Cartagena is a Caribbean port city overflowing with historic treasures. Its old-world cobblestone streets and squares are surrounded by fortress walls
Cartagena is a Caribbean port city overflowing with historic treasures. Its old-world cobblestone streets and squares are surrounded by fortress walls.
There are plenty of things to do in Cartagena, from scrumptious street food to refined restaurants. Check out these tips to get the most out of your vacation:
It’s hot and humid in Cartagena year round, so pack light clothing that breathes. You’ll also want to bring sunscreen, bug repellent and a waterproof jacket.
Explore the Old City
The Walled City is the centerpiece of Cartagena and its UNESCO-listed walls have protected this beautiful old town for centuries. It’s a place to explore on foot, but it’s also worth taking a guided tour for a deeper understanding of the city’s history, like this one.
From the Palace of the Inquisition to the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, this is a must-see for any history buff. You’ll learn about the many cultures that lived here before the Spanish conquistadors landed.
Try a local specialty called ceviche, where fish, shrimp, octopus, and other seafood is cooked in acidic lemon juices rather than heat. Acclaimed chef Anthony Bourdain rated this spot, La Cevicheria, as his top pick during his visit to the city. Be sure to save room for dessert at the colorful Portal de las Dulces. It’s filled with sweet treats from Cartagena including obleas and cocadas.
Go on a Bike Tour
Discover Cartagena’s history, culture, and street art on two wheels with a guided bike tour. This is a great option for travelers who want to move around the city quickly and see the most important sights.
Explore the narrow streets of this inner-walled city and admire palaces, churches, and mansions painted in bright colors. Then, boat over to the San Bernardo Islands for white-sand beaches and watersports.
It’s a top spot to watch the sunset, especially with friends. It can get very crowded here in the early evening, so be prepared to wait for your space.
This sweeping itinerary covers Colombia’s Zona Cafetera, with stops in striking Medellin and Cartagena. You’ll also visit the pristine beaches of Tayrona National Park and spend a day hiking in the lush coffee region of Salento. A local guide will show you the best of each destination.
Climb the Old Walls
Cartagena’s old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved in the Caribbean. Its streets are filled with churches, shops and quiet shaded corners that tell a story of hundreds of years of history. A stroll through the old town is one of the top things to do in Cartagena.
The city walls were built to protect against pirate attacks and they’re still a great way to get sweeping views of the city. They’re also popular with locals looking for a place to watch the sunset with a drink and some Colombian Champeta music.
Since Cartagena has a tropical climate, it’s a good idea to pack light, airy clothes. You’ll want to bring shorts, t-shirts and tank tops for warm weather days. Sneakers are a must for walking the cobblestone streets and sunscreen is vital, too. The best time to visit Cartagena is between December and April, when the temperatures are cooler.
Take a Day Trip to Isla Bar
Just a short distance from the walled city, Isla Barre boasts pristine beaches, scuba diving, and mangrove forests. It can get busy at daytime with tourists, locals, and beach vendors trying to sell things to you, but the water is a beautiful bright blue and it calms down at night and becomes very serene.
You can also visit the famous gold museum (Museo del Oro) here, which explains how it was used in ancient cultures and how Colombia got its rich golden heritage. There’s even a piece of the Colombian flag made of gold!
Outside of the historic center, you can shop at Mercado Bazurto and taste grilled seafood in one of the many local restaurants. Or, take a tour with Free Tour Cartagena (look for the yellow shirts) and hear a local story alongside the history of this amazing city. They run tours every day of the week and are very knowledgeable. You can also book a private driver and guide if you prefer a more personal experience.Vacation Cartagena Colombia