Cartagena, Colombia is known as the “Jewel of the Indies” and it’s easy to see why. This city is absolutely magical, with beautiful architecture, interesting history and culture, delicious food, and nearby Caribbean beaches.
Here are the top nine reasons you should visit Cartagena as soon as possible!
History lovers will enjoy learning about the fascinating history of Cartagena. It was a bustling port during colonial times and because of this, was often attacked by pirates. The streets of the city were laid out in a confusing, maze-like way as a deterrent to pirates and other invaders who came into the city. There’s also an old fortifying wall encircling the Old City which you can now walk on.
Cartagena has amazing food options, especially awesome street food in the Old City and the hip neighborhood of Getsemaní. If you ever need to cool off from the hot, tropical climate of Cartagena, you can also find fresh fruit slices and fruit juices on almost every corner in the city.
Cartagena has a unique blend of European, African, and indigenous cultures. One of the most unique cultures in Cartagena is that of the Palenque people. The Palenque formed the first freed slave settlement in the Americas about an hour outside of Cartagena. Now, Palenque women come into the city each day wearing their traditional, brightly-colored outfit to sell fruit.
While there are beaches in the Bocagrande neighborhood of Cartagena, they can be very crowded. The best beaches are located about an hour boat ride away from the city, in the Islas del Rosario. These islands are made up of secluded white-sand beaches and warm, crystal-clear waters.
The Photo Ops
Cartagena is a photographer’s dream. The city is extremely photogenic, from the colorful streets of the Old City to the unique murals and street art in Getsemaní. You could easily spend hours wandering around snapping photos of the bougainvillea-adorned balconies and brightly colored colors on every street.
If you’re looking for luxury, you can find it in the hotels of Cartagena. There are many upscale boutique hotels in the Old City, like the Casa San Agustin (pictured below) and the Hotel Bantú that are housed in reimagined colonial buildings. If you’re looking for more of a high-rise, Miami feel, you can find many luxury chain hotels in the Bocagrande neighborhood.
The Colorful Streets
The streets of Cartagena are some of the prettiest anywhere in South America. The city is very pedestrian-friendly, with many of the streets in the Old City blocked off to cars. Around every corner you will find gorgeous colonial buildings, brightly-colored houses with intricate doors, and bright, vibrant plazas.
Once the sun goes down, the squares of Cartagena’s Old City are filled with music. Street musicians and dancers will often congregate and perform. You can find everything from salsa to the Afro-Colombian folk dance champeta. There are a ton of salsa clubs around the city where you can watch the other dancers or even dance yourself!
The literary genre known as “magical realism” originated in Colombia, and it’s easy to see why. Magical realism blends everyday and ordinary occurrences with the extraordinary and supernatural. It seems that everywhere you go in Cartagena, there is something strange and wonderful waiting around the corner!
For more tips on planning your trip to Cartagena, be sure to read: