A Rough Guide to Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is a relatively large city situated on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Its year-round tropical climate makes it an ideal place to visit any time of year. This article will provide a rough guide to Cartagena, one of Colombia’s greatest cities.
guide to cartagena columbia

Cartagena History

The city is steeped with history and combines the old with the new in an incredible way. Throughout history the city was a major port in the Caribbean for imports and exports coming to and from Colombia, which provided its own share of problems as well as benefits. Cartagena needed protecting not only from invaders but pirates too. They built a stone wall all the way around the city to protect the people of Cartagena. In the centre of the city stands a castle built on a hill to look out over the city and warn the city’s people of incoming trouble.

The most famous battle that took place in Cartagena was the Battle of Cartagena de Indias (1741), a naval and military battle between the Spanish and British which saw the Spanish triumph. The castle and wall are still standing today and you can take a tour of the castle to see some of the best views of the city from the top, as well as walk through the many tunnels beneath the surface. The majority of the wall is still standing and you can walk on top of the wall and look down on the city. It still has cannons in place at various points. The wall is also home to a number of bars and restaurants, one in particular, called Cafe Del Mar, is an outside bar offering spectacular views of the city, ocean and amazing sunsets.

Cartagena Architecture

Cartagena also has very modern set of buildings on a spit of land connected to the old city with hotels, offices, high rise buildings and resorts. It is definitely eye catching to see the contrast between old and new.

Cartagena’s architecture is incredible. The buildings in the old city are colonial in style but individual in color. They are Spanish and French influenced and very well maintained. Walking down the streets, dancers perform in the many plazas, sample delicious food stalls and live music. Cartagena truly is a magical city.

Dining in Cartagena

Cartagena is filled with incredible restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. La Cevicheria, a seafood and ceviche restaurant, has some of the best seafood thanks to its top chef Anthony Bourdain. Juan del Mar is another great venue situated in Plaza San Diego. It is actually two restaurants: a pizzeria and a gourmet restaurant. Here, I enjoyed one of the best pizzas of my life.

Island Surroundings

Cartagena also has a group of 27 islands called the Islas del Rosario. White sandy beaches, clear waters and mostly uninhabited make these islands a great escape. You can take a day trip to the islands, hire a boat and crew for the day or stay on one of the islands in a hotel. These islands offer many activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, swimming and many more. Most tours leave from the port in Cartagena early in the morning. Your boat trip is half the fun! Take in the sights of Cartagena and enjoy stops at castles as you sail toward an island for the day. Many tours provide lunch and drinks, the opportunity to explore, swim and spend the day on the island before returning to Cartagena late afternoon.

Cartagena Accommodation

Cartagena has a lot of choices when it comes to accommodation. It can be slightly more expensive than other Colombian cities, but the variety of hotels and hostels provide a solution for every budget. During my trip, I stayed in an apartment which I found on Airbnb and it was perfect. It’s definitely worth having a look at Airbnb before booking your accommodation for great deals and hidden treasures. (Note: Airbnb’s do not have a concierge-like traditional hotels, but they do give you access to real locals. Sometimes the recommendations they provide a more authentic experience than the tours the hotels point you to.)

Cartagena is definitely a must for any trip to Colombia. Its colorful colonial buildings steeped in history alone make it uniquely individual. It really has it all: the Caribbean beaches/islands, city life as well as history and landmarks.

About the Author

Anny is from a small village in the East of England. Since graduating University and realizing she didn’t know what to do with her life, she started traveling and working abroad. Traveling was always a passion of hers and she managed to turn it into a career. She has worked as a water ski instructor in Greece and America and as a nanny in a ski resort in France. Now, she is embarking on a new adventure to teach English in Bogota, Colombia. You can read more about her adventures at annysadventures.com.

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