“Cartagena mia!” – says the tourist slogan of Cartagena, a colorful port city on the Atlantic coast of Colombia. There is every reason for such a bold and even moderately intimate statement: the amazing Cartagena, in some mystical way, knows how to find an approach to everyone. For some, it will appear as a labyrinth of cobbled streets, on both sides of which colonial mansions crowded as if descended from a postcard of the 18th century, for others it will invitingly wave crimson bougainvillea, winding along the snow-white wall of a pompous hotel on the coast, and someone will be charmed by an almost impossible mixture of ancient sights and modern buildings – and this is hardly a tenth of all its bewitching riches. Poor African neighborhoods and boutiques selling first-class emeralds, noisy markets and the silence of five-star hotels.
According to remzfamily, the history of Cartagena, like most colonial Spanish cities in South America, is extremely interesting, rather confusing and very rich in various tragic and happy events. Let’s start by confirming the guesses of intuitive linguists: it really has something to do with the famous Carthage. The fact is that the “elder brother” of Colombian Cartagena, the city of the same name in the Spanish province of Murcia, was once founded by the ubiquitous Carthaginian rogues, and entered Roman history under the name of New Carthage. Then the Spaniards settled here, who centuries later were seized by the thirst to discover new lands – so they sailed across the ocean and founded Colombian Cartagena, which to this day bears the official name of the Indian, Cartagena de Indias. And so it happened that on the Spanish map of the world even today there are as many as three Carthage-Cartagena, which is noteworthy, on three different continents: in Europe, Africa and South America. Here is such a confusing story – and all because of a lack of imagination (well, or acute homesickness). See thedresswizard for history of South America.
How to get to Cartagena
You can arrive in Cartagena on an international flight with transfers – in the cities of the USA and Canada, as well as in Madrid, Paris and Helsinki. If you intend to come to Cartagena from another city in Colombia, the same plane, bus or ferry is at your service.
Domestic flights are operated by the national carriers Avianca, Copa and AeroRepublica and arrive in Cartagena from all major cities in the country, such as Bogota (1 hour flight), Cali (a little over an hour in the air), Cucuta, Medellin, San Andrés, etc. Cartagena Airport is located in the suburb of Crespo, 3 km from the city. From there, you can get to the center by frequent municipal buses, minibuses or taxis, which will cost about 5 USD.
Intercity buses arrive in Cartagena from Bogota (20 hours and about 45 USD fare), Medellin (13 hours and about 42 USD) and other more or less large settlements of the country.
By water, you can arrive in Cartagena from Panama, which can be considered a separate trip: 4-5 days on the way on a comfortable ship, resulting in 400-500 USD costs.
How to navigate
Cartagena is located on the north coast of Colombia and overlooks the Caribbean Sea. Despite the abundance of districts and the fact that almost 1 million people live in the city, tourists “bunch” here in two places – Bocagrande, a coastal area with a string of modern hotels and a developed recreation infrastructure, and a medieval city outside the walls of Cuidad Amuralhada, where most of the attractions are concentrated, as well as a small number of boutique hotels and upscale restaurants “with a name.” The Castillogrande luxury residential area is also interesting for its well-kept outdoor areas and secluded beaches.
Transport in the city
You can easily get around the old town on foot – the traffic here is not the best: there are many pedestrian streets, and traffic jams are not uncommon on non-pedestrian streets. It also makes sense to walk around Bocagrande – at least to enjoy the life-giving breeze from the ocean.
For longer trips, it is recommended to take a taxi. The fare from the Old Town to Bocagrande ranges from 3-4 USD – the amount must be discussed with the driver in advance, since these worthy men have not heard of these counters. At night, the trip, of course, will cost more.
The old city can also be contemplated from an exotic tarantass – just like the noble Spanish donas a couple of centuries ago. It is not forbidden to argue with the coachman about the price.
In the harbors of Cartagena, brisk boats are waiting for their riders, ready to take them to the Rosario Islands or Playa Blanca. A trip on a high-speed merchant ship will cost about 30 USD, a cruise “with a claim” for an entertainment voyage (although much slower, up to 4 hours on the way) – 25 USD.
Tourist buses Chiva Bus travel around interesting places in Cartagena to the accompaniment of cheerful music. You can climb onto the open upper deck or stay closer to the people below. Drinking, eating and making noise is allowed on board. The cost of the trip is from 10 to 16 USD.
Hotels for every taste and budget can be found in the coastal area of Bocagrande. In general, for 110-130 USD per night, a quality four-star service is offered. In the Old Town, behind the walls, there are several old charm hotels rebuilt from medieval monasteries. The range of services in them, however, is luxurious, and the price tag is appropriate – but it is here that you can feel the real spirit of Cartagena. Budget travelers may be interested in similar options: colonial houses, shared in hostels or modest “kopeck piece”.