de Indias is quite possibly South America's most beautiful colonial
city. The coastal city is Colombia's top travel attraction. The old
town of Cartegena de Indias is immaculately preserved, with numerous
beautiful plazas, churches and old buildings to marvel at. There are
also many boutique shops and emerald stores. A great destination for honeymoons in Colombia,
Cartegena is a very romantic city to stroll around and explore - allow
two whole days for city tours to take in the main travel
attractions. So three nights is ideal, unless you want to add
extra day to visit some nearby beaches (none of which are amazing -
you're better off finding some better
Colombian beaches). The city can get extremely hot and humid
during the day, which might put off certain visitors.
city beaches are generally quite murky and overcrowded, and visitors
will be hassled by numerous hawks and vendors. Avoid them at all costs!
The beaches are particularly un-relaxing during Colombia's peak tourism
Playa Blanca & Other Attractions around Cartegena
out of town to find the better beaches - the beaches at nearby
Playa Blanca are much cleaner and more pleasant, but they are also full
of pushy hawkers trying to sell goods and generally spoiling an
otherwise relaxing beach. There are a few basic places to stay on Playa
Blanca beach, such as Campamento Wittenberg (email:
firstname.lastname@example.org). Bocachica beach, on nearby Tierrabomba
island is another good option - you can arrange a day tour quite easily
which should also visit the nearby ruined fort.
Alternatively, consider taking a boat tour to the
beautiful nearby Rosario
where you might even consider spending a couple of nights. If you're
looking for a beach resort in Baru (about 1 to 2 hours West of
Cartagena), consider the new Hotel
Agua, Sport Baru
Scondida. Also in Baru you'll find Baru
Sports Fishing Lodge, who organize deep sea fishing packages.
outside of the city itself, there are numerous tourism attractions to
appeal to the visitor. The small nearby village of La Boquilla has a
good beach and the nearby mangrove swamps are good for birdwatching
tours. There's also a few golf courses nearby.
travel highlight are the volcanic mud baths at Volcan del Totumo, which
are two hours (50km) away from the city of Cartagena. Your hotel can
arrange a day tour for you.
Tours from Cartagena to Panama
Cartagena it's increasingly popular to travel by sailboat through the
San Blas Islands to Panama. See the section on Colombia to Panama
routes for advice.
a way to "do" Cartagena that will greatly increase your enjoyment of
this amazing historic city. Here follows some travel advice - some do's
and don't(s) when in Cartagena on vacation:
in the old colonial quarter, also known as "El Centro". This is where
all the interesting tourist attractions are, as well as the best
restaurants and all the action.
Take a break in the
middle of the day. From noon until 4pm have a siesta as it's too hot to
stroll the streets at this time. The best time to stroll around is in
the late afternoon/early evening. Explore at this time (everything is
open) and eat dinner late. Avoid that midday heat, which can get
Book a good hotel. Cartagena is a great
to splash out a little on a lovely colonial hotel. A hotel with a pool
is a great place to retreat to to avoid that middle of the day heat.
an early evening stroll along the city walls, perhaps stopping for a
drink at the bar Cafe del Mar (not related to Ibiza's understand).
a horse and cart tour of the old town - it may look cheesy, but many of
the guides are very knowledgeable and you'll visit places you otherwise
might not know existed.
Stay in Bocagrande or any other modern part
of Cartagena. Big mistake. Wrong district.
Visit the city's beaches. It's a complete
waste of a day. See the above section for an explanation.
the slightest bit of interest in any of the hawkers selling goods on
the streets because they'll just follow you. If you're at a table on a
plaza, they'll happily invite themselves to take a seat on your table
while you consider their goods if you look vaguely interested in them.
Likewise with those nice looking guys who wander around with the
guitars - a simple glance and a smile at them will lead ten minute long
private concert, after which you'll feel obliged to pay them something.
Instead, you should avoid eye contact and be very firm when you tell
everyone that you're not at all interested. You'll get much less hassle
this way - the hawkers of Cartagena are unfortunately becoming a
you plan on choosing a top end hotel, read the article about luxury hotels in Cartagena that I
wrote following various hotel inspections in November 2010. You might
also want to read the section on the best boutique hotels in
two distinct hotel zones in Cartegena: the old town and the more modern
Bocagrande. The old town is a far more beautiful area to book a hotel
in, with many delightful old colonial buildings that have been
converted into boutique hotels. Details of various hotels in the old
town and links to their websites follow:
Hotel Cartagena de Indias -
following various hotel inspections in November 2010, in my opinion
this SLH branded hotel is the best in Cartagena.
- Cartagena's most famous luxury hotel, this is where the famous stay
(eg. Bill Clinton) in Cartagena (from $400).
Casa Del Arzobispado
Hotel -an excellent, top of the range small hotel.
Charleston Santa Teresa
- another top end option, similar in size (larger) to the Santa Clara
Casa El Caratero
- a hip, boutique option with lots of press mentions (from $200).
Located in Getsemani, which isn't as beautiful as the centre of the
historic town which is where everything happens.
de Pestagua - a luxurious restored historic home with spa,
swimming pool and roof-top jacuzzi ($? - expensive).
Pasion Hotel - Stylish & funky, with a beautiful roof
top swimming pool (from $200).
Casa del Curato
- mid range, a safe bet with stylish rooms in a 18 century mansion
Casa Quero -
another boutique hotel.
Alfiz - 17
century colonial house converted into a boutique hotel, it gets very
good hotel reviews (from $150).
another boutique (from $120).
Casa la Fe -
small bed and breakfast with just 14 rooms and a swimming pool (from
Casa India Catalina
-16 room boutique hotel.
- "stylish, uber chic and intimate" boutique hotel (from $190).
de la Chicheria - a great value boutique, colonial hostel
found in the old town. Dorms or private rooms available (from USD $70).
Hotel 3 Banderas
- great value and with a good location too (from $75).
Casa Viena Hostel
in Getesemani (a part of the colonial old town), a good hostel for
Hotel Marlin - another decent
Bocagrande district, overlooking the sea, has a range of more modern
hotels. Most are high rise luxury hotels with swimming pools and a
range of amenities. The Cartegena Hilton hotel, Capilla del Mar and
Caribe Hotel are just a few suggestions for your vacation. In my
opinion, there is under almost no circumstance a reason to stay in this
modern part of town.