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Preserved by ancient fortifications built by the Spanish, Cartagena de Indias, commonly called Cartagena, is a stunning time capsule on the shores of the Caribbean. In recent years its colonial heart, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, has been meticulously restored by designers and entrepreneurs and Cartagena now ranks as one of the most stylish destinations in South America. World class music, film and literature festivals (Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez kept a home here), talented chefs and chic hotels and shops are luring those in search of seaside culture. Just don’t expect to hear much English.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…at the welcoming Casa San Agustin
  • Experience…the old world atmosphere and live Cuban music at clubby La Vitrola
  • Splurge…on a private boat to take you swimming near the Rosario Islands
  • Eat…at Vera where a protégé of Mario Batali prepares the city’s best Italian food
  • Drink…a mojito on the city walls at Café del Mar at sunset
  • Savor…the writings of Nobel-Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • See…many hand-crafted gold pieces from the 16th Century at the Zenú Gold Muesum
  • Shop…for stylish silk tops and dresses at Silvia Tcherassi’s boutique
  • Know…that as an Indagare member you can contact our Bookings Team for customized recommendations, reliable guides and drivers and tailored itineraries.

Lay of the Land

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
~Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Located on the northern coast of Colombia, Cartagena boasts a lively downtown area, access to pristine beaches and a long history. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the first Spanish colony in the Americas, and is home to the Spaniard’s finest military fortress: the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. The fort is a twenty-minute walk from the colonial-style walled city, within which most of the best hotels and restaurants reside. The tropical seaport looks out on the Caribbean Sea, and despite being somewhat unknown a decade ago, it is now an emerging destination for food, art and seaside lovers. Though it is on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is more of a tropical version of New Orleans with great music, food and architecture than a beach holiday resort since the city beaches are not appealing.

When to Go
Cartagena is the biggest tourist destination in Colombia; thus, the city is quite busy during the winter holidays. But due to a Caribbean climate, the weather is great year-round, so travelers looking for a quiet getaway can go during less busy months. The old city is best explored on foot, although taxis are available.

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Beyond… Cartagena

Consider combining your trip with one of these destinations.

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