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Things to do in Cartagena

Things to do in  Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena

Founded in 1533 as a center of the Spanish empire, Cartagena developed into a sea of colors and a UNESCO World Heritage site within the colonial walled city. City tours–by car, foot, or even horse-drawn cart–take visitors through the cobbled streets and to the famous San Felipe fortress. Focused tours shine light on the multi-cultural worlds of local gastronomy or music, or the life of locally born author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Nearby La Popa hill offers views of the old city, the harbor, and the 17th-century Santa Cruz monastery. Taking a cooking class or visiting a gold museum reveals the city's heritage, a mix of African, European colonizer, and Native American. At night, the streets of the hot and humid city fill with markets, traditional dances, and revelers spilling out of bustling nightclubs. For those who want to escape, a short boat tour brings travelers to Barú and Playa Blanca, where the white beaches and crystalline water are pure Caribbean paradise. A little further and travelers reach the Rosario Islands, a national park featuring one of the most important coral reefs in the country. To the northwest of Cartagena, the renowned El Totumo mud volcano allows locals and travelers to enjoy therapeutic massages and the natural healing properties of mud baths.

Top 15 attractions in Cartagena

#1
Totumo Mud Volcano (El Totumo)

Totumo Mud Volcano (El Totumo)

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Totumo Volcano (El Totumo) ranks among Cartagena’s most popular day trips. A small volcanic caldera has become a top attraction—a naturally heated bath of grayish brown silt. After bobbing around in the soupy mix, head to the lagoon next door to wash off the mineral-rich mud, thought to have therapeutic properties.More
#2
San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas)

San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas)

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Some historians say that if it weren’t for San Felipe de Barajas Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas), South America would now speak English. The 14th-century fortress protected the coastal city of Cartagena from English invasion, allowing the Spanish to maintain their rule. Besides the role it plays in Colombia’s history, the castle attracts visitors with its panoramic harbor views.More
#3
Old Town Cartagena

Old Town Cartagena

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With brightly-colored buildings, colonial landmarks, and bougainvillea-covered balconies, Old Town Cartagena is known for its beauty and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Highlights include the leafy Plaza de Bolivar, the striking Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj), and the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro).More
#4
Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar)

Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar)

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As well as offering respite from Cartagena’s Caribbean heat with its leafy trees, Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolivar) is home to both the Palace of the Inquisition museum and the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu). In between museums, sample Colombian coffee and snacks from street vendors and admire the eponymous statue of Simon Bolivar at the square’s center.More
#5
Convento de la Popa de la Galera

Convento de la Popa de la Galera

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Sitting atop the highest point in Cartagena, Convento de la Popa is a 17th-century convent characterized by graceful stone arcades and an interior courtyard filled with flowers. History and architecture aside, the biggest draw of the convent is the scenery: from the 500-foot (152-meter) perch, travelers are rewarded with sweeping views of the Caribbean coast and colonial city.More
#6
Las Bovedas

Las Bovedas

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Shoppers, barhoppers, and photography enthusiasts flock to picturesque Las Bovedas, located at the northeastern corner of Cartagena’s old walled city. Dozens of archways—stretching from Santa Clara to Santa Catalina Fortress—are home to souvenir shops, jewelry stores, small bars, and galleries.More
#7
Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo)

Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo)

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Founded in 1534, Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia Santo Domingo) is the oldest church in Cartagena. As well as being notable for its marble altar and imposing central nave, the church boasts a prime location on Plaza Santo Domingo, where street vendors and al fresco cafes create a vibrant atmosphere.More
#8
Cathedral of San Pedro Claver (Iglesia de San Pedro Claver)

Cathedral of San Pedro Claver (Iglesia de San Pedro Claver)

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Cartagena’s Cathedral of San Pedro Claver (Iglesia de San Pedro Claver) immortalizes the life of Saint Pedro Claver, one of the first human rights pioneers in the Americas. The austere stone facade of the cathedral alludes to a peaceful interior, where visitors can pay their respects to the remains of the saint, which are visible through a gilded glass case.More
#9
Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos)

Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos)

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Located at the base of San Felipe Castle, the Old Shoes Monument (Los Zapatos Viejos) is a giant sculpture of a pair of old boots. A popular spot for a selfie, the monument was created by Hector Lombana Piñeres in response to the poem “Mi Ciudad Nativa” by local poet (and one of South America’s most respected writers) Luis Carlos López.More
#10
National Aviary of Colombia (Aviario Nacional de Colombia)

National Aviary of Colombia (Aviario Nacional de Colombia)

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Home to around 190 different species of bird, the National Aviary of Colombia harbors diverse flora and more than 2,000 birds. The 17-acre (7-hectare) park categorises birds according to three Colombian ecosystems—tropical rainforest, coastal zone, and desert—and promises an enriching experience for wildlife lovers.More
#11
Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu)

Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu)

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Opened in 1982, Cartagena's Gold Museum (Museo de Oro Zenu is dedicated to Colombia's indigenous Zenu people. The collection, displayed in a colonial mansion in Plaza de Bolivar, includes more than 530 gold pieces (including a pre-Hispanic golden jaguar, as well as bone carvings and textiles from Colombia’s indigenous peoples.More
#12
La India Catalina Monument

La India Catalina Monument

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At the main entrance to Cartagena’s Old Town, La India Catalina Monument is a bronze rendering of the Doña Marina of Colombia — India Catalina.The daughter of a local chief, in 1509 Catalina was abducted, aged 14, from her home in Galerazamba. Once she’d learned Spanish in the Dominican Republic, she was thereon required to accompany the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia as an interpreter and pacifying presence in interactions between the Spanish and indigenous groups.The local Calamari people were decimated in the Spanish conquest, and that was in part due to Catalina’s collusion with the Spanish. In that sense, it might seem strange that the sculpture of her has become so iconic, but really, it’s a tribute to the indigenous people who inhabited this land before the Spanish conquest.Sculpted by the Spanish artist Eladio Gil Zambrana and unveiled in 1974, the monument has become so well-known around Cartagena that small-scale replicas are handed out as awards at the Cartagena Film Festival.More
#13
Plaza de San Diego

Plaza de San Diego

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In Cartagena's Old Town, every evening the Plaza de San Diego becomes lively with street performers entertaining the crowds. Vendors sell everything from jewelry to Cuban cigars to paintings, and as the day ends, the traffic gets blocked on two sides so that more outdoor seating can be laid on outside the restaurants lining the square.Surrounded by ice cream-colored buildings and bougainvillea-covered balconies just outside the Old Town’s core area, the Plaza de San Diego is a lasting relic of the wealth Cartagena held during the days of the gold, sugar, and slave trade's peak. Home to the famous Hotel Santa Clara, the square is a popular place to sit down, order a drink or a bite to eat, and watch the world go by while listening to live music by the local street performers.More
#14
Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario)

Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario)

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The Rosario Islands(Islas del Rosario) are a highlight of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, famous for their vibrant marine life, pristine white beaches, and sun-soaked beach resorts. A cluster of 28 idyllic islands dotted offshore of the port city of Cartagena, this archipelago sits atop the world’s third-largest barrier reef and makes up Islas del Rosario National Park.More
#15
Teatro Adolfo Mejia (Teatro Heredia)

Teatro Adolfo Mejia (Teatro Heredia)

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Built in 1911 to commemorate a century of Colombian independence, Cartagena’s Teatro Adolfo Mejia (Teatro Heredia is based on the Italian-Caribbean design of Havana’s Tacon Theater. The creme-and-yellow theatre reigns over the Plaza de la Merced and is famous for its frescoes and marble staircase imported from Italy.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 2 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 3 Days in Cartagena

How to Spend 3 Days in Cartagena

Top activities in Cartagena

Half-Day Tour to Totumo Mud Volcano from Cartagena
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Pink Sea and Mud Volcano
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Pink Sea and Mud Volcano

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40
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$60.00
Playa Blanca in Baru Island

Playa Blanca in Baru Island

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$45.00
Excursion to the Rosario Islands

Excursion to the Rosario Islands

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$88.54
Freedom Tour of Palenque

Freedom Tour of Palenque

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$110.00
Private City Tour of Cartagena

Private City Tour of Cartagena

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$120.00
Street Food Tour of Cartagena

Street Food Tour of Cartagena

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58
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$70.00
Sunset Cruise in Cartagena

Sunset Cruise in Cartagena

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104
From
$23.47
Baru and Playa Blanca Enjoy the best place with accommodation and lunch.
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Cartagena

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Simple Sunset Cruise
Jason_A, Jul 2022
Sunset Cruise in Cartagena
Nice cruise to see the sunset on a spacious catamaran and to see Cartagena lit up on the return makes for good photos from the water.
star-5
Highly recommend!
Kelsey_F, Apr 2022
Biking Tour Cartagena
It was a great way to see the city and ride the perimeter of the wall.
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Excellent experience....
JuanGuillermo_F, Mar 2022
Sunset Cruise in Cartagena
Journey is perfect to see the sunset and you have the opportunity to see Cartagena's skyline.
star-5
See the city!
Angel_H, Mar 2022
Biking Tour Cartagena
Was able to see the walled city of Cartagena and the tour guide did an amazing job at telling history and rode at a nice pace
star-5
Transportation was great, driver was thoughtful
Annetta_W, Jun 2022
Luxury transportation from the Airport to the Hotel or Hotel to the Airport
We asked for an English speaking driver, but he was not, so be prepared with Google Translate if you do not speak Spanish.
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Perfect escape from Cartagena
Kevin_M, May 2022
Islabela Day Trip from Cartagena Including Traditional Colombian Lunch
We would highly recommend and may return to stay for the night to see the stars!
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Old city walk
Michele, May 2022
Cartagena Instagrammable History
We wanted to see churches and we got into several.
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Best private Cartagena walking tour
Cristina_F, May 2022
Private Walking Tour in Cartagena
One of the stops was in a plaza to see the sloths, monkeys, and then showed us the typical dance moves of champeta and cumbia.
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Black Power!
Torianna_C, Apr 2022
Freedom Tour of Palenque
It was very eye opening to see the difference between Cartagena and Palenque and learn the history of Palenque.
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Unforgettable Cartagena experience!
Rosie_P, Mar 2022
Bazurto Market Tour and Cooking Class in Cartagena
It was amazing to visit the bustling Bazurto Market with a guide like Angel.
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Come hungry!
Courtney_R, Mar 2022
Street Food Tour in Cartagena
He speaks excellent English (and French) and was able to share lots of interesting information about the history of the area and the cultural surroundings in a very engaging way.
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No frills, great way to see the city
Alyssa_S, Feb 2022
City Sightseeing Cartagena Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
A great way to see the city of Cartagena and explore both the old, walled city and the newer Bocagrande area.
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A Day in Paradise but skip Planto experience
Marco_G, Feb 2022
Complete Tour 5 Rosario Islands with snorkel and plankton in Cartagena
The crew was accomodating and the snorkeling and beach activities were amazing.
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Enjoyable sunset cruise
Philip_Y, Feb 2022
Sunset Cruise in Cartagena
Sunset was beautiful and it was great to see Cartagena skyline from the boat at night.
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Awesome Experience
Stephanie_C, Jan 2022
Horseback Riding Tour in Beach of Cartagena
She also spoke good English.
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Pretty Good Value, for a Great day at the Beach
Mark_G, Jan 2022
Playa Blanca in Baru Island
The drive from Cartagena to the beach was close to one hour, and was nice to see some of the local countryside along the way.
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Viva cartagena
Luis_P, Aug 2021
transport airport to hotel (old city, Morrosor, bocagrande private service)
Give us good tips on what to do told us about the culture of cartagena he was very educated about the area
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A Great Time
Travis_Z, Aug 2021
Historic and Movie Bike Tour
The host of this tour was fantastic and he spoke very clear english and showed me things that I would have never found on my own.
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Cartagena Tour
Ianna_M, Jun 2021
Totumo Volcano excursion - Cartagena de indias
Great Price & our tour guide was able to speak both English & Spanish.
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Cultural Experience
Wendy_D, Feb 2021
Freedom Tour of Palenque
Great drive; got to see another side of Cartagena.
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All about Cartagena

When to visit

There’s no escaping the heat in Cartagena, but a winter visit reduces the chance of rain. Though crowds are guaranteed, December through February is an ideal time for hitting the beach, and winter also coincides with Hay Festival and Storyland. If you can stand the rain, an off-season visit from August through November promises fewer crowds and lower prices.

Time Zone
COT (UTC -5)

People Also Ask

What is Cartagena known for?

Cartagena is best known for the colorful colonial architecture of its UNESCO-listed Old Town—top sights include San Felipe de Barajas Castle and Bolivar Square—and its proximity to Rosario Islands and Totumo Mud Volcano. It also boasts vibrant culture and cuisine that combines the best of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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How many days do you need in Cartagena?

To fully explore Cartagena’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town and venture to the neighboring Caribbean islands, you need a minimum of three to five days. As well as exploring the Walled City, spend a day at the Totumo Mud Volcano and another on the idyllic shores of Playa Blanca and Isla Baru.

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What is there to do in Cartagena?

Things to do inside the UNESCO-listed Walled City of Cartagena include admiring the colonial architecture of Las Bovedas, and visiting San Felipe de Barajas Castle and Bolivar Square. Day trips head to Playa Blanca and Baru Island, the African town of San Basilio de Palenque and Totumo Mud Volcano.

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How do I spend a day in Cartagena?

With one day in Cartagena, you can fully explore the UNESCO-listed Walled City. Admire the bright buildings and bougainvillea-covered balconies of Old Town and Las Bovedas; delve into the colonial history of San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the 17th-century Convento de la Popa; and sample coffee and Caribbean-style street food.

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Is it safe to walk around Cartagena?

Yes and no. During the day, Cartagena is a safe and welcoming place to explore—exercise the usual caution when it comes to valuables, and your chance of encountering petty crime will be low. After dark, the city can be riskier, so avoid walking alone in dimly-lit areas at night.

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Is Cartagena worth visiting?

Yes. Cartagena should be on your Colombia itinerary. The jewel in the crown of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, the city offers a vibrant mix of colonial architecture and a brightly colored, UNESCO-listed Old Town, plus easy access to natural delights such as Playa Blanca, Isla Baru, Totumo Mud Volcano, and Rosario Archipelago.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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What are the top things to do in Cartagena?
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What are the top activities in Cartagena?
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What are the top things to do near Cartagena?
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What do I need to know before visiting Cartagena?