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Cartagena is truly a place like no other. It is located only three and a half hours away from Barranquilla and less than four hours away from Santa Marta by car. This multifaceted city wraps you up in an atmosphere of romance and party, relaxation and excitement, calm and adventure. The city could be described as seductive, which you will experience when visiting Cartagena de Indias, the Colombian historical beauty, nestled on the Colombian Caribbean Coast.
The 18th-century viceregal style, still well preserved in its historical center, joins in harmony with the modern architecture in the urban areas. Its historical center, the Walled City, has been declared the National Heritage of Colombia, as well as the World Heritage Site of UNESCO. One of the most enjoyable things to do while in Cartagena is strolling around while admiring its quaint style and its festive feeling. For all first-comers to Cartagena, here is the list of places not to be missed.
The Walled City is Cartagena's main landmark. It is formed by the 11-kilometre long walls that were built back in the 16th century. These walls, along with the San Felipe Castle, were built to protect the city from the constant attacks by enemies of the crown and pirates.
This place is definitely a must-see. While strolling around the few streets inside the walls, you can admire the amazingly beautiful architecture of hotels, a church and a chapel, restaurants, and houses. You can taste delicious local food, have a drink in one of the bars on the terraces of main squares or go dancing and enjoy some live music that is performed both indoors or outdoors. Alternatively, you can do some shopping, rent a bike and cycle your way around the lovely streets, or go on a horse-drawn carriage.
The San Felipe Castle (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas) is the largest Spanish colonial fortress in America. It is located in Cartagena on the San Lázaro Hill and was built in 1536 by the Spanish. It has been preserved to this day, after surviving constant attacks by the English and French during the colonial time. It is open every day of the week, and the entrance fee is around six dollars. Usually touring the castle can last from one hour to three hours. There is an optional guided tour with an extra fee, which is worth if you want to hear the experts talking about the castle, its battles, the history of the city and its traditions.
During your visit to the Castillo de San Felipe, you can wander through the maze of tunnels and interior rooms discovering Cartagena's guardian from the inside out. So, you can walk the different levels of the castle, the batteries, the squares, and its watching towers. Also, there are perfect lookout places to take incredible photos of the Walled City of Cartagena de Indias and the bay.
Getsemaní is a neighborhood located less than a kilometer from the Castillo de San Felipe. This is a bohemian and traditional part of the city. Its streets are narrow, and each one has a unique name and its characteristics. What is interesting about Getsemaní is how it adjusted to tourist interests without losing its essence and traditions. The alleys, streets, and squares broadcast the usual culture of Cartagena with children playing in the streets, older adults playing dominoes, and the ladies grating coconut at the entrance of their houses.
While there, try to find houses with picturesque balconies which give an old touch to the atmosphere, search for walls with graffiti and multicolored art that tell stories and streets that speak of the history of Colombia in general. There are plenty of cultural, gastronomic, and accommodation options. You can choose from the restaurants that offer Arabic food, Italian dishes, Caribbean food, vegan alternatives, sports bars, drinks and cocktails bars, and you can eat and drink inside or outside the place.
Playa Blanca is not located in the city of Cartagena but Barú, 60 minutes by car or 40 minutes by speedboat from the Bodeguita dock in Cartagena. Baru is an artificial island that was formed almost a hundred years ago, by the construction of the Canal del Dique, and is one of the Rosario Islands in Colombia. There are different options to get from the city to this dream place - by boat, public bus, car, or bus. You can go for a day or spend a night there.
Barú offers dreamy landscapes, and it is a perfect place to enjoy and rest. The sea amazes you with crystal clear waters of brilliant aquamarine color, the sand is white and dusty, and there is a good range of restaurants and bars on the beach. This is, by all means, a magical and unforgettable place of extraordinary beauty that is worth visiting.
Would it be too much to compare visiting Cartagena with being in paradise? It really seems like it! Visit this Colombian historical beauty and see it for yourself. Seductive Cartagena will welcome you with its wide-open arms and contagious people's smile, bright sun and vibrant colors any time of the year.
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