The Colombian Caribbean
Cartagena de Indias, el corazón del Caribe
Distinguished by its 1600 kilometre coast, islands and archipelagos, the Colombian Caribbean offers its visitors everything from mountainous plains capped with snow all year round, to delightful pink coral reefs for those that love the aquatic world.

The warm and transparent waters of the Caribbean sea, the perpetual summer climate and the white sand beaches mix with the warm spirit of its people making the Colombian Caribbean the heart of Latin America and an ideal tropical destination, for all those that really want to get to know Latin American culture and the wealth of its history reflected in the Colonial Architecture and the remains of pre Columbine civilisations.

The region possesses large expanses of 132.288km2 that correspond to 11,6% of the total land area of Colombia. Politically and administratively it is defined by its Atlantic departments, the capital Barranquilla, Bolívar, the capital Cartagena de Indias, Cesar, the capital of Valledupar, Sincelejo the capital of Sucre, Cordoba, capital Monteria, Magdalena, capital of Santa Marta, La Guajira, capital of Riohacha and the San Andres and Providence archipielago. In these eight departments you’ll find 182 districts, 1093 alterations and 493 hamlets.

Each one of the departments has great areas for exploration where you’ll come across impressive, varied scenery and natural contrasts. The folkloric festivals, craftwork and cookery come together as the identifying seal that links together the eight sectors of this region.

Cartagena de Indias is without doubt the most visited destination on the Colombian Caribbean, declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1984, its hotel infrastructure is designed to cater for the thousands of travellers that come from all over the world, aiming to provide them with all they need to enjoy their holidays on the tropical shores of the warm quiet and legendary Caribbean Sea.

Our history

Cartagena de Indias is without doubt one of the most beautiful bays in America. Surrounded by islands, swamps and lagoons it was the seat of the indigenous Kalamari village. Don Pedro de Heredia founded the city on the 1st of June 1533 and thanks to its strategic placing it rapidly became the point of entry for the interior of the country, it soon became a prosperous city with beautiful streets, houses and cloisters.

The fame of this prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, which is why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city.

This construction took 208 years, and ended with some eleven kilometres of walls surrounding the city, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, constructed to repel land attacks, equipped with sentry boxes, buildings for food and weapons storage, underground tunnels that could be upto 25 metres deep, and as strong as the San Sebastian de Pastelillo, the San Angel battery in Tierra Bomba, el Fuerte de San Fernando and the San Jose battery in Bocachica are must sees for all tourists.

The most notable religious architectural sites are the Cathedral, the church and the cloister of San Pedro Claver, the Santo Domingo church and the Popa monastery, built at the beginning of the 17th century situated at the top of a little hill. Other interesting sites include the Inquisition Palace, the Colonial Museum and the Historic Archive of Cartagena de Indias, the Plaza de las Bóvedas and the Museo del Oro amongst others.

For more than 250 years, Cartagena was part of the Spanish Crown, on 11 November 1811, Cartagena declared its independence, and began another chapter in its history that has been anything but easy, its title ‘The Heroic City’ is well earned and reflects the life of the city.

Throughout its 471-year history Cartagena has experienced periods of prosperity and hardship, every street, every house, every church has a different story that should be heard. Each and every one of the historic places of our city, explained by authorised guides, tell incredible stories, which enable tourists to get to know the source of our history.

Cartagena de Indias in the XXI century

Today Cartagena de Indias, declared as the alternative seat of the central government in Colombia, is a beautiful city that perfectly combines its history and culture with an industrial force that makes it renowned especially in the petrochemical and agro-industrial area.

It is considered an excellent tourist city, continually visited by people from all over the world. Cartagena de Indias has a hotel infrastructure that allows it to host important international events, such as World Summits for Presidents and the International Cinema Festival. Today it is the venue for the US TLC negotiations.

Alongside its tourist development, its strategic placing today makes it the most important port in Colombia, and one of the most important in América, receiving cargo ships every day and cruise ships from all over the world.

Its industrial zone has more than 124 industrial firms, which export products to all over the world. Its main tourist areas are the beaches of El Laguito and Bocagrande, destinations for all those that love the sun and aquatic sports, surrounded by restaurants, cafes, discos and hotels that cater for all tastes and requirements. Its beaches are filled with the taste of fresh fruits that ‘palenqueras’, women that carry bowls of coconut, bananas, mango, watermelon, papaya, melon and pineapple.

Cartagena de Indias is also a suitable place sports fans, where windsurfing and yachting can be carried out in the seas; and its beaches host important volleyball, softball and mini football tournaments.

45 km to the Southwest of the Cartagena de Indias bay and about two hours in boat you’ll find the Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario that covers 119.506 hectares and is seen as the main underwater park in the country.

This small archipelago of little islands and coral pink keys make up a complex of 30 islands. Some of these offer accommodation and aquatic sports facilities such as diving, sailing, sports fishing and deep sea diving. The park possesses mangrove swamps, 52 different types of coral, and 215 fish and 31 sea birds, as well as a variety of mollusks, crustaceans, algaes and sponges.

The San Martin Island of Pajarales possesses an interesting aquarium with representative species of the Colombian Caribbean where you can appreciate everything from little fish upto dolphins and sharks.


San Felipe de Barajas Castle

Situated outside the walled grounds, this monumental fort is considered to be the most distinguished Spanish military engineering feet in America. Its construction began in 1536 and lasted 121 years. All of which was carried out and built by African slave labour. The San Felipe de Barajas Castle is filled with mystery. Visit it and get to know the history of Cartagena, its people and how life once was.

The Popa Monastery

Previously called the ‘Popa del Galeon’ this former monastery situated at the peak of the Cerro de La Popa can be seen from anywhere in Cartagena and, sometimes, offers a privileged view of the city. Built at the beginning of the XVII century under the direction of Fray Alonso de la Cruz, this imposing building still inhabited by monks, was used at various times in its history as a fort due to its excellent location. In its interior you can appreciate a colonial museum and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Mullein, patron saint of Cartagenan people.

The Marqués de Valdehoyos house

This immense colonial mansion in Factoria Street was built for this legendary marquis, a wealthy businessman from slaves and flour, who inspired Gabriel García Márquez, creating the character of father Sierva María in his novel Del amor y otros demonios. The house, built at the beginning of the XVII century, has a variety of rooms with various patios and gardens. Of particular interest are the double balconies, the Mozarabic decorated ceiling of the main living room, the slaves chamber, the first floor stables and the viewpoint from the snail staircase offers a fine view of the sea and the walled city. Parts of the French furniture are still preserved.

The Rafael Núñez museum

In this house in the Cabrero district, belonging to Soledad Roman Polanco’s wife, lived and died one of the most illustrious Cartagenians of all time.

President of the Republic three times, author of the national anthem and responible for the 1886 construction, Nuñez lived a large part of his prolific life in this large mansion amidst spectacular architecture.

The Vaults

Built around the XVIII century, distinguished by 47 arches at mid point and giving way to 43 vaults, which allows the discovery of part of the fort’s military constructions and its double function as a storage centre for the city’s defence system, and a place for protecting men and horses against the Cartagena sun. Today it boasts the richest showcase of craftwork production in Cartagena and Colombia as a whole.

The San Pedro Claver Cloister

The San Pedro Claver Cloister, with its arches and its beautiful church dedicated to the protector of slaves, constitutes another of the interesting attractions of the walled city.

The Inquisition

The history of this building gained notoriety in 1610 when the Spanish Crown judged it necessary to establish the terrible Inquisition tribunal in Cartagena with the aim of combating heresy and, in particular, the practice of witchcraft. Under these suspicions countless people were tortured had their wealth confiscated, suffered exile or were burned at the stake. In 1755 the Inquisition started constructing the imposing building that was finished in 1770 and which is distinguished by it enormous Baroque gate. Inside the colonial palace you can go over the colonial room, the Inquisitor’s chambers, the torture chamber and the witch’s block.

The San Sebastian del Pastelillo fort

It is a low military structure, preserved in mint condition by the Fishing Club situated in the Manga Island that has an excellent view of the walled city and its bay.

The Gold Museum

Opened by the Banco de la República, in 1982 opening the doors to the public in Cartagena de Indias, with a gold and ceramic collection from the main pre Columbine cultures. It contains the most beautiful testimony to the Zenu culture. Throughout the different rooms visitors are able to appreciate the works of this indigenous group. The collection is composed of 538 pieces of gold workings, 61 ceramic pieces, twelve pieces of liticos, 48 shells and six pieces of bone.

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