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50 Things to Do in Cartagena

What to Do in Cartagena

Cartagena, located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is a vibrant and historic city known for its colorful colonial architecture, rich culture, and stunning beaches. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or simply seeking relaxation, Cartagena has something for everyone. In this article, we’ll explore six top activities and attractions to make the most of your visit to this enchanting city.

Explore the Walled City

One of the must-see areas in Cartagena is the historic Walled City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Step back in time as you wander through its cobblestone streets lined with balconies adorned with vibrant bougainvillea. Visit the famous Clock Tower and marvel at the striking architecture of the Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandría. Don’t miss Plaza de Bolivar, a picturesque square surrounded by colonial buildings and home to the iconic Palace of the Inquisition.

Relax on the Rosario Islands

Escape the bustling city and discover the pristine beauty of the Rosario Islands. Just a short boat ride away from Cartagena, these picturesque islands offer turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and an abundance of marine life. Snorkel or dive amongst the colorful coral reefs, or simply unwind on a hammock by the beach. For a truly unforgettable experience, spend a night or two in one of the eco-lodges on the islands.

Indulge in Local Cuisine

Cartagena is a food lover’s paradise, with a culinary scene influenced by African, Indigenous, and Spanish traditions. Take a culinary tour and savor delicacies like arepas (cornmeal patties), ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juice), and the famous Cartagena-style seafood rice. Don’t forget to try the refreshing limonada de coco (coconut lemonade) to beat the heat. For an authentic gastronomic experience, head to the Getsemani neighborhood and explore the local street food scene.

Visit the San Felipe Castle

For history buffs, a visit to the San Felipe Castle is a must. This 16th-century fortress is the largest Spanish military construction in the Americas and offers breathtaking views of the city. Explore the underground passages, learn about the castle’s history through informative exhibits, and climb to the top of the ramparts for panoramic vistas. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, as there are plenty of stairs to climb!

Enjoy a Sunset at Café del Mar

Experience a magical sunset at Café del Mar, a popular rooftop bar located atop the city walls. Sip on a refreshing cocktail while gazing at the vibrant hues painting the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. This is the perfect spot to relax, listen to live music, and soak in the incredible views of the Caribbean Sea. Be sure to arrive early to secure a good spot, as it tends to get crowded during peak hours.

Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride

For a romantic and charming experience, hop on a horse-drawn carriage and explore the city’s narrow streets. As your carriage clip-clops along, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the stunning colonial architecture and picturesque plazas at a leisurely pace. Your guide will share stories and historical tidbits about the city, creating a truly enchanting experience.

FAQ

Q: When is the best time to visit Cartagena?

A: The best time to visit Cartagena is during the dry season, which typically runs from December to April. The weather is sunny and warm, perfect for exploring the city and enjoying the beaches. However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. The shoulder seasons of November and May can offer a good balance of pleasant weather and fewer tourists.

Q: What are some other attractions near Cartagena?

A: If you have extra time, consider visiting the charming fishing village of La Boquilla, where you can take a traditional canoe ride through the mangroves and learn about the local Afro-Colombian culture. The Totumo Mud Volcano, located about an hour outside of Cartagena, is also a popular day trip destination. Here, you can relax in the therapeutic mud baths and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Q: Is it safe to visit Cartagena?

A: Cartagena is generally a safe city for tourists, but like any travel destination, it’s important to take precautions. Avoid displaying valuable items, be aware of your surroundings, and use reliable transportation. It’s also a good idea to consult local authorities or your hotel for up-to-date safety information and any areas to avoid.

Q: How do I get around in Cartagena?

A: The Walled City and major tourist areas in Cartagena are easily explored on foot. Taxis are readily available for longer distances or for reaching areas outside the city center. Another popular mode of transportation is the colorful local buses known as “chivas,” which offer a vibrant and affordable way to explore the city.

Q: Are there any cultural events or festivals in Cartagena?

A: Cartagena is known for its lively festivals and cultural events. The most famous one is the Cartagena International Film Festival, held annually in March. Another highlight is the Hay Festival, which brings together writers, musicians, and thinkers from around the world for a week of intellectual and artistic discussions. Check the event calendars before your visit to see if there are any festivals or events happening during your stay.

Q: Can I visit the Walled City at night?

A: Absolutely! The Walled City takes on a magical ambiance at night, with the lantern-lit streets, live music, and bustling nightlife. Stroll along the walls, dine at one of the many outdoor restaurants, or dance the night away at a vibrant salsa club. Just be sure to exercise caution and stick to well-lit areas, especially if you’re exploring alone or late at night.