Charm, culture and history. Cartagena Colombia is a city that will conquer you and still make you feel at home. So, how about getting to know a little more about one of the most charming Caribbean cities? Here I'm going to tell you a little about what you can't miss.
Cartagena de Indias or just Cartagena in Colombia, is the closest gateway to the Caribbean for Brazilians. Although the city's beaches are not as spectacular as those on the San Andrés archipelago, Cartagena wins the spotlight for all the beauty of its colorful and charming colonial architecture.
With every walk through the city, something new always comes your way. It's impossible not to love!
- How to get to Cartagena
- When to go to Cartagena
- How many days to stay in Cartagena
- Things to do in Cartagena Colombia
- Historic Center and the Walled City
- Free tour of the Historic Center
- Clock Tower and Surroundings
- Museums in Cartagena Colombia
- The vaults
- House of the Writer Gabriel García Marquez
- Castle of San Felipe de Barajas
- Churches of Cartagena Colombia
- Where to eat in Cartagena
- Where to stay in Cartagena
- What you NEED to know BEFORE going to Cartagena de Indias
- Read more about Colombia
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If you are looking for Caribbean beaches, the best option is to combine a visit to the city with the San Andrés archipelago and Providencia Island, which is a 1h20 flight from there.
>> Read more about the islands in our posts San Andrés and Isla de Providencia – all about the Colombian paradise
In Cartagena, in the modern district of the city, is the Bocagrande beach. But, as I advance, it doesn't have the “face” of the Caribbean. If you want a beach with clear waters and sand nearby, I suggest Playa Blanca – approximately 30 km from the historic centre.
Directions in Cartagena
By airplane: This may not be the cheapest way to get to Cartagena, but it is certainly the fastest. The flight takes about 9 hours (with stopover time) from Guarulhos to the city. Landing takes place at Rafael Núñez International Airport, located less than 5 km from the historic center of Cartagena.
There are no direct flights from España, and to get to Cartagena Colombia you have to stop in Bogotá. Flights departing from São Paulo are operated by Latam and COPA. Viva Air, Avianca and LATAM operate flights from Bogotá and Medellín.
For those traveling to or from the United States, the city of Bogotá can be a stopover option. If this is the case and you have time, take the opportunity to get to know Cartagena ?
By bus: Going from Bogotá straight to Cartagena can be very tiring – it takes more than 20 hours to travel. If you want to face this stretch, I suggest making a stop, and take the opportunity to get to know the city of Medellín, and from there to Cartagena. I traveled around the country a few times with Expresso Españaia.
By car: Another common way to get to Colombian destinations is by renting a car. To Cartagena, it takes 20 hours to travel. If you can share the steering wheel, that's better. So you can ride and still enjoy the landscape on a roadtrip.
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The tropical climate near the equator contributes to little variation in temperature throughout the year. The averages of Cartagena Colombia are around 24 ºC to 32 ºC.
The months from December to March are the coolest and it hardly rains. From June to November, the thermal sensation can increase and there is more chance of rain. October is the rainiest month.
To enjoy and try to soften the heat, bring light and comfortable clothes and shoes. Don't forget your sunscreen, a hat/hat or even an umbrella – I always have mine close by.
How many days to stay in Cartagena
Deciding how many days to stay in Cartagena Colombia will depend on your itinerary. I spent a week there. I even took the opportunity to go to Santa Marta – a city 200 km north of Cartagena. I went there with the intention of diving.
I believe that 3 or 4 days are enough to enjoy and get to know the city and all its history. Cartagena is amazing!
What to do in Cartagena Colombia
We made a map with all the tourist attractions in Cartagena Colombia so you don't miss any attractions. Enjoy!
The historic center of Cartagena is protected by walls – the so-called walled city. In the past it served as protection against maritime attacks, it was 11 km long, currently it is only 8 km. It is a constant presence in the city, impossible not to notice.
Getting lost and walking through the streets of the historic center of Cartagena Colombia was the most interesting tour I did in the city. Every street a new path, a new surprise. I walked even without knowing where I would end up, and I was always surprised.
To start the day I suggest taking a free walking tour and getting to know a little more about Cartagena and some curiosities. I took this tour right on my first day with the Free Walking Tour Cartagena.
The tour is free, lasts around 1h30 and is a great way to find your way around and learn about the local culture.
The main gateway to the Walled City is through the emblematic Port e Clock tower.
Its yellow colored tower contrasts beautifully with the blue of the Colombian sky. If you want to guarantee a good photo, go early in the morning, when only a few locals pass by.
In front of the Clock Tower, inside the historic city, you will find the Portal of Sweets and Cars Square – also called the former Slave Square. The place is perfect to buy typical Colombian sweets in a wide variety.
During the walk through the city, take the opportunity to get to know the Plaza Bolivar ou Inquisition Square. With many trees and benches, it is a haven to escape the heat, frequented by locals and tourists. Every time I went there, there was always a local show or two, with music and dancing, especially at the end of the day.
end the day in Bastion of Santo Domingo it's closing your day with a golden key. Here is the main point of Cartagena Colombia to see the sunset. There is a cafe/restaurant there, Café del Mar, but you don't have to go in or consume anything, you can stay in the surroundings and buy snacks or drinks from the street vendors.
Museums in Cartagena Colombia
Cartagena Historical Museum from indies
O Palace of the Inquisition is the Historical Museum of Cartagena. He tells a little about the sad past of the city, when it was the seat of the Tribunal do Santo Oficio, at the time of the Inquisition. The building, in colonial style, now houses pieces and instruments of torture, which were used when people who had values and beliefs different from those imposed were condemned.
A visit to the museum can be both interesting and harrowing. I did not visit the museum, I preferred to abstain from these images. If you have the stomach, it's another place to meet and learn.
Open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 18 pm and on Sundays and holidays from 19 pm to 16 pm. Tickets cost around R$25.
O Gold Museum could be another interesting place to visit in the city. Open to the public since 1982, and renovated in 2009. There are almost 1000 objects on display, not only gold, but also ceramics and bones. If you pass through Bogotá, it is worth visiting the museum of the same name in the capital.
Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 17 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 15 pm. Free entrance.
There are two other museums that tell more about the history of Cartagena Colombia and can be quite interesting. O Naval Museum of the Caribbean it's the first. It exposes the country's naval history and the destruction that took place during the battles.
O Rafael Núñez House Museum is another option. It is located in the house where the then 4-time Colombian president and poet Rafael Núñez lived.
- Naval Museum – Open every day from 9 am to 17 pm. Tickets cost around R$18.
- Rafael Núñez House Museum – From Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 15 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 16 pm.
Not far from the Rafael Nuñez Museum, visit the The vaults, near the Santa Clara Bastion. It is a beautiful building from the Colonial period, with 47 arches and 23 domes.
Impossible to pass by there. It currently houses art galleries, but in the past it functioned as a barracks and prison.
And in less than 5 minutes, from Las Bóvedas, you can pass in front of the house that belonged to the writer Gabriel García Marquez. It's an orange house, on Calle Zerrezuela, that sometimes goes unnoticed by tourists.
Don't miss out on the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas, located on the hill of San Lazaro, outside the walled city of Cartagena Colombia. It was built in 1657, during the colonial period, being the largest Spanish military work in the New World.
Its size is impressive, with many tunnels, stairs, corridors, windows and hatches that make our imagination fly when trying to imagine everything that happened there.
Its function was to protect Cartagena from enemy attacks and even from pirates from the Caribbean seas, who often attacked the coast of South America. Because of this, it looks much more like a fort, despite its name.
I went to visit on my own, I paid extra just for the audio guide. It worked super well, with a great narration, lots of story and details. Ah, the tip here is to visit the castle in the morning or at the end of the day, because of the strong sun – the heat intensifies there.
Open from Monday to Sunday from 8 am to 18 pm (on the last Sundays between February and November, from 8 am to 17 pm). Tickets cost around R$30.
churches of Cartagena Colombia
A Santo Domingo Church It is the oldest in Cartagena, built at the end of the XNUMXth century. The visit is free, but it is only possible to enter during the opening hours of the celebrations. Inside there is a miraculous wooden sculpture. Legend has it that this piece was carved by an angel in the XNUMXth century.
In front of the Church is the Santo Domingo square, also known as “Plaza La Gorda”- due to the famous sculpture by Fernando Botero, the “Gorda Gertrudis”. In the surroundings of the square are some restaurants and bars. The place is very busy during the day and also at night.
Located in the square that bears the same name, it was built in 1580. It is certainly one of the most beautiful churches in the city. It currently houses the San Pedro Claver Sanctuary Museum. In 1995 it was declared a National Monument of Colombia.
Cartagena's Cathedral Colombia
Also known as St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, without a doubt it is the main church in the city.
When I visited Cartagena Colombia the cathedral was closed for renovation. I was curious to know what it was like inside, since the outside was impressive. Its construction began in 1577 and was only completed 84 years later.
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Gastronomy is totally connected with traveling. It's part of getting to know the destination better. Do not you think? Then take the opportunity to delight in Cartagena's restaurants, cafes and street food.
The best Colombian arepas I ate were in Cartagena. And it wasn't in a restaurant or cafe, but on the street. I ate it more than once, and in none of them I felt sick, all with butter, egg and grated cheese.
O Café del Mar It is one of the most popular places among tourists, located in the Bastion of Santo Domingo. In the early afternoon, tourists begin to occupy the tables in search of the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful Colombian sunset.
The price can be a little steep, and to get a good table it's best to book or arrive early. But the view makes up for it, believe me. If you don't want to spend it, you can see the sunset from there, from the surroundings of the cafe.
Still within the walled city is the Cafe Amaretto. Desserts, fresh pastries and juices are the highlights here. Be sure to try the coconut lemonade, simply the best I've ever had – it's from the gods!
O At Mulata It is a great suggestion for those who want to taste local food. When I went, it was not possible to make a reservation, as the system was on a first-come, first-served basis. So arrive early or go prepared for a possible wait.
And of course, ice cream and pallets could not be missing, the sensation of the Colombian summer – that is, of the whole year. THE At the Paleteria It has a good variety of flavors. I've tried a few, and I couldn't pick a favorite – they're all good.
Another interesting place to cool off is the Mr. Cool Gelato. It uses CO2 to make fresh, almost instant ice cream. In addition to a special flavor, it has a show on its own, as he prepares your order on the spot. It's worth visiting!
Most hotels are concentrated in three main regions of Cartagena:
- Historical Center – region located within the walled city. Where are the main tourist attractions in Cartagena Colombia
- Big Mouth – This is the new neighborhood of the city, or modern neighborhood. With a good variety of shops and restaurants.
- Gethsemane – neighborhood very close to the historic center, but not as well preserved as the center. In this region it is common to find good and affordable accommodation.
>> Read more tips with great options for hotels in Cartagena, the Best Options Neighborhood by Neighborhood
Where to stay in Cartagena in the Historic Center
A cheap option is The Icon Capsule Hostel, which lies within the walled city. It offers accommodation in shared rooms, Wi-Fi and breakfast. With good value for money, the Catherine Indian House is located in the heart of the historic center of Cartagena. Simple and cozy.
O Estancia of La Mantilla it is a boutique hotel option also in downtown Cartagena. The rooms have air conditioning, minibar and TV. In addition to breakfast, the hotel offers restaurant service with typical dishes.
Find more options where to stay in Cartagena on Booking.com at the best prices!
Where to stay in Cartagena Big Mouth
O Hyatt Regency Cartagena, is a more expensive option. It has rooms overlooking the sea, which guarantee a beautiful view of the Colombian sunset. O Hotel Admiral Cartagena is another cost-effective accommodation option. It features a swimming pool overlooking the sea and a casino.
Where to stay cheap in Cartagena – Gethsemane
Beautiful, stylish and well located in Cartagena, the Sanctuary Hostel Cartagena There are options for dormitories with single and double beds. O Life is Good Cartagena, is a hostel with a hotel atmosphere with a rooftop pool.
O Centennial House it may seem simple, but it is a very inviting boutique hotel. It is a house hotel, with double or triple rooms. It's great for small groups or couples. In addition to the 24-hour reception and free Wi-Fi access, the hotel has a private terrace for guests.
Find more hostel options in Cartagena on Booking.com at the best prices!
Are you full of things to think about and still have to plan your entire trip? Or you've seen it all, but you're feeling that familiar "Have I forgotten something?"
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Where to rent: RENTCARS
We really like RentCars to find the cars we use on our travels. It is the only one in Spain that compares the best rental companies in the world, but lets you pay in reais, without IOF. In addition, it is also the only one that lets you pay in 12 interest-free installments. It is worth it!
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The city is too much, isn't it? Is that you? Traveling to Cartagena Colombia? Tell us in the comments!
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