| Home | 3 Guianas | Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Chile | Colombia | Ecuador | Paraguay | Peru | Uruguay | Venezuela | Videos | Contact |

Cartagena, Colombia - An Historical Gem With Many Things To Do & See

Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman - Sep 2008 Jul 2010 Aug 2016   » View Photoset (231 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
2016: Wow, 6yrs since I was last in Cartagena! Nothing has changed much, it's still as hot as hell inside those old city walls (the cool coastal
Colombia Photo - Horse and cart rolls down the street in Cartagena.
Horse and cart rolls down the street in Cartagena.
breeze just can't find a way in it seems) and it's still as mindblowing, as well-kept and as awesome as I remembered it from my other visits in 2010 and 2008.

Dripping With Money

Cartagena is obviously the place where Colombia's government are putting their money on the north coast, a complete contrast to Santa Marta (4hrs east). Cartagena is everything that Santa Marta is not - an historical gem, fantastically interesting, beautiful and well-kept with much awesomeness, did I mention clean? Cartagena is a tourist magnet and deservedly so, one of those not to be missed places!

Inside the Walls

Inside the old city gates are streets and
Colombia Photo - Old stone fortress, new modern city, Cartagena.
Old stone fortress, new modern city, Cartagena.
streets of fantastic historical buildings, beautiful plazas, stone churches, arches, cute house fronts, colorful flowers and it's all surrounded by a fortress and many cannon. In the evenings the horses and carts come out to give people tours around the city, it's great fun actually and costs around $15USD for 30mins (each horse and cart, 3 or 4 people).

Spend 2 or 3 Days

There's enough in Cartagena to keep you interested for at least a couple of days or 3, especially if you are into museums. Outside the city gates there are a few beaches that you can walk or taxi to, they are close.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Fort)

This time for the first time I visited the huge fortress on the hill called Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, it is a fortress but was a castle (castillo) or maybe it was a fortress and
Colombia Photo - There are many fancy door-knockers like this in Cartagena.
There are many fancy door-knockers like this in Cartagena.
a castle. Anyway, it looks more like a fortress than a castle to me and is also a world heritage site. Entry fee is $25,000 pesos ($9USD), go explore. Enjoy Cartagena, you'll love it!

An Earlier Visit to Cartagena

2010: It was my second time in Cartagena and I was here again to enjoy myself and take lots of photos. As the bus came into town past the beaches, fishermen and a little bit of ramshackle I could see the new city in the distance, my destination was the old city. I was one of the first to be dropped off at a hostel I had found on the internet located inside the old city near the sea, perfect!

Hot Weather, Find Hostel

The weather in Cartagena was very warm and humid, hotter than where
Colombia Photo - Outside the walls of the old city of Cartagena.
Outside the walls of the old city of Cartagena.
I was before in Taganga and Santa Marta. I chose a dorm with air-con so that I could be cool when I wanted to be. An Exito supermarket was just around the corner and a nice peaceful plaza was opposite us.

The Streets of Cartagena

The streets of Cartagena invite you to walk around and enjoy yourself, there is lots to see and is a photographers paradise of streetscapes, buildings, houses, people, food, horses and carts, walls, statues, cannon, doors, windows, door knockers, balconies and sea views. The exotic fruits and ice cold drinks available in the streets must be taken advantage of several times a day. You can buy a plastic cup of
Colombia Photo - Jose Maria Portocarrero (1782-1816), bust in Cartagena.
Jose Maria Portocarrero (1782-1816), bust in Cartagena.
watermelon, papaya or mango for 1000 pesos (55 US cents) and an ice cold fruit drink costs the same. A man wanted to sell me a Cartagena t-shirt, he said it was 20,000 pesos ($11 USD). I wasn't interested, he dropped it to 15,000. I was still not keen, he dropped it to 10,000 so I bought 2!

Tourist Magnet

Cartagena is a tourist magnet so the locals and salesmen see you as a cash cow. You just need to practice saying 'no gracias' a lot. The restaurants are very expensive but I did manage to find some cheaper options in the not so central streets and cooked for myself at the hostel. During the day the narrow streets are filled with yellow taxis and people walking around. In the early evening the horses and carts start giving people rides around the city which looked like a
Colombia Photo - Archway into the old city of Cartagena, arches (and clock tower) built in 1631.
Archway into the old city of Cartagena, arches (and clock tower) built in 1631.
lot of fun. I enjoyed just strolling around the streets looking at the interesting arched doorways and windows and taking photos of the door knockers that I saw that caught my eye - usually in the shape of a lion or lizard type creature.

Much History

This city has a lot of history which is evident everywhere you look and retains many characteristics of that time. It is one of the most beautiful Colombian cities that I have visited. As I walked around exploring I saw paintings for sale on the sidewalk and colored woman with bright colored dresses carrying fruit around on their heads. One posed for me while I took her photo.

Cannon Point Out to Sea

I ventured outside the cities stone walls towards the sea where many cannon point out. They were used to fend off the pirates that used to attack the city in
Colombia Photo - White storks and pelicans freak-out and split my company at the beach in Cartagena.
White storks and pelicans freak-out and split my company at the beach in Cartagena.
the old days. In the distance you can see the new city with its highrises and modern structures. That was about as close as I wanted to go to that, cities are cities. I saw a statue of Manuel Davila Florez, he was something like the first school master of students in the Bolivar region in 1924. I also saw Iglesia de Santo Toribio, a white church with yellow window frames and big arched doorway and beside the wall near the sea is Teatro Heredia - a theatre built in 1911 which is a nice old building with several statues built into it.

Cruise on Pirate Ships

On the other side of the old city I ventured outside the stone walls where I could see a couple of pirate ships docked at the wharf. These pirate ships are magnificant and in prime condition. One was the Galleon Bucanero and the
Colombia Photo - Guanabanas, mamones, avocados and potatoes for sale on the street in Cartagena.
Guanabanas, mamones, avocados and potatoes for sale on the street in Cartagena.
other was Galleon Phantom. They are available to cruise the harbour during the early evening at 6pm for a cost of $45,000 pesos ($25USD) for a duration of 2 hours and includes a live DJ and some drinks.

Parque del Centenario & Plaza Cervantes

Nearby is the park Parque del Centenario and Plaza Cervantes where you will find a large number of statues and monuments of people including Enrique J Arrazola, Enrique Olaya Herrera, Guillermo Isaza, Lacides Segovia, Rafael Uribe, Manuel Anguiano, Pantaleon German Ribon, Antonio Jose de Ayos, Miguel Diaz Granados, Jose Maria Portocarrero, Santiago Stuard, Martin Amador and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra himself sitting at his writing desk, he was a Spanish novelist, poet and playwright. While walking along the paths in the park I came across a huge iguana sitting on the grass with a pair of vultures sitting nearby. I recommend taking a stroll in this area, it is very nice indeed.

Biscuits and Sweets

A walk along the Portal de los Dulces is also a must - a long row of stalls selling lovely biscuits and sweet stuff.

From Cartagena

From Cartagena I travelled to Santa Marta the first time, to Magangue and Mompos the second time and the 3rd time back to Taganga because I live there!

     

View all photos in the Cartagena Photoset


Itineraries / Routes: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008



Distances & times (if available) from Cartagena (Colombia) to:


Map location: Cartagena, Colombia. Have been to Cartagena 3 times now, this is obviously where the governments money is going on the north coast! It's a beautiful historic city surrounded by a wall and fortress. The tourist capital of Colombia for good reason!
 A : Barranquilla Carnival - Colombia 99 kms 99 kms straight distance | 2hrs 9mins 2hrs 9mins by car (119 kms) | 2hrs 34mins 2hrs 34mins by bus (119 kms) (119 kms)
 B : Barranquilla to Santa Marta - Colombia 160 kms 160 kms straight distance | 3hrs 29mins 3hrs 29mins by car (202 kms) | 4hrs 10mins 4hrs 10mins by bus (202 kms) (202 kms)
 C : Santa Marta - Colombia 174 kms 174 kms straight distance | 4hrs 8mins 4hrs 8mins by car (231 kms) | 4hrs 57mins 4hrs 57mins by bus (231 kms) (231 kms)
 D : Magangue to Mompos - Colombia 156 kms 156 kms straight distance | 4hrs 12mins 4hrs 12mins by car (234 kms) | 5hrs 2mins 5hrs 2mins by bus (234 kms) (234 kms)
 E : Tayrona National Park - Colombia 184 kms 184 kms straight distance | 4hrs 22mins 4hrs 22mins by car (241 kms) | 5hrs 14mins 5hrs 14mins by bus (241 kms) (241 kms)
 F : Taganga - Colombia 179 kms 179 kms straight distance | 4hrs 19mins 4hrs 19mins by car (241 kms) | 5hrs 10mins 5hrs 10mins by bus (241 kms) (241 kms)
 G : Minca - Colombia 179 kms 179 kms straight distance | 4hrs 22mins 4hrs 22mins by car (244 kms) | 5hrs 14mins 5hrs 14mins by bus (244 kms) (244 kms)
 H : Santa Marta to Maicao - Colombia 275 kms 275 kms straight distance | 5hrs 47mins 5hrs 47mins by car (348 kms) | 6hrs 56mins 6hrs 56mins by bus (348 kms) (348 kms)
 I : Camarones Flamingo Sanctuary - Colombia 296 kms 296 kms straight distance | 6hrs 12mins 6hrs 12mins by car (376 kms) | 7hrs 26mins 7hrs 26mins by bus (376 kms) (376 kms)
 J : Valledupar - Colombia 249 kms 249 kms straight distance | 6hrs 36mins 6hrs 36mins by car (381 kms) | 7hrs 55mins 7hrs 55mins by bus (381 kms) (381 kms)
 K : Maracaibo - Venezuela 411 kms 411 kms straight distance | 9hrs 55mins 9hrs 55mins by car (603 kms) | 11hrs 54mins 11hrs 54mins by bus (603 kms) (603 kms)
 L : Bucaramanga - Colombia 450 kms 450 kms straight distance | 11hrs 13mins 11hrs 13mins by car (664 kms) | 13hrs 27mins 13hrs 27mins by bus (664 kms) (664 kms)
 M : Bucaramanga to Cucuta - Colombia 452 kms 452 kms straight distance | 13hrs 48mins 13hrs 48mins by car (747 kms) | 16hrs 33mins 16hrs 33mins by bus (747 kms) (747 kms)
 N : Cucuta to Venezuela - Colombia 433 kms 433 kms straight distance | 13hrs 40mins 13hrs 40mins by car (748 kms) | 16hrs 24mins 16hrs 24mins by bus (748 kms) (748 kms)
 O : Medellin to Bucaramanga - Colombia 451 kms 451 kms straight distance | 11hrs 45mins 11hrs 45mins by car (767 kms) | 14hrs 6mins 14hrs 6mins by bus (767 kms) (767 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Cartagena, Colombia:

Mama Waldy Hostel, Cartagena, Colombia - Large Photo
Mama Waldy Hostel, Cartagena, Colombia (August 2016 - 4 nights) - There is nothing bad to say about Mama Waldy Hostel! It's in a great location near to the park just outside the old city gates. Close to cheaper restaurants and other non-ripoff shops. The staff are fantastic and easy-going. The breakfast consists of coffee and a big bowl of fruit. I stayed with my girlfriend and baby in a private room with 3 beds, bathroom and aircon for around $31USD per night, great value for Cartagena! Of course there are dorms available too. I hope you enjoy your stay! Recommended.
The Chill House Hostel, Cartagena, Colombia - Large Photo
The Chill House Hostel, Cartagena, Colombia (July 2010 - 3 nights) - Comfortable dorm with aircon, tv room, in the center of the old city beside a park and below is a bar, restaurant and shops. It is close to an Exito supermarket to get supplies and there is good kitchen.
Hotel El Viajero, Cartagena, Colombia - Large Photo
Hotel El Viajero, Cartagena, Colombia (Sep 2008 - 2 nights) - A nice basic hotel in the center of the historical area of Cartagena, close to everything. The price was quite reasonable.

ADD A COMMENT



Pinterest - Pin it!

Cartagena, Colombia - An Historical Gem With Many Things To Do & See. Have been to Cartagena 3 times now, this is obviously where the governments money is going on the north coast! It's a beautiful historic city surrounded by a wall and fortress. The tourist capital of Colombia for good reason!

FREE APP South America Journey

Splash Screen - South America Journey Free App for Android and IOS
Popular Photos Screen - South America Journey Free App for Android and IOS
Favorite Photos Screen - South America Journey Free App for Android and IOS
Fullscreen Photo - South America Journey Free App for Android and IOS
Photos from a Place Screen - South America Journey Free App for Android and IOS

My next travel experience & photos in your inbox!