Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) is a place that generates a lot of charm and magnetism on tourists, both national and international. This has led to “the little stone corral” (as the city is colloquially called because of its walls) to consolidate its position as one of the star tourist destinations at an international level.
This historic city offers unique attractions such as its white sandy beaches on the Rosario Islands, the dazzling old city (in colonial architecture and surrounded by walls), the imposing modern buildings, the excellent gastronomic offer, the exclusivity of its boutique hotels, etc.
In this article, we will address safety issues in Cartagena and give you tips on how to make the most of your trip without compromising your safety.
Security and surveillance in Cartagena
It is essential to be clear that in any tourist destination you go to, you can be a victim of theft due to “friends of the unwanted” (it can happen anywhere in the world). However, in areas where there is so much poverty and inequality, episodes of crime tend to be more frequent, as is the case in places such as Cartagena.
According to national media, 8,683 thefts were reported in the “Heroic City” in 2022, 25% more than in 2021, when there were 6,965 cases.
2022 was a particularly violent year for Cartagena, considering that by the end of December there were more than 300 homicides and more than 8,000 robbery reports.
We share these figures in order to inform you, but at no time with the intention of scaring you or canceling your next trip to Cartagena. Most visitors never have anything negative happen to them during their stay in the city, where they can enjoy their days off.
To combat crime in Cartagena, this year there are two new projects, which include the implementation of security cameras in the Historic Center and Getsemaní. In addition, 6 new CAIs will be built in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police of Cartagena.
Therefore, it is important to take precautions when visiting any tourist destination. To ensure your safety, follow these tips:
– Avoid going out alone at night or going to lonely places.
– Do not carry valuables with you.
– Follow the directions of local authorities and hotel staff.
History of Cartagena
Cartagena de Indias was founded on June 1, 1533, being the first city of the New Kingdom of Granada. Its name refers to Carthage Nova, the current city of Murcia in Spain.
The city was founded by the Spaniard Pedro Heredia, who arrived on the Caribbean coast in search of gold and slaves. On his first voyage, he attacked and plundered the island of Tierra Bomba, where he built a fort to defend against pirate attacks. He then marched inland and reached the ruins of the ancient Indian village of Calamaría. There he founded Cartagena de Indias.
Starting in the 16th century, Cartagena became an important commercial and military port, due to its strategic location in the Caribbean. The city prospered thanks to the traffic of gold and slaves from Africa. It was also used as a naval base to protect the maritime routes between Europe and America.
Throughout its history, Cartagena was attacked on numerous occasions by pirates and corsairs, who tried to steal the valuable treasures found there. To defend itself, the city was surrounded by a series of walls and fortresses. These buildings can still be visited today.
In the 18th century, Cartagena experienced a period of splendor thanks to its exports of coffee and other agricultural products. The city became an important cultural and intellectual center with the founding of Colegio San José (1751).
During the War of Independence (1810-1819), Cartagena played an important role for the patriots fighting for Colombian independence. After several months of siege, the city surrendered to the patriot forces on November 11, 1811. This victory was one of the first steps towards the emancipation of Colombia.
Today, Cartagena remains a major tourist destination in Colombia, thanks to its lush colonial architecture and beautiful beaches. The city is famous for its ancient buildings, the city walls, the castle of San Felipe de Barajas, the Convent of Santa Clara, the Clock Tower, the Plaza de los Coches, Baru Island, the Santo Domingo square, the museums, the Santa Teresa square, the San Diego square… And much more!
Places to visit in Cartagena
The city of Cartagena de Indias is one of the most popular destinations in Colombia, and it is not at all surprising. The old city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and is a jewel of the colonial Caribbean. The city also offers paradisiacal beaches, a wide variety of restaurants and bars, and many activities to enjoy. If you are planning a trip to Cartagena, here are some places you should definitely visit:
–The old city: as already mentioned, it is a World Historical and Cultural Heritage Site. It is a charming area full of beautiful colonial buildings where you can walk around, take pictures, and learn about the history of the city. Don’t miss the walls of the San Felipe de Barajas castle, the museums, and the Heredia Theater.
It also has a wide variety of stores, restaurants and bars. Visitors can also stroll through the city’s traditional old town, where numerous colonial churches and other historic buildings are located. There are many sites within the walled enclosure to discover, from ancient fortresses to bastions.
–Rosario Islands: The Rosario Islands are a group of paradisiacal islands located just over an hour by speedboat from Cartagena. They are full of beautiful white beaches, crystal clear waters for swimming, and coral reefs for snorkeling.
–Playa Blanca: is a very popular beach located approximately 45 minutes from Cartagena. It is an ideal destination to spend the day enjoying the sun and the Caribbean waters.
Gold Museum: it is a museum that collects pre-Hispanic pieces made by the ancient indigenous peoples of the region. Here you will find jewelry and objects made with gold, silver and copper dating back thousands of years.
–Corales del Rosario National Natural Park: located south of the Rosario Islands, the Corales del Rosario National Natural Park is one of the best places for snorkeling. There you will find beautiful coral reefs and thousands of colorful marine species.
Best hotels in Cartagena
If you are planning a trip to Cartagena, be sure to read the following recommendations for the best hotels in the city. All are relatively close to the Rafael Núñez International Airport and you can simply take a cab from the cab stand that you will see at the air terminal.
Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara: founded in 1995. It is located in the heart of the Walled City, in the historic district of Cartagena. Its rooms are luxurious and modern, with all the comforts and services necessary for a perfect stay.
Its walls harmonize with colonial balconies and republican buildings evoking the splendor of other times.
Movich Hotel Cartagena de Indias: a boutique hotel with a colonial feel located in the walled city. It offers spacious suites, some with views of the Caribbean Sea. The hotel also has a swimming pool and many restaurants nearby, as well as a shuttle service to the beach. It has a spectacular terrace with swimming pool and 360º view of the entire city.
3. Hotel Casa San Agustín: is a luxurious boutique hotel that keeps the colonial heritage intact, inside three beautiful white houses that compose it. Its 20 beautifully decorated rooms and 11 suites preserve the authentic Colombian style, while incorporating modern services and amenities for today’s travelers.
4. InterContinental Cartagena de Indias: this hotel is located in the exclusive Bocagrande neighborhood, right in front of the Caribbean Sea. It is only 5 minutes from the old city and 15 minutes from Cartagena’s airport. For those staying three or more nights, a special discount is offered.
5. Charleston Santa Teresa: It is located in the old part of Cartagena, near Plaza Santo Domingo. The hotel is located two blocks away from the sea. It offers an outdoor pool, hot tub and luxurious décor with marble floors and stone columns. The San Pedro Claver church is a 5-minute walk away.
If you are thinking about choosing an all-inclusive hotel in Cartagena, we tell you the pros and cons in our blog. “All inclusive hotels Cartagena”.
What is Cartagena known for?
Cartagena is an ideal destination for those looking to explore Colombian history and culture. It is a beautiful city, full of traditions, history and natural wonders. It stands out mainly as an ancient city surrounded by walls.
When is it advisable to travel to Cartagena?
The best time of the year to visit Cartagena de Indias is between December and April, because during these months the temperatures are more pleasant and the weather is usually dry. However, keep in mind that during some of these months is the high season, so the prices of hotels and other tourist services are usually higher.
What should I do if I go to Cartagena?
There are places that you should definitely visit without fail, they are: the Old City (surrounded by walls), the Rosario Islands and the Castle of San Felipe.
What should a tourist not do in Colombia?
It is important to follow recommendations, such as, for example, not going out alone at night and avoiding carrying valuables with you. In addition, to avoid scams, ask beforehand about the prices of the products you wish to buy, especially if they are offered by street vendors or street stalls.
How should I dress to go to Cartagena?
As this is a coastal area with year-round high temperatures (usually between 25 and 32°C), you should wear summer clothes. This involves packing T-shirts, bathing suits, sandals, skirts, shorts, hats and sports goggles. In general, make sure that everything you carry is fresh and light.
How many days is it advisable to travel to Cartagena?
The ideal would be a full week so that you can visit all the tourist sites at your leisure, without leaving any of them out. Likewise, if you have 6 or 7 days, you will have the opportunity to go to different restaurants and enjoy the beaches without any anxiety.