Cartagena
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Top attractions in Cartagena

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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.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

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.

Centro Amurallado

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.

Plaza Santo Domingo

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.

Convento de la Popa

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.

Las Bóvedas
Photo: Luz Adriana Villa@Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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.

Teatro Heredia

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.

Rosario Islands

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.

Planning Your Cartagena 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.

Getting around

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

  • Language
    Spanish
  • Currency
    COP ($)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (-05:00)
  • Country Code
    +57
  • 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.

Things to Do in Cartagena

Top Attractions in Cartagena

Cities in Colombia

Other Sightseeing Options in Cartagena

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What people are saying about Cartagena

Santiago was THE MAN! What a wonderful tour guide. He made sure all of our needs were met throughout the entire day and had the best sense of humor that kept the group energy going all trip. He was the most fabulous tour guide I have ever had on an excursion. Great positivity, communication with the group, and guidance to all the locations we visited. I would recommend anyone to do the Rosario Islands tour with him as their guide. He made the trip much more enjoyable for the entire group and a great memory for all of us.

Even though we had trouble entering the boat, as our names were not on the list and weren't very familiar with the tickets we bought from GetYourGuide, it ended up being a great experience! 2 hours was perfect timing, seeing the sunset at 6pm and enjoying the views both in the light and in the dark. The boat wasn't crowded and we were able to have our own space. Free drink and some appetizers was a nice touch.

Cartagena de Indias: 2-Hour Sunset Cruise Reviewed by Patrick, 22/09/2020

The day was great from start to finish. The tour guide Santiago was extremely friendly and informative. Giving us an insight into the history of the islands along the way. He made sure all the guests were having a good time, making the boar trip itself an enjoyable one with great music choices along the way. #socosoco i definitely recommend this trip for all visitors to Cartagena. You will not regret it

Overall it was a great experience. It ensures a private covered seating area with access to a private beach. We loved seeing that there were vegetarian options for lunch with fresh pineapple juice! The only issue was the vendors. I wish they blocked the solicitation on the venue but there were so many vendors coming up to your bed.

Cartagena: Beach Club Day in Playa Blanca Reviewed by Keerthi, 11/03/2020

Overall great trip. Got to see beautiful islands in a day. The snorkeling was fun but be wary of small jellyfish stings. They weren't major, just tiny stings. Got time to enjoy the scenery and beaches and didn't feel rushed to go from one beach to the next.

Cartagena: 4 Rosario Islands Day Tour with Snorkel & Lunch Reviewed by Ka Hei Christy, 11/03/2020