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Cartagena, Colombia is a big city that is between the Magdalene and Sinu River. It was once the main port for trade towards the north cost of Colombia, along the Caribbean Sea. Today, trade is between Spain and other few countries.
This port city, apart from its trading activity, is still well-known because of its existing eminent castles and colorful colonial architecture. Its rich history and culture prompt a lot of tourism to date.
Cartagena is a key contributor of the historical achievement in Colombia. It once protected the country from invasions and securing the Country’s treasures.
This beautifully colored city is a dream destination site for tourists. There are many things to do and see here that should include in your to-do-list!
Go for historical tours around the city!
Cuidad Amurallada is a walled fortress located at the centre of Cartagen, secured by ancient walls and a massive watch tower. Historically, its main purpose was to protect the city from pirates and invasion.
Inside this walled city, you should feel a sense of security (I usually do any time I get a chance to visit this location). I can imagine how safe they felt back in the colonial era. Everything you would want is located within these walls (from insightful tours to sight-seeing opportunities).
Within these walls, you will find lively bars, shops, restaurants, and hotels with its full exciting charm. There are even good museums, shopping mall (Barranquilla), Cuidad Amarullada de noche, a handicraft shop, and so much more.
After visiting the walled fortress, you can enjoy the view of the city and see other attractions by using either a city trolley tour or a hop-on-hop-off buses.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
This triangular shaped enormous fortress is a significant landmark that is a must see if you are in Cartagena, Columbia. Built in over 150 years, its amazing architecture is a must see.
In the fortress, I learned about its history and construction style. Imagine going through different underground passages and a series of walls to see bunkers and other incredible architectural designs.
Museo del Oro Zenu
Museo del Oro Zenu is among the most visited tourist site. Although small, it contains magnificent collections of pottery and gold from the Sinu people, who inhabited Bolivar, Sucre, Cordoba and Antioquia before colonization. This museum gives a personal account on the cultural heritage of the Sinu people also known as the Zenu.
There are exquisite gold exhibitions are spectacular.
Open: Sun – Sun 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM; and Tue – Sat 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Outing at the beaches
Cartagena is a port city and there will be plenty of beaches to visit. After visiting all the existing sight-seeing locations in a day, you will need a place to relax and cool off. Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen because there is no better activity than going to the beach in Cartagena, Colombia.
Playa Blanca is among the most beautiful and warm beaches in Colombia… you must visit! Palaya Blanca is only a two- hour drive from the city. The white sandy beaches, bright blue Caribbean Sea, tall Palm trees and fresh Colombian fruit juice is just paradise, really.
I alternatively choose to visit Isla Baru, a floating Caribbean Island that can be accessed by ferry. I chose it earlier this year and what I can say is that the experience was overwhelming.
On my earlier visit last year, I decided to have some coconut rice served with fresh fish. Words cannot describe, oh so yummy!
La Boquilla Beach
If you wish to interact with locals, then this fishing village just outside Cartegena is the place to be. It is an authentic village away from the noisy city life with only locals.
The locals are very friendly and you should just relax and kick in the sun and sip your cold drink, with a cherry on top of some local plate full of delicious arroz con coco.
Have a sleep-over during the weekend in this small village and have an exciting day.
Party on a Chiva
The party does not end on a chiva, seriously… I’m not joking, It’s so much fun. The party bus has an open bar inside and live musicians playing vallentano or any kind of music you request. I personally go on almost all my trips to Colombia since my family lives there and we just love to celebrate, and we’ve lasted hours just on the bus dancing the day/night away. Expect lots of dancing and fun.
Basically how it goes is, the chiva drops you off at different bars and clubs around the city. You party at these drop offs just for a little, go back into the bus and party in there as well while the driver is driving. Hostels and bars plan chiva tours for tourists to have a fun night. It’s actually a very popular thing to do in any city in Colombia.
Even if you are traveling alone, the chiva is one way to meet new people, as you party along. As they say, best of experiences meet during parties.
Visit the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (Mud Volcano)
This small volcano with thick bubbling mud is an interesting outdoor excursion that is a must visit in the outskirts of Cartagena. At the somewhat hill vat is the entry point. You will get inside and float in the mud as you let go of everything (a sort of traditional spa). You can take photos even if covered with mud and relax in the skin-soothing mud bath.
After the mud bath, there are local ladies who will wash off the mud at the lake.
Because many tourists flock this scenic location, you should visit the mud volcano during off-peak seasons to enjoy some quality time alone.
Try different local cuisines and dine with the locals
They say that food describes the heart of its people. Being a port city, you would want to try local delicious fish. La Cevicheria is the best ceviche and fish restaurant in Cartagena.
Expect some Peruvian- Columbian delicacies. The restaurant serves fresh fish, delicacies and tasty cocktails that will leave you fulfilled.
The place is packed with locals and tourists just to have a taste. The next time you are there make sure you are in line waiting to be served.
Mercado de Bazurto
Indigenous communities cook turtles as a traditional diet. However, it is discouraged by the authorities. Mercado del Bazurto is a small food market in Cartagena you should visit to enjoy traditional delicacies. I prefer fish as opposed to turtles.
This is the city’s best bar if you are a salsa enthusiast. Listening to music, dancing, and having the best drinks often happens at Café Havana.
If you are not much of a dancer than a listener, it would still be worthy and fun to go and enjoy some cultural way of partying and enjoying fizzy drinks.
Quick look into my life in Colombia!
Feel free to watch this short clip I put together of my tirps while I visit my family in Pereira, Colombia!
Cartagena, Colombia is a small touristy place. My recommendation to have a solid fun filled trip there is to stay at least 3-5 days. It’s a small city compared to Bogota, (which is the capital of Colombia) so you won’t need more than 1 week in Cartagena unless you just want to! Make sure to take pictures & feel free to message me if you have any questions. For those who do not know, I’m from Colombia, so I’m your gal when it comes to local or tourist attractions 🙂