Cartagena is hailed as one of the most beautiful South American cities and the most interesting city in Colombia. Cruise lines generally “sell” the cruise destination as the highlight of a Caribbean cruise.
Cartagena is the capital of the Bolivar department. The city is located in northwest Colombia on the Caribbean Sea. The population is estimated at 914.600 (as of June 30, 2020). The name of the city is derived from the Spanish city of Cartagena. To avoid confusion, the Colombian city was given the addition of "de Indias".
View of Cartagena
Cartagena - history
The Spanish conqueror Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena in 1533 on the coastal islands. Cartagena quickly developed into a leading trading port. From there the conquistadors shipped the precious metals, pearls and precious stones gathered in the countries of the region to the Spanish motherland twice a year.
Cartagena also quickly became a port of destination for slave ships. In addition to Spanish ships, Dutch and English ships used the site to unload their human cargo. The prosperity from these businesses inevitably attracted pirates. After an attack by the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, Cartagena was massively fortified. Imposing ramparts and 29 forts were built. The test of the resilience of the defenses was provided in 1740 by the onslaught of a British fleet of 186 ships and 18.000 soldiers. Cartagena's fortresses withstood the onslaught. The city was subsequently described as impregnable.
Cartagena - Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Cartagena - climate
Nobody needs to freeze on a city tour through Cartagena. The whole year round the temperatures fluctuate between tropical 25 and 32 degrees Celsius. The relative humidity fluctuates by 90 percent.
Cartagena - economically
The slave trade is a dark past: Cartagena's port is Colombia's most important port. Colombia's navy made the city its main port. Cartagena's residents make their living from fishing, the port industry, refineries, the petrochemical industry and international tourism. Tourism is a major economic factor in the city. Sun-hungry holidaymakers are drawn to the Bocagrande hotel zone in front of the walled old town.
Cartagena - Bocagrande Hotel Zone
Cartagena - culture and science
Cartagena is a university city and the seat of an archbishop. The city has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984. The historic walled and well-kept city center with the fortress ring and the many houses built in the Andalusian style is worth seeing.
Cartagena - a major Caribbean cruise destination
Cruise ships dock in Cartagena at Terminal de Cruceros on Isla de Manga. Despite reports to the contrary, we feel that we are in good hands in Cartagena. There are video cameras everywhere and well-equipped police officers and their drug dogs cannot be overlooked.
Cruise ships in the port of Cartagena
What can we and our fellow travelers expect in Cartagena? Poverty, street robbery, drug trafficking? We don't believe that it is much more dangerous in Cartagena than, for example, in Berlin, Frankfurt or Hamburg. When we first visited Colombia in 1999, well-meaning Colombians advised us not to walk around Bogota. They warned us of muggers in an excited voice: "They shoot you for nothing". Cartagena is not Bogota. In general, the security situation in Colombia is better today. Especially in Cartagena, on days when cruise ships call at the port, the presence of the security forces and the tourist police is visibly increased. So what should we passengers fear?
Cartagena's historic old town is six kilometers from the cruise ship pier. Visitors who, like us, tend to take individual tours are well advised to take a taxi for the way into the city in view of the tropical temperatures. There are enough taxi drivers waiting at the terminal. Taximeters are not in use. The fare is negotiated before starting the journey. Payment is in pesos. US dollars are also accepted. In these cases, however, there is a tendency to dupe tourists with the conversion rate. Those who can count have a clear advantage.
We describe what there is to see and experience in Cartagena below Cartagena - landmarks.
Update April 2021