On a cruise to Cartagena, Colombia, you’ll discover the essence of this coastal city just moments after you disembark. It’s not hard to fall in love with Colombia’s energy, its friendly locals, and the sheer variety of things to do here. Cartagena is a city of castles and walls, where historic sights like the Walled City and Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas provide a glimpse into the city’s founding in the 16th century.
Wander through the bustling Plaza San Domingo and the Walled City. Visit the Palace of the Inquisition, a museum dedicated to cataloging the history of the Inquisition. If you’re craving an active adventure on your Caribbean cruise, head to Rosario Island for swimming, scuba diving, and exploring one of the area’s 27 coral reefs. After a satisfying day, enjoy a cocktail at the famed waterfront restaurant, Cafe del Mar. Don’t leave without sampling fresh seafood or the country’s world-famous arepa. Whatever you choose, Cartagena is an ideal destination for every speed of vacation.
If you’re curious about the history of the Inquisition and Cartagena’s intense history surrounding this period, head to the Palace of the Inquisition for an informative peek back in time. A guided tour provides plenty of history and context to soak up this piece of Colombian history.
As one of the most famous restaurants in Cartagena, La Cevicheria has been profiled by the late Anthony Bourdain and many others. Experience Colombian ceviche from the coast of Cartagena in a laid-back atmosphere.
Cartagena is known for its beautiful castles and colonial-inspired decor. Take a tour of the city’s most famous sight, the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
No cruise to Cartagena, Colombia is complete without experiencing the coral reefs of nearby Rosario Islands. As part of Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, these islands are protected natural wonders.
Experience the energy of Cartagena at the Plaza Santo Domingo, a prime people-watching spot. Eat lunch or grab a drink at one of the outdoor restaurants and snap a photo of the Botero sculpture before exploring the rest of the Old Town.
Cartagena has one of the best-preserved walled cities in the world. The city’s fortifications were originally designed to protect it from a land or sea invasion. Take a walking tour to learn the significance of the Walled City, or stop for a photo op in front of hundreds of years of history.
Cartagena’s food scene is known for its mix of flavors, from seaside fish to locally grown beef. In Colombia, street food is a must-try experience, whether you’re sipping fresh fruit juice or eating a hot, delicious arepa. Another staple of the Colombian culinary scene is the empanada, perfect for a quick snack. Ceviche, a dish made from raw and cooked fish, is a popular street food. If you’d prefer an upscale dining experience, head to the famous Cafe del Mar for drinks, La Cevicheria for paella and seafood specials, or El Burlador Gastrobar for tapas and cocktails.
Cartagena began to flourish as a trading town in the 15th century when Spain used the area for international trade between the “old” and “new” worlds. Before that, the area was settled by indigenous Caribs and other native groups. Though deadly fires and pirate attacks plagued the city in the 16th century, Cartagena continued to grow and thrive under Spanish rule until the 19th century, when the residents of Cartagena took a chance and declared themselves independent from Spain. Today, Cartagena is one of Colombia’s biggest cities and a hub for local and international visitors.
The port has existed since the 15th century as a major hub for exports between Spain and the areas under Spanish colonial rule. On your cruise to Cartagena, Colombia, you’ll find that the port is centrally located. You’ll be a short walk to many major sights downtown. There’s a shuttle bus available to the historic center of town. Within the cruise port, there is a cafe, gift shop, and stands where you can arrange private day tours.
If you’re sticking close to the city center and the port while docked on your cruise to Cartagena, Colombia, you’ll find plenty to see and do. Cartagena also has a robust bus system for travelers who are there for a longer period of time. Buses regularly take trips just beyond the city to smaller towns and other sights. Taxis here are generally affordable and can get you across the city faster than if you try to navigate the bus system. Shore excursions typically include transportation.
There are some standard gift shops and souvenir stands near the cruise port, but these can be a little pricier than if you go into Cartagena and do a little bit of digging for souvenirs. Colombian coffee and handmade hats and jewelry from Cartagena are popular gifts.
During your time in Colombia, you’ll use the Colombian peso as your main form of currency. Be sure to exchange your money in accredited institutions, which are often called casas de cambio. When shopping at markets, you can sometimes haggle with vendors. Be sure to double-check your bill before tipping at a restaurant. Some already provide a service charge that’s the equivalent of a 15% tip. You don’t have to leave a tip for taxi drivers in Colombia.