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.

The city of Cartagena has approximately 895,400 inhabitants (2006 estimate).

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Cartagena de Indias enjoys a solid economy, thanks to a diversified productive structure in sectors such as industry, tourism, commerce and an international merchant marine logistics that is facilitated by its strategic location between all the Americas and the Caribbean.

Cartagena Colombia @cristian amayaPin
Cartagena Colombia @cristian amaya

In recent years, the diversification of its economy has been highlighted by the petrochemical sector, international tourism and the processing of industrial products. Currently, it is the fourth city in Colombia in industrial production. 

Cartagena Colombia @monydPin
Cartagena Colombia @monyd

Geography of Cartagena

Located in the department of Bolivar, in the north of Colombia, Cartagena lies on a group of low islands and rocky peninsulas.

Cartagena Colombia @rominagedPin
Cartagena Colombia @rominaged

A port city, it is open to the Caribbean Sea.

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The ‘noble city’ of castles, walls, sun and sea, was the victim of ravaging raids by pirates that infested the Caribbean Sea, because from its roadstead galleons loaded with gold and wealth for Spain left, and its port was the port of arrival of shipments of slaves, precious and useful goods that were stored in its warehouses. 

According to professor and historian Miguel Camacho Sánchez, in 1498, Christopher Columbus passed near these beaches without stopping.

In 1505, Rodrigo de Bastidas discovered the entire Atlantic coast, but it was Peralonso Núñez and Cristóbal Guerra who anchored for the first time in the bay, which they called Cartagena. 

In the middle of 1533, Don Pedro de Heredia decided to settle in the indigenous village of Calamary, which later, transformed into a prosperous city, was called Cartagena.

Improved and expanded by conquistadors, merchants and adventurers, it was reduced to ashes in 1552, for this reason, the founder, already governor, forbade building with materials other than bricks, tiles, calicanto and stones. 

Cartagena Colombia @ad visualPin
Cartagena Colombia @ad visual

The forts, batteries, forts and castles, whose constructions combine the ingenuity of Spanish and Italian architects with the labor and sacrifice of slaves brought from Africa to work as beasts of burden, are proof of the Iberian power. 


Al ser una ciudad internacional, Cartagena cuenta con una gran variedad de restaurantes de cocina criolla, además de los especializados en gastronomía internacional. 

atun caribe cartagena gastronomyPin
atun caribe cartagena gastronomy

Restaurants: most of them are located in the historic center, but also in Bocagrande, Manga, Crespo, El Cabrero, La Boquilla, Mamonal, on the beaches and in the most popular tourist areas. There is something for all tastes and budgets. 


Cartagena is home to establishments of international prestige and large hotel chains. The offer ranges from luxurious and exclusive boutique hotels to executive hotels for businessmen and travelers, hostels and inns. 

The city has two hotel associations, Cotelco and Asotelca, which represent 72 lodging establishments. The National Tourism Registry of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism states that Cartagena has 327 places to spend the night or rest. Some of them are resort-type, or all-inclusive, and others offer a variety of plans. 

Cartagena Colombia @elenaborschPin
Cartagena Colombia @elenaborsch

Architecture of Cartagena

The architecture in Cartagena de Indias is eclectic and fascinating. Military structures, such as the walls, bastions and fortresses, stand next to a well-preserved colonial and republican city.

Cartagena de Indias’s neighborhoods throb with Caribbean colors, and new constructions reflect an American influence in their whites and blues that copy the Cartagena de Indias sky. The walls were designed by Bautista Antonelli, an Italian military engineer who was hired by Phillip II to fortify the main ports of the Caribbean as part of his plan of defense. They were built to defend the city at the end of the 16th century, after an attack by Sir Francis Drake.

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Cartagena Architecture

The project took almost two centuries to complete, and during that time the city was constantly under attack by pirates. The walls were finally finished in 1796. They are now open for tours, and on many an afternoon, couples will sit and watch the sunset from places where cannon shots were fired at pirate ships in the olden days.

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