Top Waterfront Sightseeing in Cartagena

Cartagena is a Caribbean destination filled with historical sights and 400 years of stories to tell. History never gets old, but is time to take a gaze at the modern Cartagena, its urban development and the beautiful Caribbean ocean.

Modern Cartagena

You will feel in a completely different city. A big red double-decker, hop-on hop-off bus is the perfect method of transportation to drive through El Laquito, Castillogrande, and Bocagrande; the main prosperous neighborhoods surrounded by the most beautiful Caribbean bay and ocean.

City surrounded by water. City surrounded by water. By Google Images.

 

 Outside Cartagena

Tunnels in Los ManglaresLos Manglares. By Google Images.

10 minutes away from the city you will find nature’s creations; labyrinths of mangrove tunnels filled with many different animals, and that represent a natural treasure for the region; Los Manglares (the Mangroves), a place which not only oxygenate the water, but your mind.  Discover its incomparable beauty and stunning wildlife; Birds that have formed their hidden place in those forests as well as numerous fish.

Species in Los ManglaresBird species in Los Manglares. By Google Images.
Volcan del TotumoVolcan del Totumo. By Google Images

Just 45 minutes by car discover the therapeutic powers of a rustic mud baths in Volcan del Totumo (Totumo Volcano). Take your water shoes and a swimming suit if you are willing to be healed. Hike up the handmade stairs of the steep volcano and dive in the nature’s most pleasant feeling. At first you’ll feel kid for dirty, but remember, it is just mud. Let your body loose in it, and don’t try to swim, there is no need to. The mud is thick and supports your whole body in a way that you will feel literally out of space; gravity free. Feel your skin revitalizing and the incredible view evaporating your thoughts. Play with the mud and go back couple of years… Let your inner child out.

Playing with the Mud inside the VolcanoPlaying with the Mud inside the Volcano. By Google Images.

The experience do not ends there. When you are ready and the mud is getting stuck to your body descent down the stairs. A native from the region will be waiting for you to give you a bath. Remember, you already left your shame inside the volcano, is time to get pampered. Be ready for the most extreme bath inside the ocean that you have ever taken.

In the Caribbean Ocean

View From TierrabombaView From Tierra Bomba Island. By Google Images.

Start with Isla Tierra Bomba, just 5 minutes away from the city. You would be amazed by the Castillo San Fernando de Bocachica (San Fernando de Bocachica watchtower), once destroyed by British troops who attacked the Spaniards, and rebuilt in 1753, on the ruins of the Castle of San Luis de Bocachica.

CCastillo San Fernando de BocachicaCastillo San Fernando de Bocachica. By: Google Images.
Archipielago de BarúArchipielago de Barú. By Google Images.

Archipielago de Barú (Barú Archipelago) has beautiful white sand beaches, clear waters, passageways surrounded by mangroves and coral colored. It can be reached by land across the Canal del Dique (Dique Canal) from Pasacaballos, or as for a better experience of the never ending Caribbean ocean, travel by water across the Bay of Cartagena.

View from Archipielago de Barú.View from Archipielago de Barú. By Google Images.

Time to eat; my menu suggestion for a characteristic Caribbean lunch is fresh fish, coconut rice, fried plantains and a typical coconut dissert.

Islands surrounding the Rosario IslandIslands surrounding the Rosario Island. By Google Images.

I cannot stop recommending a at list a full day trip to the as Islas del Rosario national park (Rosario Island). Book a boat ride and just 28 miles you will be delighted by coral reefs, crystalline waters, and beautiful beaches. For a complete experience tell the pilot to take you for a drive through the small islands surrounding the Rosario Island.

Islas del RosarioIslas del Rosario. By Google Images.

Make a last stop at the Isla San Martín de Pajarales you will find El Acuario San Martín (the Aquarium), swim with a dolphin or enjoy its show and look down the surrounding dock, where you are standing, and witness multiple marine species.

Dolphin-Aquarium-cartagenaDolphin in El Acuario. By: Colombia travel.com

These are two full days of waterfront sightseeing of the Caribbean ocean surrounding Cartagena, and its healing, and peaceful experiences.

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Historical Sightseeing in Cartagena

Any time of the year is perfect to visit Cartagena de Indias and to be amazed by one of the world’s best kept secret. Do not worry about winter, spring or fall. Cartagena is summer year round. Its climate slightly varies by 10 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, from 80 to 90° F, and the Caribbean breeze intensifies in a delicious way when winter crashes the rest of the world.  Even though Cartagena has no weather or touristic seasons, my recommended time of the year to visit this beautiful city is in January or February; New Year’s buzz has faded and not much tourists around, yet local people waiting to grace with your presence.

Let me show you a different spot in the world that might not be in your bucket list, but for sure, when getting there you’ll be planning your comeback trip with the whole family or friends. Here are some ideas.

 Walled SectorView of the walled sector. By: Google Images

The Walled Old City, declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage in 1984, offers a treasure of colonial architectural gems, churches, and colors that make an incredible and memorable visit. There are also several museums and 400-year-old plazas.

 Clock TowerClock Tower from outside. By: Google Images

Hop on in a horse-drawn carriage and go around the walled sector to take a glimpse on what you’ll find inside the stone walls. Tell the driver to stop at la Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower), what was once the main entrance of the old Cartagena, now a republican style tower, with a quadrilateral clock.

Hose-CarriageHorse-drawn carriage, inside the walled sector. By: Google Images.

Continue your ride inside the walls trough the entrance next to the luxurious Charleston Santa Teresa Hotel, admire the colonial architecture and small plazas while you pass by. At the end of the narrow street you find the San Pedro Claver’s plaza.

 San Pedro ClaverSan Pedro Claver Cathedral from outside. By: Google Images.

Get inside the Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver; built between 1580 and 1654, under the parameters of colonial buildings. It was originally known as Church of St. John of God, St. Ignatius of Loyola and now called San Pedro Claver, for his dedication to alleviate the suffering of the slaves of Cartagena de Indias. His remains are found in the high altar. After he was designated as a saint his femur had been taken to the Vatican in honor of what he was and did.

San Pedro's Bastion View from San Pedro’s Bastion at night. By: Google Images

Once you get outside the church, on your right, you’ll find a ramp next to the plaza. Climb it, and delight yourself with the astonishing view of the Muelle de los Pegasos (Pegasos Pier), the majestic Convention Center, and the never ending Caribbean ocean at Baluarte de San Pedro (San Pedro’s Bastion).

La CatedralLa Catedral at night. By: Google Images

Your 400 years of history are just starting; next stop is La Catedral (The Cathedral), is the episcopal of the Archbishop of Cartagena de Indias, one of the oldest episcopal in the Americas. In 1586, while the church was still under construction, it was attacked by the English pirate Francis Drake, causing severe damage and delayed its completion.  Finished in 1612, now Famous because of the most incredible and luxurious weddings of, national personalities, locals and foreign.

Colonial HousesColonial Houses inside the walled sector. By: Google Images

Don’t forget to have your camera ready, any corner, small balcony of the colonial houses, church or plaza are waiting for a shot.

Las BovedasLas Bóvedas. By: Google Images.

It’s time to get some souvenirs at Las Bóvedas. These construction of 23 chambers built between 1792 and 1796, is now days a building of 23 souvenir shops. This was one of the last major structure carried out in colonial times, destined for military purposes; used by the Spaniards as stockrooms for munitions and supplies. Later, during the republican era, they were turned into a prison.

When ready to purchase some colorful and typical handcrafts at this series of shops don’t forget to bargain, you’ll get to the right price with a little persuasion.

San Felipe de Barajas FortSan Felipe de Barajas Fort. By Google Images.

Say goodbye to the horse carriage and grab a taxi.  Tell the driver to take you to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (San Felipe de Barajas Fort) some 5 minutes away. One of the oldest buildings in Colombia will appear as a huge and harmonious fortification. Cartagena was a port of slave trade; the Spanish built this castle during the colonial era to command the whole bay so any suspicious vessel trying to dock could be instantly attacked.

Its outstanding entrance with eight guns and a garrison of 20 soldiers and 4 gunners, sits in a complex labyrinth of tunnels connected through strategic points that allowed distribution of provisions and to facilitate evacuation and communication; with no doughty reflect the courage and wit of the Spaniard to defend Cartagena de Indias.

View from San Felipe de Barajas FortView from San Felipe de Barajas Fort. By Google Images.

Take a deep breath, you must be on top of this massive construction, breath again and open your eyes to the astonishing 360° view of the city.

La Popa Convent Convento La Popa. By: Google Images.

Continue in your taxi ride 1.5 miles to Convento de La Popa (The Convent of the Stern), the highest point in the city, and be ready for a zigzag trip up the hill. On its peak you will find a gorgeous colonial church and convent, built between 1609 and 1611. Slaves established in the city and surrounding had authorization to celebrate their festivities in this convent.  The display of emotions and creativity resulted in one of Colombia’s most precious musical rhythm, the Cumbia.

View from La Popa ConventView From La Popa. By: Wikipedia.org

Breathe again, and get your camera ready. The highest point in Cartagena shows the most complete view of the city in only one shot.

 Overwhelmed? History never gets old, but Cartagena has much more to offer.