Cartagena has become a huge hub in the past year or two. With so many direct flights from the United States, there are more and more tourists coming this is amazing city. I loved my time here and so will you hopefully. In this guide is everything you need to know about this cute little town on the coast of Colombia.
Cartagena is one of the most popular destinations in Colombia. Many direct flights from North America have made the city accessible to more of the world. Here are some basic facts you should know before traveling here.
Cartagena is easy to reach from almost all over the Americas and Europe. There are many flights from cities such as NYC, Washington D.C., LA, and more. you can also fly from most of Latin America, such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, or Lima. If you are already in Colombia, you can fly to Cartagena from most bigger cities or take a bus. I was coming from Santa Marta by bus and it worked really well, although took 5 to 6 hours.
Compared to most of the other cities in Colombia, there is very little of this in Colombia and you will almost not need it. The airport is super close, so taking a taxi will be cheap (less than 15'000 pesos). All the sights are close by the old town and everything else is so far you need to take a tour.
There are many many hostels and hotels in Cartagena. You can pick any and they will be okay. I stayed in the Clock Hostel, which convinced me with their unique design and location. I liked my stay there and the reception was very helpful and knowledgable. If you want to check it out, check out their website.
There are many walking tours in Cartagena since it has become a popular destination in the past couple of years. I took part in a free walking tour by Beyond Colombia and the results were mediocre. I usually love walking tours but the one in Cartagena was a bit long and dense. They are great to meet people though and find companions for the rest of the day. I would go with a different company though, there are at least three or four others, that might be better.
Walk around the old town
There is so much beauty in the old town you just have to explore. I wandered through these streets for hours, taking pictures and just enjoying the colors. You cannot really get lost since you can always see the clock tower and orient yourself from there. There are many beautiful houses, cafes, and shops to visit during your stay.
Explore the Getsemani District
Located just on the other side of the Plaza de Los Pegasos, is the neighborhood of Getsemani. This is an up and coming region of the city you should visit. While the old town is a bit overpopulated these days and there are too many tourists around, Getsemani is still authentic and traditional. There are not many people around and you can enjoy the view in peace. I loved wandering these streets with a friend just seeing what locals live like around here. You can also take a tour through this part of town about graffiti and history. This is also a great nightlife district, which will come up later.
Enjoy a sunset on the city wall
There is a few such beautiful sights like the sun setting over the water. There is one perfect spot to watch it in Cartagena which is Cafe del Mar on the city wall. This is a very popular spot so make sure you come early if you want a good spot or just stand close by there. Unfortunately, around sunset time it rains often in Cartagena so you might not have a good view. This happened on both days I was there, but I hope you have better luck.
Go on a beach excursion
This is one of the most popular things to do in Cartagena. While the beaches in the city are not the best, there are many gorgeous ones around. It can cost about 1'000 pesos, but it is worth it. There are two different popular trips, one to Playa Blanca and the other Isla de Rosario. Playa Blanca is becoming very popular so I decided to go to Isla de Rosario. This is a whole day trip, sometimes with lunch. There are so many companies to book them through but they are all more or less the same. I suggest you do one of the simple tours and not more compley ones since I have heard negative reviews. You seem to get more out of a simple excursion where you have more time to see each place.
Sunday Zumba Class in Gestemani
This is something we stumbled on by accident, but so happy we did. On the main square of the Gestemani region, they hold a free Zumba class every Sunday evening. It is basically one big party with instructions. People take it very seriously and it is a great workout if you take part. There are also stands with food, drinks, and souvenirs around. I loved the atmosphere and mix of people. Do come in some comfortable clothes if you want to take part. This is not a joke, but real Zumba taught by Latinos who have a feel for their bodies. If you are in Cartagena on a Sunday, do not miss it.
Enjoy the nightlife
There are so many bars and clubs in the old town and Gestemani where you can have fun. The music is great, the people are fun, and it is safe. There are many people walking on the streets at night enjoying themselves. It is common for a street party to form randomly and people enjoying music. You can also find whatever you prefer. There are calm bars, high energy clubs, and everything in between. Make sure you go out and explore it while in the city.
Those are a few things you cannot miss in Cartagena. I loved this city, even with higher prices and many tourists. Definitely a must on your Colombia itinerary. If this is the first stop on your Colombia trip, check out my other Colombia posts.
If you have been to Cartagena, I would love to hear your opinions and tips in the comments or on social media.