Cartagena: Touring Colombia’s Walled Caribbean City

Posted by on Jan 24, 2012 in Colombia | 0 comments

Topping every “World’s Most Beautiful Cities” list and hands down my favorite “colonial” city of Latin America is Cartagena, with all of it’s old world charm and Caribbean mystique.

This city is unique for a multitude of reason. For one, Cartagena was the first sanctuary for freed African slaves in the Americas. Giving the city a rich and soulful culture that slightly differs from the rest of the the country.

Also, all of the city’s colonial buildings and churches are located within a 500 year old wall.  Built to keep pirates out, the wall has also succeeded in protecting  these colonial gems from the elements of the sea.  The “walled city” remains amazingly intact, housing many upscale restaurants, boutique  shops, hotels and even some residential condos.

View of the "walled city" outside the wall.

The first thing we did when we arrived was to take a private guided walking tour of the “walled city”.   Our guide took us to every church, museum, and building that had even the slightest historical significance.  Names of patron saints and plundering pirates entered and quickly left my brain.  I didn’t want a history lesson.  I wanted to take my pictures and then duck into the first cafe with AC to escape the sweltering heat.  It was hard to stay interested.  And I often wandered off taking pictures of sometimes obscure items.


Shown here are the remains of San Pedro Claver Corberó. Encased in the glowing part of the altar.

Cartagena during the day

The doors to Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, in front were really cool wrought-iron sculptures.

Wrought-iron sewing sculpture.

Our guide took us to a hotel that use to be a church.  The hotel had completely dismantled the old church’s main altar. Taking all of the altar’s relics and artwork and placing them around the hotel’s entrance, main counter, and restaurant.

The hotel's chapel were the "skeleton" of the main altar remains.

Altar piece place over the hotel's counter.

Another piece of the old altar

Another piece of the old altar

The tour continued to small Emerald boutique .  There we were given complimentary ice cold water as long as we pretended to look interested in the jewelry that they had on display.   Emeralds are known to be inexpensive in Cartagena but Ben and I were still not about to hand over  a few days budget on a ring that I would never wear.  So as soon as we both finished our water I politely handed back the ring.

We were back in the heat again but this time fully hydrated.  At this point,  I was feeling less obligated to listen to my guide.  I mean  he did just try to slightly bully us into getting an emerald ring.  I started stopping every few feet to snap pictures of well whatever I wanted.

A door knocker I thought was cool.

Some art work I thought was pretty.

A custom I liked for Burning Man.

Cool statues.

I even wandered into a really interesting Thai restaurant.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from there.

Thai Restaurant in Cartagena

Same Thai restaurant

I really thought this Thai Restaurant was cool.

We did manage to visit more churches in spite my lollygagging.

An old church we visited on tour.

Another beautiful main altar we visited on the tour.

Not only were the churches stunning, but the streets of Cartagena were gorgeous.  Cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings and flowered hanging vines gave it an old fashioned romantic feel.

Streets of Cartagena

A plaza in Cartagena

If Ben and I could do it all over again we’d probably have kept our money and just walked around the city ourselves.  But despite the heat and the annoying guide who wanting us to buy more tours with him, we had a great time walking around this amazingly beautiful city.  It is no wonder that Cartagena’s walled city and fortress are designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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