The New Worlds Cartagena
The city of Cartagena, Colombia is a place of contrasts between historic and modern and poverty and wealth. The city is located on a large natural bay with a peninsula that extends out into the Bay of Cartagena. The early Spaniards in the Caribbean made the bay their largest port in the New World and named the city after the city of Cartagena in Spain.
Where Your Ship Docks
The Cartagena cruise terminal can handle up to five cruise ships at a time with good public facilities and a port shopping area with numerous stores and attractions. The distance from the terminal into the historic Old Town is about 3.5 miles.
Taxis are readily available and very inexpensive. A taxi into the Old Town from the cruise port is under US$10. Cartagena is geographically a large city and probably the best way to experience the city with just a day in port is to take a tour. The city does have a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour (under US$20 per person) that covers the historic old town and some major beaches. Rental cars are inexpensive but there are no offices near to the port area. The U.S. State Department currently recommends that Americans avoid renting cars and driving in the city because of road conditions and major traffic.
Colombia’s currency is the peso (COP). With 1 US Dollar = 3,950 Colombian Pesos. It’s important to understand that the prices in Colombia are marked with a dollar sign, so be sure to remember that the prices you see are in Colombian pesos. Major credit cards are welcome and ATMs are available but be aware of your surroundings and use caution when using them.
The city’s walled 17th century Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Geographically the city is large, so if you want to see many of the more distinctive sites, it would be best to consider a shore excursion.
The main beaches of Cartagena are Boca Grande and La Boquilla with both surrounded by modern skyscrapers giving the area the look of Miami Beach but be aware if you go off on your own the aggressive street sellers can be pretty obnoxious.
Cartegana’s historic walled city is city’s major attraction. Stunning architecture, beautifully restored buildings, covers an extensive area in the historical center of the city. Narrow streets empty into restaurant filled squares and open parks. It’s common for small bands set up in restaurants and stroll the plazas. Don’t miss taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the colonial city as carriages outnumber cars inside the old city.
Just outside the walled city is the Getsemani neighborhood. The Plaza de la Trinidad named after the church of the Holy Trinity, founded in 1643, is the most popular square in the area. It features street vendors selling food, numerous street performers, and people sitting on the steps of Iglesia de la Trinidad.
The Catedral Santa Catalina de Alejandria dates to 1612 and has been completely restored. Across the street is the Plaza Bolivar famous for artists selling their works.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a short distance from the walls of the city and is one of the greatest colonial forts built in the new world. Famous for its extensive tunnel system and massive triangular shape this Spanish fort is unique in the Caribbean.
The Museo del Oro Zenu is located on the Plaza Bolivar. This museum is dedicated to the history of the native Zenu people and the importance of gold in their culture. The collection houses some 500 pieces of gold carved into shapes like a golden jaguar and filigree butterfly. The Zenu civilization is over 2,500 years old and besides their incredible gold work they are known to have built a vast network of canals.