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Cartagena Cruise Port Attractions

Cartagena has extensive fortifications. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Cartagena has extensive fortifications. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Cartagena cruise port in Colombia boasts a wide variety of history, nightlife, beaches and other tourist attractions.

Among all cruise ports in the Caribbean, Cartagena ranks high on the list for interesting city tours.

City tours, which last up to four hours, may include visits to Moorish houses, San Felipe Fortress, Las Bovedas shopping, Saint Peter Claver Church & Museum, and the Emerald Museum. Prices including transportation hover around $50 to $75 per person depending on the length and amenities.

1. Old Town

Anyone wanting to walk around on their own can start with Old Town, which is the heart of Cartagena. It’s essentially an old walled city protected by the fortress that was in the yesteryear intended to protect the city from pirates and storms.

For the archaeological-minded who wish to venture further inside, they will find colonial buildings, museums, plazas, churches and convents.

The city also hosts a wide array of restaurants and nightlife spots. For those who wish to spend an extended period there, accommodations are also present within El Centro (the town’s center).

2. La Popa

La Popa is Cartagena’s highest point. This is where visitors will find the popular convent of Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria. Alternately called a convent and a monastery, this colonial complex is a great place to visit for a look at colonial religious life.

La Popa is a good site to appreciate the Heroic City from a distance, with a beautiful view that includes the Caribbean, the Island of Tierrabomba, the tourist area, the walled downtown and La Boquilla. Most visitors reach the top via chiva tours.

However, for those who plan not to take this route, be sure to go by taxi as robberies and attacks have been reported for those who have tried to walk. 

3. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

This is the large fortress that began in 1533 and now dominates the town. The castle is on the Hill of San Lázaro in a strategic location, dominating approaches to the city by land or sea. It was built by the Spanish during the colonial era.
Visitors now can walk the battlements, stroll through underground passages and wonder at the labor that went into building a fort that was never used defensively. The castle is three miles north of the cruise docks.

4. Rosario Islands

R Las Islas del Rosario (Rosario) is a small archipelago located south of the Bay of Cartagena, only one hour or less away by boat. Its crystal clear waters are great for recreational diving.

Yes, the beaches here are unlike those on the mainland; they are exceptional. There are also cabins for rent at any of these islands.Beyond the crystal clear waters, the stretch is also famous for its coral reefs.

Visitors can arrange a trip to Las Islas del Rosario through their hotel or by heading to the Muelle Turístico to buy tickets directly. Another option is to go through excursion operators. Expect to pay about $80 to $100 per person for a seven-hour excursion.

Popular spots includes Acuario San Martín on the Isla San Martín de Pajarales, where visitors can enjoy a dolphin show and observe other marine animals.

5. Bocagrande and El Laguito

These two areas are located on an L-shaped peninsula facing the Caribbean. Upscale restaurants, hotels, clubs and bars offer just about everything the visitor can wish for.

These beaches aren’t particularly spectacular or breathtaking, but they are used for swimming and sunbathing.

Cartagena offers a wealth of natural, colonial architectural gems. There are also several excellent museums, churches and other attractions. Beyond the beaches, restaurants, etc., visitors can try just walking the many cobblestoned streets of Cartagena and experiencing a unique segment of history.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 17, 2020

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