Telephone Code: 5
Altitude: Sea Level
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.
Cartagenaâ€™s strategic position on the Caribbean coast near the Magdalena and SinĂş river deltas made it an important port for the Spanish Empire and a favorite target of pirates. A series of stone-walled fortsâ€”the largest such complex in the Americasâ€”spread throughout the city stand as ominous reminders of Cartagenaâ€™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 cityâ€”El Centro and San Diegoâ€”have multitudes of plazas, museums and churches. The ramparts walls around Plaza de la BĂłvedas 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 waterâ€™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 BarĂş, Islas del Rosario for scuba diving and snorkeling, and Isla de Tierra Bombaâ€™s Bocachica fortresses and Punta Arena beach. If beaches arenâ€™t your bag then head to the clay baths at VolcĂˇn 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: El Centro, Near Cartagena, San Diego, Bocagrande, GetsemanĂ,
Other places nearby Cartagena: Barranquilla, San Andres, Taganga, San Andres Isla, Minca, Aracataca, Providencia and Santa Catalina, Santa Marta, CoveĂ±as and CiĂ©naga.