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The 7 Best Things to Do in Cartagena
A visit to Cartagena will take you on a journey that spans the centuries. Founded in 1539, the old town brims with architectural wonders and colonial buildings in sherbet colors. When its Caribbean waters beckon, the Rosario Islands are just an hour away.
1. Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
This impenetrable fortress illustrates Spain's strength during its colonial reign in Colombia. Tour the network of tunnels to see how they served as a means of defense and communication.
2. Centro Amurallado
Completed in 1796, the 19-mile defensive city wall envelopes the old town and its myriad of architectural gems. You'll see why so many fall in love with Cartagena.
3. Plaza Santo Domingo
The oldest church in the city from 1539 and a bronze statue of a corpulent, naked woman named "Gertrudis," the creation of Fernando Botero, are the focal points in this square.
4. Convento de la Popa
Originally built as a small wooden church in 1607, the convent at the city's highest point houses the chapel of Cartagena's patroness: La Virgen de la Candelaria.
5. Las Bóvedas
Known simply as "The Vaults," these 27 storerooms once held Spanish armament and provisions in the 18th century and later they served as jail cells.
6. Teatro Heredia
Named after the city's founder, the theater with Italian design and Caribbean flair dates from 1911. The sculptor above the stage is India Catalina, who was Heredia's translator.
7. Rosario Islands
It's an hour by boat from Cartagena's La Bodeguita Pier to this archipelago of 30 islands. Snorkel or dive in the coral reefs, then enjoy a copper-colored sunset on the beach.
Frequently asked questions about Cartagena, Colombia
What top attractions are a must-see in Cartagena, Colombia?
The must-see attractions in Cartagena, Colombia are:See all must-see sights in Cartagena, Colombia
What are the top things to do in Cartagena, Colombia this week?
The top things to do in Cartagena, Colombia are:Explore the best things to do in Cartagena, Colombia on GetYourGuide
Which tours in Cartagena, Colombia are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?
These experiences in Cartagena, Colombia are taking additional COVID-19 precautions:See all Cartagena, Colombia tours on GetYourGuide
Planning Your Visit
How many days to spend in Cartagena?
A full four or even five days will allow you to take in the sites and enjoy the city. Add on another day if you plan to do a day-trip to the Rosario Islands.
The easiest way to see the attractions in the old town is with your own two feet. There are buses, but it's best to ask the locals standing at the stop or the bus driver for directions to your destination, as there aren't any printed schedules. Of course, there are taxis, but always ask about the price first before hopping in.
Where to stay in Cartagena
The districts of Getsamaní, San Diego and El Centro in the old town of Cartagena are your best bet, with all the sightseeing options at your fingertips.
Where to stay in Rosario Islands
Visitors opt for staying on Isla Grande, Isla Barú and Isla Rosario, and the hotels generally include the boat transfer from Cartagena in their prices. Some travelers go to the Rosario Islands for a day-trip, which usually includes lunch, a stop at the small aquarium and a beach. There are different tour operators which offer such packages, but, as is always the case, do your research beforehand if you're considering this option.
Good to know
- COP ($)
- Time Zone
- UTC (-05:00)
- Country Code
- Best time to visit
- The best time typically is the dry season (Mid-January to April), but crowds tend peak during Holy Week (March or April). If you don't mind the humidity of summertime, August - September offers a reprieve from the tourists and still long warm days before the wet season starts in October.
Other Sightseeing Options in Cartagena, Colombia
Want to discover all there is to do in Cartagena, Colombia? Click here for a full list.
What people are saying about Cartagena, Colombia
The cruise itself was exceptional, excellent service and highly recommended.My one very important observation was the apparent confusion as to the organization of what package you purchased and what was implied once we boarded.Once you enter the dock, someone verifies your reservation and directs you to the proper boat staging area with chairs, once there, someone else comes along and takes your meal choice. Notice you can seat wherever in this staging area, but when its time to board, they start in order from the chairs closest to the boat.When we boarded, we where asked to 'choose' from upstairs or downstairs, there appeared to be no difference in the meal package purchased.Downstairs accommodates larger groups/families as the tables are larger.Upstairs is more intimate with fewer, smaller tables.We had the 'private' table package and just headed upstairs, the couple next to us in a similar table and same meal could have paid the 'regular' 3 course meal and just been directed uptairs
Very professional crew and personnel. Very hospitable, attentive and caring. The paella was excellent, and we were offered a refreshing watermelon drink upon boarding. Very clean and maintained catamaran with ample bathrooms and space. Beautiful cruise out of the Bocagrande harbor and we dropped anchor at Islas del Rosario and at Baru. IMO the water wasn’t very clear at Islas del Rosario so not worth getting in the water for. Beautiful aquatic wolildlife on the reef at Baru I saw a pufferfish, sea urchin and many tropical fish. Bring your own snorkel gear if preferred but if not, the crew will trade you a loaner pair for ID. Drinks were very reasonably priced. The atmosphere was not too raucous but a word of advice condider to bring your kids at your own discretion as the onboard music has explicit lyrics.
We had the best day! Staff was very professional and friendly (and speaks English!) The catamaran was spacious and very clean. Lunch was delicious!
Walter was a good guide and knew the city very well. highly recommend this service
Una experiencia única , muy buen servicio abordo , nos encanto