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Cartagena

Telephone Code: 5

Altitude: Sea Level

Population: 900,000

Foreboding fortresses, narrow streets, hidden patios and enchanting colonial houses characterize Cartagena, a vibrant city rich in history and Caribbean culture. It is often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. Frequent trade winds temper the heat.

Cartagena’s strategic position on the Caribbean coast near the Magdalena and Sinú river deltas made it an important port for the Spanish Empire and a favorite target of pirates. A series of stone-walled forts—the largest such complex in the Americas—spread throughout the city stand as ominous reminders of Cartagena’s colonial past.

Cartagena has plenty of sights and sounds to offer travelers. One of the best ways to enjoy this intriguing city is to amble along its historic streets, exploring its nooks and crannies and savoring its small surprises. The inner sector of the walled city—El Centro and San Diego—have multitudes of plazas, museums and churches. The ramparts walls around Plaza de la Bóvedas provide a space for watching the sea and relaxing. A lighted underground passage and drawbridge lead from here to the fortress of La Tenaza, occupying a formidable spot at the water’s edge.

Daytrips abound from Cartagena. Just outside the center are Castillo San Felipe de Barajas and the spectacular viewpoint La Popa hill, where the church and monastery of Santa Cruz and restored ruins of a convent dating back to 1608 are found, along with a well-preserved image of Virgin of La Candelaria, whose festival is celebrated on February 2. Beaches at Marbella and Bocagrande invite a lazy day in the sea and sun. La Boquilla, a small village to the east, offers not only a long strand, but also windsurfing and mangrove boat tours. Other boating excursions are to Playa Blanca on Isla Barú, Islas del Rosario for scuba diving and snorkeling, and Isla de Tierra Bomba’s Bocachica fortresses and Punta Arena beach. If beaches aren’t your bag then head to the clay baths at Volcán Totumo. San Basilio del Palenque, a village founded by run-away slaves in the 17th century and which still strongly holds on to its African roots, was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008 (47 km/29 mi south of Cartagena).

Neighborhoods in Cartagena: Near Cartagena, El Centro, Bocagrande, San Diego, GetsemanĂ­,

Other places nearby Cartagena: Minca, Providencia and Santa Catalina, Ciénaga, San Andres Isla, San Andres Isla, Santa Marta, Coveñas, Aracataca, Barranquilla and San Andres.







By Brenda Yun
I am a creative writer / surfer chick in need of adventure all the time. The only thing that keeps me grounded is my non-traveling, non-surfing pug...
01 Jul 2011

VIVA Colombia

Top Hotels in Cartagena

Hotel los Balcones de Badillo

If you’re seeking a great alternative to often-booked Hotel Tres Banderas in San Diego, look no further than Balcones de Badillo. With a dozen white balconies overseeing the activity of the ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel Charleston

Housed in a magnificently restored 17th-century convent in the old walled city, Hotel Charleston in Plaza Santa Teresa is designed with impeccable taste and attention to detail. Its burnt orange ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

El Marqués Hotel Boutique

Walking through the threshold of this sturdy 17th century colonial house into the central courtyard, complete with palm trees, comfortable patio seating and fountain, is like shedding skin. El ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Portal de San Diego

A lovely white hotel in a central location between El Centro and San Diego, Portal de San Diego has eleven quaint rooms around a pleasant courtyard. The modern design of the place, from the clean, ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel Monterrey

Next door to the Teatro Cartagena and across the street from the convention center, the Hotel Monterrey displays a quiet colonial elegance with its stark white exterior. The hotel\'s design is a ...
Hotel
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel Familiar

Hotel Familiar is a large, airy hotel. Its basic rooms come with a fan, and with or without a private, cold-water bath. The rooms with private bath get booked first because the shared bathrooms ...
Hotel
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel San Felipe

The centrally located Hotel San Felipe appeals to Colombians on holiday or business, though it is also a good choice for foreign tourists. As part of the Dorado Plaza hotel group (which also has ...
Hotel
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel El Viajero

120359Talk about great location for a decent price, Hotel El Viajero is one of the few hotels in El Centro that you will find under $50 per night. This is an 18-room hotel with basic rooms — some with ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Alfiz hotel

Located in Cartagena’s historic Old Town, the award-winning Hotel Alfiz is a short distance from some of the city’s key tourist attractions. This boutique hotel is drenched in local history and ...
Hotel
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel Tres Banderas

Hotel Tres Banderas’ convenient location, relaxing atmosphere and reasonable rates make it a popular accommodation for both locals and foreigners. This hotel\'s 22 rooms come in three ...
Hotel
San Diego, Cartagena, Colombia

Hotel Caribe

The grand dame of Bocagrande, Hotel Caribe, is a luxurious resort. The elegance and comfort of the Caribbean are certainly yours for the taking while staying at this historic hotel (designated a ...
Hotel
Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

Top Restaurants in Cartagena

Enoteca

Near the Museo Naval and Plaza Santa Teresa is Enoteca, a high-class Italian restaurant. The large interior courtyard creates a comfortable ambiance for the fine dining you will experience here. ...
Restaurant
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Da Danni's Restaurant

Da Danni\'s, a Cartagena restaurant serving quality Italian pasta, is a really good option for travelers needing a break from typical Caribbean/Colombian cuisine. Stepping into the restaurant feels ...
Restaurant
San Diego, Cartagena, Colombia

Donde Socorro

Popular with the locals and offering eccentric cultural foods such as turtle, rabbit, deer, and hen, Donde Socorro (formerly called La Casa de Socorro) is a pure Caribbean delight. Its extensive ...
Restaurant
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia

Da Pietro Restaurant

The homemade pasta and pizza at Da Prieto Restaurant is surprisingly good and probably the best you will find in Bocagrande, if not Cartagena as a whole. The Italian food is right on par with Da ...
Restaurant
Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

Gato Negro

The very unsuspecting sign of a black cat outside a cerulean blue building on Calle San Andrés (just two doors down from Hostal Casa Viena) is the only thing that marks this small café\'s ...
Restaurant
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia

Arepas del SantĂ­simo

Arepas del Santísimo, a small but affordable café, might be difficult to spot from the street. Once you do find it, you can enjoy arepas with several different fillings like cheese, ham, chicken, ...
Restaurant
San Diego, Cartagena, Colombia

Palo Santo

Cooking up some of the most delicious Arabic and international cuisine in El Centro, Palo Santo is a great dinner spot right off of Calle Santo Domingo. The kibbeh—two different meatballs served ...
Restaurant
El Centro, Cartagena, Colombia

Crepes and Waffles

It\'s utterly appropriate that a town called Bocagrande, which literally means \"large mouth,\" has this popular food chain on the busy San MartĂ­n. With its extensive menu and huge variety of ...
Restaurant
Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

Govindas Sol De La India

143334 Sol de la India is not just another Hare Krishna Govinda restaurant. This bistro serves gourmet vegetarian cuisine. At the noon hour, Sol de la India offers a luncheon special (which can also be ...
Restaurant
San Diego, Cartagena, Colombia

La Olla Cartagenera

Specializing in seafood and Middle Eastern cuisine, La Olla Cartagenera is a fine place to kick back and have a decent meal. There is seating outside along Avenida San MartĂ­n, or you can opt for ...
Restaurant
Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

El Coroncoro

143335Don’t be shy to ask to share a table at El Coroncoro, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to enjoy its cheap, hearty fare. The menu is full of classic Colombian fare, like bistek a ...
Restaurant
GetsemanĂ­, Cartagena, Colombia
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