The Ultimate Cartagena Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Are you looking for a Cartagena travel guide that covers everything you need to know about this amazing city? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll show you why Cartagena is one of the best destinations in Colombia and the Caribbean, and how you can make the most of your trip.
Cartagena is a beautiful and historic city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It has a rich and diverse culture that blends Spanish, African, and indigenous influences. It also has stunning beaches, natural wonders, and vibrant nightlife. Whether you’re interested in history, art, food, or adventure, Cartagena has something for everyone.
In this guide, I’ll share with you some of the best things to do in Cartagena, when to visit, how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and what to eat. By the end of this travel guide, you’ll be ready to plan your ultimate Cartagena trip.
Are you ready to discover the magic of Cartagena? Let’s get started!
Cartagena Best Time to Visit
One of the first things you need to consider when planning your Cartagena trip is when to visit. Cartagena is a tropical city that enjoys warm weather all year round. However, there are some variations in temperature, rainfall, humidity, and sunshine hours that can affect your travel experience.
Cartagena has two main seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season runs from December to April, and the rainy season runs from May to November. Specifically:
– The average temperature in Cartagena is around 28°C (82°F), but it can vary from 24°C (75°F) in January to 31°C (88°F) in June.
– Rainfall in Cartagena is around 1,000 mm (39 inches) on average per year. However, it can vary from 10 mm (0.4 inches) in February to 200 mm (7.9 inches) in October.
– The average humidity in Cartagena is around 80%, but it can vary from 75% in March to 85% in September.
– Sunshine hours in Cartagena are around 6 hours per day on average. Yet, they can vary from 5 hours in October to 8 hours in January.
Here is a table that shows the average temperature, rainfall, humidity, and sunshine hours for each month in Cartagena:
|20 mm (0.8 inches)
|10 mm (0.4 inches)
|20 mm (0.8 inches)
|60 mm (2.4 inches)
|120 mm (4.7 inches)
|150 mm (5.9 inches)
|140 mm (5.5 inches)
|160 mm (6.3 inches)
|180 mm (7.1 inches)
|200 mm (7.9 inches)
|100 mm (3.9 inches)
|40 mm (1.6 inches)
As you can see, there is no bad time to visit Cartagena. The weather is always warm and sunny. However, depending on your preferences and goals, some months may be better than others. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each season:
The dry season is the most popular and expensive time to visit Cartagena, as the weather is ideal for enjoying the beaches and outdoor activities. The city is also full of life and color, as there are many festivals and events that take place during this time, such as the Carnival of Cartagena in February, the International Film Festival in March, and Holy Week in April. However, the downside of the dry season is that it can get very crowded and hot, especially in January and February, when the temperatures can reach up to 31°C (88°F). You may also have to deal with higher prices and limited availability for accommodation and flights.
The rainy season is the least popular and cheapest time to visit Cartagena, as the weather can be unpredictable and wet. The city is also less busy and more relaxed, as there are fewer tourists and events. However, the upside of the rainy season is that you can enjoy lower prices and more availability for accommodation and flights. You can also experience a different side of Cartagena, as the rain brings out the lush greenery and freshness of the city. The rain also doesn’t last all day, so you can still enjoy some sunny spells and explore the attractions and features of Cartagena.
Based on this Cartagena travel guide information, my personal recommendation on when to visit the city is between March and May or between September and November. These are the shoulder seasons when the weather is still pleasant and dry, but not too hot or crowded. Additionally, you can find some good deals and discounts for accommodation and flights during these months. Plus, you can still enjoy some of the events and festivals that take place in Cartagena. For example, the International Music Festival in March, Independence Day in November, or the Jazz Festival in September.
Of course, this is just my opinion, and you may have different preferences and goals for your trip. Ultimately, you should choose the best time to visit Cartagena based on your own criteria and expectations.
How to Get to Cartagena?
One of the questions you may have when planning your Cartagena trip is how to get there. Cartagena is a major city and a popular tourist destination, so it has good connections with other cities in Colombia and abroad. You have three main options to get to Cartagena: by air, by bus, or by boat. In this section, I’ll compare these options and give you some details on each one, such as cost, duration, frequency, availability, etc. I’ll also provide you with some links or resources where you can find more information or book your tickets.
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Cartagena is by air. Cartagena has an international airport called Rafael Nunez International Airport (CTG), which is located about 5 km (3 miles) from the city center. The airport receives flights from many cities in Colombia, such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali, San Andres, etc. It also receives flights from some international destinations, such as Panama City, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Lima, etc.
You can check the flight schedules and prices on websites like WayAway. For example, a flight from Bogota to Cartagena takes about an hour and costs around $50-$100 USD one way. A flight from Miami to Cartagena takes about 2.5 hours and costs around $200-$300 USD one way.
Then, you can take a taxi or a bus from the airport to the city center. A taxi costs around $10-$15 USD and takes about 15 minutes. A bus costs around $1 USD and takes about 30 minutes.
The cheapest and most eco-friendly way to get to Cartagena is by bus. Cartagena has a main bus terminal called Terminal de Transportes de Cartagena (TTC), which is located about 11 km (7 miles) from the city center. The bus terminal receives buses from many cities in Colombia, such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, etc. Indeed, the bus is the main transportation that can be your companion in any Colombia itinerary.
You can check the bus schedules and prices on websites like 12Go. For example, a bus from Bogota to Cartagena takes about 20 hours and costs around $30-$40 USD one way. A bus from Medellin to Cartagena takes about 13 hours and costs around $20-$30 USD one way.
You can take a taxi or a bus from the bus terminal to the city center. A taxi costs around $10-$15 USD and takes about 20 minutes. A bus costs around $1 USD and takes about 40 minutes.
The most adventurous and scenic way to get to Cartagena is by boat. Cartagena is a port city and a gateway to the Caribbean Sea. It has several harbors and marinas where you can find boats that go to and from other destinations in the Caribbean, such as Panama, San Blas Islands, Rosario Islands, etc.
It’s a little more complicated when going to Cartagena by boat. You have to look for a ship operator in your nearest boat and then deal with the trip. Usually, a boat from Panama City to Cartagena takes about 5 days and costs around $750 USD one way. On the other hand, a boat from Rosario Islands to Cartagena takes about an hour and costs around $20-$30 USD one way.
These are the main options for getting to Cartagena by air, bus, or boat. Depending on your budget, time, and preferences, you can choose the one that suits you best. No matter how you get there, you’ll be amazed by the beauty and charm of this Caribbean city.
Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia
Cartagena is a city that offers a lot of attractions and activities for travelers of all interests and tastes. You can enjoy the history, culture, nature, and nightlife of this captivating city. In this travel guide, here are some of the best things to do in Cartagena:
One of the main attractions of Cartagena is its Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site that preserves the colonial architecture and charm of the city. You can explore the Old City Walls, the Plaza Santo Domingo, the Museo del Oro Zenú, and other monuments and museums in the area.
Another attraction in Cartagena is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a massive fortress that was built by the Spaniards in the 17th century. You can climb to the top of the castle and enjoy panoramic views of the city and the sea. You can also explore the complex system of tunnels that run through the base of the castle.
If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Cartagena, you can visit some of its museums and churches. Some of the most popular ones are the Palace of the Inquisition, the Naval Museum, the San Pedro Claver Church and Museum, and the Cathedral of Cartagena.
Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, which means it has some beautiful beaches to enjoy. You can find beaches within the city or outside it, depending on your preference.
- Some of the beaches within the city are Bocagrande Beach, La Boquilla Beach, and Marbella Beach. They are convenient and accessible, but also crowded and commercialized.
- Some of the beaches outside the city are Playa Blanca, Isla Grande, Tierra Bomba, and Rosario Islands. They are more secluded and natural but also require a boat ride or a car ride to get there.
Cartagena has a lot of activities to offer for travelers who want to have some fun and adventure. You can try some water sports, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, jet skiing, or sailing. In addition, you can go hiking, biking, horseback riding, or zip-lining in the nearby natural parks and reserves.
If you want to experience some local culture and traditions, you can join some tours or workshops that will teach you about Cartagena’s history, cuisine, music, dance, art, or crafts. You can also visit some nearby villages or communities that have a unique heritage and lifestyle.
The city has a lively and diverse nightlife scene that will suit any mood or taste. You can find bars, clubs, lounges, and pubs in different areas of the city, such as the Old City, Getsemaní, Bocagrande, or Manga. Besides that, you can enjoy a variety of music genres, from salsa and cumbia to reggaeton and electronic. You can also find some live music venues, karaoke bars, or comedy clubs for some entertainment.
If you want to have a more romantic or relaxing night, you can opt for some rooftop bars or terraces that offer stunning views of the city and the sea. Moreover, you can take a night tour or a carriage ride around the Old City and admire its illuminated beauty. You can also watch a sunset or a moonrise from the Old City Walls or the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
If you want to have a more cultural or festive night, you can check out some of the events and festivals that take place in Cartagena throughout the year. You can join the celebrations of the Hay Festival, the Barranquilla Carnival, the International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias, or the Cartagena Independence Day. You can also watch some performances of theater, dance, music, or art in some of the city’s venues or plazas.
Cartagena Boat Tours
Cartagena has a lot of boat tours to offer for travelers who want to explore the surrounding waters and islands. You can choose from different types of boats, such as yachts, catamarans, speedboats, sailboats, or kayaks. Furthermore, you can choose from different durations and destinations, such as half-day or full-day tours, or tours to Playa Blanca, Isla Grande, Tierra Bomba, or Rosario Islands.
Some of the benefits of taking a boat tour in Cartagena are:
- Enjoy the scenic views of the city and the coast from a different perspective.
- Escape the crowds and the heat of the city and relax on a boat with a fresh breeze and cold drinks.
- Discover some hidden gems and secluded spots that are only accessible by boat.
- Snorkel or swim in some of the best coral reefs and marine reserves in Colombia.
- Have some fun and adventure with some water sports or activities that are included in some boat tours.
Cartagena is a city that has a lot of food to offer. It has a rich and diverse cuisine that reflects its history and culture. It also has a variety of restaurants and street food stalls that cater to all kinds of palates and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a traditional dish, a fusion dish, or a vegetarian dish, you’ll find something that satisfies your taste and hunger in this city.
A traditional dish that you must try in Cartagena is the bandeja paisa. This is a hearty and filling dish that consists of rice, beans, plantains, avocado, arepa, egg, sausage, pork belly, and steak. It’s a typical dish from the Antioquia region of Colombia, but it’s also popular in Cartagena. You can find this dish at many restaurants and street food stalls in Cartagena.
Costs: around $10-$15 USD per person and serves one or two people.
A fusion dish that you must try in Cartagena is the ceviche. This is a fresh and tangy dish that consists of raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice, onion, cilantro, and chili. It’s a typical dish from the coastal regions of Latin America, but it’s also influenced by Asian cuisine. You can find this dish at many restaurants and street food stalls in Cartagena.
Costs: around $5-$10 USD per person and serves one or two people.
A vegetarian dish that you must try in Cartagena is the arepa de huevo. This is a crispy and fluffy dish that consists of a corn cake stuffed with egg and cheese. It’s a typical dish from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, but it’s also enjoyed by vegetarians and vegans. You can find this dish at many street food stalls in Cartagena.
Costs: around $1-$2 USD per person and serves one or two people.
These are some of the main food that you can try in Cartagena and how they can make your trip more delicious and enjoyable. You can try one or more depending on your mood and preference. You can also find more food online or at one of the many kiosks near the port. Let’s take a food tour and see what dishes are there waiting for you in Cartagena.
Cartagena Food Tour
If you’re a food lover, you’ll love Cartagena. Indeed, the city is a food lover’s paradise that has a rich and diverse cuisine that reflects its history and culture. Cartagena’s cuisine is influenced by the Caribbean, African, and indigenous flavors and ingredients that create a unique and delicious blend of dishes. Some of the best food and restaurants in Cartagena are seafood, arepas, sancocho, coconut rice, and more.
Cartagena is a coastal city that has a lot of seafood to offer. Thus, seafood is one of the main ingredients of Cartagena’s cuisine and it’s prepared in different ways and styles. You can find seafood dishes such as ceviche, fried fish, seafood rice, seafood soup, seafood stew, and more. You can also find seafood restaurants that serve fresh and local fish and shellfish that you can choose from a display or a menu.
Cartagena Best Restaurants for Seafood
One of the best places to try seafood in Cartagena is La Cevicheria. This is a small and cozy restaurant that specializes in ceviche, which is a dish made with raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice, onion, cilantro, and chili. You can choose from different types of ceviche, such as shrimp, octopus, tuna, salmon, lobster, etc. You can also choose from different sauces, such as coconut milk, passion fruit, mango, etc. The ceviche is served with plantain chips or popcorn and it’s fresh and tangy.
Another great place to try seafood in Cartagena is El Boliche Cebicheria. This is a modern and elegant restaurant that also specializes in ceviche, but with a fusion twist. You can find ceviche dishes that combine Peruvian and Japanese flavors and techniques. For example, tiradito (thinly sliced fish with sauce), nikkei (fish with soy sauce and sesame oil), or leche de tigre (fish with lime juice and spices). Moreover, you can find other seafood dishes such as grilled octopus, tuna tartare, or scallop carpaccio.
Cartagena is a city that has a lot of arepas to offer. Arepas are one of the most typical and popular dishes of Cartagena’s cuisine and they’re prepared in different ways and styles. Arepas are corn cakes that are grilled or fried and stuffed or topped with different fillings or toppings. You can find arepas such as cheese arepas (with cheese inside), egg arepas (with an egg inside), meat arepas (with meat on top), etc. You can also find arepa restaurants or street stalls that serve hot and crispy arepas that you can customize with your favorite fillings or toppings.
Cartagena Best Restaurants for Arepas
One of the best places to try arepas in Cartagena is La Esquina del Pandebono. This is a small and simple restaurant that serves delicious cheese arepas that are made with corn flour and cheese. The cheese arepas are grilled until golden and melted and they’re served with butter or sour cream. The cheese arepas are soft and cheesy and they’re perfect for breakfast or a snack.
Another great place to try arepas in Cartagena is Arepas Pues. This is a street stall that serves amazing egg arepas that are made with corn flour and egg. The egg arepas are fried until crispy and fluffy and they’re served with different sauces, such as garlic, cheese, or spicy. The egg arepas are crunchy and savory and they’re perfect for lunch or dinner.
Cartagena is a city that has a lot of sancochos to offer. Sancocho is one of the most traditional and hearty dishes of Cartagena’s cuisine and it’s prepared in different ways and styles. Sancocho is a soup or stew that is made with meat, vegetables, tubers, herbs, and broth. You can find sancocho dishes such as chicken sancocho, beef sancocho, fish sancocho, etc. You can also find sancocho restaurants or street stalls that serve hot and filling sancocho that you can enjoy with rice, avocado, or bread.
Cartagena Best Restaurants for Sancocho
One of the best places to try sancocho in Cartagena is La Cocina de Pepina. This is a cozy and colorful restaurant that serves authentic and homemade sancocho that is made with fresh and local ingredients. You can choose from different types of sancocho, such as pork sancocho, goat sancocho, or seafood sancocho. The sancocho is served in a clay pot and it’s rich and flavorful.
Another great place to try sancocho in Cartagena is La Mulata. This is a modern and trendy restaurant that serves fusion and creative sancocho that is made with exotic and gourmet ingredients. You can find sancocho dishes such as coconut sancocho, curry sancocho, or mango sancocho. The sancocho is served in a bowl and it’s light and refreshing.
Cartagena Coconut Rice
Cartagena is a city that has a lot of coconut rice to offer. Coconut rice is one of the most common and delicious dishes of Cartagena’s cuisine and it’s prepared in different ways and styles. Coconut rice is a dish that is made with rice, coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar. You can find coconut rice dishes such as plain coconut rice, mixed coconut rice, or sweet coconut rice. You can also find coconut rice restaurants or street stalls that serve fluffy and aromatic coconut rice that you can pair with different dishes or eat by itself.
Cartagena Best Restaurants for Coconut Rice
One of the best places to try coconut rice in Cartagena is La Casa de Socorro. This is a traditional and family-owned restaurant that serves classic and tasty coconut rice that is made with fresh and natural ingredients. You can order plain coconut rice or mixed coconut rice that comes with raisins, carrots, peas, and corn. Coconut rice is served with different dishes, such as fried fish, chicken stew, or meatballs.
Another great place to try coconut rice in Cartagena is La Paletteria. This is a cute and colorful ice cream shop that serves sweet and creamy coconut rice that is made with condensed milk and cinnamon. You can order sweet coconut rice or sweet coconut rice with cheese. The sweet coconut rice is served in a cup or a cone and it’s a perfect dessert or snack.
Where to Stay in Cartagena?
Choosing the right accommodation can make a big difference in your trip to Cartagena. You want to find a place that suits your budget, style, and location preferences. There are many factors to consider when booking a hotel or resort in Cartagena, such as:
- The proximity to the attractions and activities you want to do
- The amenities and services offered by the hotel or resort
- The reviews and ratings from previous guests
- The safety and security of the area
- The availability and cost of transportation
To help you narrow down your options, we have selected some of the best hotels and resorts in Cartagena that you can consider for your stay. These are:
- Casa India Catalina – A budget-friendly and comfortable hotel located in the Old City, with simple and colorful decor. It offers a pool, a terrace, and a breakfast area.
- Casa Movida Hostel – A fun and social hostel located in Getsemaní, with a graffiti art theme and a rooftop bar. It offers dorms and private rooms, a kitchen, a lounge, and a terrace.
- Hotel Capellán de Getsemaní – A charming and romantic hotel located in Getsemaní, with a colonial style and a tropical garden. It offers a pool, a terrace, a bar, and a restaurant. Airport shuttle included too.
- Casa Claver Loft Boutique Hotel – An apartment-style hotel located in the Old City, with spacious and modern lofts that have kitchens and living rooms. It offers two pools, a terrace, and a breakfast service.
- Hotel Casona del Colegio – A luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of the Old City, with a rooftop pool, spa, restaurant, and art gallery.
- Movich Hotels Cartagena de Indias – A modern hotel with a colonial charm, featuring a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city and the sea, a spa, a gym, and a restaurant.
- Casa Lola Luxury Collection – A chic and eclectic hotel located in Getsemaní, with a mix of colonial and contemporary decor. It offers two pools, a spa, a bar, and a restaurant.
- Hotel Casa San Agustin – A historic hotel that blends contemporary design with original features, such as frescoes and wooden beams. It offers a pool, a library, a bar, and a restaurant.
- Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo – A cozy and elegant hotel located in a colonial house near the Coliseo Theater. It offers a pool, a terrace, a bar, and a restaurant.
- Hyatt Regency Cartagena – A luxurious and modern hotel located in Bocagrande, with direct access to the beach. It offers a spa, a gym, three pools, a bar, and a restaurant.
Have a Great Trip To Cartagena!
Cartagena is a captivating city that offers a rich and diverse travel experience. Whether you are interested in history, culture, nature, or nightlife, you will find something to suit your taste in Cartagena.
You can also take advantage of the many events and festivals that take place in Cartagena throughout the year and immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.
We hope this guide has helped you plan your trip to Cartagena and given you some useful tips and recommendations. Cartagena is a city that will surprise you and enchant you with its beauty and charm. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this amazing destination and create unforgettable memories.
Are you ready to book your trip to Cartagena?
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