25 Best Things To Do In Cartagena (Colombia) in 2024

Bradley Williams
Written By:
Bradley Williams
Last Updated:
December 31, 2023
Here's my in-depth guide on the best things to do in Cartagena this year. Discover why we love this place so much and how to have an epic visit yourself!
Best Things To Do In Cartagena

Over the last 6 years of travel, we've been lucky enough to spend over 6 months of our time exploring the continent of South America, and in particular, the beautiful country of Colombia.

We've visited Cartagena twice, so we are well equipped with the knowledge of what to see and do in this beautiful city!

Located along the tropical Caribbean coast, Cartagena is one of our favourite cities to explore when in Colombia.

From exploring its colourful neighbourhoods and authentic culture to lounging on its postcard perfect beaches, you’ll find there’s plenty to see and do here. 

As such, it's one of the best places to visit in the world if you ask us! 

We've been here on multiple occasions over the years (all the way back to when I was just a wee whipper snapper on cruises with my grandparents!).

But most recently we spent almost 2 weeks in the city waiting for our van to arrive from being shipped down from Mexico. (For those interested, you can read more about our round the world road trip here).

And trust me when I say it’s a fantastic city to be stuck in!

And that’s without mentioning the tonne of awesome day trips to explore nearby, which include relaxing in a mud volcano!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Cartagena, Colombia. 

This includes where to stay, the very best things to see and do as well as our own top recommendations.

But before we get stuck in...

If you're looking for a QUICK answer! Then here is a quick round up of our top 10 things to do in Cartagena!

  1. Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
  2. Walk along the Cartagena Walls
  3. Drink Coffee at the famous Café San Alberto (Yum, we LOVED it - and we're coffee snobs ;))
  4. Sunset drinks at Café del Mar (get there early for a table!)
  5. Drinks and Dinner at Henry's Rooftop Bar (with a view of San Felipe!) 
  6. A sunset cruise! (Go to number 13 to book the EXACT tour we did!)
  7. Wander the old town cobblestone streets (generic but seriously good)
  8. Find Sloths in Centenario Park (Spoiler alert, we found them!)
  9. Take photos of Monumento Torre del Reloj
  10. Take a walking tour to learn about the diverse history of the area!
Note: Some posts may contain affiliate links. Read more in our Privacy Policy. Learn more about how we create and update content in our Publishing Guidelines.

Getting to Know Cartagena

Why Visit Cartagena

Why Visit Cartagena

Often Cartagena is the first city travellers will visit in South America (it’s the gateway for those arriving from Central America), and is the perfect place for learning about Colombia’s rich history and roots. 

There are several museums worth visiting here such as the Museo de la Inscripción.

You’ll also find a tonne of culture out and about on its streets too, which includes trying some of the more authentic Colombian dishes from this region.

The walled Historic Centre is famous for its fortified layout, which was one of the most significant builds of the Spanish Empire

Getsemani is another popular area which is known for its splash of murals and beautiful side streets. You can easily spend a day simply wandering around these whilst taking some Instagram-worthy photos too!

Of course we can’t not mention the beaches when in Cartagena. 

With its own hearty share of turquoise waters, here you’ll find many stunning beaches to relax on. Isla Baru is one of the most famous, whilst the further afield Rosario Islands are the most beautiful of all.

How to get to Cartagena

How to get to Cartagena

Cartagena is situated in the very north of Colombia, within the region of Bolivar. 

The main ways of getting here are either by flight, bus, or a boat tour from Panama.


If arriving into Colombia from further afield, you’ll first want to head to Bogotá which is the capital. 

From here you can then catch a connecting flight over to Cartagena, with a one-way ticket costing roughly $40-55 USD. 

This option is usually much cheaper than flying directly into Cartagena, and you’ll also find it easier from different continents too.

Having said that, you can of course fly directly to Cartagena from other countries, which in some cases may be better than transferring in Bogotá. 

Some of the best destinations to fly direct from include Panama, Mexico and the USA. A one-way flight from these countries will cost around $120-180+ (not including baggage fees).

There are also many domestic routes for those already in Colombia, with some of the cheapest departures leaving from Medellin, Cali and even San Andres Island (which is located off-shore in the Caribbean). 

Prices start at around $25 USD, which in some cases is even cheaper than the bus!

You can see the different flight routes and prices here on SkyScanner

By Bus

Using a bus is the most favourite option for travellers. since it tends to be the overall cheapest.

It’s best for those who are already nearby, such as in cities like Barranquilla, Santa Marta or even Medellin (the latter for those who don’t mind a longer, overnight trip). 

A one-way bus trip from Medellin will cost $35, with the route taking 14 hours. 

Keep in mind that if you head directly to the bus terminal to buy your ticket you can usually get them cheaper.

Buses in Colombia aren’t the most exquisite, however you can pay a little extra for a nicer service (which we definitely recommend for the longer routes).

It’s not uncommon for buses to get delayed or take longer than usual, so if travelling by bus then try not to make scheduled plans for the hour you arrive!

On BusBud you can check out the various bus routes and also compare different providers. 

By Boat

The last option into Cartagena is by far the most adventurous and memorable one, and definitely something we recommend doing if you can.

From Panama City there is a boat tour that travels to Cartagena, where you’ll spend time (often several days) exploring the beautiful San Blas Islands. 

The trip usually takes a minimum of 4 Days, which includes nights on the island as well as sailing across the open sea to reach Cartagena. 

Whilst this is by far the most expensive option (tours start at around $500 USD), it will also include all accommodation and meals. 

Not only will you spend time on world-class beaches, you’ll also get to know the Kuna Yala tribe who will welcome you on to their islands.

Getting around Cartagena

Cartagena is quite a big city, and often surprises most travellers who otherwise think it will be much smaller. 

Of course the majority of the city won’t be explored by most given there’s little tourist value here, as well as it being quite dangerous in certain parts too. 

If you need to get around these parts, then it’s best using reputable taxis or hiring a private shuttle to make the trip. 

From the airport you’ll also want to use a registered taxi which can be sorted within the airport (or even pre-booked online).

The main touristy areas of Cartagena (Getsemani, the Historic Centre and Boca Grande) can also be easily walked during the day. 

Just be sure to use lots of sunscreen as well as bring lots of water as it can get very hot. 

At night it’s best to use taxis to get between the further parts of these areas.

I used to run around the outer city walls in about 25 minutes; so it’s not impossible to see most of Cartagena’s best sites within a few hours of walking.

Where to Stay in Cartagena?

Where to Stay in Cartagena

Cartagena is a pretty big city, however most parts are not ideal for tourists to base themselves in. 

There’s 3 main areas which are good for staying in.

The Getsemani neighborhood is the overall cheapest, and best for those who want to experience real culture along with some really pretty and artsy streets to explore. You’ll find many hostels and some hotels in this neighbourhood.

El Centro Histórico is the best area for those who want safety above all else, and also to be close to all of the important sites. This is the area that’s within the fortified walls of Cartagena, and hence has a very important heritage and historical feel to the place. There’s a larger range of hotels here compared to Getsemani. 

Lastly we have the area of Bocagrande. This strip is lined by the same-named beach, and is best for those who want to bronze-up on its expansive beaches. It’s also close to the ferries you’ll need to take to visit Baru Island. Here you’ll find mostly resorts and more expensive hotels, so it's not best for those travelling on a budget.

  • Budget pick - Those who want to keep a low budget will want to stay at the Media Luna Hostel. Situated in Getsemani, you’ll be in a nice dorm room close to all of the awesome artsy streets as well as some great nightlife too. 
  • Mid-range pick - If you're looking for a mid-range accommodation option, then we recommend staying at Hotel Gallery Cartagena. Here you’ll have a comfortable private room with a balcony overlooking the main square of the Centro Histórico. 
  • Luxury choice - Lastly we have the deluxe option for those who want a more all-inclusive feel. Hotel Caribe is our top pick, where you’ll be based in an en-suite room in the district of Boca Grande. Best of all you’ll be just footsteps from the white sandy beaches here! 

If you're after great deals, check out our guide on how to get cheap hotel rooms...

25 Best Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Now we’ll explore the very best things you can see and do when in Cartagena.

1. Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Kicking off our list is perhaps one of the most interesting sites you can visit in all of Cartagena. 

The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a fortified castle that was built in 1536, during the reign of the Spanish Empire. 

It’s one of the most impressive fortresses made during this colonial period, and walking around you’ll see many cannons as well as the imposing stone walls. 

You can also explore the intertwining tunnel system here too, which made this site so notoriously difficult to be overrun. 

Just be sure to come either in the early morning or evening, as this time of day is much cooler (as well as there being less crowds too). 

I really recommend heading here with this tour instead of doing it yourself. 

Not only will you learn the history as well as other important facts about the site from your professional guide, you’ll also have hotel pick-up and drop-off as well as some Colombian snacks included too!

Visiting Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a must do in Cartagena so make sure it's at the top of your list.

2. Walk along the Cartagena Walls

One of the very best things you can do in Cartagena is to explore the Historic Centre. 

And it’s here where you’ll find the postcard perfect walls that surround the old city. 

As well as being striking in their appearance, they also served an important function of suppressing any attacks from pirate ships that came from the coast. 

It actually took over 200 years for construction to be complete, given there were many raids and wars during this time. 

One way to see them is from below, either by walking inside or outside of the walled centre (I recommend doing both since it will give you different perspectives). 

You can also walk along the top of these giant walls too, which give some amazing views over the coast. 

With this half-day tour you’ll explore the very best parts of the wall, as well as visiting Cartagena Bay and the Fort of San Felipe.

3. Drink Coffee at the famous Café San Alberto

Coffee really is a way of life here in Colombia. 

Here you’ll find some of the very best tasting coffee on earth, owing to its unique growing conditions in the zone known as the Eje Cafetero in Central Colombia. 

You don’t need to travel here to taste the very best brews though, as there’s many different bistros and cafés within Cartagena that also have plenty of the good stuff. 

One of the very best (that you must visit at least once) in the city has to be the Café San Alberto.

As well as serving some really tasty coffees and teas, they also have several unique experiences on offer too, such as a Coffee and Rum pairing which is best for those looking to kick off the night… 

Café San Alberto is located on the south of Plaza Santo Domingo, which is located within the walls of the old city. 

It’s open from 9:00am until 9:00pm all days of the week (although it actually closes earlier on Fridays at 7:30pm).

4. Wander the Streets of the Old Town

Wander the Streets of the Old Town

The true heart of Cartagena, the old town was where the city was first founded way back in 1533. 

From here an abundance of colonial buildings and architecture were then developed, which still remain in great condition throughout its mazing streets. 

As such it’s really worth spending a good half-day walking around, where you can really appreciate the different architectural styles and rows of colourful buildings. 

Some of the very best sites to see here include the Cartagena Cathedral, the Clock Tower Gate as well as walking along Calle Santo Domingo. 

There’s also a couple of plazas to relax in, and I recommend heading to the leafy square of Plaza Bolívar, where there’s plenty of shade and benches, as well as some nice cafes to have lunch in such as Juan Valdez. 

Those with more free time can also head to the Museo del Oro which is next to Plaza de Bolívar. It's home to a large collection of pre-Columbian artefacts such as gold and pottery.

Wandering around the Old Town is certainly one of the top things to do in Cartagena, so don't leave this area off your itinerary!

5. Enjoy Cartagena’s Awesome Street Art

Cartagena’s Awesome Street Art

Most who are heading to (or know of) Cartagena will probably have heard of its artsy streets and picturesque neighbourhoods. 

This area is known as Getsemani, which is a small district that is found to the east of the Historic Centre. 

When coming here you’ll want to start your walk along the Calle Media Luna (also known as Calle 30), which is the main street that runs through town. 

From here we can either head to Calle San Juan or Calle de las Tortugas to see the very best art creations. 

Those who want the classic photo with the umbrellas overhead will want to walk along Calle de San Andrés, which is one of the busiest streets in the area. 

The best way of exploring these streets is with this tour, where your local guide will show you some of the more hidden and unknown spots too. 

Just make sure to lather up with sunscreen and bring lots of water as it can get very hot during the day!

6. Marvel at the many Fascinating Buildings

Cartagena is one of those cities that’s best explored at your own pace. Not only is the heat sometimes overbearing, however you’ll also find that you’ll need more time to explore its best sights. 

In this city you’ll find an abundance of awesome buildings to explore.

I recommend starting within the historic centre, and then heading to the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa Catalina de Alejandría (also known as Cartagena Cathedral, which is shorter and sweeter). 

Built at the end of the 16th Century, this imposing, yellow-stained church is very hard to miss, and inside you can explore the good decorations and wooden reliefs. 

Also within the historic centre you’ll want to see the picturesque arches of Las Bóvedas, along with the bustling Santo Domingo square. 

Outside of town, it’s worth heading to the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa, which is a monastery that dates back to 1607 and is located on the edge of Cartagena’s highest hill.

7. Visit one of the nearby Islands for Snorkelling and Relaxing

Playa Blanca Beach in Baru Island, Cartagena

One of the very best things about Cartagena has to be the lapping waters of the Caribbean that are literally within touching distance. 

Whilst the beaches of Bocagrande are nice, it's the islands that are found just off-shore which are the very best. 

The Rosario Islands are located around 100 km from the mainland, and are by far the most stunning and worthy of a visit. 

Here you can go snorkelling and diving in these incredible, transparent waters. 

As well as its gorgeous beaches, you’ll also be able to visit the aquarium and oceanarium to see many rare and exotic marine species. 

You’ll need to go with an organised tour to reach the archipelago, and I highly recommend this tour

As well as visiting Isla Grande and the postcard-perfect Playa Blanca (which is on Barú Island), you’ll also have a tasty lunch included as well as snorkelling equipment. 

Those who want a private and fully customisable option (including how long the trip is and also what you do on your itinerary) will love this alternative option.

8. Dine within the hip area of Getsemani

When it comes to finding somewhere nice to eat, you’ll see that there’s a big variety of venues all over Cartagena. 

Whilst Bocagrande and the Historic Centre have some more swanky venues, it’s Getsemani that has the best overall range. 

Those who are looking for a more local restaurant with authentic Colombian food will want to head to Restaurante Bar Vive, who do both national dishes as well as regional specialities. 

Another great option is Guatila, who also do some mouth-watering dishes from this area of South America.

If you’re after a more cosmopolitan restaurant that caters to a larger variety of tastes, then I recommend heading to Café de la Trinidad who do everything from sandwiches and pizza to more local dishes too.

9. Find Sloths in Centenario Park

Sloths in Centenario Park‍

Walking around Cartagena during the day, you will probably find the heat exhausting at times and need a good place to catch some shade. 

The Centenario Park is the perfect place to do just this, which has many benches and tall trees providing some much needed relief from the hot Colombian sun. 

It’s also unique in that you can spot a variety of animals who live here. 

According to a local we spoke to, there are 300 iguanas, 15 monkeys, and 8 sloths. 

Local vendors will point out where they are, and you will also usually see groups of people crowded under the sloths. 

It’s best to come in the early morning where the animals are more active, and also before the sun gets too hot. 

Centenario Park is located in-between the popular districts of Getsemani and the Old City, and is just a 5 minute walk from the Torre de Reloj in town. 

It’s open from 7:00am until 6:30pm all days of the week.

10. Visit a Mud Volcano

El Totumo Volcano

How many times can you say that you’ve had a mud bath inside of a volcano? 

Well that’s exactly what you can do in El Totumo, which is located roughly an hour outside of Cartagena. 

This tiny volcano measures in at just 15m, making it by far one of the smallest volcanoes in the continent.

And it gets better too - given you can sit at the top and have a relaxing, hot mud bath! 

Given it’s full of rich minerals, it’s really good for the skin so you’ll want to make the absolute most of it. 

I recommend joining this all-inclusive tour from Cartagena, which includes hotel pick-up and drop-off as well as all transport provided too. 

As well as having plenty of time to soak in the springs and get a massage, you’ll also get to  visit the low-key beach of Manzanillo. 

Those who prefer a more intimate experience can head with this private tour, where you’ll be able to visit before the heaps of tourist buses arrive. 

As an added bonus, you’ll also make a visit to the stunning Salinas de Galerazamba.

11. Grab Drinks and Dinner at Henry's Rooftop Bar (with a view of San Felipe!) 

If you’re looking for a spot to have a really memorable night, then look no further than Henry’s Rooftop Bar

Here you can get some really nice food (their chicken wings are a specialty which you’ll want to try at least once), and then order some drinks in before the sunset arrives. 

Their Croquetas Yuca are also very much worth a try too! 

Whilst it’s a good place for a late lunch, it’s much better coming around 5:00pm to get your spot to watch the dark red sunset. 

As well as having great food, you’ll be happy to know that prices aren’t too expensive, so you can come and enjoy yourself without worrying about breaking the bank. 

Henry's Rooftop Bar is located in the neighbourhood of Quinta, which is just a short walk east from Getsemani (along the Calle 30). 

It’s open from 3:00pm until 11:00pm all days of the week.

12. Head to Café del Mar

Café del Mar
Great spot for a sunset cocktail!

Given it has the word “Mar” in its name, you’d be right in guessing that they specialise in all foods from the vast ocean. 

Café del Mar’s Pulpo a la Parrilla is a real local’s favourite, however even those not keen on seafood can find other great dishes such as Steak as well as the Chef’s Salad. 

They also do some really tasty cocktails too, with the Piratas del Caribe and their signature “Café del Mar” cocktails worthy of trying when here. 

Given its stellar location, you can expect it to get really rammed here most hours.

If planning on heading here for dinner time, it’s best to try and come around 4/5pm to get a good seat to watch the sunset (tables along the seawall are the best, and of course in the most demand too). 

The Café del Mar is located within the historic centre of Cartagena, next to the Baluarte de Santo Domingo (which is around a 10 minute walk from the Torre Reloj).

It’s open from 4:30pm until 2:00am all days of the week.

13. Take Sail with a Sunset Cruise

Given Cartagena’s prime position along the Caribbean coast, it’s become a really popular place to head out and explore the blue ocean with its many tropical islands. 

One of our favourite experiences we had here was onboard this sunset yacht tour, which we highly recommend other travellers heading to Cartagena to do as well. 

Here you’ll spend over an hour sailing around the coast, with an open bar of rum punch and other alcoholic delights to make the most of! 

Cartagena sunset cruise
The drinks were gooood!

As well as seeing the sunset, you’ll also have a few stops at different areas such as Castillogrande, Bocagrande as well as the lighthouse. 

Those who want a more all-inclusive experience (along with a meal provided) will love this longer tour out on the ocean

They provide a luxury 4-course meal (you can choose from different international cuisines) and even upgrade your experience to a more romantic private table if you want.

So if you're wondering what to do in Cartagena, Colombia then don't miss out on this activity! 

14. Pose at the Monumento Torre del Reloj

Monumento Torre del Reloj

As much as you’ll want to soak in the hot sun and lounge on the beaches when in Cartagena, it’s also mandatory to do some proper sightseeing too! 

And of all the different landmarks you can visit in this coastal city, the Torre del Reloj by far has to be one of the most picturesque of all. 

A clocktower that sits on top of the fortified wall of the old city, this site holds much historical importance as it was the original entrance into the walled city. 

It was built in the early 18th Century by Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor, who was a military engineer. 

Its yellow faded tint, along with its post classical architectural style, makes it one of the very best photo spots in Cartagena. 

The Torre del Reloj also separates the Plaza de la Independencia with the Plaza de los Coches, making it an ideal stop whilst out exploring this awesome area of Cartagena. 

I personally recommend coming in the early morning, or else you may have to contend with a horde of tourists and also some stubborn street vendors too!

15. Pick up Souvenirs at Las Bóvedas

Las Bóvedas in Cartagena, Colombia

Once serving as a dungeon where prisoners were kept, Las Bóvedas has now changed its ways into a picturesque building which is a must-visit when in Cartagena. 

Here you can not only learn about the pretty gruesome history of the site (including the conditions of which prisoners were left in), however you can also enjoy what is perhaps the best spot to go bargain hunting within the city.

As you weave between the 47 different colourful arches, you’ll see that the old cells have now been converted into souvenir shops! 

There’s many awesome things you can buy here either for yourself or for family and friends. 

Some of the best items include a hand-woven hammock, backpacks, and traditional clothing as well garments. You can see this guide for more ideas!

Whilst many of the stalls may seem like they are selling the same thing (it’s quite a common thing in Latin American markets!), you can also find a few gems in the rough too. So it’s best to come prepared to explore.

16. Learn how to Salsa

salsa dancing

Surely you didn’t think that this one would be left out?! 

Salsa is one of the most popular dances in all of Latin America, and in Colombia it’s like a religion. 

Whilst you’ll find great venues in cities all over the country, Cartagena is also a really good place for strutting your stuff. 

Some of the best salsa bars to head to after dark include the Donde Fidel Salsa Bar, as well as Café Havana which often has live salsa performances and bands playing. 

Café Havana is in my opinion the better option, which is open from 8:00pm until 1:00am most nights of the week (and even later on Friday and Saturday nights). 

One of the most fun ways to explore a Salsa night out is with this organised experience

Here you’ll head to several different venues (all alcohol and admissions included) as well as your instructor teaching you some moves out there on the dance floor. 

Those who want to get really good can head to the Crazy Salsa School, which is located within the historic centre.

17. Check out the Beaches and Vibrancy of Bocagrande

Bocagrande beach, Cartagena

Most travellers who head to Cartagena tend to stay around the historic centre or Getsemani, and not really touch upon Bocagrande

The truth is that this upscale district is a really cool place to hang out for the day. 

The beach here is really long (around 1.7 km) where you’ll find a tonne of restaurants, beach bars and also palapas which you can rent for the day. 

However it can get really busy, with locals filling up the beach despite its long size. It’s best to come on weekdays or from 8-12am if you prefer less people around. 

You can also head to El Laguito when here, which is a small lake with several parks that is perfect for chilling out for the day. 

Lastly, those who love shopping absolutely must come to Bocagrande. 

As it’s the most built-up area in Cartagena, here you’ll find one of the most famed malls in the country (second most expensive too!). Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s still nice to have a wander around here.

18. Get yourself a Spa Treatment (For a great price!)

mud spa treatment

There’s nothing quite like getting a spa treatment after lots of travelling on the road. 

It finally gives you an opportunity to relax those tired legs and muscles, and also to treat yourself to a much needed break too. 

In Cartagena the very best spa happens to be located right in a volcano! 

Totumo Volcano stands at just 15m high, and the tiny crater is filled with mud that is rich in nutrients. 

You can safely lie in the warm mud and properly relax as your body gets exactly what it needs. 

You can also pay more for a massage too, which really would be the very best experience (because how often can you say you’ve had a massage whilst sat within a volcano’s crater?!). 

Getting to Totumo independently can be somewhat tricky, so I recommend coming with this tour which includes admission to the site as well as hotel pick-up and drop-off.

19. Hop On-board a Pirate Ship

Pirate ship cruise in Cartagena

Whilst Cartagena has a beautiful coast, historically it has led to many encounters with pirates that have attempted to seize the land for their own profits. 

Nowadays you probably won’t have any pirates trying to claim the land, however you can instead head on a Pirate Ship of your own as you explore the waters! 

With this awesome tour you’ll set sail in the evening to witness the incredible sunset, whilst also getting perfect views of Bocagrande, El Laguito, and Playa de Castillo Grande. 

You’ll also have a guided tour during the experience, where you’ll learn about attempted invasions which eventually led to the Spanish developing the fortified walls found around Cartagena’s historic city. 

The best part though about this tour has to be the all-inclusive open bar, where you can get merry on the rum punch (or lemonade, both with or without alcohol). 

Whilst most in Cartagena stick to the basic sites and activities, why not do something out of the ordinary?

20. Go Paratriking 

There really is nothing quite like a birds-eye view of Cartagena, and on this reputable activity we’ll literally be soaring over this Colombian city in epic fashion! 

Paratriking is similar to paragliding, however here you’ll be sat in a small vehicle which flies over this stretch of Colombian coast. 

You can truly feel free during this short flight, where you can see the different regions of Cartagena along with the incredible blue hues of the Caribbean Sea. 

Your certified guide will also show you different areas of importance, such as the San Felipe Fort as well as the Walled City (from above you’ll also see how these provided a great strategy in coping with incoming assaults from the coast). 

The 15 minute experience also has the option of a HD video included too, where you can relive your awesome flight over Cartagena.

I recommend heading on the morning flight if possible, as you’ll have a better chance of good weather as well as seeing the city as it wakes up too.

When it comes to unusual things to do in Cartagena, Colombia this is one of our top picks! 

21. Did Somebody say Party Bus?

Chiva Tours in Cartagena

The nightlife in Cartagena is exactly what you’d expect from a major Colombian city - wild and enticing. 

Walking around you’ll find a tonne of bars and nightclubs, however along the main road you’ll probably notice a few party buses whizzing round too. 

They’re called Chivas, which are known for their rowdy scenes which include illuminated lights and free-flowing drinks on-board. 

It’s a really great way of meeting like-minded people, and also to enjoy Cartagena in a different light. 

At the end of the tour you’ll make your way to a popular club all fuelled-up on local booze, so don’t worry about the night ending then and there! 

You can book your spot here, where you’ll have a tonne of drinks on offer as well as flashing lights and loud music as you make your way around the city. 

You’ll also visit several monuments such as the San Felipe Fort as well as the India Catalina Monument, so you’ll be hitting two birds with one stone here!

22. Discover Colombian Street Food

Empanadas in Cartagena

Colombia is well-known for its variety of tasty street foods, which makes it a great destination for foodies looking to explore its varied cuisine.

Those who are looking for a quick bite to take on-the-go will want either Empanadas (deep-fried pastries filled with potato and meat) or Arepas (a circular dough usually filled with cheese, as well as meat and avocado). 

When it comes to satiating a sweet tooth, then a Raspao (which is native to Cartagena) will come in perfect. 

It’s essentially a snow cone filled with exotic fruits and juices, which is a savour from the usually overbearing midday heat. 

Whilst you can look for these foods independently, I instead recommend heading with this half-day food tour

Here you’ll explore different areas of Cartagena including the Historic Centre and Getsemani, trying many delicious foods along the way! 

You’ll also have a guided historical tour around the walled city, as well as to other important landmarks such as the Torre del Reloj and Las Bóvedas.

23. Discover more about Cartagena’s Rich History

Cartagena’s Rich History

Whilst most know of Cartagena’s infamous colonial period, we often forget that this city has been inhabited long before the arrival of the Spanish. 

Evidence suggests that human settlement began here as early as 4000 BC, with the most famous tribe here being known as the Calamari People

Since then many different civilisations have lived on these lands, and the very best way of learning about them is at the Museum of the Palace of Inquisition

Here you can learn more about Cartagena’s past, where you’ll also wander around this stunning colonial building (even the entrance is photo-worthy in its own right!).

First opened back in 1770, here you can find a wide range of artefacts that range from coins and weapons to the darker torture devices that were used during the Spanish Conquest. 

It’s located within the historic centre, and is open from 9:00am until 6:00pm most days of the week (aside from Sunday which is from 10:00am until 4:00pm). 

Another museum that’s worth heading to is the Gold Museum, which has over 600 pieces of gold and ceramic artefacts (where you’ll also explore the ways of the Zenú people who once ruled these lands). 

This museum is also found within the historic centre, and is open from 8:30am until 5:00pm, Monday to Friday (Saturday is from 9:00am until 1:00pm).

24. Take a Walking Tour

Getsemani neighbourhood in Cartagena

A walking tour is by far one of the best ways of getting to know Cartagena. I highly recommend joining this guided tour, where your local guide will teach you all about the very best sites of Cartagena. 

Even better is the fact that it’s fully customisable too, so you can choose which activities or sights you want to see, and your guide will help to create a unique plan for you on the day. 

Some of the best areas to add to your itinerary would include the street art of Getsemani, the San Felipe Fort as well as the Walled City (and anywhere else of course that we’ve mentioned that takes your fancy!). 

You’ll have all bottled water supplied for you too.

There are some hostels and hotels that organise free walking tours, however the days of which they run can vary (you’ll need to ask them directly). This company however does free guided walking tours daily.

If you're wondering what to do in Cartagena, then we highly recommend going on a walking tour! 

25. Or how about a Bike Tour?

man on bicycle in Cartagena

Those who prefer a more active experience will simply love exploring Cartagena by bike. 

Not only can you get around quicker, however you can also join an organised tour where you’ll be shown the very best sites. 

On this guided bike tour, your local guide will show you around 1 of 2 predesigned routes which have been tailor-made to give you the most unforgettable experience. 

Your first option is the historic route, which includes visits to different museums, forts as well as to the Palace of the Inquisition. 

The second route is the graffiti art tour, where you’ll be shown the very best murals of Getsemani as well as visiting local artists’ studios too! 

You’ll have all equipment as well as hotel pick-up provided. 

Just make sure to bring lots of water, given that you’ll be cycling for a while in the hot sun.

Other Great tours/ways to see more in a limited time

If you want to visit the highlights of Cartagena, then don’t think you’re just limited to the usual walking or bike tour. 

There’s also a Hop On Hop Off bus service which is better for those who are more independent and don’t like following tight schedules.

Those who want a more private experience will want to go with this organised tour, where an air-conditioned vehicle will transport you between all of the main destinations. 

Last but not least is this cruise ship option. Here you’ll set sail around the Cartagena Bay, and also enjoy guided tours around the San Felipe Fort and the Emerald Museum.

Cartagena Travel Tips & FAQ

When is a good time to visit Cartagena?

Cartagena lies along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and as such has a tropical climate. 

There’s both a dry and wet season too, which can affect the kind of experience you have.

The dry season begins in December and lasts until around early May. Daily average temperatures range from 80-82°F, with lows of 76°F and highs of up to 87°F. 

During these months you can expect between 0-1.5 inches of rainfall. 

This time of year is perfect for exploring the beaches, and enjoying Cartagena with blue skies all round!

The wet season then begins in May, and lasts up until November. Average daily temperatures are more or less the same as the dry season, which hover between 82-83°F. Highs can reach 88°F, whilst lows can drop to 78°F. 

During the wet season the rains get heavier, with anywhere from 3.5-6 inches falling throughout each month. 

This time of year is great for those who want less crowds and also for getting hotel and travel deals.

You can learn more about the weather in Cartagena here at WeatherSpark.

How long should you spend in Cartagena

Cartagena is a very fun city to visit, and as such you’ll need quite a bit of time to see all of the amazing destinations that I’ve mentioned above. 

I recommend spending a minimum of 5 days in Cartagena, where you’ll have enough time to see everything without constantly rushing between different activities. 

You’ll also be able to head on a day trip or two, such as to Baru Island as well as to the Totumo Mud Volcano. 

Above all else, you’ll also get a more locals feel to the place, especially if you’re staying within the area of Getsemani.

What is a good budget for Cartagena?

How much you need for Cartagena really depends on you and your personal preferences. 

There’s definitely certain areas which can be super expensive, however with a bit of digging around you can also find some great budget accommodation and restaurants in the touristy areas too.

Those who want to keep things super cheap can budget for around $20-30 per day

Here you’ll be staying in a really nice dorm bed within Getsemani (or even in the historic centre if you book in advance). You’ll mostly be eating meals from local restaurants, although you can spice it up every now and then. 

With this budget you’ll also have some leftover for taking a taxi or buying an entrance into an attraction.

Travellers who want a more comfortable and private experience can expect to spend around $30-40 per day

You’ll be upgrading to a private room with AC (not all dorms provide air conditioning in Cartagena) as well as being able to eat in nicer restaurants too. 

Of course this budget can also rise even higher, especially if you're wanting to live life to the full in the all-inclusive hotels and resorts in Bocagrande.

It’s important to remember that these budgets are only for accommodation and food costs, with just a little left over for an attraction or taxi ride.

It doesn’t account for flights, travel insurance, tours or buses between destinations.

To make the most of your money, we recommend opting for a Monzo or Revolut Card (both of which we have in-depth guides on). 

Can you just book a tour for Cartagena?

One of the best ways to explore the highlights of Cartagena is to go with a full-day tour. 

I highly recommend this one, where you’ll not only be shown around the most scenic streets and spots of Getsemani, however you’ll also get a tour through the Historic Centre too. 

As well as having all transport provided (including pick-up and drop-off), you’ll also have food tastings where you can try some delicious and authentic Colombian snacks. 

Where to go after Cartagena?

After having lived it up in this awesome Colombian city, you may be wondering where is best to head next. 

I really suggest hopping on a small (and inexpensive!) domestic flight to San Andres Island. 

Located in the middle of the Caribbean, you’ll be able to enjoy the very best of island life, with the turquoise waters here being some of the best for snorkelling and diving in Latin America. 

Here you can also enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, where you can easily hire a golf cart and explore hidden spots around the island at your own speed. 

You’ll want to join this full-day tour when here, where you’ll visit many tropical islets such as Johnny Cay, as well as being able to go snorkelling and see Manta Rays.

However, there are so many other fantastic places to visit in Colombia. Not only that, but it's a popular cruising destination

Here are some other South America guides that you may find helpful:

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
Tinggly badge
Other posts
Country Guides
Destination Guides

Leave a comment

Let us know what you think!