If you were to try and envision the perfect port of call that boasted a bit of something for every kind of traveler, few cities could fit the bill quite as well as Cartagena. This picturesque and incredibly historic town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast blends its Spanish colonial past with thoroughly modern – and wonderfully idyllic – tourist pastimes like stunning beaches and unbeatable leisure activities. Whether you are a history and architecture buff, or just want to relax in the sun, Cartagena is sure to meet and exceed all of your expectations.
Sightseeing & Things To Do
With its colorful blend of sometimes dark, sometimes uplifting history – and a bounty of stunning beaches upon which visitors can rest, relax and soak up the sun – Cartagena really does have something for everyone. When you get off the ship in Cartagena and take a look around – whether its along the city’s historic walls or around the Plaza de Bolivar – you are bound to return later with plenty of happy memories.
Cartagena is an interesting city to visit for many prime reasons. It offers up a bevy of attractions that combine its intriguing past with its vibrant present. With a couple of exceptionally pretty and relaxing beaches thrown in for good measure, any visit to Cartagena is sure to be memorable. Consider these attractions:
Plaza de Bolivar
Cartagena’s Old Town section is, unquestionably, one of its most impressive and interesting districts. Within it, the Plaza de Bolivar is a wonderful place to spend a bit of time. Several shimmering fountains lend it a nice ambiance, while a statue of the liberator of Colombia – Simon de Bolivar – holds court over the square. Grab a drink from a nearby café and spend a bit of time soaking up the atmosphere in the Plaza de Bolivar.
As steeped in history and culture as it may be, Cartagena has more going for it than a phenomenal assortment of museums, old buildings and other sites. Those who want to experience a delicious slice of the Caribbean should high tail it over to one of Cartagena’s nearby beaches. La Boquilla and Playa Blanca are two of the best options, but there are several others as well. The beaches here are not only naturally gorgeous, but they are also very well maintained and pleasant.
Palacio de la Inquisicion
The Spanish Inquisition is regarded as one of history’s most notorious examples of man’s sometimes dark nature; Cartagena’s Palacio de la Inquisicion plays that up, boasting several spooky exhibits from those long ago days. Torture devices and other bone chilling implements are on display here, offering a nice juxtaposition to Cartagena’s otherwise cheerful demeanor.
The Town Walls
Cartagena is a walled city, and those walls – known locally as Las Murallas – largely remain standing today. Walking along them is a great way to get a feel for the layout of this city, and wondrous views of the sea are possible at several points along their lengths. If the weather is agreeable, be sure to have a go at it.
Shopping is a true pleasure in Cartagena, but if you only have time to visit one of the city’s shopping districts then it ought to be the seaside resort area. Indeed, Cartagena’s seaside resort development – which encompasses Bocagrande, Castillo and El Laguito – is chock full of colorful little shops and boutiques. In addition, you can often find street vendors selling assortments of different doodads and trinkets. You’re definitely not going to go home empty handed when you shop in Cartagena.
Best Souvenir To Bring Back To the Cruise Ship
If there’s one thing that Colombia is famous for, it’s coffee. You simply can’t visit Cartagena without picking up at least a small package of locally grown beans. Later, at home, you’ll be able to enjoy genuine Colombian coffee that you brought home yourself – what souvenir could possibly be better?
Eating – Sample the Local Cuisine
Food in Cartagena is hearty, spicy, hot and delicious. There are several wonderful Colombian dishes to acquaint yourself with when visiting this bright and pleasant city, but butifarras – barbecue flavored meatballs – are one of the best. You can find butifarras at restaurants all over town, so be sure to order some up as an appetizer, or even as an entire meal.
When, Where, and How
When To Go
December through March – which is when Colombia’s summer falls – is also the best time of year to come to Cartagena. Although beaches and other tourist haunts tend to be more crowded then as well, the area is sprawling enough to accommodate them. The sunny, warm and pleasant climate during the Colombian summer is a real joy.
Where You’re Docked
Ships that dock at Cartagena are conveniently served by a slew of free shuttle buses. Passengers can such a shuttle over to a place where plenty of ground transportation options are available. From there, it is a short 15 minute ride over to Cartagena’s downtown, which is known as Old Cartagena.
Which Cruise Ships Go Here?
Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries that include stops at Cartagena. A few of the most popular cruise lines that stop in Cartagena are Azamara Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Cunard. However, there are many other options available in terms of ships, dates, days in port and at sea when it comes to Cartagena.