Cartagena de Indias, a jewel amongst the colonial cities of South America in a dreamlike location on the Caribbean coast, is very popular among travelers to Colombia. The world-famous Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez dedicated an entire novel to Cartagena in 1985: „Love in times of cholera“.
Rich city on the Caribbean coast
Shortly after its foundation in 1533 Cartagena developed into a rich city. In 1552, however, a fire destroyed almost all the wooden buildings, which meant that from then on building was only allowed with stone, bricks and tiles. Cartagena quickly became the most important Spanish port on the Caribbean coast and a storage place for all the treasures plundered by the locals, which were to be shipped to Spain. This in turn aroused the desire of buccaneers and pirates, who also wanted a piece of the cake.
For example, Cartagena was besieged five times by pirates in the 16th century, including the English buccaneer and explorer Sir Francis Drake. Spain then had the fortifications reinforced so that the port became impregnable. The stone ramparts and battlements with battlements were unique in America at that time. The pirates continued to attack, but with less success.
Even today, it is clear that Cartagena was a fortified city: the old centre, which is part of the World Heritage, is completely walled. One repeatedely comes across to old forts with cannons that are directed to the sea. But also the many squares, alleys, mansions with wooden balconies, monasteries, churches and arcades make the old town charming. The „Palacio de la Inquisición“ (Inquisition Palace) is one of the most beautiful buildings in Cartagena, and the museum also recalls the horrors of that time.
Other important buildings include the fortified cathedral, the monastery of San Pedro Claver with its church and the monastery „La Popa“, which is located on a mountain. In the „Museo del Oro y Arqueologia“ (Gold Museum), which seems to be the little brother of the famous Gold Museum in Bogota, one can marvel at a fascinating collection of gold and ceramic objects. These were made by the Sinú natives who lived in different areas of Colombia before the Spanish conquest. The castle „Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas“ with its complex system of tunnels, guns and hiding places was considered impregnable. Nowadays things are more peaceful here: tourists enjoy a particularly beautiful view of the city.
Boredom does not exist
After a hot day full of experiences, the best thing to do is to enjoy a cocktail at the „Café del Mar“. Or cool off in the sea water of the beaches near the city. You can also take the excursion boat to the enchanting islands „Islas del Rosario“. The archipelago, which belongs to the National Park „Corales del Rosario“, is very popular with divers and snorkelers because of its coral reefs.
The nightlife of Cartagena is legendary. Especially popular with tourists: „rumba en chiva“ – a party in the bus. Most bars and discos are located in the street „Avenida del Arsenal“ in Gethsemane – Cartagena’s „zona rosa“ (nightclub district). In the city you will also find the cradle of the Afro-Caribbean music style Champeta, which is mainly heard in the poorer parts of the city.