The Best Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia
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South America Travel News

The Best Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia

6 min read

Nov 20, 2015


By Izabela Zielinska

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Last updated on December 28th, 2020 at 10:13 am

Things to Do in Cartagena

Discovering the top things to do in Cartagena, Colombia became Izabela Zielinska‘s sole mission as soon as she received a travel guide about South America on her 18th birthday. The beautiful photos of the colonial square in town, the colorful buildings, and charming balconies full of flowers made Iza dream about taking a tour of Colombia and its popular city.

Throughout her own research and personal experience, she was quick to find that there are many excellent things to do in Cartagena. In fact, there are so many activities, excursions, and things to see, that you must stay in Cartagena for at least 3 nights. From segway tours through the city to authentic Colombian cuisine, Cartagena is a beautiful destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Keep reading to find out what Iza recommends doing in Cartagena.

1. Segway Tour through the Historic District

One of the most important things to do in Cartagena is to visit the colonial historical port. The colonial part has so much to say about the long history of this UNESCO Heritage Site. This area is nicknamed “the walled city” since it’s surrounded by a famous fortress called Las Muralles. It is one of the most emblematic spots is the clock tower which marks the entrance to the walled city.

historic center of cartagena colombia

One of the best & most fun ways to discover the historical center of Cartagena is by taking a Segway Tour. Riding on the Segway allows visitors to get an overview of the city and to submerge themselves in its history. You will make numerous stops along the way to take in the beautiful buildings and lively streets to capture some great pictures. While you zip around Cartagena, informative guides will point out the most important landmarks, churches, their favorite restaurants, and more.

2. Escape to the Rosario Islands

Definitely one of the best places to visit in Colombia (from Cartagena) is the Rosario Islands. The Rosario Islands are a group of over 20 islands that form a national park protecting Colombian coast coral reefs. From Cartagena, take off in a speed boat crossing the Bay, and pass through Bocachica, skirting along the northern coast of the island of Baru towards Rosario Islands.

palm trees rosario islands

After about an hour, you will find yourself in a tropical paradise. You will never forget the crystal clear turquoise waters around the Rosario Islands. Spend the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the pristine waters of the Caribbean, visiting the local aquarium, swimming or snorkeling. Also, Pirate Island is a perfect place for some small adventures like swimming, snorkeling, kayaking.

3. Reach the Highest Point at Convento de la Popa

view from la popa convent

The Convento de la Popa was constructed at the highest point in Cartagena at the top of a 150m high hill. The views are fantastic and stretch across the entire city. The name of the convent, literally meaning “Convent of the Stern” comes from the hill’s apparent similarity to the back end of a ship. It was founded by Augustinian monks in 1607. The official name is Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria.

4. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Take a tour of the San Felipe Castle, considered to be one of the most popular things to do in Cartagena if you’re interested in history. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is one of the greatest fortresses ever built by the Spaniards in any of their colonies. This is a huge part of Cartagena’s cityscape and should definitely be on your list of things to do.

famous castle in cartagena

This huge fortress was built in the XVI century to protect rich Cartagena from pirates and treasure hunters. It survived over two centuries of battles and witnessed all great Cartagena’s colonial wealthy times. It’s the largest Spanish fortification in South America. If you want to feel a glimpse of the history, dare to have a walk in one of the underground tunnels. And for a real treat, climb to the top of the castle, which boasts 360-degree views of the city of Cartagena. It’s an excellent stop for that one perfect Instagram photo!

5. Indulge in Colombia’s Cuisine

One of the absolute best things to do in Cartagena is to try its local culinary specialties. Apart from the many Colombian food stands on the streets, you can spot quite a good number of gourmet restaurants in Cartagena. Make a stop at San Pedro Restaurant, located right next to the Convento de San Pedro Claver, built in the early 17th century by the Jesuit community. The restaurant has a great ambiance, good food, and a beautiful view. Enjoy lunch, dinner, or a drink as you take in the view of the church or enjoy some people watching. The restaurant offers a wide variety of drinks, local Colombian cuisine, along with international dishes from Japan and Thailand. Come because you are hungry or need a break, but you will find yourself staying because of the atmosphere.

fresh food in colombia

While on a Cartagena tour, you also need to try La Cevicheria close to cute Plaza San Diego. This restaurant serves excellent seafood and became famous after a visit from Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations. After a fancy dinner here, you must try a typical ice cream called raspao sold almost on every corner. It’s traditional flavored ice served in a plastic cup with fruit and sweetened condensed milk. The perfect option for dessert during hot Colombian weather! You can also choose to sip tropical cocktails at Cafe del Mar – one of the nicest bars in Cartagena overlooking the sea.

6. Go outside of the Walled City

After spending time visiting the colonial part of Cartagena, it’s important to experience the other parts of the city. There are two neighborhoods worth visiting. First is the area of Getsemani – a trendy bohemian neighborhood, 10 minutes from the walled city. This place is full of colorful street art, colonial buildings with wooden windows, small cafes spreading aromas of coffee everywhere. Truly a vibe from Havana, capital of Cuba.

view of cartagena city

Next, you should visit the Bocagrande neighborhood. You can get there from Cartagena by taxi in just 10 minutes. Here the scenario changes to completely new and modern architecture with high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, and big beach resorts. In Bocagrande, sunbathe at the beach, visit one of the many international boutique shops, or walk along palm trees promenades.

Create Your Custom Cartagena Colombia Tour Today

Overall, there are so many great things to do in Cartagena no matter what your interests. For a laid-back pace, choose beach time and sipping traditional cocktails. For a more adrenaline-filled, choose and Colombian adventure of kayaking, snorkeling, or climbing the monumental fortresses. I fulfilled my Cartagena dream already. Now it’s time for you! Just contact one of our Colombia experts and we will help you decide!

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Last updated on December 28th, 2020 at 10:13 am

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