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Things to do in Cartagena

Things to do in  Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena

Founded in 1533 as a center of the Spanish empire, Cartagena developed into a sea of colors and a UNESCO World Heritage site within the colonial walled city. City tours–by car, foot, or even horse-drawn cart–take visitors through the cobbled streets and to the famous San Felipe fortress. Focused tours shine light on the multi-cultural worlds of local gastronomy or music, or the life of locally born author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Nearby La Popa hill offers views of the old city, the harbor, and the 17th-century Santa Cruz monastery. Taking a cooking class or visiting a gold museum reveals the city's heritage, a mix of African, European colonizer, and Native American. At night, the streets of the hot and humid city fill with markets, traditional dances, and revelers spilling out of bustling nightclubs. For those who want to escape, a short boat tour brings travelers to Barú and Playa Blanca, where the white beaches and crystalline water are pure Caribbean paradise. A little further and travelers reach the Rosario Islands, a national park featuring one of the most important coral reefs in the country. To the northwest of Cartagena, the renowned El Totumo mud volcano allows locals and travelers to enjoy therapeutic massages and the natural healing properties of mud baths.

Top 10 attractions in Cartagena

#1
Totumo Mud Volcano (El Totumo)

Totumo Mud Volcano (El Totumo)

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Totumo Volcano (El Totumo) ranks among Cartagena’s most popular day trips. A small volcanic caldera has become a top attraction—a naturally heated bath of grayish brown silt. After bobbing around in the soupy mix, head to the lagoon next door to wash off the mineral-rich mud, thought to have therapeutic properties.More
#2
Old Town Cartagena

Old Town Cartagena

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With brightly-colored buildings, colonial landmarks, and bougainvillea-covered balconies, Old Town Cartagena is known for its beauty and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Highlights include the leafy Plaza de Bolivar, the striking Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj), and the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro).More
#3
San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas)

San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas)

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Some historians say that if it weren’t for San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas), South America would now speak English. The 14th-century fortress protected the coastal city of Cartagena from English invasion, allowing the Spanish to maintain their rule. Besides the role it plays in Colombia’s history, the castle attracts visitors with its panoramic harbor views.More
#4
Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario)

Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario)

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The Rosario Islands(Islas del Rosario) are a highlight of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, famous for their vibrant marine life, pristine white beaches, and sun-soaked beach resorts. A cluster of 28 idyllic islands dotted offshore of the port city of Cartagena, this archipelago sits atop the world’s third-largest barrier reef and makes up Islas del Rosario National Park.More
#5
Convento de la Popa de la Galera

Convento de la Popa de la Galera

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Sitting atop the highest point in Cartagena, Convento de la Popa is a 17th-century convent characterized by graceful stone arcades and an interior courtyard filled with flowers. History and architecture aside, the biggest draw of the convent is the scenery: from the 500-foot (152-meter) perch, travelers are rewarded with sweeping views of the Caribbean coast and colonial city.More
#6
Las Bovedas

Las Bovedas

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Shoppers, barhoppers, and photography enthusiasts flock to picturesque Las Bovedas, located at the northeastern corner of Cartagena’s old walled city. Dozens of archways—stretching from Santa Clara to Santa Catalina Fortress—are home to souvenir shops, jewelry stores, small bars, and galleries.More
#7
Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos)

Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos)

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Located at the base of San Felipe Castle, the Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos) is a giant sculpture of a pair of old boots. A popular spot for a selfie, the monument was created by Hector Lombana Piñeres in response to the poem “Mi Ciudad Nativa” by local poet (and one of South America’s most respected writers) Luis Carlos López.More
#8
Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar)

Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar)

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As well as offering respite from Cartagena’s Caribbean heat with its leafy trees, Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar) is home to both the Palace of the Inquisition museum and the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu). In between museums, sample Colombian coffee and snacks from street vendors and admire the eponymous statue of Simon Bolivar at the square’s center.More
#9
Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu)

Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu)

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Opened in 1982, Cartagena's Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu) is dedicated to Colombia's indigenous Zenu people. Housed in a grand colonial building facing the Plaza Bolivar, the first room greets visitors with a pre-Hispanic golden jaguar and an ornate gold filigree butterfly. In fact, there are 538 gold pieces to see, as well as 61 carvings, including bone carvings, which you'll find in the next room — La Sociedad — dedicated to the body painting and textile traditions of the Zenú.The final exhibit, La Epoca Hidráulico, profiles the Zenú people's hydraulic engineering feats. It's estimated that, up to 2,500 years ago, half a million hectares of Panzenu land was cultivated with the aid of a vast network of hand-excavated canals that ran up to 4km long and 10 meters wide, making them some of the largest man-made features in the Americas. Cartagena’s Gold Museum also has an onsite bookshop and auditorium.More
#10
Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo)

Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo)

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Founded in 1534, Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia Santo Domingo) is the oldest church in Cartagena. As well as being notable for its marble altar and imposing central nave, the church boasts a prime location on Plaza Santo Domingo, where street vendors and al fresco cafes create a vibrant atmosphere.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 2 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 3 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 3 Days in Cartagena

Recent reviews from experiences in Cartagena

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El mejor experiencia!!!
Ben, Feb 2021
Discover Cartagena by Locals
We had such a great time getting behind the scenes of the basurero market and being welcomed into someone’s home to see how life really is.
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Cultural Experience
Good_Westindian, Feb 2021
Freedom Tour of Palenque
Great drive; got to see another side of Cartagena.
star-4
Hit all the spots with a knowledgeable guide
Angela_P, Jan 2021
Private City Tour of Cartagena
My husband and I did the afternoon tour with Nico who brought us to see the entrance to el reloj, walk through the graffiti streets of Getsemani, and the major attractions like the convent of la Popa and el castillo de san felipe.
star-4
Hitting the Cultural & Historical Highlights of Cartegena
Angela_P, Jan 2021
Private City Tour of Cartagena
Nico did a fine job of explaining each spot (in english) so we understood the importance of each landmark.
star-5
A unique, authentic Colombian experience!
DevinC, Dec 2020
Lodotherapy in the Totumo Volcano with Visit to Galerazamba
It was a great and affordable way to get out of Cartagena for a while to see more of the country!
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Good
vukoslav_c, May 2020
Wonderful Full-Day Tayrona Park Tour from Cartagena, Crystal Beach Sector.
Tayrona park is interesting but not enough time to visit other places in the patk only Cristal beach which was very bussy.
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Hop on hop
Charles_M, Mar 2020
City Sightseeing Cartagena Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour Shore Excursion
Great way to see as much historical of Cartagena, Columbia as you desire.
star-5
Great way to see the best beaches
Taylor_B, Feb 2020
Full-Day Rosario Islands Including Barú, Cholon and Playa Blanca
Great way to see rural areas outside the city on hour bus ride to playa banca.
star-5
Such a unique experience
Taylor_B, Feb 2020
Full-Day Mud Volcano and Indigena's Town (Galerazamba) from Cartagena
Great way to see some of colombia outside the city.
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Kayaking
lanizabor, Dec 2019
Cartagena In Kayak
The kayak trip was very enjoyable and it was fun to see the city of Cartagena from the water.
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Good Relaxing Tour
, Nov 2019
Cartagena City Tour
Roberto also gave great recommendations of things to do and see throughout the city!!
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Very fulfilling experience
Jonathan C, Oct 2019
Street Food Tour of Cartagena
Our tour guide, Cheo, spoke good English and explained some of the history of Cartagena.
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Highly Recommended!
dkl74, Oct 2018
Half-Day Tour of Cartagena by Air-Conditioned Vehicles
The tour with Nico was quite informative and he was very attentive to the English speaking audiences.
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So much to see and experience in...
jlamont, Dec 2017
City Sightseeing Cartagena Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
So much to see and experience in Cartagena!
star-5
As a whole, the tour was wonderful...
Sasha M, Mar 2018
Baru and Playa Blanca Transportation and Lunch from Cartagena
As an added bonus, he was able to communicate with us in English (a rarity in Cartagena) He took us to the most desolate part of Playa Blanca and we were able to use the amenities of a hostel.
star-4
The bus collected us from our hotel...
Rosie K, Jul 2017
Baru and Playa Blanca Transportation and Lunch from Cartagena
The long narrow beach was crowded but vibrant and it was really interesting to see this area out of Cartagena.
star-4
A very nice tour. I got to see many...
Kristofer A, Jun 2017
Cartagena City Tour with View from the Highest Point
I got to see many of the major tourist sites and got a good feel for the different areas/neighborhoods of Cartagena.
star-5
A great tour through local art...
Kristofer A, Jun 2017
Cartagena Art Tour
A great tour through local art galleries and to see some of the street art in the Getsemani neighborhood.
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Didn't expect to see as much as we...
TW_Suzy, Oct 2016
Half-Day Tour of Cartagena by Air-Conditioned Vehicles
Didn't expect to see as much as we did, but it was amazing to see Cartagena.
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My husband and I had William as our...
Manuella E, Mar 2017
Cartagena City Tour with View from the Highest Point
William has good english and is great at giving the background to the city.

All about Cartagena

When to visit

There’s no escaping the heat in Cartagena, but a winter visit reduces the chance of rain. Though crowds are guaranteed, December through February is an ideal time for hitting the beach, and winter also coincides with Hay Festival and Storyland. If you can stand the rain, an off-season visit from August through November promises fewer crowds and lower prices.

Frequently Asked Questions