Capital of the Colombian department of Bolívar

Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias is a city and a world heritage site in Bolívar, Colombia. The city was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas. It is populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia's own variety.

Understand edit

Cartagena (Colombia)
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Source:w:Cartagena, Colombia#Climate
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

Cartagena has almost 1 million inhabitants, and is on the northern coast at the Caribbean Sea. Founded by the Spanish in 1533, it was fortified and functioned as the center of the Inquisition in the region. The impressive buildings from the Spanish time today make up a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cartagena is the most visited city in the country by tourists. It gets extremely crowded in the December holidays and the holy week, when schools are out and most Colombians take their vacations. The city has basically two main parts where tourists go: the walled colonial city ("ciudad amurallada"), which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande. It is also nice to visit the exclusive neighborhood of Castillogrande, filled with modern condos, places to jog, and a quiet beach to soak up some sun.

Being in the tropics, the climate of the city is defined by dry and rain seasons. The dry season is from December to April and it also rains a little less in July. Nevertheless, there are still on average more sunny than rainy days per month in the rainy season. Apart from September and October, the monthly amount of rain isn't much more than 100 mm. Thanks to this, the temperature is also quite constant around the year with daytime highs of +32°C and nighttime lows of +23°C.

  • 1 Turismo Cartagena de Indias, Plaza de la Aduana, +57 5 660 1583. M-Sa 09:00-13:00 & 15:00-19:00, Su 09:00-17:00. The main tourist office.

Also, there are small Tourist kiosks on Plaza de San Pedro Claver and on Plaza de los Coches.

Get in edit

By plane edit

Inside the airport

At the airport you can find several ATMs and an exchange bureau where you can change cash and traveler's checks. To get downtown, go to the taxi stand which will give you a receipt with the exact amount you'll have to pay to the driver, around COP$20.000 or 35,000 depending on your destination (2019 rate). To get into town more cheaply, walk about 50 m (150 ft) to the street and hail one of yellow cabs. You should be able to get a cab to take you into town for about COP$10,000. A still more affordable alternative are the "Transcaribe" new public transportation service going from the Calle 70 near the airport (COP$2,500)(A bus driver doesn't accept the money. Locals use a plastic card to go inside a bus. August 2023) to the entrance of walled city that place is called "Paz y Concordia" which is in front of "La Serrezuela" what is a shopping Center at the western edge of downtown. On the way back from the downtown to the airport take the "Transcaribe" bus in the station of the system to the airport (T102 portal - Crespo, this is the notice in front of the bus).

By bus edit

Cartagena skyline from the city walls

The 2 bus terminal is 11 km east of the old city. Orange and white air-conditioned Transcaribe buses (X104, this is the notice in front of the bus) go to the old city and cost COP$2,500 (depending on the traffic goes between 45-70 minutes). Taking a cab costs COP$30,000, a late night surcharge of COP$500 applies after 20:00. Another fast and cheap way to reach the center is to take a taxi to the Transcaribe Portal terminal 3 km away from the main terminal. From there, the Transcaribe buses which have their own lanes, reach the centre in 30 minutes. The Transcaribe travel card costs COP$4000 and one trip costs COP$2,300.

If you are coming overland from Panama, your first bus will be from Turbo. Turbo to Monteria is COP$25,000 (4 hours) and Monteria to Cartagena COP$35,000 (4 hours) for express services.

Expreso Brasilia, Expreso Amerlujo and Unitransco have a daily connection to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas via Barranquilla, the two former for COP$200,000 taking 20 hours. If you travel with Unitransco it's a bit cheaper but it entails an additional transfer of buses at the border.

You may be able to bargain down prices for long-distance tickets, locals do that too.

By boat edit

Cartagena is an important port for charter boats between Colombia and Panama. There are several private boats doing this trip, but expect to have to wait several days to find a boat. Fares vary between US$300-550 depending on the size of the boat and the on-board services. The trip usually takes 4 nights and 5 days and includes a 2- or 3-day stopover in San Blas Islands. At the Panama end, the boats either leave from the Portobelo Area or from Carti Islands Kuna Yala rather than Colón. Reliable information about departure dates and captains can be found at the hotel Casa Viena[dead link]. One option is Ave Maria Sailing.

Especially during cooler months in North America, cruise ships regularly pay day-long port calls here. Depending on their size and numbers on any day, available shore excursions can vary from visits to the city proper, to beaches and islands nearby. Very few will venture to cities elsewhere. The 3 harbor for cruise ships is about 3 km southeast of the old town, probably best accessible by taxi or by foot.

By car edit

The city is connected to the rest of Colombia by good roads. Ruta 90 (Transversal del Caribe) goes along the coast connecting Cartagena to places line Barranquilla and Turbo and has been built out to limited-access highway. You can drive here from Bogota too, but that's a drive of more than 1000 km.

Get around edit

Map of Cartagena (Colombia)

On foot edit

The old town in particular is best explored walking. Most places in Bocagrande are also within walking distance.

By bus edit

To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe fort, Bocagrande, Castillogrande, airport, etc. there are many buses running all over the city. Ask the driver or other people who are waiting which bus goes to your destination. An urban bus ticket cost COP$2,300 sold by the driver (A bus driver doesn't accept the money. Locals use a plastic card to go inside a bus. August 2023). On the downside, buses drive slower, stop at each corner and seldom take the direct way so expect a bus ride from A to B to take several times that of a taxi ride.

By bike edit

By taxi edit

Taxis are yellow in Cartagena

Taxis don't have meters in Cartagena, fares should be negotiated. There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negotiated rates are often higher, especially in high season. There are also night and air condition surcharges each of a few hundred pesos. Confirm your fare before getting in the taxi. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance.

Taxis are generally easy to find, although in the old town you may have to walk a few blocks away from the center, toward the wider road close to wall. From the old town to Boca Grande or vice versa or any transport inside Bocagrande or inside old town expect to pay COP$6,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP$10,000-12,000.

By chariot edit

A chariot is a popular way for tourists to get to know the old town. These can be flagged down in the street or there are usually some waiting at the Plaza Bolívar or close to the Santa Clara hotel. They are reminiscent of public transportation of colonial Cartagena, and essentially complete the atmosphere of the old town.

By boat edit

Cartagena has several harbours for Boats going out to the Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca, including the Muelle Turistico de la Bodeguita, Muelle Todomar. One of the easiest options (which includes a good lunch and roundtrip tickets [you can come back the same day or stay as long as you'd like as long as you keep your ticket stub]) is to go on one of the big ships like the Alcatraz. These come at the best price at COP$25,000, but beware - they take around four hours to actually get to Playa Blanca because they move really slowly and stop at the aquarium at Rosario Islands first (which is rather boring).

By scooter edit

Electric scooters can be rented in town and are to be ridden only within the city area. Gas-powered scooters are not available for rent. Many of the bicycle shops will also rent electric scooters.

See edit

Colonial street within the walled city

Cartagena has several faces; one of a dirty, sprawling Caribbean metropolis, in Bocagrande the one of a massive "hotel ghetto" and finally the old town with its well-polished face of a once affluent colonial city. Cartagena's main attraction is its historic old town surrounded by the city wall. Main entrance is the Clock Tower Building. The walled city includes the neighbourhoods Centro, San Diego, Getsemaní and the modern part La Matuna. The oldest part of Cartagena is around Plaza Trinidad in Getsemaní. Cartagena's 500-year-old coralstone forts and great parts of its walled city are admirably intact and represent some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.

Almost all churches in the historic center are worth visiting, especially Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, in honor of the priest St. Pedro Claver, who was the first saint of the new world for his work with slaves; La Catedral, near Plaza de Bolívar and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo

The old town is divided into three parts: El Centro with the cathedral and the many palaces in Andalucian style, San Diego, which was the quarters of traders and bourgeoisie lived and Getsemaní which was the home of the lower classes. The old harbor of Getsemaní, which used to separate El Centro and San Diego, has during the last century been transformed into the old town's new commercial area, La Matuna. Here you can also find the pedestrian area Camellón de los Martires, a good place to start exploring the old town.

  • 1 Plaza de los Coches. From Camellon de los Martires you pass through the historical city gate Puerta del Reloj, the gate of the clock, onto the triangular square Plaza de los Coches, the place of the carriages. Once this was one of the largest slave markets in all of Latin America, a major source of wealth to the city, aside of the gold export to Spain. Nowadays a statue of Pedro de Heredia, the founder of the city, stands on this square.    
San Pedro Claver
  • 2 Plaza de la Aduana. Next to the former, there is another beautiful triangular square, Plaza de la Aduana, surrounded by impressive arcaded buildings.One of these is Casa del Premio real, the house of the Spanish viceroy. This square has a statue as well, of Christopher Columbus.
  • 3 Convento & Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Plaza de San Pedro Claver, +57 5 664 4991. M-Sa 08:00-17:00, Su 08:00-16.30. Named after Pedro Claver (1580-1654), a Spanish Jesuit who worked for 40 years for the rights and the wellbeing of the slaves in the city. He was beatified in 1888, and in 1985 named the patron saint of human rights. His relics are visible in a crystal arch under the altar. Moreover, on the second floor you can visit the room where he lived the last times of his life and died. On the second floor there is also an exhibition of Afro-Caribbean art. COP$6,000.
  • 4 Museo Naval del Caribe, Calle San Juan de Dios No 3-62, +57 5 664 2440. 09:00-19:00. In a former Jesuit college right behind the convent. It offers an informative overview of the history of the city and the naval history of the Caribbean. However the exhibits are replicas, not originals. COP$6,000.
  • 5 Plaza de Bolívar. Some blocks inwards there's the Plaza de Bolívar with an equestrian statue of the liberation hero. Before the independence of Colombia this was known as Plaza de Inquisición, and next to it you can find the inquisition palace. where during two centuries the Catholic church held processes against heretics.
Museum of the Inquisition
  • 6 Palacio de la Inquisición (Museo de la Inquisición), Plaza de Bolívar, +57 5 664 4570. M-Sa 09:00-18:00, Su 10:00-16:00. The museum of Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of Inquisition) was where the Spanish Inquisition tortured, judged and convicted people accused of crimes against religion.The tribunal was responsible for all of South America and sentenced almost 700 people, including Jesuits opposing slavery. Many of the accused were badly tortured. Today the museum shows some instruments of torture actually used back then. COP$17,000. A tourist guide, in English, can be purchased for COP$15,000..
  • 7 Museo del Oro y Arqueología, Plaza de Bolívar, +57 5 660 0778. Tu-F 10:00-13:00 & 15:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00, Su 11:00-16:00. Also at the same square, this museum shows the religious gold artefacts of the Zenú (or Sinú) people who used to live along the coast. Not as large as the gold museum of Bógota, but still very worth seeing. However, the museum's archaeological museum is even more interesting, showcasing the native people's impressive achievements in controlling and canalling Rio Magdalena. Free.
  • 8 Catedral de Santa Catalina. Tu-Su 09:30-18:30. A three-naved cathedral which is rather crude on the inside, but has an impressive tower. COP$10,000.
  • 9 Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Plaza de Santo Domingo, +57 5 664 1301. Tu-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 12:00-20:00. Not far from the cathedral is the oldest church in Cartagena. Santo Domingo on the eponymous square has been here since 1552. You can rent audio guides, available in many languages. COP$10,000.
  • 10 Casa de Rafael Núñez (outside the walls, direction Marbella), +57 5 664 5305. Tu-F 09:00-17:30, Sa 10:00-17:30, Su 10:00-16:00. This wooden building was the home of the 19th-century poet and president Rafael Núñez (1825-1894). He wrote the text to the Colombian national anthem, and also participated writing the constitution which was in force from 1886 to 1991. COP$4,000.
  • 11 Monumento a la India Catalina. A landmark dedicated to and named after the city's founder Pedro de Heredia's native translator Catalina.
Castillo de San Felipe
  • 12 Castillo de San Felipe. 08:00-18:00. A fortress designed by the Dutch engineer Richard Carr and built in 1657 by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. The largest fort the Spanish ever built in their colonies, this fort was conquered only once by French privateer Baron de Pointis in 1697. It's filled with an extensive maze of tunnels, which you can explore on a guided tour. Don't miss the 24-minutes long video that tells the history of the fortress. COP$30,000 (foreigner). Audio guide COP$10,000.
  • 13 La Popa. Close to the San Felipe fortress is the 150-m high La Popa hill, which offers great views over Cartagena and the harbour area. The 17th century Santa Cruz monastery is here, which has a beautifully restored courtyard and a fine image of the Virgin of La Candelaria, the patron saint of the city. On the 2nd of February every year, pilgrims celebrate her. Entrance to La Popa is COP$8,000 for adults and a little less for children. Taking a taxi up and down the hill will cost you a shocking COP$50,000. Negotiate this with the driver before going. It is advised that you do not walk up as it can be dangerous.

Do edit

Night shot of the façade of the Cathedral of Cartagena de Indias

Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic and urban beauty.

Tours edit

  • Chiva Bus. afternoons, evenings. Chiva Bus is a must do fun activity in Cartagena. If you've visited Cartagena for even a day you've undoubtedly seen the open air, colorful buses going through the city loaded with people having fun, drinking and enjoying the loud beat of local music. A good activity for couples, families or groups. There are various pickup locations at mostly tourist hotels (Decameron, Caribe, Hilton, etc.) or just talk your the people to make arrangements. Prices range from COP$18,000-25,000 depending on tour..

You can also take a horse and carriage tour, per Get around.

Learn edit

  • Latin Dance Lessons. Latin dances, first of all the Salsa form an integral part of Caribbean culture. The colorful mixture of people in Cartagena and their passionate way of living find one if its most eminent expressions in the vibrant rhythms all around. Crazy Salsa offers you a wide range of Latin dance classes, focusing on Salsa, Meringue and Bachata. There are introductory classes every Friday and Saturday at 17:00 for COP$10,000—for advanced and intensive classes, workshops or other questions visit
  • Spanish Classes. Cartagena is an ideal city for some extended Spanish language studies—a beautiful but not too large city center, close by beaches and heaps of activities to do. Colombia is also renowned for its pure Spanish which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanish language schools in Cartagena. BABEL International Language Institute is located directly in the old city in one of the picturesque streets. They offer all kinds of group and private classes and also combined Spanish and Salsa packages
  • Casa Cultural Colombo Alemana de Cartagena, Calle 38 No. 5 - 31, Calle Estanco del Aguardiente, +57 5 6602522.
  • Nueva Lengua, Calle del Pozo No 25-95, +57 5 660 1736. Located in Getsemaní, this language school offers courses from five days and longer.
  • 1 Raíces: Spanish & Culture, Getsemaní. Del Pozo Street. N° 28-24 Oficna 102. (Diagonal the Plaza de la Trinidad), +57-3183696923, . 09:00-18:00. The main focus of this Spanish school is immersion courses: their philosophy is that it's more interesting and better for students to learn in a cultural environment that shows the richness of the Spanish language. Flexible schedule, good prices, nice and friendly teachers committed with the learning of their students.

Beaches southwest of Cartagena edit

The easiest way of going to the beach is heading to the west coast, where there are sand beaches both north of the old town and on the Bocagrande peninsula.

However, there are a couple of beach destinations one or a few hours by boat from Cartagena. Commonly boats leave Cartagena (most near Muelle de la Bodeguita) in the morning and return in the early afternoon. Trips are often available as two-way boat tickets including lunch, but to avoid disappointment don't do business with the wandering ticket touts but buy tickets from a ticket office or kiosk. There is a port surcharge of COP$10,000 not included in posted ticket prices. Also, for these out-of-city destinations you may want to bring some bug spray.

Playa Blanca

2 Playa Blanca is widely regarded as the best beach of Cartagena, but it is not that easy to reach. With its white sand and crystal clear water it is probably one of the best beaches in Colombia. After tour boats leave in the afternoon it is also very peaceful and quiet. It is worth staying on Playa Blanca for at least one night. There are several places where you can rent hammocks, get food and drinks. For example, "Wittenbergs place".

On the beach you will be approached to buy massages, fruit platters, sea food and jewelry among other things — they can at times be rather persistent touting their products and services. Watch out for the vendors selling oysters: they will give you an oyster as a present (regalo) to taste. They will quickly crack the shells and serve you a number of oysters, after which you are told that they each cost COP$2,000. Avoid this COP$30,000 charge and the subsequent argument on the beach. If you are looking for great seafood and Coco Locos, ask around for Nelson Mandela. Sunbathers are often ushered to rent a "stall" for COP$5,000.

  • By boat Take a bus or taxi to “Mercado Bazurto”, the big market of Cartagena about 10 minutes from the center. From there, every day, except Sundays, small cargo-boats (lancha de carga) leave for Playa Blanca. They don't have an exact departure time, be there before 09:00 to be sure. You will have to pay about COP$20,000 each way (December 2008) and the trip takes more or less 1 hour to reach the beach. The way back is much easier, most boats (tour boats) will bring you back for around COP$15,000. The last boats from Playa Blanca to Cartagena leave 14:00-15:00. More comfortable and safer is taking a round-trip from the centre at Muelle de las Pegasos. You can bargain down a one-way-trip without lunch to about COP$25,000 plus COP$8,300 port tax. The tour takes you to Rosario Islands first until it reaches Playa Blanca in the late morning. You can leave the tour there to stay overnight.
  • Overland by public transport (1½ hours): take a bus to Pasacaballos from calle 30 and carrera 17 (in front of the castle - the bus will have a big Pasacaballos sign in front). The bus will leave you either in Pasacaballos or a bit before, under a highway arch; either way, you can take a taxi or mototaxi to Playa Blanca. The bus is COP$1,900 and the taxi is COP$10,000 per person (the mototaxi should be a bit less). The whole trip takes about 1½ hours.

Bay of Cholon. Farther down from Playa Blanca on Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru- a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach.

Islas del Rosario

Islas del Rosario. Several agents arrange boat tours to Islas del Rosario, a set of small islands out of the coast. Usually, the tour includes lunch, a visit to an aquarium and a few hours at Playa Blanca, not included in the price is harbor tax and park entry fee.

Events edit

Major events take place during the dry season, coinciding with the Northern Hemisphere winter.

  • Fiesta Taurina. 2-6 Jan. Bull fighting festival with fights on Plaza de Toros on Av. Pedro de Heredia outside downtown.
  • Festival lnternacional de Música. early Jan. Classical music festival with concerts in Teatro Heredia, the convents of Santa Teresa and Santa Clara and public places in the old town.
  • Hay Festival. late Jan. Literary festival with public readings by authors.
  • Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria. late Jan-early Feb. The patron saint of Cartagena is celebrated during several days, the highlight being a massive procession up to the convent on the hill Cerro La Popa each 2nd of February.
  • o'Festival lnternacional del Cine. late Feb-early Mar. Traditional film festival featuring Latin American movies and documentaries.
  • Festival de Música del Caribe. late Mar. As the name reveals, a whole lot of reggae, calypso, salsa and merengue performances.
  • Carnaval de Cartagena. 11 Nov. The party of the city, a large street festival in Getsemani.
  • Festival de Jazz Bajo la Luna. Dec. Jazz festival with performances all over the city.

Buy edit

View of Old Cartagena

Getting money edit

Most hotels, upscale restaurants take credit cards, but many places, especially taxis only accept Colombian pesos. Some banks may exchange money, but the rates may not be the most convenient. The easiest method for obtaining pesos is to use your debit card at an ATM. Another option is to use a Cambio or currency exchange kiosk, although your exchange rate will be a little higher than by using a debit card. Using a credit card at the ATM will require you to use a PIN number, so contact your financial institution before your trip.

Banks edit

  • 1 Citibank, Av Venezuela, Edificio Citibank (1st floor). M-F 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-16:30. There is a large Citibank ATM location on calle Venezuela near Barrio San Diego that has a guard out front. ATMs appear to be available 24/7.
  • 2 Banco de Bogotá, Av Venezuela (Centro Comercial Uno # 105-107). M-F 08:00-11:30 & 14:00-16:00, Sa -16:30, Su.
  • Giros y Finanzas (several locations around town). M-F 08:00-17:00, Sa 08:00-14:00. Western Union-affiliated exchange office.

Handicrafts edit

...souvenirs are also readily available

Handcrafts are fashionable and sophisticated. Emeralds are available for sale all over Cartagena, including polished and uncut loose emeralds and beautiful jewelry. The prices can be reasonable and the variety available is extensive in the old walled city. The stores that sell emeralds and emerald jewelry use various names such as "Taller y Fabrica de Joyas" (workshop and manufacturer of jewelry), "Museo de Artesanias y Esmeraldas" (museum of crafts and emeralds) or simply "Joyeria" (jewelry). Store owners will negotiate and provide a certificate of "authenticity".

  • 3 Bóvedas (next to the city wall, near the Santa Catalina bastion). Various artesanal goods of good quality.
  • 4 Q Design, Calle de la Iglesia, 4-16. Design objects.
  • 5 Portal de los Dulces (near Puerto del Reloj). Local sweets.

Books edit

  • 6 Ábaco (corner of Calles de la Iglesia & de la Mantilla No 3-86), +57 5 664 8338. M-Sa 09:00-20:30, Su 16:00-20:30. Bookstore and café. Has a good assortment of books in Spanish about Cartagena, and some English books as well.
  • 7 Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi, Cl. 34 No. 3-37 Edificio lnurbe. Specializing in maps.

Touts edit

Take some care. Street hawkers are everywhere, ready to lead you to stores that pay them considerable "commissions"; you actually pay them...through higher prices. And many reliable sources report that, without in-depth knowledge of emeralds and ability to recognize 14K and 18K gold, you risk buying fake or "enhanced" stones or gold-plated metalwork at some stores, or paying more for quality items here than you would in reputable stores elsewhere in the Caribbean or at home.

When approached by a street vendor, your best bet is to smile and say "no, thank you", and they will more likely leave you alone. If you do it in a harsh way, they are likely going to follow you around for longer.

Eat edit

Colorful street in Cartagena

Cartagena features a rich fusion cuisine, combining ingredients and methods of the New and Old worlds, as well as of the original African, Arabian and other legacies of its inhabitants. Eating set menu lunches and dinners in local restaurants called 'corrientes' costs around COP$6,000. A typical dish consists of fried fish (if you are by the beach), chicken or meat, served with coconut rice (arroz de coco), fried plantains (patacones) and salad. There are many places that sell COP$2,000 fruit juices. Colombia boasts a very good range of exotic fruits that can be mixed with water or milk.

In the old town, dozens of good restaurants can be found dotted around the streets particularly concentrated close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. Beware that many of the city's restaurants are not open on Sundays.

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget <COP$15,000
Mid-range COP$15,000-40,000
Splurge >COP$40,000

Budget edit

All these are in the city center:

  • 1 Pan de Bono (corner of Calle del Porvenir and Calle San Agustin). A bakery where you can get a fresh and inexpensive snack in the form of sandwiches. Try the local cassava bread!
  • 2 Torre Fuerte, Cra. 7 #34-66.
  • 3 Restaurante Espiritu Santo, Cl. 35 #6-69.
  • 4 Punto Tropical, Cra. 5 #Cl 36 17.
  • 5 Restaurante 1595, Cl. 36 #7-122.
  • 6 Pollo tropical, Cl. 32 #8A-29.
  • 7 La Tertulia Restaurante-Bar, a 10-99,, Cl. 25 #103.

Mid-range edit

  • Crepes & Waffles (Several locations). Very nice Colombian franchise restaurant which offers very good dishes to excellent prices. dishes around COP$25,000.
  • 8 El Corral (One is located on Plaza San Pedro, 4 others further out.). Very nice Colombian franchise hamburger chain. Good quality hamburgers for COP$10,000-15,000 for a combo..
  • 9 Atahualpa, Carrera 7 (At end of Calle de Tablada at the Plaza de Managua.). Peruvian place with fresh fish. The menu of the day is great value Set dinner soup, main and juice for COP$12,000.
  • 10 Juan Valdez University Square, Cl. 36 (corner of Cl. San Agustin and Cl. de la Universidad, also other locations). Coffee chain with a large variety of coffees and different cakes. Free WLAN.
From street vendors you can buy some refreshing fruit, for instance
  • 11 [dead link] El Bistro, Calle Ayos 4-46 (2 blocks from Plaza Santo Domingo), +57 5 664 1799. German-owned restaurant with excellent European kitchen, especially the steak is good. Also, they have home-made German bread and you can have German beer here too. Breakfast for around COP$10,000, mains around $25,000.
  • 12 La Cevicheria, Calle Stuart 7 (opposite Hotel Santa Clara), +57 5 664-2760. A great selection of hot and cold ceviches. around COP$25,000 a dish.
  • 13 La Vitrola, Calle Baloco no. 33-201. Considered the best restaurant in town. Cuban ambiance, good food - high prices. It is on Calle Baloco at the corner front to the historical walls. Mid-range.
  • 14 Restaurante Bar El Muelle (El Laguisto Beach Club), Carrere 1 ra. No. 1A - 23. There are many good restaurants in the Bocagrande area on the beach. The food is of decent quality, but the delight is the water coming up to the restaurant. The host speaks English, Spanish, French, some Portuguese and Turkish! Mid-range.
  • 15 La Mulata, Calle Quero 9-58, +57 5 66 46 222. A choice of a few set lunch options. Different menu every day of the week. Delicious and unpretentious. mains COP$20,000-30,000.
  • 16 Otro Mundo (Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria), Calle San Agustin 6-68, +57 5 6602314. 09:00-00:00. Otro Mundo Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria it is in Centro Historico de Cartagena de Indias, Calle San Agustin 6-68, close Universita de Cartagena (Cartagena University). There you can eat excellent Croatian dishes, pastas, and the best pizza of America. Ambient is rustically tip, very clean with excellent service. The price of dishes and pizza is very good. In the local you can use gratis WiFi internet connection. They do also pizza delivery. Croatian Cevapcici COP$18,000; Pasta frutos del mar $20,000; small pizza from $12,000, medium $25,000, large $35,000..
  • 17 El Balcón, Calle Tumbamuertos No. 28-85 2do. piso Esquina. 2nd floor restaurant that overlooks the Plaza San Diego. Small balcony for seating, but great food, both fish and meat. Good set menus and 2-for-1 specials on cocktails every day from 18:00-21:00. About COP$45,000 with drink.
  • 18 Restaurante La Casa de Socorro, Cl. Larga No. 8B-112, +57 5 6644 658. Traditional restaurant serving typical Caribbean fare: langoustines, crabs, ceviche, fish, all very tasty and well prepared. Popular among locals, especially for lunch. COP$20,000-40,000.
  • 19 Teriyaki, Plaza San Diego No. 8-28. Sushi and Thai restaurant. COP$10,000-30,000.
  • 20 Restaurante Zebra, Plaza San Diego No.8-34, +57 5 6642 177. African-Caribbean fusion, pasta. Mid-range.

Splurge edit

  • 21 Club de Pesca, Avenida Miramar. Fine dining restaurant specializing in the "fruits of the sea". Great seafood and great atmosphere. Located in Manga with view to the bay and marinas of Cartagena. Mains COP$40,000-60,000.
  • 22 Donde Olano (Olano´s), Calle Santo Domingo #33 - 81 (Near Plaza de Santo Domingo), +57 5 6647099, . Great sea food with fusion style, don´t miss the shrimps in passion fruit and coconut rice! Mains COP$30,000-70,000, but does have some more affordable alternatives.
  • 23 Quebracho, Calle Baloco 2-69. Argentinian restaurant at its best. Good meat, good ambiance. Dishes around COP$55,000.
  • 24 Cafe El Santisimo, Calle del Torno 39 - 76. One of the must-see restaurants of Cartagena. Dishes around COP$50,000.

Sweet edit

  • 25 Gelateria Paradiso. Has unreal ice cream, with a large assortment of different exotic fruit flavors. Fans of coffee ice cream must stop by for a scoop. Corner of Calle del Cuartel and Calle de la Estrella. COP$4,000 for small cup, $6,000 for medium.
  • 26 Abaco, Calle de la Mantilla. Cafe & Book Store is a great place to relax and get some peace and quiet. Local books on Cartagena in addition to great coffee. Hot beverage and cake around COP$9000.

Drink edit

Night view of Cartagena from La Popa

Coffee edit

The most common type of coffee in Colombia is the sweet tinto. This can be bought from street vendors all over Cartagena for COP$500.

Nightlife edit

Most bars and clubs are found in the old town or at Avenida del Arsenal near the Convention Center. Plaza San Diego is a square with a lot of bars and restaurants, very lively in the weekends.

  • 1 La Avenida del Arsenal. La Avenida del Arsenal is located along the bay near the Centro de Convenciones. In its heyday it was the place to be. Now much of the nightlife in Cartagena has moved to the Ciudad Vieja, but this strip of about 10 discotecas is still a raging place to experience on weekends. Entry to most of the discos is COP$10,000-20,000.
  • 2 Mister Babilla. One of the most popular watering holes for local Cartageneros is Mister Babilla, located on the Avenida del Arsenal, near the Centro de Convenciones. This place is great on the weekends and is notorious for having people dancing on the tables and the bar late into the night! A great time!
  • 3 Cafe del Mar, Baluarte de Santo Domingo. Located atop the western wall providing sunset views and cocktails.
  • 4 Salsa Donde Fidel, Plaza de la Aduana (Right by the clock gate). Great place to sit and people watch as the night gets going. Indoor and outdoor seating, according to one visitor the indoor is better. Good prices on drinks (beer COP$2500) and the place to meet Cartageneros and tourists alike.
  • 5 Otro Mundo (Bistrò-Bar.Pizzeria), Calle San Agustin 6-68, +57 5 6602314. 09:00-00:00. Otro Mundo Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria is in Centro Historico de Cartagena, Calle San Agustin 6-68 and is near Universita de Cartagena. There you can eat excellent Croatian dishes, pastas, and the best pizza of America. Ambient is very clean and service is excellent. The price and quality of the dishes and pizza are very good. Every day you can listen good music and taste also good drinks, like beer, cocktails, juice and natural juice, all this with very good price and hospitable service.
  • 6 Zorba Wiskeria, Plaza Fernandez de Madrid. A great little corner bar that offers bottle service and a decent street scene. Very local. Beers are COP$3000 and a bottle of rum will set you back COP$27,000, which is pretty good. Right next door to a Pizzeria and up the street a few doors from a Lebanese Falafel house. Calle de la Tableda.

Sleep edit

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget <COP$80,000
Mid-range COP$80,000-250,000
Splurge >COP$250,000

In the Ciudad Amurallada, the most famous hotels are Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa, both old monasteries renovated in the 1990s. Either of them have fabulous facilities - expect prices like Monaco. Otherwise, the newest part of the city, Bocagrande, offers the largest number of hotels of all prices. You should always try to stay in the ciudad amurallada, since this is what makes Cartagena unique, rather than its beaches, which are normally too crowded and not really clean. If you cannot afford the five-star hotels, you may try with colonial houses turned into hostels, but they are rather small and sometimes getting a room there may be a matter of luck.

In some other parts of Latin America, like Uruguay, more expensive hotel rooms may be quoted in US dollars even at the hotel's own web page.

Budget edit

Narrow streets downtown

Budget hotels and hostels can be found in Getsemaní around the Calle de la Media Luna. If you're already in Cartagena just walk along the Calle de la Media Luna and check out the numerous hostals to get an impression of their offering. You'll notice that the 'value for money' differs heavily between the places, even though they're next to each other: for COP$50,000 you can either stay in a really nice private double room or in a dodgy dorm.

  • 1 Casa Viena, Calle San Andrés No 30-53 (Getsemaní), +57-5-664-6242, . Popular backpackers place with several 2 to 4 person rooms some with bathroom and a dormitory with arco. Facilities include internet, personal strongboxes, bookswap and a communal kitchen. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. Dorms from COP$26,000, rooms from COP$35,000.
  • 2 [dead link] Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33 (Getsemani), +57 5 664 7866. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building filled with color, unique artwork, and lovely gardens for reading and relaxing. The owners are very friendly and happy to help you with any questions or advice. Rooms are rather damp and dated. Cockroaches have been sighted but promised to take care of. dorms beds from COP$21,000, rooms from $40,000.
  • 3 Hotel Familiar, Calle El Guerrero No. 29-66 (Getsemani), +57 5 664 2464. Run by Jairo Toro, 100 m from Casa Viena and a good second choice. Rooms are bright and clean and prices start from COP$18,000 per person.
  • 4 Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 (Getsemani), +57 5 664 4996, +57 5 664 5421, . Well kept, clean, friendly and helpful management, rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms, some rooms without windows. They also have another building on Calle de la Media Luna, which has nicer, more expensive rooms. The staff is very nice and welcoming. Doubles from COP$60,000.
  • 5 Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32 (Getsemani), +57 5 639 5644, . With approximately 30 rooms around a nice courtyard, this hostel offers a good deal for backpackers. Cheap and fast internet as well as tours agency service are available. Air-conditioned rooms with cable TV and a private bathroom from COP$65,000.
  • 6 [dead link] Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 (Getsemani), +57 5 664 3507, +57 5 6601497, . Popular with backpackers, this centrally located, clean hotel with nice rooms with private bathroom and air-conditioned in all dorms, communal kitchen, free internet, free Breakfast, and tours services. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. From COP$75,000.
  • 7 Hotel La Muralla, Calle de Media Luna (Getsemani). Clean, the owners are nice, can be loud on the weekends, not really a tourist place, but one of the cheapest options! Make sure to get a room on the second floor, the first floor rooms are a little musty. From COP$65,000.
  • 8 Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 (Getsemani), +57 5 608634. A very relaxed hostel in which Maude will welcome you within her family. The kitchen is shared with them, which gives a feeling of living in a Cartagena family house. dorm beds from COP$15,000, rooms from COP$40,000.
  • 9 Hotel La Espanola, Media Luna 10 #10-58, +57 5 6604485. Same price and style of hotel as La Muralla, but the rooms are a little stuffier and darker. From COP$75,000.
  • 10 Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani), +57 5 664-0948, . Hostel Mamallena, Cartagena is the first Colombian hostel opened by the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena. We bring to Cartagena our high levels of service, variety of rooms, orthopedic mattresses, free WiFi, garden courtyard and friendly staff. The majority of our rooms have private bathrooms and can sleep from 1 to 5 people. Dorms are large and airy and have private bathrooms as well. Budget tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios are also available. We were the first hostel to start booking boats between Panama and Colombia and we´ve bought that experience to Cartagena. Even if you choose not to stay with us feel free to drop by for whatever you may need. High season: dorm bed COP$50,000, private rooms from COP$75,000 but more if you want AC and/or private bathroom. Low season prices are about a third less..
  • 11 Hotel El Viajero, Calle del Porvenir No 35-68, +57 5 664 3289. Pleasant hotel with a beautiful inner yard and a guest kitchen, but quite expensive. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $60,000, with A/C: sgl $50,000, dbl $70,000.
  • 12 Hotel Bellavista, Av. Santander No. 46-50, +57 5 6646411. Friendly and casual hotel in the district of Marbella, some 15 minutes by foot from the old town. The rooms are spread out in several small one-floor buildings. Rooms have private bathrooms,the more expensive ones have A/C too. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $70,000, with A/C: sgl $60,000, dbl $80,000.

Mid-range edit

Walls with bastions surround the old town
  • 13 [dead link] Hotel Cartagena Premium, Bocagrande Av. San Martín No. 11-113, +57 5 6552355. Hotel Cartagena Premium offers single room, matrimonial double and twin double with air-conditioning, mini-bar and breakfast. Its facilities and services include swimming pool, jacuzzi, room service and parking. From COP$145,000.
  • 14 Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 (Centro), +57-5-664-4361, . Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. From COP$246,000.
  • 15 Casa Mara Hostal, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 (Getsemani), +57-5-664-8724. rates upon request.
  • 16 Vista Heroica, Isla de Tierra Bomba, +57 3126331825. Nice hotel on the island of Tierra Bomba (10 min boat from the Hilton Hotel of Cartagena). It's in the middle of a real local village, not far from the beach, and with a great view of Cartagena. Rooms are very clean, 3 beds (2+1), kitchen, individual jacuzzi, air conditioning. Restaurant from COP$10,000-12,000, decent food. COP$100,000.
  • 17 Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a (Bocagrande), +57-5-6650316. From COP$176,000.
  • 18 Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 (San Diego), +57-5-660-0160, . Small colonial hotel. From COP$200,000.

Splurge edit

Cartagena from air. Some of the skyscrapers of the Bocagrande peninsula to the right are hotels

Up-scale hotels can be found in San Diego and El Centro area of the old city.

  • 19 Charleston Santa Teresa Cartagena, Centro plaza de Santa Teresa Cra 3ª 31-23, +57 5 6649494, +57 5 6649547, fax: +57 5 6649448, +57 5 6649447. From COP$795,000.
  • 20 La Passion Hotel Lounge, Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81 (Centro), +57 5 6648605, . A boutique style hotel combining ancient architecture and modern commodities. Perfect for romantic escapade. 8 rooms. A beautiful terrace with swimming-pool. Free Wi-Fi. From COP$617,000.
  • 21 Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real, Avenida San Martin 7 (Boca Grande). Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real are really an option for the people in the non luxurious budget. situated on either sides of Boca Grande, the hotels are nice, clean and you get value for money with the AC rooms. Close to the beach and Bocagrande is safe as always.
  • 22 Casa Marta Cartagena, Calle San Antonio # 25-165 (Getsemani), +57 310 630 6003, . Check-in: Flexible, check-out: Flexible. Casa Marta is a colonial guesthouse/bed and breakfast situated in the city's historic district of Getsemani. The house has been carefully renovated to modern standards and has two bedrooms with a maximum capacity of 4 to 5 people each. Each bedroom has air conditioner, fan, fridge, Satellite TV, and a private bathroom. Internet service and breakfast are included free of charge. A nice plunge pool is also available to all guests. From US$125.
  • 23 Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 (San Diego), +57-5-664-3648, . The hotel was converted from an 18th-century mansion and opened in Dec 2005. Good breakfasts served by Eufemia. Attractively furnished although regular rooms are small and windowless. Two internet computers for guests. From COP$250,000 (low season), COP$270,000 (high season).
  • 24 Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55 (San Diego), +57 5 664 3384, +57 3002153828. In the heart of Cartagena's old walled city. It has four rooms. The hotel has a restaurant, room service, free wifi for guests, two terraces with beautiful views of the historical city center, and a third terrace with a BBQ. The rooms have air conditioning, minibar, plasma TVs, and satellite TV. From US$90.
  • 25 Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion (El Laguito), +57 5 6650660. From US$129.
  • 26 Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29 (Centro), +57 5 664-9479. A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms reportedly from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season. rates upon request.
  • 27 Hotel Alfiz, Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 (between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral), +57-5-660 0006, . A romantic hotel in the old city. From COP$550,000.
  • 28 Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 (Centro), +57-5-664-0306, . This small beautifully restored hotel thst has been recommended in the New York Times travel section. The hotel is English owned and run. Guests enjoy free WiFi and a PC work station. From COP$265,000.
  • 29 Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, Cr 8 No 39-29, Calle del Tomo (San Diego), +57-5-664-6070. Nice hotel with decent prices for its category, though a bit generic. From COP$720,000.
  • 30 [dead link] La Merced Hotel, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4, +57 5 6647727. A boutique style hotel. from US$249.

Stay safe edit

Cartagena by night

The touristed old town is not more dangerous than a city in the first world, but going off the beaten path to the periphery of the city there is a real risk of getting robbed. Be very careful when walking at night specially around lonely parts of the city. Locals are in general helpful and kind. The street vendors can be very annoying, but a simple "No quiero nada" in Spanish will keep them away.

Getsemani where a lot of the budget hotels are located is safe during the day but it does become very seedy at night, with a lot of aggressive beggars as well as lowlife individuals who make a living by talking to all tourists and selling drugs or asking for tips for minor things, such as walking with you to the store, when you didn't even ask him to do so. These people are very aggressive and will follow you around, do not support them by giving them money.

Aggressive beggars

As of Oct 2016 aggressive beggars are a major annoyance in Cartagena, they will follow people around relentlessly harassing tourists to give them money. Sometimes when you are shopping in the supermarket, a lady beggar will ask you to buy bread for her, despite having her shopping cart full already. If you leave the tourist areas you might be surrounded by delinquent looking 12-year-olds demanding you give them your coins. They don't ask, they demand, it's short of a robbery, more like taxation through intimidation. Do not give to these people ever or you are encouraging them to continue. Do not give in, stay polite and they'll just go away.

Possession of illegal drugs in Colombia can lead to criminal charges. There is a scam going on where tourists are lured into buying illegal drugs. If you try to buy, "police" (the rest of the con gang) will emerge in a minute, drag you off to the nearest ATM and demand that you withdraw astronomical sums to pay "fines" or even kidnap you.

Money-changing magicians edit

Those street vendors offer you a very good exchange rate. After you have counted the money you will recognize that a small amount is missing, and after complaining he will put exactly that amount on top again. In the same move they will take some big notes from the bottom. Most people won't count their money a second time, and first think they made a good deal but in fact got ripped off.

Dodgy tours to Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca edit

The tours offered to visit Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca can be quite a let down. You'll be offered a price for a tour which "includes" either snorkeling or entrance to the aquarium and a meal at Playa Blanca for about COP$50,000. Once on the trip you find out that you have to pay extra for the aquarium or the snorkeling - COP$15,000. Make sure the tour guides on the boat are told by the person who sold the tour what is included in order to avoid disagreements.

The best way to book a tour is going inside the marina and avoiding the "sales" people outside. They are getting a cut for the sales and have no responsibility to you. Once inside ask for Elizabeth ('La negra Liz"). She owns several boats, will give you the best price, and most importantly her word. You can rent your own small boat for COP$700,000 or secure a seat for COP$75,000. Ask them before hand about the itinerary. Her company in particular has its own "resort" in the Rosario Islands. The resort is clean, nice and has good food for a reasonable price. Their beach access is limited and less than spectacular. Her boats will insist on taking you there, but you have a choice.

Playa Blanca is by far the best beach, but it can be overwhelming with the locals trying to sell you their products.

More upscale destinations include the Baru Island and private resorts owned by the big hotels (Santa Clara, Santa Teresa). In most, you are allowed to spend the day at the beach. Every tour boat has their own agenda.

Long-distance buses edit

If you plan to take a bus to Santa Marta from bus terminal, it is advised to approach ticket counters and buy tickets directly there. Otherwise be aware: normally there is a bus service with connection in Barranquilla, where you will have to change a bus and pay a new fare to Santa Marta again, even if you have already paid it in a previous bus and even if you were promised that this was an absolutely direct bus to Santa Marta. If you happen to have this kind of connection in Barranquilla, make sure that you keep your tickets with you (even though they are being collected shortly after departure) and make sure that the guy, who will meet you in a bus and guide to another bus during a connection was clearly notified by a bus driver that you have already paid your fare to Santa Marta.

Stay healthy edit

Colombia has an outbreak of the Zika virus, which is hazardous for pregnant women since it can severely damage the baby in the womb. The Colombian government is advising its residents to avoid pregnancy and various other governments advise women who are or might become pregnant to avoid travel to the area. Here is the travel advisory from the US government Center for Disease Control.

Hospitals edit

  • 2 Hospital Bocagrande (corner of Carrera 6 and Calle 5), +57 5 6655 270.
  • 3 Hospital Naval de Bocagrande, Carrera 2 No. 14-210, Base Naval, +57 5 6655 361. Also has a decompression chamber for diving accidents.

Connect edit

Mail box in Parque Bolívar

Post edit

  • 4 Deprisa, Av Venezuela (Centro Edificio Citibank, local B1), +57 5 664 7822. M-F 08:00-12:30 & 14:00-18:00, Sa 08:00-13:00.
  • 5 Adpostal, corner of Calle 34 and Av. Luis Carlos López (in La Matuna, Centro Comercial Galerias). Here you can buy stamps.

Sending postcards to Europe is expensive; a stamp costs COP$6,800.

Internet edit

  • 6 Contact Internet Café, Calle de la Media Luna No 10-20, +57 5 664 0681. 08:00-21:00. COP$1000/hr.
  • 7 Micronet, Calle de la Estrella No 4-47, +57 5 664 0328. 09:00-21:00. COP$1500/hr.

Cope edit

  • 8 DAS, Carrera 20B No 29-18, Pie de la Popa, +57 5 666 0172. M-Sa 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00. The immigration authority, where you need to go if you wish to extend your visa.

Consulates edit

  •   9 Greece, Carrera 9, Esq. Edificio Castillo del Mar, +575 6551-352, fax: +575 664-7388.
  •   10 Panama, Carrera 1 No 10-10 (Bocagrande), +57 5 655 155. M-Sa 08:00-12:00.
  •   11 Venezuela, Carrera 3 No 8-129 (Edificio Centro Executivo, 14th floor), +57 5 665 0382. M-Fr 09:00-11:30 & 13:30-16:00.

Libraries edit

  • 12 Biblioteca Bartolomé Calvo, Cl. de la lnquisición 23. M-F 08:30-18:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. The city library.

Go next edit

Santa Marta
  • You can get to Santa Marta for COP$80,000 with Berlinastur (Feb 2021). Buses leave every twenty minutes and the trip lasts about 5½ hours and passes through Barranquilla (US$16 if you stay there; departures every hour, half of the buses stay here and half continue to Santa Marta). In Cartagena, their terminal is at Crespo, on the way to the airport. Many colectivos passing by the India Catalina can let you just at their door for COP$1,500. They also have buses to Cúcuta, Bucaramanga and Bogotá.
  • About 45 km northeast of Cartagena on the road to Barranquila is the Volcán del Totumo, a 15 m high mud volcano. You can enter the crater and take a mud bath (entrance COP$2,000), which is enormous fun and highly recommended. The nearby laguna then serves as a natural bath for washing off the mud.
The easiest way to get there is to take a tour. These cost around COP$30,000 (Dec 2010, COP$50,000 but booked from Hilton) with Rafael Perez tours (next door to the Cartagena Plaza Hotel in Bocagrande) and include the one hour each way journey to the volcano, as well as lunch and a swim at La Boquilla on the return to Cartagena. Another tour company is Los Pinos, which also charges COP$35,000 (or COP$25,000 without lunch) and uses the Manzanillo del Mar fishing village for a swim on the return journey. This tour can be booked from many hotels, such as the Casa Viena, in Calle San Andrés (Getsemaní), 5-664-6242 or Hostel Mamallena in Calle Media Luna 5-664-0948. Although the mud bath and massages are offered free of charge, you will be expected to tip anyone who helped you before your bus leaves. Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, your shoes, holding onto your camera and taking snaps while you are immersed in the mud, and the women who help you wash off in the laguna. Tips of COP$1,000-5,000 for each person are the norm, depending on the service. Be sure to bring change.
Going by yourself is quite a hassle, but you may find you have the whole volcano to yourself and can take all the time you want. (Dec 2010, COP$3,000 for every help, massage, guy who takes photos of you, woman who helps who washing afterwards.) Take a bus from the city center to Terminal de transporte (COP$1,700). There, take the hourly bus to Galerazamba and get off at Lomito Arena (COP$6,000). From there it is 45 minute walk or take a motortaxi (COP$2,000). The whole trip takes about 2.5 hours. The last bus back from Lomito Arena leaves around 15:00.
  • Botanical gardens Jardin Botanico de Guillermo Piñeres — A pleasant escape from the city rush, 18 km out of Cartagena close to "Turbaco", a small town 20 km from the center of Cartagena. Take a bus to the bus terminal and get of at "la Bomba de Amparo", a big gasoline station 25 minutes out of the center. From there, are leaving buses to "Turbaco"- get off (ask the driver) a bit before Turbaco and walk to the right, about 20 minutes straight on. Together with your entry ticket you get leaflet which lists about 250 plants identified in the gardens, including some varieties of coca plants.
  • Punta Arena — A fishing village 10 minutes by boat on the island of "Tierrabomba", in front of "Laguito" (Bocagrande). You reach it by boats (lanchas), leaving from "Muelle de los Pegasos" or with boats in "Laguito" next to the Hilton Hotel. Punta Arena has probably the nicest beaches close to Cartagena. There are restaurants where you can get food and drinks. Enjoy a day, hanging out under palm trees with a fantastic view of the skyline of Cartagena.
  • La Boquilla — A fishing village (pueblo de pescadores) close to Cartagena. Take a bus for COP$1,600 (March 2013), from India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela), if you get off of the bus at the end of the ride you can rent a canoe which brings you to a nice beach (Playa de Oro) passing trough lagoons and mangroves – pay for the boat once you are back. Riding a bike is a great way to get there and should take around an hour. Once you get past the end of the airport turn on to the beach and you can ride along the sand to La Boquilla.
  • Bocachica - a fishing village on the island of "Tierrabomba" (pueblo de pescadores)
Bocachica is worth to visit to see its restored fortress (Fuerte de San Fernando). The beach isn't really special but OK to hang out for some hours. Several open-air restaurant serve food and drinks. Local boats leave during the day every 30-45 minutes from "Muelle de los Pegassos". The boat ride takes about 15 minutes. Guides will try to sell you expensive "all included" trips to Bocachica but you should pay just the local fare (COP$5,000/one way, July 2009). Once you ask for the price it will get more expensive.
  • Los Montes de María — This is a sub-region in the Colombian Caribbean that is in the south, 2 hours away from Cartagena by car. It's composed of mountains whose highest point is about 1,000 m above sea level. This region is of great ecological importance, one of the last remaining dry forests still intact in the Colombian Caribbean, with around 280 species of birds and 44 species of mammals, among which the Red Howler and the cotton top tamarin (an endemic monkey species). This ecosystem (dry forest) is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The Montes de María is also famous because of the Gaita Music, the Hammocks and its indigenous history (It has one of the oldest pottery made by cultures in America), an interesting region to hike, to see wildlife and to learn from this unique culture of the Colombian Caribbean
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