There are many reasons to visit Cartagena – friendly locals, cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings resplendent in flowers, and all of the boutiques and restaurants you could ever need. The list of activities you can do while marveling at the historic city’s beauty is virtually endless. Cartagena truly has something for everyone. Find out which sights are most worth your time during your trip to this great city.
- Immerse Yourself in History
- The Old City
Most of the pictures you see online feature the old city, the historic area of Cartagena – and for good reason. The walled city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the home of Plaza Santo Domingo and its world famous Botero statue, the performer and dancer frequented Plaza Bolivar and Plaza Aduana with its many monuments. The old city is arguably the most scenic part of Cartagena and the place where you will find the city’s trademark colonial architecture, vibrant blooms and artists.
- Take a Unique Mud Bath
- El Totumo
Forget the traditional day spa; when you travel to Cartagena, you can take a mud bath in a volcano. El Totumo is a small volcano situated just outside of the city. After entering through hill-esque vat, you can float in the mud and choose to get a brief massage if you so desire. You do not have to worry about struggling to clean yourself off after the bath, as local women will take care of it for you in the adjacent lake.
- Shop at an Authentic Market
- Mercado de Bazurto
If you decide to visit the most expansive market in town, you will get to experience the real Cartagena in all of its lively, colorful and intense glory. Here you can observe the people of this region prepare food, work on machinery and do their best to sell their wares. Do not forget to try the mouthwatering food available at many of the stalls.
- Take in Holy Views
- Convento De La Popa
Where will you get the best views of the city? From a convent. That is right. Convento De La Popa is situated on a hill that is the highest in Cartagena. The icing on the cake is, the convent is rich in history; it was founded in 1607. Inside of the chapel you will find the image of La Virgen de la Candelaria and a statue commemorating a priest who lost his life while spreading word of the Gospel.
- Learn a Cautionary Tale
- The Palace of the Inquisition
Every place in the world has dark periods in its history and Cartagena is no exception. By visiting the Palace of the Inquisition museum, you can learn a cautionary tale about what can happen when people are harmed due to their religious beliefs and practices. While it may sound grim, the museum is well worth a trip to view the places where victims of the inquisition were held and questioned.
- Walk through a World-Class Fortress
- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
The grand dame of Spanish fortresses is Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This remarkable landmark has endured countless failed attempts to take it, faithfully protecting its city. One reason for its success is ingenious tunnels designed to carry the softest of sounds. This allowed its soldiers to easily detect intruders.
- Take a Tropical Day Trip
- Islas del Rosario
The 27 islands that make up the breathtaking Islas del Rosario are surrounded by the pure azure waters of the Caribbean. Coral reefs abound here for both avid scuba divers and amateurs, along with white sugar sand beaches, hiking trails, an aquarium and hotels.
- Have Drinks During Sunset
- Café del Mar
At the most popular restaurant in Cartagena, you can view spectacular sunsets over the Caribbean Sea while enjoying drinks or dinner. Café del Mar offers excellent photo opportunities thanks to the views and the massive Colombian flag on the patio. Make sure you book a table in advance or arrive early to ensure you get a seat.
Regardless of whether history, cuisine or outdoor activities are your style, Cartagena has something to suit you. The only problem you are likely to have is forcing yourself to leave.