Cartagena is the undisputed queen of Colombia's Caribbean coast and easily the most attractive city in the region – this given its apparent shortage of attractions in the classical sense of the word. Instead, what draws travelers in is the city itself: a microcosm of the Caribbean, walled-in by defensive ramparts built to ward off unwelcome visitors, the likes of Sir Francis Drake, who held Cartagena de Indias captive for months during his 16th century raids on the Spanish New World.
Cumbia music fills the air in Cartagena's absurdly beautiful Old Town, while locals enjoy leisurely chats in inviting town squares, street vendors peddle their wares (look out for the incredibly photogenic palenqueras!), and vacationers explore streets lined with well-preserved colonial buildings, their balconies deluged with striking fuchsia-colored veranera. The first free town in the Americas founded by slave trade escapees – San Basilio de Palenque – is just an hour's drive from here.
Cartagena's beginnings as a major hub of slave trade in the Americas has had a long-lasting impact on the city's social make-up, creating, over time, a tantalizing mix of cultural influences that manifest themselves in its cuisine and music. Time runs slow in Cartagena's inviting squares, where locals engage in a game of dominoes while tourists hunt for the perfect shot of the incredibly photogenic 'planenqueras' in the background.
Most tours of the city start with an exploration of Cartagena's incredibly attractive Old Town, soon followed by a dive into Getsemani, the best of city neighborhoods to watch local life unfold, both before and after dark. San Diego is another area of the city favored by visitors, in part due to its high number of solid and affordable accommodation options, while the aforementioned Getsemani remeains a top nightlife pick for many, given its abundance of bars and dance clubs that offer a great taste of Cartagena's take on vida pura.
Cartagena is heralded as the most attractive urban destination of the Caribbean, and having walked its beautifully preserved colonial streets, there remains little doubt as to why.Read More