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quikflikchiq Cartagena - A travel report by tara
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Cartagena,  Colombia - flag Colombia -  Bolívar
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quikflikchiq's travel reports

The Plundered City of Cartagena

  8 votes
Page: 1 2
Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the West Indies), is a large city seaport on the northern coast of Colombia. Capital of the Bolívar Department, it has a population of roughly 895,400 (2005 Census)


 	inside the walls of the colonial part of Cartagena
inside the walls of the colonial part of Cartagena
Colombia was the first country that my friend and I visited on our South American Madness trip.

Cartagena was the second place that we went to - but it was my favourite in all of Colombia.

Cartagena de Indias was founded the 1st of June, 1533 by Pedro de Heredia. The fame of this prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, which is why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city. You can see the old walls - and the old part of the city is definitely a sight to behold. Cartagena´s colonial area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We visited the old city on Heritage day and so all of the museums and churches were open and free to visit. We learnt a lot about the history of the city - and also of Colombia. We saw that the city had been attacked many times in its history.

We also spent a little time (especially when we first arrived in Cartagena) exploring the new city. Which funnily enough - reminded me of South Beach, Miami.

Favourite spots:
inside one of the cafes near the square of the colonial city
inside one of the cafes near the square of the colonial city
Cartagena faces the Caribbean Sea to the west. To the south is the Cartagena Bay, which has two entrances: Bocachica (Small Mouth) in the south, and Bocagrande (Big Mouth) in the north.

I enjoyed spending time on the beaches of Bocagrande - but the sellers can be a little annoying. A simple no gracias will suffice - whereas if you say no entiendo, they know enough english to change languages to try and continue selling to you.

But the real jewel for me was staying in the old city for a few days. And I loved to walk down to the square and sit in the cafes sipping the incredibly strong and sweet black coffee.

The other highlight of the day was being able to visit and explore the many churches.

As Colombia is a Catholic country and many of the people who first settled the cities and began building were either from the churches or missions, most of the older buildings are churches or monasteries.

What's really great:
treet cafes and sellers outside the castle
treet cafes and sellers outside the castle
Colombia is a great place to start your South American adventure.

A lot of Colombians speak english but are more than happy to help you with your Spanish - and they also speak very slowly and very clearly.

The people of Cartagena are extremely proud of the way in which they have been able to take care of their buildings and thus a major part of their heritage. They will happily show you how to get somewhere, where the best camarones (prawns) are to be found, and where to get the coolest drinks during the hottest part of the day.

Sights:
window and mezzanine in Santo Domingo Church
window and mezzanine in Santo Domingo Church
The official entrance to downtown is through Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which comes out onto Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps from there there is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square, and his namesake's church, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.

Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition to one side. Not to far is the the office of Historical Archives which holds Cartagena's history. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena which dates back to the 16th century.

There is another religious temple that you should take time to admire: The restored Santo Domingo Church, in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). The square was decorated with the sculpture Mujer Reclinada (Reclining Woman).

Accommodations:
sunset view from Bocagrande hotel swimming pool
sunset view from Bocagrande hotel swimming pool
We stayed in three different places in Cartagena.

Firstly on Bocagrande in the Oceania Hotel - which was ok. Nice and hotel like.

Secondly also on Bocagrande in the Cartagena Hotel - as we really really wanted a swimming pool.

And thirdly we moved to Casa Viena in the old city. The old city was definitely the best place we stayed in - but be aware that most of the hostels do not have air-conditioning.

And in September, we really needed it !

Other recommendations:
Coral and fans starting to grow on the purpose sunk wreck
Coral and fans starting to grow on the purpose sunk wreck
As we were only in Cartagena for a few days, we didnt get to do everything that we wanted .. but we got to go diving !

Around the corner from our first hotel was the La Tortuga Dive Shop. We walked around there one morning and found it by surprise. Very reasonably priced - we got a two dive day and a purpose sunk wreck along with a 5 foot jewel fish (similar to a grouper).

We had a surface interval on a beautiful island just outside of Bocachica and the water was 30 degrees with 15 metres of visibility.

Published on Wednesday January 30th, 2008


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Sun, Feb 03 2008 - 05:45 AM rating by downundergal

A great read on a city full of history - I wanted to go to Colombia but was warned that it was not very safe. Mind you that was 6 years ago so maybe things have changed.

Sat, Feb 02 2008 - 05:58 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Thanks for writing about my favourite South American city!

Thu, Jan 31 2008 - 09:57 AM rating by davidx

3 reports deserving 5* ratings on the site at one time is a real cause for pride. Thanks.

Thu, Jan 31 2008 - 03:53 AM rating by rangutan

Just wonderful, full of colour and exclusive adventure. Well done!

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