Cartagena is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia. It is located in north-western South America.
Between the first and second main gates, is an area called Getsemani. It circles the Old Town and has lively, cafes, shops and bars.
The heart of the Old Town is the prettiest part, through the second gate heading left toward the Plaza de Bolivar, past the fountains until a gigantic bronze statue of South America’s liberator, Simon de Bolivar, can be seen above the treetops.
In the square, there is the Museo del Oro y Arqueologia (Gold Museum), and nearby is Cartagena’s 16th century cathedral.
Stroll through the narrow streets of the two Old Town districts – El Centro and San Diego, to discover colonial churches, monasteries and palaces.
There are plenty of restaurants here and a variety of shops selling souvenirs including locally produced watercolours of Cartagena.
The peaceful 17th century Convento de San Pedro Claver has small museum (chargeable). Next door is the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver.
The spooky Palacio de la Inquisicion (Plaza de Bolivar) offers a darker look into history. The main exhibition room contains pillories, a rack and a variety of rusting torture implements whilst outside there are gallows and a chopping block.
The nearest beach from the port is La Boquilla, which lies about 8km north of Cartagena and is easily reached by taxi. The pretty white sands beach at Playa Blanca is about 22km south of the old town.
Good snorkelling can be found in the Rosario Islands, about 30km south of Cartagena.
Cuisine ranges from Creole, French, Spanish and Italian, to street vendors selling simple snacks such as ‘butifarras’ (small barbecue-flavoured meatballs), ‘bunuelos’ (cheese balls) and ‘arepas de huevo’ (fried dough balls with an egg inside).
The disabled cruiser visiting Cartagena
Where You’re Docked
Cruise ships dock in the Port of Cartagena. Shuttles are available to take you to the port gates (it is possible to walk however). There is a lovely landscaped park area with an indoor/outdoor cafe, shops and picnic tables.
Taxis are available from here to take you into Old Cartagena, a 15 minute drive away.
Good to Know
Cartagena is beautiful and clean, and most locals are friendly, but take usual caution. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or flashing large amounts of cash. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid any fruits or vegetables without peels, and stay away from fountain drinks or drinks with ice in them. (Sin hielo, por favor means “no ice, please.”)
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency in Cartagena is the peso, but U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted everywhere. If you run short, an ATM is located at the port.
Spanish is widely spoken in Cartagena, but most vendors, store operators and attraction employees will be able to speak enough English to communicate with you. If you catch a taxi in port, it’s likely the driver will know a decent amount of English. That said, it’s a good idea to download a translation app to your phone or bring an English-Spanish phrasebook with you.
If you’re a java-lover, pick up some authentic Colombian coffee. You’ll find the best prices at local grocery stores, but you can buy it just about anywhere at kiosks throughout the areas that are geared to tourists. If coffee isn’t your beverage of choice, opt for a nice piece of jewelry instead. Emeralds are one of Colombia’s claims to fame, and you can snag some great deals. Just be sure you’re buying from a reputable establishment.
Points of Interest
- Cartagena – a seven-
Cartagena Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
Cartagena Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible