Old Town Cartagena

7 Unmissable Things To Do In Cartagena

Founded in 1533, Colombia’s colourful coastal city of Cartagena has plenty to offer eager travellers. From exploring the walled city to catching a party bus with locals, there are more than a few things to do in Cartagena.

The walled fortress used to repel pirates, but today it acts as a way to preserve the historical buildings and landmarks that call Cartagena home.

Ready to explore one of the most vibrant cities in Colombia? Here are seven absolutely unmissable things to do in Cartagena.

The best tings to do in CartagenaHow do these rankings work?

1. Get lost in the Old Town

Walking tours are a great way to get to know pretty much any city in the world. Cartagena, however, is best explored on your own.

Take your time getting lost in the maze of cobblestone streets and beautiful colonial buildings. 

You could spend an entire day exploring the charm of Old Town Cartagena, which is great considering there are a lot of great bars, restaurants, and coffee shops there for when you need to take a break.

Old Town Cartagena

2. Visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas

The Castle of San Felipe is the crowning landmark of Cartagena, and once you make your way up to the top it’s easy to see why.

What once served as the perfect vantage point to view both land and sea now serves as the perfect photo spot for eager tourists looking for a great shot of Cartagena’s port.

Make sure to check out the underground passageways if you have time, as they’re just as impressive as the exterior of the castle.

San Felipe Castle Cartagena

3. Catch Some Sun at Playa Blanca

It only takes 45 minutes by boat to reach Baru Island, which is where you’ll find the beautiful white sand beaches of Playa Blanca.

If you’re spending more than a few days on the coast, then this is absolutely one of the most important things to do in Cartagena. 

Crystal clear waters lap lullingly onto the white beach, which makes for the perfect white noise as you sip from a fresh coconut filled with rum.

White Sand Beach in Cartagena, Colombia

4. Buy fruit from a Palenquera

If you’ve browsed through the Cartagena tag on Instagram then you’ve almost undoubtedly seen a photo of a palenquera

These women sell fruit on the streets of Cartagena, and they’re almost always dressed in traditional fare. The story behind these hard-working women is something you should ask a local about. It just goes to show how strong and resilient the people of Cartagena are.

Purchase fruit from a palenquera to give back to the local culture and get a great photo for your Insta feed.

Fruit Lady in Cartagena

5. Hop on a Chiva Bus

After taking one look at a chiva bus, it’s pretty clear that Colombians know how to party. Alcohol and Vallenato music ooze out of these party buses as they drive you around the city day and night.

If you’re travelling solo, this can be a great way for you to meet other travellers or even locals. 

6. Take a Mud Bath in the El Totumo Volcano Crater

Legend says the El Totumo volcano used to spew hot lave until a local priest turned it into mud by using holy water.

Whether or not that’s true is up for debate, but one thing’s for certain – this is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Cartagena.

You’ll have to take a bus to get to the volcano, as it’s a bit outside of the actual city. Once you’re there, you’ll head up the stairs and then down into the mud-filled crater of the former volcano.

7. Explore art in Getsemani

If Madrid has Malasaña and London as Brick Street, then Cartagena’s response is the vibrant and artistic neighbourhood of Getsemani.

You absolutely can’t miss the chance to explore this neighbourhood and all of the colourful street art that it holds. Make sure to stop and visit the local shops and coffee bars. 

Then, head back at night to do some dirty dancing with the locals. Getsemani is home to some of Cartagena’s best bars.

Elizabeth Thorn

Elizabeth has lived and worked in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, all of which have contributed to her passion for travel writing. When she's not writing, you can find her exploring little hideouts in Colombia or watching photography tutorials on YouTube.

Contact: [email protected]

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