Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena de Indias is one of those “must visit” places when visiting Colombia. The Spanish Colonial city was founded in 1533 and since then has been through many trials and tribulations. There has been wars, invasions, power struggles, wealth plundered and pillaged, sieges, slavery, fires. Cartagena has seen the highs and the lows. Luckily Cartagena is now experiencing a new high having been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 which means the city is hopefully now somewhat safe from even further pillaging and plundering. Watch the video below and discover the magic of Cartagena.

So why should you visit Cartagena?

Any trip to Colombia would not be complete without a visit to Cartagena. The combination of hot weather, beaches, tropical greenery, historic town with Spanish colonial architecture and super friendly locals make Cartagena the perfect holiday destination.

Cartagena and tourism:

Cartagena has traditionally been the number one holiday destination for the locals of Colombia who are attracted by the beaches and the holiday like pace of life that Cartagena offers. From Bocagrande in the west through to Las Americas in the east the beachfront is littered with high rise hotels and holiday apartments.

More recently Cartagena has been blossoming as one of the most important destinations for tourists in Colombia who arrive not only by land and air but also on large cruise liners depositing thousands of tourists into the small port town. With this foreign tourism has come additional investment in the preservation of the historic city center and the renovation of run down properties transforming them into trendy restaurants, galleries, quaint backpacker hostels, boutique hotels through to spectacular 5 star designer hotels. In Cartagena there is something for everyone’s budget.

The historic city center:

Cartagena is a magnet for history and culture buffs. Unfortunately Colombia is a country that is so focused on modernizing that many historic properties have been demolished in order to build modern office buildings, apartment building or simply carparks. Which is a shame in terms of preservation of the history of Colombia. Luckily Cartagena has resisted this and with the UNESCO Heritage site listing Cartagena will always remain the principal historic site of Colombia.

Walking through the Centro Historico is like walking through another period of time. Every building has a character and a story to tell. You’ll never get bored walking around the streets, even getting lost is an adventure. If you have time take a look at the Zenu Gold Museum and discover more about the traditions and artworks of the local Zenu indigenous community and pre-colombian art. Or if you fancy something a little more sinister visit the Palacio de La Inquisicion where you can see all sort of instruments of torture used to extract testimonies during the Spanish Inquisition.

The beaches:

To be honest the beaches in Cartagena are pretty average so we we recommend making the most of your beach time by catching some rays whilst doing your Spanish homework or practice with the local vendors trying to sell you everything from watermelon through to massages. Around Bocagrande the beaches are very much family oriented and towards the east around Las Americas the feel is much livelier with beach bars playing dance music and serving cocktails.

Don’t despair if you wanted a perfect beach holiday however since an hour’s boat ride from Cartagena transports you to the fantasy world of crystal blue water and snow white sandy beaches which are the Islas de Rosario. Highly recommend and worth the sometimes bumpy boat ride.

The nightlife:

A combination of the sultry coastal evenings and Latin vibe give Cartagena a definite happening vibe. From sipping on cocktails in a trendy bar through to dancing the night away to salsa or vallenato there is something for everyone in Cartagena. One of the most popular tourist hang outs is the Cafe del Mar located on top of the old fortress walls, worth a visit for the glorious sunset alone. Or try out the Media Luna hostel on a Wednesday for 2 for 1 cocktails all night long.  There are hundreds of cool options, we could go on forever, but we won’t.

The festivals:

Cartagena hosts a number of important cultural festivals, the he most important of these include:

  • The Hay Festival in January is one of the most important literary events in Latin America. The aim is to promote cultural and social responsibility through literature, visual arts, cinema, music, journalism, the environment… all mixed together with dialogue and celebration.
  • The Cartagena Film Festival runs every February and showcases the best in independent world cinema, short films and more.
  • The Cartagena International Music Festival runs over the first two weeks of January and brings classical music to over 20,000 privileged fans.

Cartagena Factfile:

  • Cartagena population = about 1 million
  • Cartagena pronunciation = Karta – hena
  • Cartagena altitude = at sea level
  • Cartagena time = To work out the time in Cartagena take UTC/GMT -5 hours
  • Cartagena climate = average temperature = 31C (88F) with 92 rainy days a year
  • Cartagena postal code = postal codes are not used in Colombia
  • Cartagena area code = from overseas dial +57 5 or just +57 for mobile numbers
  • Medellin to Cartagena = 50 mins by plane or 10 hours in bus
  • Bogota to Cartagena = 90 mins in plane or way too long in bus
  • Most offensive thing to do = never write Cartagena, Columbia. Columbia is in North America. It’s Colombia not Columbia!
  • Cartagena newspaper = El Universal
  • Best restaurants in Cartagena = check out This is Cartagena
  • Most visited tourist attraction = check out This is Cartagena
  • More information: Check out Wikipedia

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