Whether you’re a weekend tourist or a seasoned backpacker, you won’t run out of things to do in Cartagena, Colombia. Thanks to its Spanish, indigenous, and modern influences, the city has something to offer for everyone.
With its rich history, colorful architecture, and active nightlife, its no wonder that Cartagena is a tourist magnet. In fact, some tourists say that a quick trip to the city has convinced them to explore the rest of South America.
Just like most tourist cities, there are a lot of things you can do in Cartagena. Just a quick search online and you’ll be flooded with about hundreds of recommendations. Some of them are really worth the money and effort while others are just meh.
To help you make the most out of your stay, we’ve rounded up this list of the most recommended activities when visiting this historic city.
1. Take a Walking Tour Around the Walled City
Locally known as La Ciudad de Amurallada, the Walled City of Cartagena, Colombia should be the first on your list. In fact, it should be on every visitor’s list.
Constructed by the Spanish to protect the city from pirates, the great stone walls have stood the test of time. Now, it has become one of Colombia’s most famous tourist attractions.
You can take a DIY walking tour or sign up for the free walking tours that some locals are offering. Or if you want a bit of time travel, you can also tour the city while atop a horse-drawn carriage. Aside from the sensory overload, you’ll also learn a lot about the city’s colonial history.
2. Explore Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
Covering an entire hill, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in any of their colonies. With its complicated network of tunnels, the bastion has proved impregnable. Many have attempted to storm it over the centuries no one succeeded.
Today, some of the tunnels are accessible to visitors. You can take an audio tour or hire a local guide for just a little over $4.
3. Discover the Incredible Street Arts at Getsemani
Getsemani may have had a not-so-safe reputation a few years back. But it has now become Colombia’s street art hub. Just a quick stroll around this neighborhood and you’ll be treated to a deluge of incredible and thought-provoking street arts. If you want to take a break from the heat, there are also lots of streetside coffee shops offering the famed Colombian coffee.
4. Buy Fruit From The Palenqueras
The palenqueras are a fixture in Cartagena streets and they’re often hard to miss. Sporting colorful clothes and balancing bowls of fruits on their heads, these women ply the city streets to earn a living. If you want to take a picture, you can just give them a tip or buy fruits from them. Even if you don’t want a photo, buying from them would certainly help a lot.
5. Hit the Beach
Cartagena is right smack in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. So if you’re visiting the city, going to the beach is inevitable. And I’m guessing it’s probably not something you’ll want to miss.
If you’re looking for white sand and a lesser crowd, you won’t find it in Cartagena. Most of the city’s beaches are almost always crowded. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the visit. If you’re looking for a quick dip, there are a lot of beaches right in the city you can visit.
6. Island Hopping Tour
If you really want to get a feel of the Caribbean, an island hopping tour will definitely give you that. And make sure not to miss Islas Del Rosario, one of the most recommended island-hopping destination in this side of the world.
You can sign up for a group tour with an English-speaking guide. Or rent a boat and tour the islands yourself. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
7. Study Spanish
Colombians have always prided themselves with their standard Spanish accent and pronunciation. So if you’re planning to explore the rest of Latin America, Cartagena is a great place to improve your Spanish. Or at least get rid of that awful Gringo accent. Spanish lessons go from $5 an hour and can be done in groups or individually.
8. Dance the Night Away
Dancing is a big part of Colombian culture. Aside from the famous salsa, the country is home to a host of other traditional dances. This includes champeta, bullerengue, joropo, and porro. So if you’re looking to get your groove, Cartagena is the best place to dance the night away.
9. Enjoy the Caribbean Sunset
Ever imagined yourself sipping rum or pina colada while looking at the Caribbean sunset? Well, if you’re in Cartagena, it won’t remain an imagination for long. Just head on to Cafe del Mar to get a spectacular view of the Caribbean sunset. It might be a bit pricey in there but it’s totally worth it.