Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia (4/14/2009 and 6/19-26/2014)

Beautiful Streets Cartagena Colombia
Beautiful Streets 
of Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is a beautifully restored Spanish colonial city – possibly one of the best and in South America. You should plan a visit!

Five years ago we visited Cartagena in Colombia on a Panama Canal cruise (click here to see) for just a day. After spending a week here, we realized we missed so much of the beauty of this city. During the day Cartagena is hot and humid making your visit hard to enjoy. This beautiful city comes alive at night with wonderful restaurants and enjoyable Caribbean balmy weather (see photos).

Romantic Streets at Night Cartagena Colombia
Romantic Streets at Night - 
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, located on Colombia's northern coast and facing the Caribbean Sea, is the most tourist-visited city in Colombia. The city has basically two main areas where tourists go: the walled colonial city (Ciudad Amurallada), which is amazing and has many nice restaurants, clubs and hotels and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande.

Cartagena Colombia
Amazing Beauty at Every Turn
Inside Cartagena's walled city we split our time staying in both the San Diego and Centro areas. Both of these areas are beautiful. In the San Diego area, you should not miss wandering the streets around and between Plaza Fernandez Madrid and Plaza San Diego. The restaurants around Plaza San Diego are very nice. 

The Centro area has more beautiful streets (see photos) around the Plaza Santo Domingo, Parque del Bolivar and all the way south to wall – stunning views around every corner (see photos).

El Marques Hotel Boutique Cartagena Colombia
El Marques Hotel Boutique
In the Centro area of Cartagena, we enjoyed staying at the El Marques Hotel Boutique. We immediately loved this hotel with its beautiful public area (see photo), warm service, and inviting pool. 

We also had a wonderful dinner at the San Pedro Restaurant in Plaza de La Aduana followed by unique flavored popsicles at La Paletteria on Calle Santo Domingo.

Beach Condo Hotels Bocagrande Cartagena Colombia
Beach Condo & Hotels on Bocagrande - Cartagena, Colombia
Ariel View of BocaGrande old Town cartagena colombia
Ariel View of BocaGrande & Old Town
Then it was off for a 2-day stay on the beach area of BocaGrande (see photo). It became quickly apparent to us why so many people stay in BocaGrande enjoying their hotel pool and swimming in the ocean during the hot and humid days and taking a $4 taxi ride into Cartagena's old town for dinner and wandering at night – a pretty nice combination. BocaGrande is an average beach.

Pat Dunlap Playa Blanca Beach Cartagena Colombia
Pat Enjoying Playa Blanca Beach
You owe it to yourself to enjoy one of the wonderful Caribbean beaches near Cartagena that can be accessed by hour boat ride. 

Because Cartagena is usually hot and humid during the day, taking a beach day trip followed by wandering the streets of old town at night is a wonderful way to beat the heat.

Beautiful Playa Blanca Beach cartagena colombia
Beautiful Playa Blanca Beach
Playa Blanca is the best beach near Cartagena and our visit was a joy with its warm turquoise water and long sandy beach (see photos). 

Old Town BocaGrande Cartagena Colombia
Old Town from BocaGrande - 
Cartagena, Colombia
We booked the standard day trip that takes you for a boat tour of the Islas de Rosas, aquarium with its dolphin and shark shows, and then for lunch and a couple hours on Playa Blanca beach. Our boat went first to Playa Blanca to drop some people off and when we saw the beautiful turquoise water and Caribbean white sand beach, we jumped ship and stayed the day.

Old Town streets Cartagena Colombia
More of the Beautiful Old Town Streets
You can book a day trip to Playa Blanca through your hotel or go down about 8:30am to the port dock (Muelle Turistico La Bodeguita) just south of Cartagena's Centro walled city and choose one of the many vendors selling the trip. You should be aware that most tours to Playa Blanca do not include beach chairs and umbrellas but they can be rented for an additional fee.

Isla Encanto Day Trip
Isla Encanto Day Trip
We love swimming in Caribbean warm ocean waters so we also took a couple of somewhat more expensive day trips to two of the private islands near Cartagena. Our favorite was Isla Encanto because we could choose between staying at the beach or the pool (see photo). 

Pool at Isla de Sol Day Trip
Pool at Isla de Sol Day Trip
We also went to Isla del Sol, a popular well-marketed excursion. We had a good time swimming in the pool (see photo) and the snorkeling was very good. Day trips to these private islands are more expensive than visiting Playa Blanca but they do have much better facilities and food – but not as nice beach.

Pat dunlap 2014 Plaza Santa Domingo Cartagena colombia
Pat in 2014 - Plaza Santa Domingo, Cartagena
Pat dunlap in 2009 Plaza Santa Domingo Cartagena colombia
Pat in 2009 - Plaza Santa Domingo, Cartagena
Some history... First, see the photos of our 'history' visiting Cartagena in the photos of Pat on the right.

Cartagena is extremely rich in historic relevance. Attracted by a great protected bay, the Spaniards believed they found El Dorado, the City of Gold, when they found natives with lots of gold and jewels. The Spanish moved most of the gold taken and mined in South America through Cartagena. Cartagena and Spain became very wealthy.

In the 16th century, Sir Francis (pirate) Drake sacked Cartagena. Rebuilt and fortified, Spain started the slave trade in 1664 and Cartagena became the largest slave market in the Caribbean. Cartagena's magnificent city walls and fortresses were erected to protect its riches. In the early 1700’s, Cartagena was the site of the largest naval engagement prior to D-day. Vastly outnumbered (7-1), the Spanish beat the British to maintain Spanish rule in the Americas for another century. 

Old Slave Dress Cartagena Colombia
Old Slave Dress - Cartagena, Colombia
In 1819, Columbia became independent of Spain followed by a century of revolution. Cartagena was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas and is currently populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia's own variety.

The movie Romancing the Stone was set in Cartagena but actually shot in Mexico.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. Love the pictures and it look like a great place to visit. I have a friend who lives in Momphox and he loves it there. I am planing on visiting the area in the future. It seems like the country is somewhat safe now.


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