Hot, sultry, filled with the sounds of music and bright with color and tradition, Cartagena de Indias has been an important port on the Caribbean since it was founded in 1533. Gold and silver left the port bound for Europe, pirates looted the city, and a walled fort grew to protect both shipping and the slave trade. (map)
Cartagena's colonial charm and the old walled city, the Ciudad Amarullada, with tiled roofs, balconies and flower-filled courtyards, beckons visitors to stroll the narrow streets or to enjhoy a weekend getaway.
Getting and Staying There:
Check flights from your area to Bogota or other locations in Colombia.
Things to See and Do:
Outside the city, take time for excursions to:
- Mompós, on the Río Magdalena, was once an important trading river port between the Caribbean and the interior of the country. As the river current shifted, the city was stranded and commercial life ended. Remaining, however, are the curved streets paralleling the water front, deliberately designed that way to foil cannon balls, and the graceful colonial architecture.
- Santa Marta is a deep water port, the oldest Hispanic town in Colombia. Its colonial tradition is all but gone, but the attraction of the city is the gateway to the Sierra Nevada and the pre-Columbian ruins of La Ciudad Perdida. Be aware that Santa Marta is the shipping point for contraband and drugs. The Museo Arqueológico Tayrona displays a collection of Tayrona gold and pottery and a good model of the Lost City. The nearby Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is the estancia where Simon Bolívar died. There is a monument to the liberator on the grounds. Be sure to see the pictorial history of the Liberator's life.
- Parque Nacional Tayrona (map) is a scenic mix of white sand beaches (rough currents make swimming dangerous,) coral reefs, jungle slopes, and the steep peaks of the world's highest coastal range. Popular with trekkers, hikers and campers, the park also has an ancient Tayrona village, called Pueblito, under excavation.
If your visit falls in November, you might enjoy the celebration of Cartagena's independence. On November 11, 1811, the Declaración de Independencia Absoluta was signed, declaring independence from Spain.