With this crazy year finally coming to an end, we can start dreaming of our top destinations to visit this coming year. These top attractions in Cartagena, Colombia are here to help, don't worry!
With the warm tropical air blowing from the neighboring Caribbean sea, you are not going to want to miss these top attractions in Cartagena, Colombia! As one of the top party destinations in South America, Cartagena offers plenty of excellent nightlife.
With the multitude of things to see in Cartagena, I have accumulated a list allowing you to have a closer look at what this city has to offer.
San Felipe Castle
Denoted as the most famous landmark found in Cartagena, this castle will be pretty hard to miss as one of the top attractions in Cartagena, Colombia. Built back in 1657, this castle offered protection against pirates looking to steal the precious silver and gold that was destined for Europe.
This fortress dominates any approach to the city by either land or sea. The fortification boasts a series of walls forming a formidable pattern of bunkers below. Its striking grand entrance creates a perfect passageway to what's within. A complex maze of tunnels leaves visitors from around the world baffled about how people from hundreds of years ago navigated the castle. Key features include the triangular Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and the surrounding batteries. The main underground gallery runs along the perimeter of the castle right around sea level.
Make sure to wait until later in the day to head up here. Come to explore the maze-like tunnels and enjoy the high vantage point offering views of the grand city below.
Tour the Old City
If you are a fan of walking tours, you are going to love this stop. Cartagena, Colombia offers both amazing guided tours and self-guided tours for its Old City.
With beautiful plazas scattered throughout Old City, you will get magically lost among the colorful doors and buildings. Be sure to start your wandering early here as the midday heat will cause even the best athletes to sweat. Next, you are going to want to see the Walled City of Old Cartagena. Boasted as one of South America's most vibrant cities, the Walled City offers old-world luxuries, exquisite dining services, and an active nightlife. This old town is quickly becoming a must-see for travelers from around the world to visit. Year after year the Walled City welcomes world-class chefs flocking to the city with bolder, more tasty platters.
After a long day touring the Old City you'll want to crawl back to your hotel room and crank the AC after taking a cold shower!
Palace of the Inquisition
Well known for being one of the top examples of colonial architecture in Cartagena, you can find the Palace of the Inquisition back in the Old City.
As a beautiful palace, you will be surprised to find out that it was used as a torture chamber during the famous Spanish Inquisition. If stopping by for a quick peak, you are allowed to view the outside of the building for free. However, if you are trying to see the inside, there will be a small fee. With the deep rooted history of this palace, it is only natural this building became a museum. With two floors of displays, you will learn about its past through information signs, paintings, and sculptures. Next, head over to the small, underground room where you will find an old prison cell used during the Spanish Inquisition. Afterward, step outside to stroll through the three courtyards held on the premises.
If you have a passion for architecture or identify as a history buff, you must spend a couple hours at this stop. You will not regret learning the history of the old Cartagena Spanish Inquisition roots.
Museo de Oro Zenu
While quite small, this free museum provides the valuable history of Cartagena's economy surrounding gold.
After walking in the steamy heat, head over to the Gold Museum to cool off through a self-guided tour. Here you will find fascinating gold-crafted items. Boasting golden adornments of the Zenu people, you will learn about the rich history of this golden culture. The Zenu people still live and preserve their way of life in Cartagena as they lived in the Caribbean plains over two thousand years ago. Further, you will notice the interesting descriptions of gold history and many beautiful pieces of art on display. This museum will definitely be worth the visit.
If you are still questioning visiting the Museo de Oro Zenu, just know you will learn a bunch about the different regions of Colombia's gold industry and what the Zenu people have produced. Plus, you will have refreshing air conditioning throughout your visit!
About 90 minutes away from Cartagena, this day trip may not be for everyone. However, for those willing to make the trip to Totumo Volcano, you will see a beautiful volcano and pink sea natural phenomena in the Colombian Caribbean Sea.
The pink sea is found in the village of Galerazamba, part of the municipality of Santa Catalina. This location has an amazing great history and its salt flats will leave you in awe. A perfect photo-opt location, you will enjoy the waters forming the intense pink sea. Make sure to visit between December and April as this is the season of the pink sea. Once arriving, you will be able to enjoy a relaxing mud bath coming from waters in a volcano. For an added cost you can enjoy a massage when in the volcano. After the mud bath, you get to wash off in the lake with the help of a nice lady.
Afterward, you will be offered a very tasty lunch (fresh fish) and offered to purchase their famous avocados and other treats from the local vendors.
Enjoy an unforgettable day exploring the coast around the Rosario Islands near Cartagena, Colombia.
The top highlights of this excursion include snorkeling along the colorful coral reef and experiencing an underwater kingdom in the crystal Caribbean waters. After leaving Cartagena via a sailboat, you will visit Isla Grande. First, you will anchor in front of the island. Then, you will pass through the Raton Channel on the Luis Guerra reef. Next, your captain will bring you to Isla Bela. Here you will typically be served lunch by the tour company you utilize for this journey. You will get the chance to go swimming, snorkel, play various sports, kayak, jet ski, or layout by the Caribbean Sea on a pristine beach. Many companies will make this journey special as they play joyful music on the boats.
This trip to the Rosario Islands is super exciting as you explore the beautiful islands surrounding the Cartagena area in the Caribbean.
Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver
Another noteworthy stop in Cartagena, Colombia is the Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver.
Four hundred years ago Jesuits established themselves here, in Cartagena, and founded a school and church in this town. During the 1600s a father known as Pedro Claver dedicated his life to the protection of the African slaves brought over from Africa and became a highly-honored saint 300 years later. To keep his amazing legacy alive, the Jesuits came back to the city at the end of the 1900s and started to collect pieces of history to add to a museum including pre-Columbian and religious and African art. They also sought and found the chamber and other spaces where Claver lived and eventually died. Now, this area they created is a museum with the most complete collection of religious art on the entire Colombian coast. The museum also preserves the spirit of Claver and the spirit of human rights.
Make sure to add this stop to your Cartagena itinerary to truly understand the fascinating history of Cartagena, Colombia.
Whether just looking for your next travel destination in South America or planning your day in port on your next cruise adventure, make sure to keep Cartagena at the top of your list. You will not regret experiencing this colorful Colombia city to the fullest.
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