The one thing to do in Cartagena that I completely undervalued was the heat! You don’t know what hot is until you head to the Colombian coast. Once you arrive in Cartagena and find yourself inside the old city you will soon realize how magical the city really is.
The once powerful Spanish city is home to thousands of tourists which also brings some unwanted attention. Don’t feel uncomfortable if you are offered drugs or even prostitution. They are generally very candid and ask nicely without using much force. Cartagena is also only a few hours from the city of Santa Marta which can provide a whole new batch of things to do.
Colombia is one of my favorite countries and I have spent a considerable time traveling through the country. You will see plenty of information on this travel blog about both Cartagena and Colombia. Here are the top things to do in Cartagena:
You will be amazed by all of the architecture and culture inside the Old City Walls. Make sure to bring extra water and wear extra sun block for the scorching sun. Try visiting the old city either early in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid overheating. There are tons of churches and architecture to marvel at.
Cartagena could be the most visited city in all of South America if it was marketed correctly due to the old city. The place is incredible and has a certain charm to it. The only issue is the heat which is stifling. I talk in more detail about the things to see & visit in my travel guides.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas;
The massive castle fort was used as protection since the city used to be rich with minerals and often a target to thieves. Explore the tunnels inside and don’t forget to get a picture of the massive Colombian Flag at the top.
The only other place in Colombia that can say it has better beaches is the island of San Andres. BocaGrande Beach is the easiest to access in the city and Playa Blanca is just outside the city. I seriously considered moving to Cartagena because of the charm of the Old City and beaches while on my hunt for a city in Colombia that had high standards for living overseas, I ended up deciding to live in Medellin which was a great decision.
There are tons of small beach towns that you can check that are great for visiting and meeting locals. On the coast between Cartagena and Barranquilla you can visit these small towns and get a taste of what small town life is like while enjoying the beaches of the Caribbean. One of my favorite things to do in Colombia that I have shared on my travel blog is to go Pueblo Hunting.
The Colombian coast is known for its pristine waters for diving, especially in the nearby city of Taganga. You can also find the Islas de Rosario (Rosario Islands) which are a chain of islands just outside Cartagena via boat. It is one of the cheapest places to both dive and get your PADI diving certificate. I was able to get my basic diving certificate in Taganga and I got my advanced diving certificate on the beaches of Madagascar.
Mud Bath at Volcan del Totumo:
The Mud Bath in Cartagena is probably the second most popular thing to do outside of the Old City. The volcano is called Totumo and it is roughly an hour outside of the city very close to the Industrial city of Barranquilla.