Get your sunglasses ready, because Cartagena is a riot of colour, charisma and Caribbean charm. The best way of seeing the city is by foot and soaking up the uniquely South American atmosphere. Stroll through the jumble of cobbled streets, step back in time, and enjoy one of the Caribbean’s loveliest destinations.
Cartagena was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 as a shining example of an extensive and complete system of military fortifications in South America. The city’s strategic location, on a secluded bay facing the Caribbean Sea, meant that it was an essential stop from Europe to the West Indies during the time of commercial and naval exploration. Vestiges of this time are still to be found on the walls of several of the beautiful buildings lining the streets of the old town. The magnificent city is a walled fortress that stretches for 11 kilometres, dating from 1533 and once played host to Sir Francis Drake, who passed through in 1586 (and set fire to 200 buildings during his visit).
Despite its 16th century roots, Cartagena today is a modern and glorious riot of colour. Fuchsia pink bougainvillea tumbles down from turquoise painted balconies, while well-preserved colonial buildings painted in vibrant colours line the streets. Take shelter from the heat and enjoy the sensual atmosphere that is so exclusively Colombian by grabbing a seat in a local bar, ordering a plate of Empanadas and enjoying a Guaro—the colloquial name for aguardiente — the country’s national spirit.