Cartagena is Colombia’s OG (read: original) tourist destination. It’s a Caribbean coastal city with a rich history, beautiful architecture and lots of character. The city is noticeably different than other major cities in Colombia, and in more ways than just the landscape. It moves a little bit slower. There’s less to do but still plenty to see. It feels relaxed, but alive at the same time.
Cartagena was not what I expected. This city wasn’t love-at-first-sight for me, but there’s something about it that has me continuing to search for what I’m missing. So I took some time to think and observe this city and try identify what I think sets it apart.
Here’s a few things I thought you should know if you’re planning a trip to Cartagena..
10 Things to Know About Cartagena
- Hot and flat. Located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, this tropical city is reliably +80°F and sunny. It is absolutely a perfect tropical destination.
- Getsemani is where it’s at. This up-and-coming neighborhood has culture, character and charm. It hasn’t yet been overrun by tourists, and you’ll find great places to eat & drink.
- Hit the islands for beaches.If you’re coming for a beach trip, Cartagena proper will disappoint. Take a day trip to the nearby islands for your best beach experience. .
- Walls, Houses & Mosquitos. The three things this city is known for. Spend plenty of time walking the winding streets inside the walls of the Old City, and don’t forget the bug spray.
- A place to relax. There’s not a lot to do in Cartagena. If you’re coming for activities, this isn’t the place. This is a city to watch the sun set as you enjoy a few mojitos.
- History and George Washington. What this city does have is a lot of history, including a surprising connection to George Washington and Mount Vernon.
- Expensive for Colombia. Because it’s such an established tourist destination, it’s more expensive that other cities in Colombia, but still cheap compared to the US.
- Walled City is small, but vibrant. The winding streets make it feel bigger, but the Walled City is quite small. You can easily see it all afternoon, but it’s lively enough to enjoy nightly.
- Charming architecture. The streets are lined with brightly colored colonial buildings dripping with greenery and adorned with beautiful door knockers.
- Gateway to Colombia. Don’t let Cartagena be your only stop in Colombia! Be sure to work in at least one other city while you’re in the country. You won’t regret it.
Have you to Cartagena? What tips would you give to someone heading to the city?