Cartagena is a city in Colombia located on the Caribbean coast. Cartagena offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;
- Historic center, Plaza de los Coches and the clock tower
- San Felipe de Barajas castle
- Cartagena city walls
- La India Catalina statue
- Los Zapatos Viejos
- Rosario Islands
- Las Bovedas
- San Pedro Claver church
- Cartagena Catehdral
- Many museums
If you’ve been to Bogotá or Medellín and enjoyed the eternal spring climates then you’ll encounter a big change arriving in Cartagena. Cartagena is the coast, Cartagena is the Caribbean! It gets very hot here during the day and has a very tropical feel, even more so with how the locals dress and look. The people of Cartagena are called Costeños by those of other parts of Colombia.
How good is your Spanish? Good luck understanding the Costeño accent!
There are 3 mains areas you could stay in Cartagena, all offering many bars and restaurants;
- Historic Center – The most expensive part to stay, but right inside the walled center.
- Getsamani – This is where backpackers stay, a short walk from the city walls.
- Bocagrande – There are some famous hotel chains here and a beach but it’s a short bus or taxi ride away.
It’s possible to walk around the historic center on the ancient walls. During this walk, you’ll enjoy great views of the historic center, Bocagrande, the castle and the Caribbean sea. The famous place to go to watch the beautiful sunset over the Caribbean sea is Cafe Del Mar which is located on city walls. Outside the restaurant here are street vendors walking around selling cold beers (you need to haggle the price) if you don’t wish to go in the restaurant to watch the sunset.
You should definitely pay a visit to the San Felipe de Barajas castle, just not in the middle of the day when it’s incredibly hot. As well as a castle it’s a super fort, the most significant fort built in the new world by the Spanish. Its quite a walk to get to the top but worth it for the panoramic views of the city and of course the castle.
It is probably best to take a taxi to the Castle but you can also walk to it. If you do decide to walk to the castle I’d recommend passing the India Catalina monument and los zapatos viejos on the way.
There is a pirate ship in Cartagena called Galeon Bucanero. As Cartagena is a city famous for pirates it’s worth a quick look at the ship. For photographers a pirate ship makes for great photography.
Not far from the Galeon Bucanero you’ll find the port for boats to the Rosario Islands. I would recommend arriving at the port before 9am to find a boat. You could even go the day before and see what can be organised for the next day. Another method of visiting the islands would be to take a tour or catch the bus.
The next stage of my trip was originally to go from Colombia to Panama over the land route, crossing the infamous Darien Gap. I had read that this route was potentially quite dangerous and had been been thinking of getting a sailboat as a safer alternative. In many of the hostels of Getsamani, there are advertisements for these sailboat services. They vary from 3-6 night trips to Colón, Panama often passing through and stopping in the picture perfect islands of San Blas.
I decided that because I had such a good time on my Celebrity Cruise to Antarctica, I should check for a cruise to Panama. I was lucky enough to find the Spanish speaking Pullmantur cruise which had an itinerary of Cartagena, Aruba, Curaçao, Caracas and Panama City. The price is not much different to the sailboats and the cruise is all inclusive (including alcoholic drinks). Although I’d miss visiting the San Blas islands, I’d visit Aruba and Curaçao as well as Caracas, Venezuela.