Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast, a fairy-tale city of romance, legends and superbly preserved beauty lying within an impressive 11km of centuries-old colonial stone walls. Cartagena's old town is a Unesco World Heritage site – a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across plazas.
But then there is the outer town, full of traffic, the working class, and a chaotic nature that can leave you dazed and confused in minutes. It is here that Cartagena becomes a typical workhorse South American city. To the south, the peninsula of Bocagrande – Cartagena's Miami Beach – is where fashionable cartagenos sip coffee in trendy cafes, dine in glossy restaurants and live in the upscale luxury condos that line the area like guardians to a New World.
Cartagena is a place to drop all sightseeing routines. Instead, just stroll through the old town day and night. Soak up the sensual atmosphere, pausing to ward off the brutal heat and humidity in one of the city's many open-air cafes.
Holding its own against Brazil's Ouro Preto and Peru's Cuzco for the continent's most enthralling and righteously preserved colonial destination, Cartagena is hard to walk away from – it seizes you in its aged clutches and refuses to let go.
Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias is a city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of the Bolívar Department. The port city had a population of ca. 1'200'000. It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia and the second largest in the region, after Barranquilla. The Cartagena urban area is also the fifth-largest urban area in the country. Economic activities include maritime and petrochemicals industry, as well as tourism.
The city was founded on June 1, 1533, and named after Cartagena, Spain. However, settlement in this region around Cartagena Bay by various indigenous people dates back to 4000 BC. During the colonial period Cartagena served a key role in administration and expansion of the Spanish empire. It was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys. In 1984 Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cartagena de Indias is a city that since its origin until today has highly influenced the events in Colombia. In pre columbian times its coasts were inhabited by warrior indians of the Caribe race which would give problems to more than one colonizing expedition that dared to disembark in its beaches.
The rising population would be target of the greed of English and French invaders, and the fact is that its quality of slave trade port and commercial port made it very appealing to foreign eyes. Therefore their protection and defense were more than urgent, beginning with the Fuerte del Boquerón in the XVIth century (where today stands the Fuerte del Pastelillo). Then, slowly would come the different forts that would surround the city according to the requirements and the evolution of the military art in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. Nevertheless, this would not save the city from demolishing invasions like the one of Barón de Pointis en 1697, that left it in ruins.
On November 11th of 1811 the Acta de Independencia Absoluta (Act of Absolute Independence) from Spain would be signed, starting with this, ten long years to finally achieve the definite emancipation.
In the Republican Period, the city would enter a long stagnant period product of its loss of strategic and commercial interest. The cartagenero Rafael Núñez can be mentioned, as one that during this time of "recession" of Cartagena de Indias, was elected President of the Republic in four occasions, directing the destinies of the Nation from the Heroic City, as some viceroys did in the Colony .
The rebirth of Cartagena de Indias as a determinant city in Colombia is given well into the XXth Century with the reactivation of its economy, when its history and its legends are only recollections of the glorious past of a tourist city that receives the 21st century full of hopes and dreams for the future.
Cartagena features a tropical wet and dry climate with an average temperature of 28 °C. Humidity averages around 90%, with rainy seasons typically in May–June and October–November. The climate tends to be hot and windy. Strong cool winds occur from November through February.
Cartagena was the last time touched by a hurricane in 1988. Although the city is in the Caribbean, the mainland is quite far south, isolating it from the wind currents that feed the hurricanes.
Pictures of Cartagena de Indias: