With a long and storied history, Cartagena is one of South America’s most intriguing cities. With great weather, historical architecture and world-class beaches, it is one of Colombia’s gems and its most-visited city. Its famous old town is a great example of colonial city planning, complete with forts and walls. Visit the Castillo de San Felipe, which protected the city against pirates, and the nearby La Popa hill, which is home to a 17th century monastery. It is full of wonderful restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels. Beautiful views can be had from forts above the city as well. The historic legacy makes Cartagena a city with great and varied cuisine. Visitors can find Arabian and African restaurants, along with styles from both the New World and the Old World, with plenty of fusion in between. The city is also home to a number of beautiful churches. The beaches are some of the main attractions, lying on the Caribbean Sea. There are wonderful reefs and white beaches that are begging to be enjoyed. Head a little bit further away from town for more unspoilt and less crowded options. Rent a hammock on the beach and just relax, or browse some of the goods being hawked by locals. Scammers are a problem in Cartagena, so visitors should keep their wits about them when walking around and dealing with vendors. Boat tours are also offered to whisk guests away to nearby islands. Take some Latin dance classes to get into the culture or hop on a Chiva bus, the loud, raucous, and colourful bus that offers a fun atmosphere in which to see the city.
Cartagena’s peak tourist season is during December, when crowds flood in during the holidays – especially around Christmas. Not to worry, though, as the city enjoys a warm climate year-round; the average daily temperature hovers around 28 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit is between March and October, when the crowds are at their lowest. Easter is a particularly nice time to visit as, despite there being some tourists around, the city calms down a bit and the religious events are quite impressive. The cheapest time to visit is probably during October and November, the wettest part of the year.
There are buses from the city to other parts of Colombia available, but travel around the city is easy and best done on foot – Cartagena is a city made for walking. There are many cheap local buses to reach certain forts and beaches. Private and collective taxis are also abundant. For a taste of Cartagena’s history, hire a chariot in the old town and feel what it was like to get around before the automobile took over.
Travellers will need to book flights to Rafael Nunez (CTG) if they wish to fly to Cartagena. The Cartagena airport is 6.6 km from the city centre.