Cartagena, a gorgeous coastal city located in the northern part of Colombia, is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With its colorful architecture, vibrant culture, and stunning Caribbean beaches, this city is an ideal place for those who are looking for a perfect balance of relaxation, adventure, and culture. From exploring the historic Old Town where centuries-old fortified walls meet trendy bars and restaurants, to visiting the world-class museums and galleries, there are endless things to do and places to see in Cartagena. In this post, we’ll be sharing the top attractions and things to do in Cartagena that you can’t afford to miss during your trip to this paradise-like city.
The 10 Best Things to Do in Cartagena
- Cartagena City Shore Excursion
- 3 Hour Walking Tour of Cartagena
- Cartagena Instagram Tour the Most Scenic Spots
- Cartagena and Murcia Highlights Full Day Shore Excursion from the Cartagena Port
- Cartagena Sunset Sea Kayaking Tour
- Cartagena Treasure Hunt Tour
- Totumo Volcano and Pink Sea
- Eco Plan National Aviary and Baru Island With Lunch and Transportation
- Cartagena Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour
- Shore Excursion City Sightseeing Cartagena Hop on Hop Off Tour
The 10 Best Things to Do in Cartagena
1. Cartagena City Shore Excursion
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Cartagena during your cruise’s shore excursion. With limited time available, our stress-free tour provides a comprehensive overview for first-time visitors. Enjoy convenient port pickup and drop-off and travel in air-conditioned comfort between top Cartagena attractions in Old Town Cartagena without getting lost or having to navigate unfamiliar public transport systems. Bottled water, a local professional tour guide, and private car with air conditioner are included. You will visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas for 30 minutes, admission ticket not included, and Las Bovedas for 30 minutes, admission ticket free. Select a pickup point and join us for an unforgettable experience. Confirmation is provided upon booking. Food and drinks unless specified are not included.
2. 3 Hour Walking Tour of Cartagena
Take a 4-hour walking tour of Cartagena’s top attractions and get to know the city’s heritage with a private guide. Meander through the Modernist streets and take in the sights of historic landmarks such as Cervantes House, Grand Hotel La Concepción, and the Town Hall. Enjoy breathtaking views of iconic sites including the Roman Theater of Carthago Nova and the bustling quayside. This tour offers hotel and port pickup and drop-off, as well as included gratuities. Discover the pretty quayside and soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful city on this private shore excursion.
3. Cartagena Instagram Tour the Most Scenic Spots
Boost your Instagram feed on this shared small group tour that takes you through the colorful Getsemani neighborhood in Cartagena. Your professional photographer will guide you to the most scenic spots and teach you how to take stunning photographs with your mobile phone. Learn about presets, filters, poses, and composition, and improve your photographic creativity skills. Fall in love with the street art and colorful Getsemani walls and take beautiful memories and a feed full of amazing pictures with you. Don’t forget to bring your charged smartphone and some extra cash in case you want photos with the traditional local ladies in colorful dresses known as “Palenqueras.” The 2-hour tour is suitable for both photography experts and beginners.
4. Cartagena and Murcia Highlights Full Day Shore Excursion from the Cartagena Port
Explore the highlights of Cartagena and Murcia on a full-day shore excursion from the Cartagena port. With a maximum group size of 18 people, you’ll avoid the crowds and enjoy a carefully planned itinerary that showcases the region’s history and culture. Your professional guide will pick you up directly from the port and take care of all driving and route planning. Prepare to visit landmarks such as Cervantes House and the Romeo Theater, and to hear about the fascinating history behind each one. Food and drinks are included, and the tour includes a visit to the Centro de Artesania de Cartagena. Start and end times are flexible and will be confirmed with the local provider in advance.
5. Cartagena Sunset Sea Kayaking Tour
Experience Cartagena Bay during a guided kayak tour with incredible sunset views over the Caribbean Sea. Paddle with a professional guide who will provide full safety instruction along the way. Choose between a shared or private tour and enjoy a gentle paddle of about 2 km with no previous kayaking experience required. All equipment, including kayak, paddle, skirt, and life jackets, will be provided. After a short instructional session, make your way from Castillogrande Beach with your guide through the warm waters of the Caribbean until you reach the Cartagena Bay. Float along at your own pace, taking in the beauty of the changing landscape around you as you marvel at the enchanting features of this beautiful city. After the sunset, return to the meeting point, taking home beautiful memories of your Cartagena sea kayaking tour.
6. Cartagena Treasure Hunt Tour
Turn your sightseeing trip through Cartagena into an exciting and family-friendly adventure with this 3-hour Cartagena Treasure Hunt Tour. Join a friendly guide dressed up as a pirate and set off on an educational and entertaining tour of the city’s top landmarks, including the Parque Bolivar, Modern Art Museum, and Gold Museum. Follow the guide on a quest to find the hidden ‘treasure’ of Blackbeard and discover the rich history and culture of Cartagena along the way. This tour is perfect for families with children and includes all entrance fees, some snacks, and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic centre. You’ll also be provided with drinks and sunscreen to help you stay refreshed and comfortable throughout the excursion. Join us on this exciting journey to uncover the secrets of Cartagena’s past and create unforgettable memories with your loved ones.
7. Totumo Volcano and Pink Sea
Be amazed by nature’s unpredictable beauty on this day trip to Totumo Volcano and Galerazamba. In between December and April, witness the shining pink sea as you enjoy the magnificence view from the lookout point. Moreover, learn about the history and culture of the local area at the Ethnoindustrial Museum. This is the perfect opportunity to explore the surrounding area in an air-conditioned vehicle with ease. The package includes the entrance fee to Totumo Volcano, lunch, and a massage photo and mud removal service. Pickups are available in various locations throughout the city. Don’t miss this chance to see some of the most impressive sights in northern Colombia.
8. Eco Plan National Aviary and Baru Island With Lunch and Transportation
Escape the city and explore the tropical nature and wildlife of Colombia’s Caribbean coast with a full-day trip to the National Aviary of Colombia and Baru Island. During the tour, you’ll enjoy stress-free travel as your transportation and admission tickets are included, and you’ll spend the morning at one of the largest aviaries in Latin America. Afterward, you’ll head to the stunning Baru Island where you can relax on sun chairs and enjoy lunch before returning to your hotel. The tour includes bottled water and a towel for your convenience. Hotel pickup and drop-off are also included, making the trip hassle-free. The meeting point is at Sibarita del Mar, and a backpacker guide will be waiting for you. Join us for a fantastic day trip and discover two of Colombia’s top natural attractions in just one day.
9. Cartagena Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour
Explore the stunning Cartagena at your own pace on this hop on hop off bus tour. The tour covers 14 stops across the city where you can visit key sites such as the Clock Tower, San Felipe Fortress, walled city, and more. Discover the rich history of the city with a walking tour and witness the magnificent Simon Bolivar statue. Don’t forget to take in the beautiful sights at Cartagena Bay. With the flexibility and freedom of the tour, you can hop on and off the bus at your leisure and explore the city on your own terms. Join this unforgettable experience and make the most out of your visit to Cartagena.
10. Shore Excursion City Sightseeing Cartagena Hop on Hop Off Tour
When your cruise ship docks in Cartagena, there’s a City Sightseeing hop-on hop-off bus tour that helps you make the most of your time. You can choose which stop to disembark and visit one of 16 attractions, including UNESCO-listed Old Town and San Felipe de Barajas Castle. While on the bus, you’ll get informative on-board audio commentary. This ticket includes a one or two day pass for the tour, entry to Museo de la Esmeralda, a guided 90-minute walking tour, and cruise port pick-ups. Hotel pick-up and drop-off and gratuities are also included. Make your personal itinerary and enjoy exploring Cartagena at your own pace.
Frequently Asked Questions by Tourists about CartagenaCartagena is a beautiful colonial city located on the Caribbean coast in Colombia. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder that it’s become one of the most popular destinations in South America. However, many tourists have questions about the city before they visit. In this post, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Cartagena.
1. Do I need a visa to visit Cartagena?Citizens of most countries do not need a visa to enter Colombia for tourist purposes. However, it’s important to check the visa requirements for your specific country before you book your trip. Some countries require a visa or may have specific entry requirements.
2. Is Cartagena safe for tourists?Like any city, Cartagena has its share of crime. However, most of the tourist areas are safe, and violent crime is relatively rare. It’s still a good idea to take basic precautions, such as not flashing expensive items and avoiding unlit areas at night. It’s also recommended to take official taxis rather than hailing them on the street.
3. What is the best time of year to visit Cartagena?The best time to visit Cartagena is between December and March or in July and August. These are the driest months and the most popular times for tourists to visit. However, be aware that prices for accommodations and flights may be higher during these months. If you’re looking to save money, consider visiting during the rainy season (April to June and September to November).
4. What is the currency used in Cartagena?The currency used in Cartagena (and all of Colombia) is the Colombian peso. You can exchange currency at the airport, at banks, or at exchange offices in the city. Many places in Cartagena also accept US dollars, but it’s always a good idea to have some local currency on hand.
5. What is the official language of Cartagena?The official language of Colombia is Spanish, and this is the most commonly spoken language in Cartagena. However, many people in the tourism industry speak English, and it’s not difficult to get by with just a basic understanding of Spanish.
6. What are the must-see attractions in Cartagena?There are plenty of must-see attractions in Cartagena, including:
- The Old City (Ciudad Amurallada) – a UNESCO World Heritage site with stunning colonial architecture
- The Castle of San Felipe de Barajas – a fortress built in the 17th century to protect Cartagena from attacks
- The Palace of the Inquisition – a museum that tells the story of the Spanish Inquisition in Colombia
- Bocagrande – a modern neighborhood with high-end shopping and dining options
- Playa Blanca – a beautiful beach located about an hour outside of Cartagena
7. What are some traditional Colombian dishes I should try in Cartagena?Colombian cuisine is delicious and varied, and there are plenty of great dishes to try in Cartagena. Some traditional dishes include:
- Bandeja Paisa – a hearty meal that includes beans, rice, meat, and plantains
- Ajiaco – a soup made with chicken, potatoes, and corn
- Ceviche – a seafood dish made with marinated raw fish
- Arepas – a type of corn cake that is often stuffed with cheese or meat
8. Can I drink the tap water in Cartagena?It’s not recommended to drink the tap water in Cartagena (or anywhere in Colombia). You should stick to bottled water or filtered water during your stay.
9. How do I get around Cartagena?Cartagena is a small city, and most of the tourist attractions are located in the Old City. Walking is a great way to get around the city, but it can be quite hot during the day. Taxis are also readily available and affordable.
10. What should I pack for my trip to Cartagena?Cartagena is a warm and humid city, so it’s important to pack accordingly. Some things to include in your suitcase:
- Light, breathable clothing
- A hat to protect your face from the sun
- Bug spray
- A reusable water bottle
How to Spend Your Time as a Tourist in CartagenaCartagena is a beautiful city located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It’s known for its well-preserved historic center, stunning beaches, colorful architecture, and vibrant culture. As a tourist, there are many activities to enjoy and places to visit in this fascinating city. Here’s a guide on how to spend your time as a tourist in Cartagena.
1. Visit the Walled CityThe Walled City is the heart of Cartagena’s historic district, and it’s a must-visit for any tourist. This inner town was constructed for defensive purposes by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. Wander through the streets, and you’ll see brightly painted houses with balconies overflowing with flowers. There’s a wealth of history to learn, with various museums, plazas, and churches to visit.
What to see in the Walled City
- The Palace of the Inquisition: This is one of the most striking buildings in Cartagena’s historic center. It was originally built in the early 1700s to house the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it’s a museum that documents the persecution and torture of accused heretics during the colonial period.
- The Clock Tower: This is the entrance to the Walled City and the iconic symbol of Cartagena. The clock is a replica of the one that once stood in the city’s San Francisco Monastery. Looking up from inside the walls, you’ll see the Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandría on the right and the Governor’s Palace on the left.
- The Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandría: Built in 1577, this is one of the oldest churches in Cartagena. It’s dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and it’s home to many artworks and religious treasures from the colonial era.
- The Convento de la Popa: This is the highest point in Cartagena, and its monastery is a hidden gem. The convent was founded in 1607, and it’s perched atop a hill that offers panoramic views of the city and the sea.
2. Relax on the BeachCartagena has some of the most stunning beaches on the Caribbean coast. The most famous beach is Playa Blanca, located on Isla Barú. It’s an idyllic white sand beach with crystal clear waters. However, it can get crowded, and vendors often hawk their wares. For a more tranquil experience, head to a beach club like Blue Apple Beach House, located on Tierra Bomba Island.
Which beaches to visit in Cartagena
- Playa Blanca: As mentioned above, this beach is located on Isla Barú and is considered one of the most beautiful in Colombia. Here, you can rent a lounger or an umbrella, have some drinks, and enjoy water activities like snorkeling or jet-skiing.
- Bocagrande: This is the most popular beach in Cartagena itself, and it’s the perfect spot for those who want to sunbathe and enjoy the sea view but not swim due to its strong currents. Here, you can also find numerous restaurants, bars, and shops.
- Playa Azul: Located on Tierra Bomba Island, this is an excellent beach club that attracts a mixed crowd. You can spend the day lounging on a sunbed or hammock, sipping cocktails or playing beach volleyball. There’s also a restaurant serving tasty seafood and a variety of other dishes.
3. Explore Local GastronomyCartagena is known for its delicious cuisine, which merges Caribbean flavors with Spanish ingredients. A visit to this city is a perfect opportunity to try the local dishes and drinks.
What to eat in Cartagena
|Arepas||Arepas are a traditional Colombian corn cake, often filled with cheese or eggs.|
|Ceviche||This is a typical Caribbean dish made with raw fish marinated in lime juice, onions, and spices.|
|Sancocho||Sancocho is a hearty stew made with chicken or beef, cassava, and plantain. It’s often served with rice and avocado.|
|Coco Loco||A Coco Loco is a flavorful cocktail served in a coconut. The drink includes rum, coconut water, and coconut cream.|
4. Experience Cartagena’s NightlifeCartagena is a vibrant city with an active nightlife scene. Whether you’re looking for live music or dance clubs, there’s something for everyone.
Where to go out in Cartagena
- Café Havana: This is a lively bar that features live Cuban music. It’s a great place to dance and have a few drinks.
- Quiebra-Canto: This intimate club is a favorite among the locals. Here, you can enjoy salsa, reggaeton, and other Latin rhythms until the early hours of the morning.
- The roof at Townhouse: This is the perfect spot for those who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere. The rooftop bar offers a beautiful view of the Walled City, and it’s known for its cocktails and delicious tapas.
5. Take a Day TripIf you have time, consider taking a day trip from Cartagena to explore other nearby attractions.
Day trips from Cartagena
- Rosario Islands: Located an hour’s boat ride from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands are a gorgeous archipelago with sparkling blue water, white sand beaches, and coral reefs. You can snorkel, dive, or simply relax on the beach.
- Mompox: This colonial town is located about four hours from Cartagena, but it’s worth the trip. Mompox is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautifully preserved architecture and relaxed way of life.