Cartagena (Cartagena de Indias) is the fifth largest city in Colombia, the administrative center of the Bolivar department, and a major port on the Caribbean coast. The well-fortified citadel of the 17th century is located on the island of Getsemani and the mainland cape, but other islands, as well as part of the mainland, also enter the boundaries of the modern city.
Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533, and was one of the first Spanish settlements in the New World and the main port through which the wealth of the continent was exported to the metropolis. The city was a tasty morsel for the British corsairs, who repeatedly tried to capture it in the 16th century. The most famous raid on Cartagena was led by the famous Francis Drake, who in 1586 captured the city, burned the cathedral and held the hostages for more than a hundred days, demanding a colossal ransom in return. The Spaniards, on the other hand, did their best to secure the trading port so important to them, having built a complex system of fortifications around the outer contours of the city, which are now the main attraction of the city, the total length of the fortifications of Cartagena is more than 11 km.
The old city of Cartagena (Ciudad Amuralhado), located in its northern part, is the most interesting. It is here that ancient forts and numerous colonial buildings are located. Ciudad Amurallado is divided into four zones: San Diego, La Matuna, Santo Domingo and Getsemani. In the Getsemani area is the main fortress of Cartagena – Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, whose walls are 12 meters thick. Its construction was carried out from 1533 to 1657. Here, in the Old Town, there is a vast Central Park and the oldest church in the city, Iglesia de Santo Domingo (1536), is located.
In the southern part of Cartagena are residential areas. The center of this area is San Pedro Claver Square, on which stands the Cathedral (1575-1602). Nearby is Bolivar Square with a monument to the first president of Colombia, the Archaeological Museum and the Palace of the Inquisition (1770). In Cartagena, it is also worth visiting the 16th century former Las Bovedas prison, which now houses an extensive trading area, the 16th century Conventa de La Popa convent (now the Historical Museum), the Old Port and the promenade with chic villas and restaurants.
In 1980, the historical monuments of Cartagena (the fortress, the main square with the cathedral, the church of St. Peter, the palace of the Inquisition, the university building) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South of the Getsemani area on the peninsula is the recreation area of Bocagrande and El Lagunito. Here, sandy beaches stretch along the coast, along which there are hotels, restaurants, bars and discos. The coast of Playa Blanca is one of the best beach areas in Colombia.
Those who want to relax on quiet picturesque beaches away from the bustle of the city should go to the islands of Rosario and San Bernardo, located 40 km south of Cartagena, or to the island of Baru. The Rosario and San Bernardo Islands National Park is the country’s only underwater park. It covers an area of 19500 hectares. Its main attraction is the underwater world, which attracts diving and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world. The islands of del Rosario and Baru offer many dive sites that you can’t miss. Of particular note are the Bancos de Salmedina, Bajo Bourbujas, and the Montagna Submarine (dominated by staghorn corals, sea feathers and black corals); El Faro, Octubre Rojo, Pendales, Tesoro Island, El Aparecido and La Coca are areas where sea whip corals are often found. and the bottom is predominantly covered with turbinaria. The main infrastructure of the National Park is located on Isla Grande. Diving is also possible in the vicinity of the nearby island of Baru, which is surrounded by coral gardens.
Another 40 km south of the islands of Rosario and San Bernardo on the coast lies Morroskillo Bay with the archipelago of the same name. Its Keizen, Tintipan and Mukura Islands are surrounded by some of the most beautiful coral reefs and are home to cat sharks, dolphins, turtles and a variety of tropical fish.