Cartagena Colombia, “La herioca” is undoubtedly a must for all tourists to the country. Located to the north in the department of Bolívar, Cartagena de Indias is the queen of the Colombian Caribbean, the walled city located in the center of the city is surrounded by impenetrable 13 km of stone walls and inside it is adorned with colorful balconies, houses colonial buildings, churches and castles that have standing igloos.
The tropical climate, beautiful beaches and the warmth of its people make it a perfect destination for any time of the year. If you are thinking of traveling to Cartagena, in this article we will tell you what to do during your visit to this beautiful city.
1. Travel back in time and walk the streets of the historic center for free
During the colonial era, when Colombia was part of the Spanish crown, Cartagena was one of the most important ports in the Caribbean. Tons of gold, gems and thousands of slaves from Africa were traded in the city’s ports. Today much of the colonial city, with its walls, canyons, castles, houses and churches is preserved in perfect condition, offering a trip back in time for literally all visitors.
Strolling through the fascinating streets of the old town and walking on the walls is a magical experience, in its labyrinthine streets, now instead of stables and armories, you will find cafes, restaurants, boutique hotels, theaters and shopping centers, combining everything in one place , and making the old town the best tourist attraction in the city. Entering the walled city is FREE, but we recommend bringing some cash to enjoy a drink on a balcony overlooking the sea or buy a souvenir. With 70 dollars you can enjoy a good lunch, a good dinner and a couple of drinks. Prices vary from place to place, but there are many options for all budgets.
2. Castle of San Felipe de Barajas
Perhaps the largest fortress built by the Spanish in one of their colonies, the San Felipe de Barajas castle was an impregnable fortress that protected the city’s bay for more than a century.
It was the last bastion of the defense of the city in the war of “the seat” where the city was about to fall to the English frigates, but thanks to the exploits of Admiral Blas de Lezo, the immense castle walls and the courage of the defenders, withstood the English siege. Since that last battle, the city acquired the name “heroic” and neither the castle nor the city ever fell into enemy hands.
The visit to the castle costs approximately three dollars but we recommend hiring a guide (approximately 20 dollars) if you want to know all the stories that gave rise to its legend. The castle has underground tunnels, which were key to the defense of the city and some of them are available to the public, but if you suffer from claustrophobia, it is better to avoid them, as they are narrow and dark
Here in Cartagena you will find spectacular beaches, either to rest or to have fun.
The most popular beach in Cartagena is “Playa Blanca”, about 40 minutes from the city by boat, located on Isla Barú. It is known for its white sand and crystal clear water, being one of the busiest beaches throughout the year.
Barú can also be reached by car or bus, and the tours cost around 15 dollars.
If you want to enjoy a beer and a good party, you can go to Morros. 2 km of white beach with a great party atmosphere. It is a hotel zone with a large presence of local tourists-
From the last days of December to the first weeks of January, every day you will find parties in this area and you can see the true beauty of Colombian women, who grace the beaches with their presence year after year. This beach is located within Cartagena, 10 minutes from the historic center and admission is free
It is the small and most exclusive neighborhood in the city, surrounded by mansions and modern buildings, this beach is much quieter than the previous ones, perfect for enjoying a book or swimming in the sea.
A beautiful Caribbean beach located in Tierra Bomba, an island 10 minutes by boat from Cartagena. Its quiet white sand beaches and blue waters, and its historical and natural wealth, have turned this place into an emerging tourist destination, ideal for escaping the bustle of the city and the busiest beaches in Cartagena.
A little piece of heaven in the Colombian Caribbean, if your purpose is to visit beaches that are in more natural environments and away from the tourist areas, this is the ideal place for you. It is a small and charming archipelago consisting of about 28 islands which can be reached by boat just one hour from the city. You can take a day trip or spend the weekend at some of the exclusive resorts or rent a house with a private beach.
You can find tours for $50 or accommodation for $100 a night.
Cholón is on the Rosario Islands, but it deserves its own section because it has become an unmissable destination for both foreigners and locals who want to have fun.
It is a beach where boats are parked every weekend to enjoy the sun and music during the morning and afternoon.
Local fishermen are always around and you can enjoy fresh seafood to prepare on your boats, such as lobster, shrimp and octopus.
An unusual way, but very fun and popular among the locals, is to get to know the city in Chiva.
Chivas are walking party buses. They are popular in Cartagena for day tours throughout the city. As you go from one place to another you can dance, drink and meet people on your bus. Depending on the tour you hire, you can end the day in a restaurant or a nightclub to continue the party until the next day.
Volcano of totumo
This wonder of nature is located in the rural area of the municipality of Santa Catalina, Bolívar, being part of the Colombian Caribbean Region. The mouth of the volcano is full of mud and there you can take curative baths, according to the locals the mud has therapeutic qualities, helps skin care and muscle toning. In addition to being good for your health, it is a very fun activity.
The volcano is 15 meters high which is climbed by a stone staircase
Budget for tourism in Cartagena
|Entrance to Castillo de Felipe Castle||$25,000|
|Entrance to La Popa Hill||$11,000|
|Boat tour to Baru||$70,000|
|Rosario Islands Tour||$90,000|
|Entrance to the totumo volcano||$15,000|
|Cappuccino in the walled city||$8,000|
|Cocktail/Shot in the walled city||$30,000|
|beer in bars||$7,000|
|Cover discos in the historic center||$50,000|
Budget for meals
The average price of a meal in a restaurant in the tourist area of Cartagena is around $35,000 Colombian pesos ($10 USD) per person.
A fast food combo in chain restaurants (such as McDonald’s, El Corral, Burger King, etc.) costs between $25,000 and $28,000 Colombian pesos.
Of course, you can find 5-star restaurants and fancy food all over the city, but if you need to save money, a good option is to eat at restaurants where locals eat. The executive lunch, or ordinary lunch as it is known in Colombia, can be purchased for between $12,000 and $15,000 pesos.
|Taxi with night surcharge||$700|
|Taxi from the airport to the historic center||$15,000|
|big mouth airport taxi||$21,000|
|Rent a car per day||$370,000|
Getting around in Cartagena
Cartagena is a small city, but if you want to be safe and see all the interesting places in the city, transportation is necessary. The advantage is that once in the area you can do your tour on foot.
- Taxis, uber or DIDI they are the easiest way to get around the city. If you choose taxis, ask at your accommodation for average prices so that you do not get scammed, taxis do not spend material and do not show the rates.
- Rent a car if you are taking a day trip. There is not much traffic and you can visit beach towns around the city. For that, it is necessary to have a valid driver’s license and up to 21 years old. Rentals can start from 100 thousand pesos per day
- Renting a bike is an option, but if you don’t know the city, it is better to hire a guided bike tour to avoid the shadowy areas of the city. The bike costs 6 thousand pesos an hour
- Public transportation Metrocar bus It is the main means of transportation in the city. A one-way trip costs 2,600 COP. But again, if you don’t know the city, we recommend passing the bus to avoid the shady parts of the city.
What to know before traveling
- Cartagena is a city with too much humidity. Therefore, loose-fitting dresses, shorts, and shirts are recommended to withstand the heat of the city.
- You will notice that both in the walled city and on the beaches there are many street vendors, avoid eating from the beach vendors mainly, since they will charge you three or four times more than their real price. Vendors often offer a free sample and then ask for payment, so be careful, nowhere in the world do you get anything for free. Cartagena is one of the safest cities in Colombia, but we recommend that you always keep an eye on your belongings , especially in the evenings when leaving the discotheques.
- Cartagena is one of the safest cities in Colombia, but we recommend that you always keep an eye on your belongings, especially at night when leaving the clubs. If it’s your first time in the city and you don’t speak any Spanish, it’s better to book tours from your hotel or recommend reliable places with English-speaking guides.