This city overflows with romanticism and is shrouded in history from when the Spanish first discovered gold in the tombs of Sinu to the five dreadful sieges on the city by pirates in the 16th century, including the most famous (or infamous) one which was led by Sir Francis Drake!
Cartagena, Colombia is often called Cartagena of the Indies. The historic center is within the old city walls built by the Spanish between the 16th and 18th centuries. Getsemaní is the place for street art with less expensive restaurants and vibrant community life, while Boca Grande provides a stretch of more upscale hotels and all-inclusive resorts outside the historical city center.
A COLOURFUL, COLONIAL, CARIBBEAN GEM
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by an impressive 8 mile (13km) colonial stonewall and is made up of gorgeous cobblestone alleys in which you will find elegant balconies packed with colorful flowers, massive churches and eye-catching terraces. Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, it is a magical place telling a story of piracy and battles that led to the city’s nickname, the Heroic City. The city is perfect to just stroll around and soak up the relaxing and sensual atmosphere.
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WHAT NOT TO MISS IN CARTAGENA
Plaza Santo Domingo
One of the more central and popular places in Cartagena to meet people, with plenty of options for food and drink. Singers, dancers, and vendors animate the plaza, lovely terraces with bars are numerous, makes perfect for plenty of time for resting, having fun or getting to know the world. All venues close at 1:00 am and several head towards Plaza de los Coches or Plaza de Santa Teresa to continue the night.
A burgeoning hipster neighbourhood, Getsemaní was once the town where the workers lived that served in the walled city. The neighbourhood then became a haven for crime and prostitution but has turned a corner in the last 10 years, into a hip and stylish place for young travellers, artists, and musicians. While it still is a little rough around the edges, it’s a bustling neighbourhood full of life and Caribbean charm.
Explore Cartagena by bicycle
Exploring Cartagena by bike tour for first-time tourists is breezy and easy, it’s mostly flat and different areas of the city seem more accessible and easy to maneuver, you can cover much more of the city and in between. One of the best neighborhoods for the bicycle tour is Getsemaní, which has very little street traffic on the weekends, and you’ll see the true colors of this Caribbean gem from a more local perspective.
Cartagena Bazurto Market
It is noisy, busy and may be daunting for many, Mercado de Bazurto is a must for travelers looking to experience the true local Cartagena. Selling everything from fresh fruit to cooked turtles. Your expert local guide share the vast array of produce and food on sale as you hunt for some of Colombia’s most delicious produce, and interact with local businesses.
Isla Majagua is one of 30 islands that make up the Rosario Islands archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Take a boat trip to the San Martín de Pajarales Natural Aquarium to see sharks and dolphins. Enjoy the beach and the atmosphere of the tropical Caribbean on this boat ride to the island. You will return to Cartagena later that day for an incredible panoramic view of the area.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
On the outskirts of the old city walls lies the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress built during the Spanish colonization and was the largest military complex of all those built by the Spanish military, on the entire American continent. This enormous fortress was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1984, the breeze and view of the Caribbean is powerful.
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Depending on your client’s preferences, we can help you determine the best experiences tailored for your clients. From where to visit, when to go, what to do and how to get there safely, our travel experts will help you create an experience your clients will love.
Best times to
The climate in Cartagena is always hot and humid, even during the rainy season, you can still get more than enough sun. While you can go at any time of the year, it’s all about timing with Cartagena and in order to avoid crowds we recommend the time between the high and low seasons. The peak season is between December and mid-January, during Holy Week (March or April) and mid-June to July. Cartagena’s off season is from May to mid-June and August to November with October and November being the wettest months. There is a sweet spot between mid-January and April with the dry season a great time to walk through the colonial center and relax on the white sandy beaches. In November visitors can enjoy the Independence of Cartagena festivities that include the famous national beauty pageant.
HOW TO GET THERE
Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez Airport is about 2 miles (3km) from the historic Old Town and is served by national and international airlines. There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellin, Cali, San Andrés Island, Bogotá, Pereira, Montería, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta. There are many direct international flights from Panama City, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York and Atlanta in the United States, as well as from many cities in Canada, Madrid (Spain), Quito (Ecuador) and Helsinki (Finland). some of the major cities in South America.
The bus terminal is 6.8 miles (11km) east of the old city with frequent Metrocar buses going to the old city every 15 to 30 minutes and costing about COP$1,800 (USD 0.60).
The old town of Cartagena in particular is best explored on foot with the main highlights in walking distance. To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe Fort and Bocagrande there are a number of buses that run throughout the city and there are taxi’s everywhere.
WHERE TO STAY
As the commercial and tourist hub of Colombia, Cartagena has a wide range of options in accommodation, so you should have no problem in finding a place to feel comfortable. Midrange small boutique hotels and the world’s most well known five-star hotel chains can be found in the inner walled city. Most budget establishments are located outside of the city walls in Getsemani.
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