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Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias holidays

Located to the north of Colombia on the Caribbean Coast, Cartagena is the most romantic, vibrant, colourful and beautiful city in South America.  A rich historical legacy, excellent boutique hotels and restaurants and an electric mix of Spanish, African and Caribbean cultures make Cartagena perhaps Colombia's premier tourist attraction. 

So yes, it is a city for the tourist, but you will never tire of exploring the colourful squares, labyrinthine, flower- bedecked streets, quaint corners, the pastel coloured houses of the colonial nobility and the beautiful churches. Cartagena must also be the world's capital of beautiful doors and antique brass door knockers, which can be found for sale in antique shops in the town.

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Holidays In Cartagena de Indias

You will need four nights at least in Cartagena.  This is the fifth largest city in Colombia, with a population of over a million, but it is the old town, within 12 kilometres of massively-thick walls, which is of interest. This is the area to explore and which is perfectly safe, due to its substantial (but benign) police presence.  Outside the walls there is Bocagrande, a Miami-like district of high-rise apartments for wealthier citizens and visitors which line the Caribbean beach, plus the poorer, residential outskirts of the city.

Cartagena, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded in 1533 and was the main gateway out of South America for the gold and jewels pillaged by the Spanish Conquistadors; it was, therefore, heavily fortified.  Built by slaves in 1536, the fortress of San Felipe de Barajas is the largest and most sophisticated fort built by Spain in the Americas and is a UNESCO World Heritage monument in its own right. In 1741 the British, under Admiral Vernon, failed to take Cartagena, much to the embarrassment of the Crown at the time – but, in the early days, Francis Drake plundered and ransacked the city.

There is much to do in and around Cartagena other than people watch from the numerous cafés.  A sight not to be missed is the Caribbean sunset from the ramparts of the old town.  The sea and grey sand beaches around the city are not particularly exciting, so take a day trip for snorkelling and sunbathing to the 27 offshore coral islands with their white sand beaches and crystal clear waters that make up the national park of the Rosario archipelago.

Why Cartagena de Indias?  Because there was already a Cartagena in Spain, of course, and this was to differentiate the two cities on their two very different continents.  It holds its own against Brazil’s Ouro Preto and Peru’s Cuzco for the continent’s most enthralling and preserved colonial destination.

The flight from Bogotá to Cartagena is 1 hour 25 minutes.

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