Cartagena – The Pearl of the Caribbean

In fact, Cartagena was our first destination in South America for both of us. From the Dominican Republic, we flew directly to Cartagena, working our way from there to Patagonia in the south of the continent. The city of Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia. Cartagena was founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia. Cartagena is one of the first Spanish cities founded in northern South America. The city quickly advanced to become an important port for shipping. Most people associate Cartagena with the old town and the artists’ quarter Getsemani with its colorful little houses and the colorful umbrellas that provide shade in the small alleys. Not for nothing is the capital of the Departmentos Bolivar considered the most beautiful colonial city in South America and therefore enjoys special popularity. Cartagena de Indias is often called the pearl of the Caribbean.

Our top sights in Cartagena

Although Cartagena is definitely not one of our highlights in beautiful Colombia, we had a great time in the fifth largest city of the country. The city is super beautiful but the vibe in Cali or Medellin just caught us more. Here we have listed our sights for you:

1) Getsemani – the art district of Cartagena

We liked Getsemani by far the best in Cartagena. Graffiti, colorful houses, colorful flags and the characteristic umbrellas adorn this pretty neighborhood. Bars and restaurants also invite you to visit. Also worth mentioning is the Plaza de la Trinidad, which comes to life in the evening hours. Street stalls offer delicious street food, there is dancing and fun. In the evening, you can have delicious cocktails in a variety of places.

2) Centro Historica – The old town of Cartagena

Right next to Getsemani is the historic center of Cartagena. This invites you to stroll through the pedestrian zone and impresses with numerous colonial buildings and colorful houses covered with plants. If you want, you can also climb up the city wall to get a nice view.

3) Castillo de San Felipe

Another popular highlight of Cartagena is the fortress Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, located on the hill of San Lazaro. From the fortress you are supposed to have a great view of the city. When we arrived there, it was unfortunately already a bit late, which is why we decided against the relatively expensive visit. The entrance fee is just under 6 € per person, which we found relatively expensive by Colombian standards. But even from the outside, the fortress is an absolute eye-catcher!

4) Beaches of Cartagena

Due to the great popularity of Cartagena, the beaches in the vicinity are so crowded that we could not get that Caribbean feeling. We looked at the most touristy beach, Playa Blanca. We couldn’t find any more berths and made ourselves comfortable on the rocks at the left edge. Turquoise, clear water, white sandy beach – the basic conditions are all there, were it not for the crowds that destroy the feeling a bit. The loud music of the stalls also does not necessarily contribute to a relaxed atmosphere.

The two faces of Cartagena

Due to its great popularity, Cartagena is considered one of the safest cities in Colombia. This can be seen not least in the enormous police presence in the historic center or the artists’ quarter Getsemani. However, our hostel was located a bit outside the tourist centers and we have to say that we got to see a pretty rough face of the city here. Dirt, poverty and pretty gritty corners suddenly came to light. The vibe of the city has honestly not really carried away. Although the city is incredibly beautiful but the real hype we could not really feel.

Die Schattenseiten Cartagenas

Overnight stay in Cartagena

The safest option is to book accommodation in Getsemani or the historic center of Cartagena. However, in our opinion, this does not reflect the real Cartagena, which is sometimes quite a bit angular and edgy. However, since we were only there a few days, we of course do not know most of the neighborhoods.

Arrival to Cartagena

Since Cartagena is one of the largest cities in Colombia, arrival and departure are relatively simple. As already mentioned, we flew into the city from the Dominican Republic. The bus terminal of Cartagena is located a bit outside. From there, buses run to all corners of the country.

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We are Julian & Naomi and we love to travel the world and immerse ourselves in other cultures. We have an adventurous, spartan, sustainable and reflective travel style. In our opinion, the greatest adventures are experienced when you do things on your own and try to live like a local. The taste of a country is best captured on the road
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