Top attractions in Cartagena, Colombia
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.
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.
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What people are saying about Cartagena, Colombia
Had an amazing time with David and his crew! We’re only half way through the trip and this will definitely be the highlight! Tons of time on the boat catching sun and they did not skimp on time at the different beaches or snorkeling either. The lunch provided was great! We ordered the fried fish and the chicken and both were delicious. Highly recommend this tour to Rosario’s beautiful beaches!
The car service arrived on time at the airport and waited on me for over 3 hrs due to a delay in customs. The driver greeted me and told me all about cartagena with recommendations of good restaurants and beaches. The driver also used google translator to ensure I understood everything. Would use this company again for any other services they provide. I 100% recommend.
Back Packers guys were just amazing. They are so kind and helpful. They tread us very well and all the time watch us for our safety. Out guide Jose, makes us feel very comfortable, he is a very nice guide. Playa blanca beach was very nice and Mambo Beach place was amazing too. I really recommend them 100%
This tour was good , considering that covid affected all over the world. The only thing is LUNCH was so poor and bad , so even after the trip I got upsate stomach. I did taste fresh at all and it was too little portion. They for sure can improve this tour changing poor lunch for something better.
Wonderful experience! Duran was welcoming from the start and knew the history of his city. He was charming and the experience did not feel rushed! If you want to experience the history of Cartagena differently, go on this tour! Highly recommend Duran!