, you love to take good pictures when you travel to have nice memories of the best moments, then this guide about the 10 most photogenic places in Cartagena is for you!
Follow us on Instagram at @peekingplaces for more travel tips and inspiration!
Tips for taking the best photos in Cartagena
It is no secret that Cartagena receives many tourists, and therefore it is normal that its streets are full of people, especially in the historical center. If you want to be able to take your pictures calmly and without other people in the picture, our best advice is to get up early and be on the street before the crowds. Besides being able to enjoy the city and take pictures without people in the streets, getting up early also means that the sun will not be so high yet, so it will not be so hot, and there will be a soft light that is more favorable for the pictures.
We are publishing a new guide! Did you know that the paradise island Tintipán is only two hours away from Cartagena? Click here to find out how to get there, the best hotels and activities, and prices of everything!
So without further ado, here is our list of the 10 most photogenic and installable places in Cartagena, distributed seven in the Center and three in Gethsemane:
Most photogenic places in Cartagena – Barrio Centro
Church Street from the corner of Abacus Books and Cafe
The Cathedral of Santa Catalina is one of the most iconic buildings in the walled city of Cartagena, with its beautiful yellow and red tower. One of the most beautiful views of the cathedral is from the intersection of Calle de la Iglesia and Calle de la Estrella/De la Mantilla. On this corner is located Abaco Libros and Café, a common reference point for this photo.
In our Cartagena guide we tell you about the best activities, places of interest, restaurants, bars and beaches. Click HERE to read it!
Facade of the Inquisition Palace
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful facades, and in our opinion one of the best places to take pictures in Cartagena, not only for its beautiful carved stone frame, but for its imposing wooden doors with lion’s head dressing tables. This building is located right in front of Bolívar Park. This is where a museum operates, so if you want your photo taken like this, with the doors closed, you should arrive before 9:00 a.m. which is the opening time of the museum.
Alley of the Stirrups
This narrow street is right next to the Santo Domingo church, and there are some colorful houses with one of the most beautiful hanging vines in all of Cartagena. This street is quite busy because it is right next to the Plaza Santo Domingo, so the earlier you get there, the better.
Would you like to visit Mompox? Discover our tourist guide by clicking HERE.
Abba Gallery Boutique House
Located on Santo Domingo Street, less than a block from the Plaza Santo Domingo, this boutique gallery is not only beautiful inside, but also has a beautiful facade that can be seen better before opening, with the doors still closed.
Southeast corner of Parque Fernández Madrid
In one of the corners of this park there is a vine that goes from one side of the street to the other, forming a spectacular “arch” over it. Taking the photo in the opposite direction of the park you get this picture, with the vine arch and the colorful houses in the background.
If you are planning a trip to Santa Marta, don’t miss our tour guide! Click HERE!
Plaza de la Aduana to San Pedro Church
The largest square in Cartagena is surrounded by beautiful buildings where administrative offices were located in colonial times. Taking the photo in the direction of the church of San Pedro, you will see the towers and dome of the church behind the buildings in the square. You can play a little with the arches at the other end of the square (towards the walls) to frame the photo as we did! This is one of our favorite places to photograph in Cartagena.
San Pedro Square towards Santa Catalina Cathedral
Another of Cartagena’s iconic sights can be found if you stand right in front of St. Peter’s Church and look towards the Cathedral of Santa Catalina. You will have the picture with the cathedral tower in the background, and colorful balconies on both sides of the street. This street is usually quite busy so for best results it is best to arrive early.
Do you want to visit the Island of San Andrés and are you looking for information? Discover our complete guide HERE!
Most photogenic places in Cartagena – Barrio Getsemaní
San Juan Street
This narrow street in Gethsemane is, in our opinion, one of the best places to take pictures in Cartagena. On one side you find an entire wall full of beautiful murals, and on the other side an endless row of small houses with beautiful contrasting colors.
One of our favorites in Gethsemane, this street located a few steps from the Centennial Park not only has houses with beautiful balconies and vines hanging from them, but also has colorful banners on the street, which make it one of the most unstable places in Cartagena.
A hidden little street deep in Gethsemane that cannot be missing from any list of the most photogenic places in Cartagena. Its main attraction is the colorful umbrellas or parasols that hang over this alley of colorful houses.
Thus we conclude our guide to the 10 most photogenic and installable places in Cartagena de Indias! We hope you liked it and that it will serve
Cartagena Indias Travel Guide
Travel Guide to Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias, located in the Colombian Caribbean, is a magical city that you cannot miss.
Famous for its beaches, paradisiacal islands, crystalline waters, good music, rumba, culture. In short, it has everything you need to spend an unforgettable vacation.
Use this travel guide to plan your trip to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
You may also be interested in: Travel guide to Bogotá.
1 Sightseeing Pass in Cartagena de Indias
2 How to get to Cartagena
3 Where to sleep in Cartagena
4 How to get around in Cartagena
5 What to eat in Cartagena
6 What to do in Cartagena
7 Best time to travel to Cartagena
Tourist pass in Cartagena de Indias
The city of Cartagena in Colombia is famous for its beaches on the Caribbean Sea, music and architecture but when it comes to museums the truth is that there are not many in the city.
That is why you will not find a tourist pass to know the city, however, there are other options like:
Touring Cartagena by tour bus: You can get on and off as many times as you like.
Visit the most emblematic places of the city: In a 4 hour tour.
How to get to Cartagena
Cartagena can be reached by air, land and sea. In the case of the sea, these are cruise ships that only stay in Cartagena de Indias for a few hours, so I will not go into detail about this means of transport.
Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) is Colombia’s third largest airport and receives both domestic and international flights.
The main domestic destinations are Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, San Andrés, Pereira, Bucaramanga, Cúcuta, Armenia and Montería.
On the other hand, the main international destinations are Peru, United States, Panama, Mexico, Netherlands and Canada.
The distance from the airport to the city center is approximately 15 minutes by taxi. There are also fixed rates depending on the area you are going to, which helps to avoid scams.
Cartagena de Indias has a land terminal from which buses arrive from the main cities of Colombia such as Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cúcuta, Santa Marta, etc.
You can find the complete list as well as the information of transportation companies in the official website of the land terminal.
Where to sleep in Cartagena
Although Cartagena is a relatively small city, each of its neighborhoods has certain characteristics that make them unique.
Read on to find out where to stay in Cartagena de Indias at a good value for money.
Bocagrande and Laguito
Both neighborhoods are located in the southern area of Cartagena, on an artificial peninsula that has become the main hotel zone in Cartagena de Indias.
In these neighborhoods you will find world-renowned hotel chains such as the Hampton by Hilton.
It goes without saying that in addition to having a privileged view of the sea they have all the comforts to make you feel like a king (or queen).
It is also possible to find some cheap hostels where you can spend the night but without a view of the sea.
The Walled City is divided into two neighborhoods: Centro and San Diego.
The Centro neighborhood is where most of the city’s tourist attractions are located as well as luxury hotels and colonial mansions.
The advantage of staying in this neighborhood is that you will be in the very historic center of Cartagena de Indias.
On the other hand, the San Diego neighborhood has cheaper hotels and you don’t have to walk far to enjoy the most emblematic places in the city.
This neighborhood is famous for its colonial houses, colorful murals that show the Street Art and its nightlife.
In addition, it is the preferred option for those travelers looking for a cheap place to sleep in Cartagena de Indias thanks to the variety of hostels and cheap accommodations in this neighborhood.
Even if you don’t spend the night in Gethsemane I recommend you to visit this colorful neighborhood, you won’t regret it.
La Boquilla is located in the north of Cartagena and is one of the most exclusive neighborhoods where you can spend the night.
Although it is relatively far from the tourist area, it is the ideal place for those people looking to relax on the beach or do water sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.
How to get around in Cartagena
To be able to move around the tourist areas of Cartagena you need nothing but your feet. Gethsemane, Bocagrande and the Walled City are relatively close.
Inside Cartagena you will also see some buses but I doubt you will need them.
What you will find useful are the official taxis (yellow) when you return to your accommodation at night.
Although Cartagena de Indias is a fairly safe city, it is better to be safe.
The cost of taking a taxi is between COP 10,000 – 20,000 (USD 3 – 6).
What to eat in Cartagena
The advantage of Cartagena being a city visited by both national and international tourists is that you can find all kinds of culinary preparations, from typical Cartagena food to international food.
As far as the typical dishes of Cartagena de Indias are concerned, they are those that have coconut or fish as ingredients:
Although it is not a typical Caribbean dish, if it is your first time in Colombia you cannot leave without trying Bandeja Paisa (emblematic Colombian dish).
Regarding the best places to eat in Cartagena these are in the Walled City, the ones above the Walled City are the best to visit at sunset (for example, Café del Mar).
On the other hand, if you are on a tight budget you will be looking for a cheap restaurant.
If that is your case I recommend you to eat in Gethsemane, there you will find places like Coroncoro, Café del Mural, Demente and Beiyú. The cost of the menu is around COP 10,000 – 20,000 (USD 3 – 6).
What to do in Cartagena
Cartagenic white beach
Playa Blanca, Baru Island
As I mentioned before, Cartagena de Indias is known for its excursions but it also has activities in the city that are worth doing.
Excursions from Cartagena de Indias
To begin with, we will see which are the most famous excursions in the city. When planning your itinerary, keep in mind that each one of them is done in a full day.
Rosario Islands Tour: A magical adventure through the Caribbean islands and the perfect opportunity to practice snorkeling.
Visit Playa Blanca: Take a walk around Baru Island and enjoy an afternoon on the beach with crystal clear waters and white sand.
Tour of the luminous plankton: Submerge yourself into the sea during the night and admire the singular color that the plankton acquires, it is as if the stars of the sky were inside the sea.
Wreck Diving: Learn to dive and explore the interior of the AC Quindio ship.
Bathe in a mud volcano: And take advantage of the medicinal properties of the mud from the Tutumo volcano.
Visit Cocoliso Island: Spend your day on one of the most beautiful islands in the Colombian Caribbean.
Places to visit in Cartagena de Indias
Although excursions are the favorite activities of tourists visiting Cartagena, here you will find a list of 10 activities you can do in the city.
Have a romantic dinner on a cruise ship
Experience Cartagena’s nightlife in a chiva rumbera.
Watch the sunset from the towers of the Walled City.
Take a free tour of the Historic Center.
Explore the Fort of San Felipe de Barajas.
Learn about urban art in Gethsemane.
Visit the Plaza de la Aduana.
Search for Sir Francis Drake’s house.
Spend a day at the beach in Bocagrande.
Buying fruit from a palenquera.
Best time to travel to Cartagena
In Cartagena it is difficult to talk about the four seasons we know: spring, summer, autumn, winter.
To begin with you should know that the minimum temperature throughout the year is usually not less than 25 – 28 °C.
Since it is a tropical destination it has two very marked seasons: the rainy season and the dry season.
The rainy season is from May to November, while from December to March is the warmest season and most visited by tourists.
I personally recommend avoiding the high season and traveling between April and May, when the weather is cooler, there are fewer tourists and prices are cheaper.
You could also travel during the rainy season but you would be tempting your luck to find a good day at the beach (it rains from 6 to 9 days per month).
What to do in Cartagena in 4 days?
June 24, 2018borismoralesbColombia, Travel Tips, TravelsCommentsWhat to do in Cartagena in 4 days?
One of Nestor’s dreams was always to see Cartagena, and the moment we saw that the Medellin/Cartagena flights were super cheap we decided to make a short getaway. The question was: What to do in Cartagena in 4 days; after much research and choosing recommendations from several friends we decided to make the most of the time to see all the contrasts of the heroic.
What to do in Cartagena in 4 days?
Looking at it from various perspectives 4 days sounds like a lot, but in reality it is very little time to enjoy all that Cartagena has to offer, so we decided to visit or do different activities that we would both like to do. Here is our list:
1. Enjoy its beaches.
Although it is something very obvious, enjoying the beaches of Cartagena is still one of the best plans and the best of all is that it is free. We are staying in a studio apartment in the El Conquistador building, very famous for being one of the largest apartment complexes in the city located in the Laguito sector, next to the Hilton. The advantage of this place is that it has the beach just across the street, and it is the ultimate. It is important when visiting the beaches to be responsible and very careful with the waste that we cause, remember not to leave garbage on the beach or in the sea.
2. Walk around the historical center and its walls
Cartagena stands out for having one of the best preserved walls in the world, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within it is the historical center of the city that still maintains its colonial style and cobblestone streets. We recommend starting the tour from the majestic Clock Tower, which welcomes all tourists from around the world and start walking its beautiful streets where you will find candy stores, food, clothing stores, crafts and many other things.
If or if you have to visit it by day and night, each one has its magic, especially at night when the weather is much more pleasant because of the sea breeze, and you can even go for a ride by renting a bicycle inside the walled city.
3. Take a gastronomic tour of the city
While in Cartagena we had a very special invitation from the guys at Foodies Colombia, who do gastronomic tours in Cartagena where they show you those jewels of Cartagena’s food, and where depending on the tour you have the possibility to meet incredible people from whom you will learn a lot about the culinary history of the heroics. We made the “Gabo’s Literary Menu”, “Cartagena Street Food” and “Cooking Bazurto”, during 1 day and a half in the city, very soon we will talk about them in a next post.
4. Visit the neighborhood Gethsemane
Gethsemane, for us, is really the most beautiful thing that Cartagena has. It is very close to the historical center, and you can get there on foot. It is the favorite place for travelers because there are a variety of hostels at low prices and different restaurants and bars incredible. In Getsemaní you will live a 100% bohemian experience, full of culture that will catch you up. It also has incredible murals that you can’t miss.
5. Visit Baru Island
Baru Island has the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen. Its colors are incredible and it is without a doubt one of the best plans when visiting Cartagena, even though it is not right there it is very easy to get there. There are different companies that sell you the day pass in the Island for $45.000 pesos aprox. with transportation and lunch included. Unfortunately our SD memory was damaged when we came back from Baru and we lost all the pictures we took with the camera, and we only had pictures with the cell phone like this one. In Baru you can do different water activities and enjoy the sun with your family.
Without a doubt there are many plans that are left out, but we decided to leave some for our next visit that is very soon this year, so without a doubt we will bring you a new post with many more things to do.
So far today’s post. If you want to see more pictures of the food we tasted and the places we visited, don’t hesitate to follow us on facebook, instagram and twitter. 🙂
Everything you need to know before visiting Cartagena de Indias in Colombia
Today we bring you an interesting travel guide about this beautiful place in Colombia and its name is Cartagena de Indias.
Several essential things we need to know if we are planning our visit to Cartagena de Indias would be, where is it, how to get there, what to do, what kind of food you will find, tips to know where to stay and other very useful tips, here below we tell you everything.
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel guide | Photography by Faytur
Just the pronunciation of its name takes you to a magical place and to the most glorious era of ancient Imperial Spain, Cartagena de Indias suffered sieges and wars for centuries. After this horrible past, we can say that today it is one of the most important and beautiful colonial cities in Latin America.
Where is Cartagena de Indias?
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel Guide : PixaBay Photography
Cartagena de Indias is located in the country of Colombia, north of the town of Bolivar on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. It borders the municipalities of Santa Catalina, Clemencia, Santa Rosa, Turbaco and Turbaná to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the north and west and the municipality of Arjona to the south. It is located in a typical coastal area, formed by geological processes related to the sea, with white sands and crystalline waters.
How to get to Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel Guide : PixaBay Photography
The city of Cartagena de Indias has the Rafael Nuñez International Airport, which is located about 5 kilometers north of the historical center of the city and fortunately is accessible from anywhere in the world.
What to see in Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel guide. Claver Church | Photography by PixaBay
The most recommended places in Cartagena de Indias, since it is one of the most important and spectacular colonial cities in all Latin America, has a huge architectural heritage legacy. There are a good number of things to see and we name them below.
The San Felipe de Barajas Castle in a colonial fortress, built in 1657, is one of the largest in Latin America and is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of Cartagena de Indias.
The Walled City: is one of the most emblematic tours of the city and one of the most recommended due to its history and its immense beauty.
Some places you should visit inside The Walled City are the following:
The Old Town, it is essential to take a walk through the well-known old town of Cartagena that includes the historical quarters of the San Diego centre, it is full of churches, monasteries, squares with a great atmosphere, colonial palaces and mansions with their characteristic balconies.
The Plaza de la Aduana, houses the customs building which was the residence of Don Pedro de Heredia, the founder of Cartagena.
The Casa del Marqués, is located in front of the Plaza de la Aduana and is one of the most representative houses of Cartagena’s colonial architecture.
The San Pedro Claver Church: is a temple of Catholic worship dedicated to San Pedro Claver whose remains are found in its main altar. Because of its historical significance and architectural and cultural value, the temple was declared a national monument.
Islas del Rosario: this archipelago is made up of 43 islands and is located 46 kilometers southwest of the city. Some of the islands are inhabited and serve as the residence of famous people from Colombia and South America. Two of them still show the houses that belonged to two antagonistic peoples Neruda and Escobar.
Baru Island: an island bordered by the bay of Cartagena de Indias, the dike channel and the Caribbean Sea that is characterized by white and pink sands, as well as its crystalline water that allows you to see the bottom and many colorful fish. The access to the island can be done by water crossing the bay of Cartagena or by vehicle crossing the dike channel in a planchon or ferry.
What to eat in Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel guide. Food on the streets : Photography by Aiesecargentina
Many ask themselves what to eat in Cartagena de Indias and in reality we would say that it is a mixture of intense flavors that are cultivated in their lands and produce indescribable sensations when combined with some birds, red meat and products of the swamp, the rivers and the sea.
Every bite is a feast of flavors! It is based on fried foods, rice, soups and stews, although they are also adapted to other types of gastronomy by adapting meat cooked over low heat, with vegetables, and based on delicious sauces and strong flavours.
But above all you should know that good fruit abounds and there is nothing better than walking around its streets enjoying a good natural multi-fruit shake .
When to travel to Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel guide. Baru Beach | BestDay Photography
The best time to travel to Cartagena de Indias is during the months of December through April. The temperature at this time of year is around 28 degrees and can reach 31 degrees.
The least recommended season is during the months of May to November when there is a lot of humidity accompanied by rain.
Where to stay in Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena colombia photos
Cartagena, Colombia – Travel guide. Accommodation Cartagena : Suitcasemag Photography
We will give you three different areas to stay in, with three different types of budgets to suit what you are looking for on your trip.
The best area to stay in Cartagena de Indias is the Walled City, as this is the main tourist area where you can find the best examples of its colonial architecture and almost all its tourist attractions and are located in it or very close to it. Prices can be a little more expensive than the average in Colombia.
Check out the best accommodations in the walled city here.
Outside its walls towards the south there is a small peninsula and here there are both interesting and economical options, in particular we are talking about Bocagrande. With its skyscrapers it allows you to have a better quality/price ratio as well as enjoying other advantages such as having the beach just a few steps away and being able to enjoy better swimming pools.
See the best accommodations in Bocagrande here.
Getsemaní, is an economic neighborhood and the favorite of backpackers. It is located just outside the Clock Tower, a small modest but super charming colonial neighborhood.
Check out the best accommodations in Gethsemane here.
Outside these areas we may face security problems if we don’t know these areas of Cartagena de Indias, so if it can be avoided it would be the best thing to do.
One of Colombia’s most paradisiacal destinations, a city built on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, famous for its imposing walls, colourful colonial architecture, miles of beaches, cultural life and dream islands.
How to get to Cartagena de Indias, when to go, what to do, what to see? To find out more, check out our Cartagena de Indias travel guide.
How to travel to Cartagena?
Getting to Cartagena de Indias by plane: from the main cities of Colombia, Central America and North America, there are regular flights to Cartagena de Indias, arriving at Rafael Núñez International Airport, located 5 kilometers from the city’s historic center.
From there you can take taxis to the different tourist areas and hotels.
Trips to Cartagena de Indias by bus: from different parts of the country and some South American cities, buses travel to Cartagena de Indias and arrive at the transport terminal located 12 kilometres from the city centre.
From there you can board taxis and the public transport fleet (Metrocar), with departures every 10 minutes.
Travelling to Cartagena de Indias by sea: From various cities in the Caribbean and Europe, cruises regularly arrive at the Cartagena de Indias Cruise Terminal, located in the Manga area (about 3 kilometres from the historic centre).
From the city of Colon in Panama, there are also ferries that make the crossing in seven hours.
When to go to Cartagena?
Cartagena de Indias has two seasons, a dry period (December to April) and a rainy period (May to November).
In general, the dry period is considered the best season to travel to Cartagena de Indias due to the decrease in rainfall.
Temperatures, on the other hand, remain close to 27ºC and humidity is around 82%.
In this season, although the weather is mild, the phenomenon known as the “Mar de Leva” usually occurs between January and March, so we must be especially careful with the beaches.
The rainy period, on the other hand, is a season with many rainy days and a sky that alternates with totally cloudy moments and others of radiant sunshine.
It is also the time when tropical cyclones (hurricanes) occur.
The temperatures of this season are similar to those of the dry period, with averages close to 28ºC, while humidity increases and can reach 85%.
Among these months, the rainiest correspond to September and October.
In addition to the weather, prices and the influx of visitors are another factor to be taken into account when choosing the best time to travel to Cartagena de Indias.
In general, December, January, June, July and Easter are considered to be the high season, while the other months are framed by the low season.
What to do in Cartagena?
Cartagena Of the Indies
The Palenqueras , typical women in Cartagena
Historical Tourism: Visit the jewel of the historic centre known as the “walled city”, an area declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, famous for its imposing walls and fortification complexes facing the sea, enclosing a magical area of colourful colonial architecture, cobbled streets and charming little squares.
Enjoy the city’s beaches: Cartagena de Indias is practically surrounded by the sea, with an extensive coastline of beaches along the centre and the areas of Bocagrande, Laguito, Castillogrande, La Boquilla and Marbella.
Among them, the most famous is the Bocagrande area, with its golden sandy beaches and warm waters, surrounded by numerous restaurants and hotels.
Excursions to paradisiacal beaches: For those looking for paradisiacal beaches, the best options are in the nearby islands of Rosario and Baru, which both have white sandy beaches and turquoise waters where you can go snorkeling and diving.
>> The best activities to do in Cartagena
Recommendations to Cartagena
Where to eat: If there is something not lacking in Cartagena, there are places to eat, with a large number of restaurants and street stands where you can taste the regional cuisine.
Among these is the Historic Centre, with its charming restaurants on the terraces of colonial buildings that have now been restored.
In the historic centre, the numerous terraces in the Plaza de Santo Domingo and the premises of the Portal de los Dulces in the Plaza de los Coches are a must for eating out.
Feel like a little something to eat in Cartagena?
For those looking for a more economical offer, the premises of the Barrio de Getsemaní stand out, a popular and traditional district of Cartagena located just a few metres from the historic centre, particularly appreciated by travellers looking for a more authentic view of the city.
Nightlife: Cartagena offers a wide range of possibilities to enjoy the night, concentrating numerous bars and nightclubs that operate until the early hours of the morning.
Among the most popular options are the Calle del Arsenal with about five blocks of nightclubs, the streets and squares of the Historic Centre and the tourist area of Bocagrande.
Changing money: In most tourist areas such as Bocagrande and the Walled City, it is possible to find exchange houses authorized as banks that carry out currency exchange.
Although it is advisable to change dollars or euros, which are the most common currencies, it is possible to find in most establishments changes of Chilean and Argentinean pesos.
How to get around: public transport buses, taxis or on foot.
In the walled city, walking is the best option, while to move between this part of the city and Bocagrande, the best options are buses, taxis or traditional chivas, considering that even when the walk does not take more than 25 minutes, the high temperatures make it an exhausting journey.
Safety: Most tourist areas such as the Walled City, Bocagrande, Castillogrande and Laguito do not present problems of insecurity, the rest of the remote areas of these zones are better avoided.
Clothing: with temperatures that throughout the year do not drop below 20ºC, normally reaching maximums of 32ºC, it is always advisable to have clothes made of light fabrics such as cotton.
For the months of April-May and October-November, it is also useful to have a raincoat or umbrella to protect yourself from the frequent rains.
To find out which zone best suits your personal preferences, consider that the first zone corresponds to a beach area where most of the commercial services and large hotel chains are concentrated, while the second zone has an offer more oriented towards inns and boutique hotels, with the appeal of its streets and colonial architecture.
Tourist information: In the main squares of the historic centre and in Bocagrande you will find tourist offices called PITS.
In all these offices you can obtain tourist information, maps and brochures.
Among them, Plaza de la Aduana, Plaza de la Paz, Plaza San Pedro Claver, Avenida del Malecón, in front of Flanagan Park and Rafael Núñez International Airport.
Vaccination: Unlike other regions of Colombia, no vaccination is required for travel to Cartagena de Indias.
Sunbathing: It is essential to protect yourself from the sun’s rays with sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids, given the high temperatures and the possibility of dehydration.
Best things to see
Old town of Cartagena.
The narrow streets flanked by pretty balconies in advance preserve all the charm of the Colombian colonial period.
Here and there you can find the fleshly works of the famous Botero, drawings and caricatures.
In the heart of the pedestrian centre (“el casco antiguo”) is the Bolivar Park, close to the main buildings of the city :
The Palace of the Inquisition, built in the 18th century in the purest style of baroque civil architecture, today housing the terrifying instruments of torture used at the time, as well as the historical archives and the Cartagena Academy of History.
The Cathedral of Santa Catalina Alejandria (or Minor Basilica) whose admirable Florentine dome has become the emblem of the city.
The Monastery of San Pedro Claver
The Gold Museum with a fine collection of gold and gemstone jewellery
Convent of the Popa.
Perched on a hill that embraces the whole bay, this monastery houses a beautiful patio, a colonial museum and a chapel dedicated to the Virgen de la Candelaria.
It offers the most beautiful panoramic view of the city.
San Felipe Barajas Castle.
At the gates of the colonial city, it is one of the most formidable bastions ever built by the Spanish army to defend itself against the numerous pirate attacks.
Its architects, with great ingenuity, have multiplied secret passages, underground galleries and drawbridges.
The ramparts of the old city are very well preserved.
Canoe ride in the mangrove.
This village of Afro-Carthaginian community presents a different face of the great Cartagena.
Morning option: Very early in the morning, go with one of the fishermen of the village to discover the secrets of traditional fishing (throw the traps in the sea to catch the red and blue crabs of the lagoon) and coastal cooking (fish and coconut rice).
Then enjoy the beach in peace and quiet.
Afternoon option: go for a walk in the village and in the mangrove (Cienaga de La Virgen, a marsh with exuberant flora) to meet the inhabitants and then the marine animals.
At the end of the day, from your boat, contemplate the sunset in this peaceful setting.
This colonial district allows you to discover a different, more popular and mixed Cartagena.
During the day, stroll through the colourful alleys to discover the young and bohemian spirit of Getsemani, between youth hostels, graffiti-covered walls and fruit juice vendors.
Don’t miss the Casa de la Cultura, with its salsa classes, exhibitions and delicious restaurant.
In the evenings, stay in the area near the park towards Cartagena’s old town for a drink in one of the many festive bars and pubs.
On Sunday evenings, enjoy a public zumba class in the Plaza de la Trinidad!
Islands of the Rosary.
Although Cartagena is by the sea, it is preferable to go offshore to enjoy the paradisiacal beaches of the Caribbean.
Take a short break on one of the twenty islands and islets of the Rosary Islands National Park, such as Isla Grande and Isla Majagua.
You will discover the magical setting offered by this archipelago of coral formation with transparent waters.
From there, you can snorkel or dive.
Even closer, Isla Baru offers the same program, only 30 minutes by boat from Cartagena!
Isla Mucura, San Bernardo Archipelago.
For a real seaside holiday in a preserved setting, go to the heart of the Caribbean Sea.
At 1h45 by boat from Cartagena, the paradisiacal setting of this island, privatized by the Punta Faro hotel and bordered by white sands, invites you to relax: swimming in warm and transparent waters, water sports, nature walks, panoramic tour of the surrounding islands, scuba diving…
The residential areas of Bocagrande (which is meant to resemble Miami), Castillogrande and Manga offer many hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries.
This is a must for shopping enthusiasts.
The city of the singer Shakira is mainly known for its carnival classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (which takes place in February-March).
This folk festival, with its huge floats, its famous battle of flowers and its wild rhythms, has become the 3rd largest carnival in the world (after Rio de Janeiro and Venice).
Characteristics of Cartagena
Tourist city par excellence of Colombia, Cartagena de Indias, most often called Cartagena, is located in the north of the country.
A former stronghold of the Kingdom of Spain in South America, but also a former site of the gold trade and slave trade, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Number of Inhabitants
The city of Cartagena has approximately 895,400 inhabitants (2006 estimate).
Founded in 1533 by the conquistador Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena is the port of entry to the Andes and is highly coveted.
It was plundered in 1697 by the French during an expedition led by Admiral Jean-Bernard de Pointis and Jean-Baptiste du Casse.
Then, in 1741, the forces of Admiral Edward Vernon attempted to lay siege to the city, but without overcoming the tenacity of its occupants.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Cartagena became a hub of the slave trade.
It was then the first city of the vice royalty of New Granada to declare its independence in 1811.
In 2013, Cartagena is a very touristy city, welcoming about two million visitors every year.
Located in the department of Bolivar, in the north of Colombia, Cartagena lies on a group of low islands and rocky peninsulas.
A port city, it is open to the Caribbean Sea.
How to get around the city?
The city of Cartagena offers various modes of transport, Bus, Taxi or Car Rental, to choose from.
The bus: the city buses are available day and night.
Taxi: the price of the trip must be fixed in advance.
The average fare is 3000 pesos (and about 4000 pesos at night).
Car rental: there are many agencies in Cartagena.
What to see?
The city of Cartagena has many tourist sites to see.
Tourists will mainly go to the Torre del Reloj, the Plaza de los Coches, the Sen Felipe Castle, but also to the Museum of Gold and Archaeology.
Other sites such as the Plaza de Bolivar, the Bullring in the Plaza de Toros de la Serrezula, or the San Fernando Forts will also attract visitors.
Site of the city of Cartagena (in Spanish).
What to do?
– Take a walk on the beaches of Bocagrande or El Laguito.
– Visit the historic centre of the city with its palaces and churches.
– Attend the Miss Colombia pageant in November.
– Stroll along the ramparts of the fort of San Felipe de Barajas and watch the sunset.
The heart of the city is full of shops and small businesses where you can make various purchases.
During a trip to Cartagena, don’t forget to bring back in your luggage purses (bolsas), scarves (bufandas), a ruana (Colombian pancho), beautiful blankets, Indian pottery, leather goods, ceramics, wood sculptures painted in the shape of tropical birds, or jewellery and emeralds.
Gastronomy and local recipe(s)
The dishes: Arroz con coco (rice with coconut milk), Arepa de huevo (corn cake with eggs), Sancocho de pescado (fish and tuber soup), Patacones (fried bananas), Seafood.
Desserts: Panela (cane sugar loaf), Dulce de millo (millet dessert).
Drinks: Fruit juice, Colombian coffee, Local beer, Rum.
What to see in the region?
In the surroundings of Cartagena, there are various sights to see.
The peninsula of Baru, located one hour from Cartagena; The Rosary Islands, perched on a coral base.
Travellers are advised to consult their doctor before departure and to take out repatriation insurance.
For any emergency, dial 123.
- Calle 5ta C/Carrera 6ta, Barrio Castillogrande
- + 57 5 665 4380.
- In summer : -7h
- In winter : -6h