Highlights and main attractions of Cartagena

This romantic and wonderfully preserved city set on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coastline is said to have inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’. The historic centre of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 and is filled with pristine and colourful colonial architecture surrounded by walls dating back to 16th century. Sure to bring out your creative soul, the atmospheric sound of horse hooves and carriage wheels clattering the cobbles and the smell of bougainvillea in sun-filled courtyard is a photographer’s dream. 

Cartagena has always been quirky; its fusion of Afro-Colombian, European and Latin influences has huge appeal to the traveller.

Colombia's Parks and Attractions

History, where to explore and diving

Founded in 1533, Cartagena was once a prosperous Spanish port, and its 15 kilometre city walls were constructed to protect the wealthy colonial settlers from marauding pirates. Some of the architectural gems including monasteries, convents, castles and fortresses are captivating, such as the Palace of the Inquisition, the Clock Tower (the original entrance to the city) and the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas. 

The Bazurto market is a great place to immerse yourself in the energy of a Latin market, with anything from vegetables and exotic fruit to fish and clothing being sold.

After dark, the sounds and rhythms of salsa start to fill the streets and the area is renowned for its lively atmosphere. The Café del Mar set atop the ancient city walls is a perfect spot for sunset out over the Caribbean in this enchanting coastal city.

The Islas de Rosario make an excellent day trip from Cartagena, set just 35 kilometres off the coast.  An archipelago of 27 small coral islands that collectively form national parkland of mangroves, forests and coastal lagoons, offering quiet beach spots with crystal seas great for snorkelling as well as 25 dive sites.

Stay in the heart of the historical district, in the Hotel Alfiz which was lovingly restored in 2005 to luxury standards yet with a personal feel, with just eight rooms.

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