Cartagena de Indias is definitively the most beautiful city in the Caribbean Coast and the second most visited city by foreigners in Colombia. With its beautiful cobblestone alleys, colonial architecture and picturesque green balconies, this place is an incredibly attractive destination for anyone visiting the country.
The Old Town of Cartagena was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Here’s a list of the top sights and activities in this historical gem of the Colombian Caribbean Coast.
1. Walk through the beautiful 'Ciudad Amurallada'
The ‘Ciudad Amurallada’ or Walled City is located in the heart of Cartagena. Once used to protect the city from French and English invaders, The Walled City of Cartagena is today home to beautiful churches, monasteries, plazas and a place from where visitors can enjoy spectacular sunsets with the Caribbean Sea in the background.
Within this small area of the city, you’ll find a great variety of restaurants, bars, shops, and beautifully preserved colonial hotels.
The best way to experience The Old Town is to wander around or to get into a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy all the architectural details of this unique area.
2. Take a look at the 'Basilica Santa Catalina de Alejandría'
Rising above the buildings in The Old Town of Cartagena, The Saint Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral is a beautiful construction dating from 1575. This historic church took over 84 years to be completed and it is today remarkably preserved thanks to constant renovations restoring its original features.
This colonial building located in The Old Town is daily visited by millions of tourists who are attracted by its domed clock tower and bright-yellow façade.
If you're interested in a guided tour to see the city walls, the beautiful squares and historical momuments of this city, take a look at this free walking tour. Click below to book your place:
3. Visit the 'Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas'
This castle is located on the top of ‘Cerro San Lázarro’ and it was built in 1657 during the Spanish colonial period. This remarkable construction, which suffered diverse attacks from both the English and French, is today a World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of Colombia.
As a fortress built to protect the city of Cartagena and its adjacent territories from invaders, some say that it’s due to the presence of this castle that people in South America don’t have English as their native language.
If you want to read more about the seven wonders of Colombia, click on the following article:
4. Go to 'Mercado de Bazurto'
If you want to experience the vibrant, noisy, crazy side of Cartagena and its frenetic commerce, the Bazurto Market is the place to go.
This food market sells everything ranging from fresh fruits and beer, to fish and cooked turtle. You’ll learn a lot about traditional food, culture and the lives of locals in this city.
5. Spend a relaxed afternoon at 'Volcán de Lodo el Totumo'
Being covered in mud is not something you get to experience every day, but if you feel like escaping the city hustle to get a natural spa treatment, El Totumo Mud Volcano is the place to go.
It is located about one hour and a half by bus from Cartagena. Technically, it’s not a real lava volcano mouth, but rather a pot full of mud with minerals that are said to help rejuvenate the skin.
This experience is perfect for adventurous souls who love the idea of swimming (more like floating) in a crater full of warmth mud.
6. Eat a delicious 'Ceviche' at 'La Cevichería'
You’re now probably wondering what ‘Ceviche’ is. This South American dish is typically made from fresh raw fish or sea food (e.g. shrimps) cured in lemon or lime juice and it’s served with chopped onions, salt and cilantro.
If you feel like trying this delicious dish, head to ‘La Cevichería’. This restaurant is located in The Old Town and it has definitely one of the best ‘ceviches’ in the whole city.
Expect exiting flavors reflecting the fusion of Colombian – Peruvian food.
7. Walk through the picturesque streets of 'Getsemaní Neighborhood'
Getsemaní is a neighborhood located 15 minutes by foot from The Old Town of Cartagena. It is a place where you can find excellent bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels. It’s a surprisingly authentic neighborhood featuring superb street art on its colorful buildings.
Spend a whole afternoon wandering around and trying Cartagena’s best street food at the plaza in front of ‘Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad’- main church in the neighborhood.
If you want a guided tour to discover colorful houses and incredible street art, take a look at this free walking tour. You'll also be taken to historical sites and to the famous Bazurto Market. Click below to book your place:
8. Go on a day trip to 'Cholón'
If you’re looking to relax in a place surrounded by crystal clear and turquoise waters, ‘Playa Cholón’ is the place to go. This beach is located in a quite small piece of land, 45 minutes away by boat from Cartagena.
Expect beautiful views and delicious sea food, such as lobsters, crab claws, oysters, shrimps and fried fish.
9. Take a boat to 'Playa Blanca'
Playa Blanca is undoubtedly a beautiful beach located on the Island of Baru, 45 minutes by boat or a 2-hour bus journey from Cartagena.
Spend a whole day relaxing at this white-sand beach and enjoy a fresh fried fish served with the traditional Caribbean coconut rice.
10. Party on a 'Chiva'
A ‘chiva’ is normally a bus adapted to be used in rural Colombia, but the ‘chiva’ you find in Cartagena is a colorful party bus. Expect live musicians, an open bar with both local and international drinks and lots of dancing.
You’ll be dancing while enjoying the night views of the city and will then be dropped in a club to dance the night away.
This is definitively a must-do Colombian experience!