Top attractions in Cartagena
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 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.
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
- COP ($)
- Time Zone
- UTC (-05:00)
- Country Code
- 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.
Other Sightseeing Options in Cartagena
Want to discover all there is to do in Cartagena? Click here for a full list.
What people are saying about Cartagena
We had a very relaxing and enjoyable time. Alex was a great tour guide with much interesting information. The food was fresh & delicious & the people on the island were as humble and friendly as can be. Although we wish we could have seen more corals and fishes, we had a great time!
La experiencia fue muy buena y el guua Jesús muy atento y amable. El único problema que tuve es que llegaron muy tarde a recogerme al aeropuerto 1 hora hora. Por favor más seriedad en este asunto, pónganse ej contacto tocad más partes para informar bien al cliente.
I highly recommend this tour . Ruben is my tour guy . He pick me up on time . We had a great time at the beach . After that we went snorkeling and mangrove tour. The food also delicious. Well worth the money . My tour guy Ruben offer above and beyond service
Wow amazing experience! They are very good with the time they say they will pick you up. Jesus was an amazing tour guide! Gave us history and knowledge of his country. He I would def recommend getting a tour from Jesus.
Amazing experience! Our tour guide was great. Playa blanca was beautiful & relaxing. The lunch was delicious! Snorkeling was fun (although the water was cloudy) & the mangroves were also nice to see!