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

Really worth the visit if you enjoy nature

I really enjoyed the beautiful canoe tour through the mangroves. You'll see a lot of fish and wildlife. The booking is per canoe so I ended up getting a private tour since I booked by myself. My tour guide was great and explained a lot about the ecosystem. I recommend it if you're in Cartagena and want to see a different side of the city, but keep this in mind if booking through Get Your Guide: I selected to have my tour in English, but my tour guide didn't really speak English. The tour was in Spanish with a few English terms, so if you understand some Spanish you may be ok. Later when I checked the Eco Tours website, I saw that an English guide is an additional service you can book, but it is not an option through here. My tour was also less than 3 hours round trip, so that's something to know before going. The actual canoe time was between 1-1.5 hours. During the canoe tour we stopped by an island and I had to tip the fisherman a small amount, so bring some change. Enjoy your tour!

La Boquilla: Canoe Tour through the Manglars Reviewed by Flora, 07/14/2019

A perfect day on the water .. so chilled and relaxing

What a gorgeous way to enjoy these Caribbean waters .. such a relaxing, chilled vibe on this luxury yacht. A beautifully maintained yacht with plenty of sun beds and foredeck area to laze away the day while listening to some onboard sounds The crew were so friendly and professional and it was great that they gave us an actual sailing experience by hoisting both the main and foresails. The included welcome drink and lunch was delicious. The only disappointment was that no fish appeared at our snorkel stop but that’s nature for us. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone wanting to relax and enjoy the beauty of Cartagena from the water. Thank you crew for such a gorgeous day on the sea.

Great trip for a super relaxing day on a beautiful sailing boat

I loved this trip. The boat is very luxury and spacious with many lounge beds. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the crew is great. The lunch was fresh and delicious. Besides chilling on the boat, we went snorkling and had a stop in front of a beach of Rosario island. It's possible to swim to the island from there. On the way back to Cartagena we went sailing, which was fun!

Tons of fun! And our tour guide Ruben was phenomenal

The tour was awesome! Got to relax on the beautiful white sand beach, snorkel and tak fun underwater photos with a go pro included for free. We climbed and explored the mangroves and our tour guide Ruben was perfect. He was very knowledgeable and catered to our every need. I would highly recommend him and the tour to other tourists visiting Cartagena!

Beautiful boat, nice staff, very organized--highly recommended!

The trip itself could have been a bit longer. It was a boat that fits 150 people, but there were no more than 50 on it for us during a peak travel season. I'd highly recommend this day trip, over and above being hassled on a half-rate beach by local vendors!