While exploring the laidback Caribbean coast of Colombia, be sure to check out these fun activities and things to do in Cartagena! We list the best places to eat and drink, the coolest day tours, the must-see sights and quirky attractions within the walled city and up-and-coming Getsemani. Let’s get the party started!

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1. Stroll Through Muelle Turistico to the Clock Tower and Main Gate of the Old City

Find your way to Muelle Turistico, a boulevard leading to the Old Cartagena from the new city where you learn to say “no” to overly enthusiastic street vendors.

Walk towards the yellow clock tower called Torre de Reloj, which marks the main entrance to the Old City of Cartagena. The clock tower is the first stop for taking those iconic photos of Cartagena – and a starting point for getting lost in the maze of old alleyways! 

2. Get Lost in the Streets of Old Cartagena de Indias (Independent Walking Tour)

Undeniably the best thing to do in Cartagena is to roam the cobbled streets of Old Town aimlessly. Getting lost is a part of the experience, so just walk through the main gate and forget the map.

Let the Old City unfold by itself, one alley at a time. Pop in galleries, cafés, bars, and quirky shops. Don’t worry about finding the best spots quite yet, we’ll get to that later. Just breath in the atmosphere, take photos, and enjoy the colorful colonial city vibes!

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3. Get Orientated on a Walking Tour Around the Old City

After your independent walking tour, you’ve already passed by many of the major sights of the walled city. Now it’s time to deepen the experience!

Join one of the walking tours and follow a local guide for a couple of hours. Be amazed by the history and little details that slipped your attention. Knowledgeable local guides make all the difference: forget the guidebooks.

There are excellent free walking tours of Cartagena but remember that you’re always supposed to tip anyway. Tours are available in English and Spanish, and there are also bike and Segway tours. If you wish to book in advance, check out this walking tour.

The yellow Clock Tower marks the main entrance to the Old City of Cartagena
The yellow Clock Tower marks the main entrance to the Old City of Cartagena

4. Explore Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (San Felipe Castle)

Spanish fortress called Castillo de San Felipe is the most famous sight of Cartagena and shouldn’t be missed. Looming over the city, it’s luckily hard to miss. Take a short walk past Getsemani to the root of San Lazaro hill and climb up to explore the walls and dark tunnels of this 1600th-century castle.

The views across the harbor of Cartagena are photogenic – Don’t forget your camera!

5. Take a Boat to Tierrabomba Island for Photo Opportunities

The short local boat trip to nearby Tierrabomba Island is an exciting activity in itself. Enjoy fantastic photo opportunities as the boat leaves Cartagena behind. This a local way to travel – fun and cheap!

Finding the right boat is an adventure in itself. Follow the pier from Muelle Turistico and ask from locals where to find a water taxi to Bocachica (a small village on Tierrabomba).

6. Visit Fuerte de San Fernando de Bocachica (Fort San Fernando)

San Fernando fort is our favorite sight in Cartagena. Take a boat to Tierrabomba (check out the previous activity) and hire a guide from the tiny port of Bocachica when you arrive in Tierrabomba. Your guide will walk you through the village telling about the strategic meaning and history of San Fernando Castle, which used to guard the entrance to Cartagena.

Plan to explore the fortress at least for an hour: Visit vaults that served as food storage, chapel, gunpowder storage, artillery, and officer’s barracks. Climb up to the roof to photograph the view towards Cartagena and Bocachica village through the cannons. Some of the vaults are pitch-black and have bats: take a flashlight.

The 18th-century Spanish fort has also served as a prison. Your guide will pour amazing stories from the eventful history – I won’t spoil the fun here!

Castillo de San Fernando on Tierrabomba island, Cartagena
Castillo de San Fernando on Tierrabomba island, Cartagena

7. Get Sun-Toasted with Locals and Sip Tropical Drinks at Beaches of Tierrabomba

The best beaches on Tierrabomba are at the northern tip of the island and they’re all cleaner and less crowded than the mainland beaches of Cartagena. We recommend the gorgeous Bomba Beach, which overlooks the skyscrapers of Bocagrande.

You can also stay overnight in Tierrabomba: we recommend Blue Apple Beach House and Hotel Fenix Beach Cartagena. Bombastic Hostel is your best bet for a lower price and gets raving reviews.

Tips for visiting the beaches of Tierrabomba: Beware boat scams and fake guides selling the tours at the port. Tourists report scams where they are sold all-inclusive beach packages but in reality, the price includes only one-way boat trip and everything else is charged separately at a hefty price.

We recommend booking a legit day tour or visiting Tierrabomba independently. You can take the water taxi from Muelle Turistico to Bocachica and visit San Fernando fort (check out the previous activity) and haggle a cheap mototaxi ride from Bocachica to the northern beaches of Tierrabomba. From there, book a boat back to Cartagena (your guide will help to do it at a local price).

8. Visit El Totumo to Bath in a Mud Volcano

Visiting Totumo Volcano is among the most fun things to do in Cartagena – slightly weird and intimidating, yet hilarious and even healthy! Climb a staircase to the top of a volcano cone and descend the ladder to take that sulfur-smelling mud bath with other enthusiasts.

It’s easiest and cheapest to visit El Totumo mud volcano on a guided tour which includes 1-hour transfers from Cartagena – unless you have your own wheels.

9. Spend Evening at Plaza de la Trinidad and Walk Around Getsemani Neighborhood

Plaza de la Trinidad is one of the best places in Cartagena to spend a relaxed evening. Grab a beer, lemonade, or cheap street eats from the street vendors and sit at the stairs of Iglesia de la Trinidad, beautiful church in the center of the square. There are usually street performances or at least kids playing around. Lovely terraces are perfect for early evening drinks or beer and

Walking around colorful Getsemani neighborhood is the second best thing to do in Cartagena, if you ask me, right after getting lost in the walled city. Getsemani feels authentic and fresh after the walled city, it’s hipster and cool, but still local and not too crowded.

Saint Rogue Restaurant in Getsemani, Cartagena
Saint Rogue Restaurant in Getsemani, Cartagena

10. Photograph Street Art in Getsemani

If you’re into street art like us, Getsemani area won’t let you down. Murals are plentiful, colorful, and varied. You can find the best spots independently by just walking around Getsemani, although there are also guided street art tours.

Tip: Go in the morning, preferably on Sunday, to beat the crowds and see most of the murals when the shops are closed.

11. Find the Best Café in Cartagena

Drinking premium Colombian coffee in Cartagena was so high on our wish list that we ended up touring the most cafes in town and listing the best coffee shops in Cartagena.

I’ll encourage you to try at least two different cafes during your holiday in Cartagena. Tiny Café San Alberto in the walled city has the best coffee in Cartagena if you ask me. The other highly recommended coffee house is Café del Mural in Getsemani. Check our coffee house list for the full caffeine dose!

12. Find the Best Cocktails in Cartagena

The coolest thing to do in Cartagena must be searching for the best cocktail in town. The cocktail scene in Cartagena is quite astonishing for its size, making it an excellent weekend destination.

Because finding the best cocktails is usually a matter of taste, this activity requires pleasant legwork from a terrace and bar to another. The best cocktail bars are in the Old City and Getsemani.

Alquimico translates into Alchemy and lives up to its name, whisking together just the right ingredients inside a stunning colonial mansion. From their “sensory experiments” menu, try at least Inquisition: in-house ginger rhum with rose salt, lime, and syrup. Doors open at 6PM and crowd gets wilder near the midnight.

For rhum cocktails, head to El Arsenal or legendary Café Havana if you’re planning salsa all night long (both in Getsemani). Cafe Havana is Cartagenian institution and famous for hosting celebrities, such as Hillary Clinton (doors open at 9PM, live bands start around 11PM). For speakeasy vibes inside the walled city, find El Baron.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to taste the Espresso Martini or Boundless Russian in Boundless Mezcal Café which offers both kick-ass specialty coffee and cocktails.

13. Walk upon the Walls of Cartagena

Take a romantic stroll on the walls of Cartagena. Begin at the Plaza de las Bovedas.

The walls of Cartagena surround the Old City and stretch for seven miles and are dotted with fortifications and bastions. Walls were built to protect the city from pirate attacks. Construction began in the 16th century and took almost 200 years.

Tips for visiting the walls of Cartagena: As there’s no shade from the sun, remember a hat and sunscreen. The best time is, of course, the sunset or sunrise. Don’t forget your camera! 

14. Watch a Sunset at Café del Mar – on the Wall of Cartagena!

Finish off your walk on the walls in Café del Mar, a cool bar on the walls of Cartagena. It’s the best place in the Old City to watch the sunset while sipping a tropical cocktail. The chill terrace of Café del Mar is popular among locals and tourists alike: get there well before sunset hour to get a seat!

15. Find the Best Ceviche and Sushi in Cartagena

You’re on the Caribbean coast, so eat fresh fish! Cartagena’s restaurant scene offers something for everyone: there are good steak restaurants and decent ethnic restaurants, but seafood is the star here.

La Cevicheria has been recommended for years as the best spot for, you guessed it, ceviche. Same goes with Senor Toro considering steaks (if you yearn for that option).

Nowadays there are a dozen sushi restaurants in Cartagena: Masaki Sushi Wok, Tabetai Sushi Bar, and Kokoa Sushi Wok are some of the best. Pick Peru Fusion for a sushi dinner date (also other creative dishes on the menu). 

16. Unwind in Book-Store Café

Abaco Café y Libros in the walled city combines coffee and books – who could possibly resist it? Abaco is a pleasant spot to take a break from the heat and shop your Gabriel Garcia Marquez copy. High ceilings are tapered with books from floor to the roof for some extra points from this bookworm.

Traditional horse carriage inside the Old City of Cartagena, Colombia
Traditional horse carriage inside the Old City of Cartagena, Colombia

17. Paddle Board, Kayak, Kitesurf, or Paraglide for Views to Cartagena

Stand-up paddleboarding lets you see Cartagena from yet another viewpoint. It’s fun and relaxed watersport that doesn’t require previous experience. Just rent a board and enjoy the sun!

Paragliding and kitesurfing are available for brave souls, as well as kayak rentals. LED-lighted Paddleboard Tour is among the best things to do in Cartagena at the sunset!

Check all the exciting watersport activities in Cartagena from here and airborne activities (including helicopter tours) from here.

18. Visit Famous Playa Blanca – Best White Sand Beach in Cartagena

Many people claim that Playa Blanca is the best beach in Cartagena – some even list it among the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. What you should know before planning a beach day is that Playa Blanca is not in Cartagena: going there takes 30-40 minutes by boat. It’s easiest to book a tour including boat transfers, although you can also haggle a taxi or use public transport to reach Baru peninsula (around two hours by bus and mototaxi combination or one hour by car).

Expect white sand and turquoise ocean, but be prepared to crowds and hawkers, especially during weekends. Plan to have a beach lunch at Play Blanca: fresh fish with coconut rice.

We recommend this full-day tour to Playa Blanca.

Tip: If you would like to have the beautiful, but often overcrowded Playa Blanca all by yourself, stay overnight! Tours leave at 4PM the latest, so the evenings are laidback. The only con: accommodation options are basic.

19. Take a Day Trip to Rosario Islands to Snorkel (Islas Rosario)

Searching for a tropical paradise in Cartagena? Take a day trip to Rosario Islands to snorkel in crystal-clear waters and unwind at Caribbean island retreat with a drink in your hand. Rosario and San Bernando Corals National Park is blessed with the largest and most diverse coral reef on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The protected area includes Rosario Archipelago (Tesoro and Rosario Islands) and San Bernando Archipelago (Mangle and Maravilla Islands). In short, Corales del Rosario y de San Bernardo National Natural Park is the best place to snorkel near Cartagena de Indias.

Here’s the best Rosario Islands tour that we could find. Note that this tour includes catamaran trip from Cartagena to Rosario, unlike many other tours, which have a long bus transfer to Baru and just short boat trip to Rosario. Tour also includes non-alcoholic drinks, lunch, snorkeling equipment, and national park fees.

If you’d like to visit both Playa Blanca and Rosario Islands, this full-day tour is our favorite.

Massive boulders protect the beach of Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park
Massive boulders protect the beach of Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park

20. Drink Fresh Coconut Juice – Or Coconut Lemonade

Nothing beats a fresh, young coconut in a hot afternoon! Look for young, green coconuts for the best coconut water.

Coconut water is nature’s own sports drink, which keeps you hydrated on those hot summer days in Cartagena. Coconut water has more potassium than artificial sports drinks and loads of other healthy electrolytes and nutrients.

Tip for coconut lovers: Try also local coconut lemonade, which is sold in street stalls and almost all restaurants and cafes in Cartagena.

 21. Eat Street Food

Cartagena is a perfect place to sample Colombian street food. Grab cheese arepas and empanadas (pastries) from street carts, taste local lemonades, patacones (fried plantains), tamales (boiled yucca or taro wrapped in leaves), and all that good South American flair. Cartagena is a melting pot of cuisines, as it used to be the main port of Colombia.

Feel free to find the best stands by trial and error or take this awesome street food tour!

Foodie tips: Plaza San Diego in the Old City has the best arepas in town. Cartagena has the best patacones (fried plantains) in Colombia: they are double-fried and made with garlic. We recommend eating ceviche only in restaurants to avoid stomach issues.

22. Hop on Chiva, Colombian Party Bus

Whether you’d like to make new traveler friends or just dance crazily on a colorful wooden bus, hop on a Chiva bus! It’s among the craziest things to do for tourists: loud and tacky, but also rather cheap way to see the city and drink more than you should.

Afternoon tours take you to the main tourist attractions: think of hop on hop off tours with crazy local flair. Night tours include live music on board, open bar (aguardiente or rum), light snacks, and nightclub cover.

Chiva tours last 3-4 hours and can be booked through your accommodation or nearby Torre del Reloj.

23. Dance the Night Away in Salsa Bars of Cartagena 

Follow the beats and locals to find the best salsa spot in Cartagena. If you’d like actually to learn the art of salsa dancing, book a salsa bar hopping tour!

The ancient Tayrona people set sail from Cabo San Juan del Guia, after descending from Pueblito, their village up in the misty hills
The ancient Tayrona people set sail from Cabo San Juan del Guia, after descending from Pueblito, their village up in the misty hills of Tayrona National Park

23. Dance the Night Away in Salsa Bars of Cartagena

Follow the beats and locals to find the best salsa spot in Cartagena. If you’d like actually to learn the art of salsa dancing, book a salsa bar hopping tour! 

24. Visit Tayrona National Park

Don’t miss Tayrona National Park when you’re in Cartagena! It’s among the most beautiful national parks in Colombia, with palm-fringed sand coves and hiking paths through lush rainforest.

You can rent a horse and gallop through the rainforest to the best beach, Cabo San Juan del Guia, or just walk leisurely and stop to snorkel and swim wherever you please. Check out our complete guide on visiting Tayrona National Park.

Although it’s possible to visit Tayrona National Park on a day trip from Cartagena, we’d recommend staying one night in Santa Marta area, closer to Tayrona National Park, to make the most of your visit.

Day trips from Cartagena to Tayrona National Park leave well before sunrise and return late. Day trips from Santa Marta to Tayrona are more convenient and allow more time in the park. It’s also possible – and rewarding – to visit Tayrona independently and stay overnight: check out our article for further tips.

25. Visit Inquisitor’s Palace (Palacio de la Inquisicion)

The headquarters of Spanish Inquisition in the Americas was in Cartagena. The castle-like colonial façade and Baroque entrance at the leafy Plaza de Bolivar hides a horrendous torture palace of Inquisition.

You can visit the House of Dungeons, where heretics were left to wait for their fate and see many torture tools, which were used to obtain confessions. During more than 800 trials, no-one was declared innocent.

Inquisitor’s Palace is among the most beautiful colonial buildings in Cartagena. Inquisitor’s guillotine stands in the beautiful yard reminding about the macabre past.

Cabo San Juan, the most hyped, and crowded, beach in Tayrona National Park
Cabo San Juan, the most hyped, and crowded, beach in Tayrona National Park

26. Climb to Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa for the Best Views Over Cartagena

Visit a small nunnery for a raven’s view of Cartagena. Haggle a taxi to Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa to pay respects to the patron saint of the city, la Virgen de la Candelaria and photograph the best view over Cartagena. I wouldn’t recommend the steep and rather uninteresting climb, because the weather is hot in Cartagena.

This 4-hour historic tour visits the main sights of Cartagena and La Popa Monastery – extremely convenient way to tour Cartagena if you’re short on time!

27. Take a Day Trip to Minca Mountain village

Tranquil Minca is a world apart from the bustle of Cartagena. Set in the lap of Sierra Nevada Mountains, Minca offers splendid sceneries and cooler climate than Cartagena. Go hiking, birding, or mountain biking, visit coffee and cacao farms, plunge into waterfalls and mountain streams, or just relax in cool hipster cafés that line the tiny main street of Minca.

28. Feed Pigeons with Locals at Plaza de Bolivar

Plaza de Bolivar is a haven from the sun and crowds inside the Old Town of Cartagena. It’s shaded by trees, soundtracked by four fountains, overlooked by Palace of the Inquisition.

Unlike its more popular counterparts, Plaza Bolivar is filled with local couples and families and doesn’t feel touristy, although it’s right at the center of the walled city. There are usually free seats left: linger awhile over a fruit bowl, ice cream or cup of coffee before continuing your walking tour through the Old City. Blend in by buying corn to feed the pigeons.

Climb to Cartagena's San Felipe Castle for views to the Getsemani, Old City, and Bocagrande
Climb to Cartagena's San Felipe Castle for views to the Getsemani, Old City, and Bocagrande

29. Grab a Fruit Salad From the Iconic Palenquera

Buy a fruit salad from palenqueras, widely smiling fruit sellers clad in colorful dresses. In a matter of seconds, these ladies chop a tropical feast on the bowl. The first palenqueras wait just outside the Clock Tower Monument.

Palenqueras of Cartagena have become cultural icons of Colombia. Taking photos requires a couple of dollars, but if you buy fruits, the photo opportunity is usually included in the deal.

Tip from a fellow traveler: Unfortunately, men sell better fruits from weary wooden carts.

30. Rub “La Gorda Gertrudis” (famous Botero sculpture) for good luck

Medellin and Bogota are famous for their Botero sculptures, but there’s one curvy beauty in Cartagena, as well.

Find your way to Plaza Santo Domingo in the Old Town and look for a huge bronze statue of a naked woman. Do as the Colombians: Rub La Gordita Gertrudis on the breasts or bum to guarantee good luck in love!

31. Visit the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Zenu)

Almost all gold stolen from the Incas left South America through Cartagena. Even if you’ve visited the gold museum in Bogota, the small Cartagena Gold Museum might be worth a short visit to admire gold and pottery from Zenu people. The Gold Museum of Cartagena is practically located in the walled city, so it’s on your walking route anyway.

32. Find Your Favorite Church in Cartagena’s Old City 

The yellow tower and terracotta dome of Cartagena’s cathedral colors the iconic – and most photographed – street views of the Old City. Officially, it’s called the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

The oldest church in Cartagena, Convent of Santo Domingo (Convento de Santo Domingo) is one of the favorites of visiting tourists. The atmospheric Plaza Santo Domingo has numerous terraces for al-fresco dining.

San Pedro Claver church and convent, aptly located in the Plaza de San Pedro Claver, is the among the most famous churches in Cartagena. The remains of Saint Peter Claver, a monk who defended the slaves of Cartagena, lie below the altar.  San Pedro Claver’s impressive baroque façade is hard to miss when you stroll in the old city of Cartagena.

The building works of all three above listed beautiful churches started already during the 16th century. The old city of Cartagena is also full of lesser-known, quirky churches: Go find your own favorite!

The yellow tower and terracotta dome of Cartagena's cathedral illustrate the most famous street views of Old Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena's cathedral illustrate the most famous street views of Old Cartagena, Colombia

33. Taste Local Candies at Plaza de Los Coches (Portal de Los Dulces)

Plaza de Los Coches (Square of Cars) is right by the Clock Tower. The name comes from a tradition to park cars by the candy stalls that populate the arcaded walkway below the gorgeous colonial balconies.

Portal de Los Dulces is still a good place to sample traditional Colombian sweets, pastries, and confectionary. You can also buy gift boxes of artisan sweets. 

34. Shop in Bazurto Market (Central Market of Cartagena)

Mercado Bazurto is loud and colorful. Go there for cheap street eats, crafts, fresh fruits and meat (unfortunately, also turtles are on offer). Bazurto Market is best visited on a guided tour and this tour is our favorite!

35. Visit Rafael Nunez House in Cartagena de Indias

Visiting Rafael Nunez’s House is an interesting cultural activity. It’s home to Colombian president, author, and journalist Rafael Wenceslao Nunez Moledo. Colombia’s constitution was signed at Rafael Nunez House in 1886. The house showcases 19th-century Colombian architecture and design.

Bizarre fact: Nunez is mentioned in “Love at the time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

36.  Cartagena’s Less-Visited Colonial Fort: San Sebastian del Pastelillo

Fort San Sebastian del Pastelillo marks the spot of Fort del Boqueron, the first fort in Cartagena. Nowadays, Fort San Sebastian del Pastelillo houses now a fish restaurant Club de Pesca.

It’s a perfect example of a colonial fortress and well worth visiting even if you’ve visited San Felipe Castle and Fort San Fernando. San Sebastian del Pastelillo is said to be the world’s largest colonial fortress built by the Spanish.

37. Swim in Castillogrande and Watch Sunset at Bocagrande Beach

Let’s get it straight: Bocagrande beach, Playa de Bocagrande, isn’t tropical paradise. It’s touristy, noisy, and dirty. But it’s also central, easy to visit, and the longest beach in Cartagena – and a good spot to watch the sunset.

Castillogrande is the best beach on Bocagrande peninsula: head there for an afternoon swim. It’s much more tranquil and clean than Bocagrande beach.

Taste traditional Colombian sweets in Portal de Los Dulces, right beside Plaza de Los Coches
Taste traditional Colombian sweets in Portal de Los Dulces, right beside Plaza de Los Coches

38. Visit La Boquilla, a Local Fishing Village – Go Fishing With Locals or Make Your Own Coconut Souvenirs!

While the fishing village of La Boquilla is well off-the-beaten-path, visiting can be a welcome change from the bustle of Cartagena. The village has so lovely beach that it’s lined with expensive condos and frequented by rich Colombians: check the next activity for beach hopping.

If you’re interested in fishing we recommend this fishing tour where you visit two lagoons and learn local fishing ropes using fish line, nets, and traps.

If you’re into cultural immersions, book Coconut Workshop and learn to make souvenirs from coconuts at a beach restaurant with “coconut ladies”. 

39. Beach Hop at Manzanilla del Mar (Near La Boquilla Village)

The area surrounding La Boquilla fishing village is called Manzanillo del Mar. It’s a popular beach hopping destination for locals: join the fun and search your favorite cove!

If you’re not into guided tours (check the previous and next activities), you can just take a taxi from Cartagena (30-minute ride) and enjoy a relaxed beach day at 3-kilometers long Playa Boquilla, where you can book kite surfing, canoeing or other activities. More tranquil coves can be found by walking or taking short taxi trips, but even Playa Boquilla feels serene after Cartagena. 

40. Canoe Through Mangroves

La Boquilla fishing village (check previous activity) is also a starting point for mangrove canoe trips into Cienaga de la Virgen mangroves.

To avoid extra hassle, book your trip in advance: this 3-hour tour includes taxi transfers and canoe trip with local English speaking fishermen.

41. Find Gabriel Garcia Marquez House in Cartagena Old City

If you’re into literature, finding Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the Old City is one off must-dos in Cartagena. It’s a private house nowadays but I still enjoyed tracking it down and seeing where Gabo used to live and write.

Where to Stay in Cartagena 

We stayed in Getsemani for the best price-quality ratio. Getsemani is just 5-minute walk from the Old City of Cartagena; it’s a pleasant area to walk around, dine and grab evening drinks – and feels much calmer than the tourist-filled Old City.

We stayed in Allure Chocolat Hotel By Karisma: a nice and affordable 4-star boutique hotel in Getsemani. Their Price-quality ratio was excellent for Cartagena, where hotels are pricier than in the rest of Colombia. If you’d like to invest slightly more, I’d recommend Tcherassi Hotel + Spa.

Check out all the hotels with reviews in Cartagena de Indias from here.

If you’re planning a trip around Colombia, check here our article about the best affordable boutique hotels in Colombia.

How to Get to Cartagena, Colombia (By Air, Road, and Sea)

Cartagena de Indias is one of the most popular places in Colombia, thus getting to Cartagena is easy by both air and road.

If you’re short on time and flying in Colombia, consider looking international flights to Cartagena instead of Bogota. Cartagena is just 2,5 flight away from Miami, for example.

Getting to Cartagena by Air: Cheap Flights Within Colombia

Most tourists pick return flights to Bogota, Colombia’s capital. And most tourists craft an itinerary where they either drive or take a tiring bus trip to Cartagena. Before choosing that option, check our tips for booking cheap internal flights in Colombia.

Flights to Cartagena from Bogota and Medellin are cheap and short. Flying is our favorite way of getting around Colombia’s mountainous terrain. You can book one-way ticket from Bogota to Cartagena for as low as $20!

Getting to Cartagena by Road: Rent a Car

Driving is relatively safe in Colombia; thus you can rent a car in Bogota’s airport and drive to Cartagena and other destinations at your leisure. Don’t plan to do it overnight, though.

The distance between Bogota and Cartagena is 1050 kilometers, and the drive can take anything between 10-20 hours. There are many lovely spots by the route, so consider splitting the journey if your schedule allows.

The distance between Medellin and Cartagena is a bit more than 600 kilometers, and the drive takes around 12 hours. Even locals avoid driving the mountain roads, as they are unpredictable. I’d recommend flying, especially if you’re short on time and can find affordable flight tickets (please check out our flight hacks in a separate article).

Getting to Cartagena by Bus from Bogota

Bus travel is relatively hassle-free and safe in Colombia. Downside: it’s painstakingly slow, and distances are enormous.

While it’s possible to take a bus from Bogota to Cartagena, you might not want to take the trip: it takes around 20 hours for the bus to crawl from Bogota to Cartagena. Consider flying or modify your itinerary so that you can split the bus trips. Also, the price of a bus ticket can be almost the same as the cheapest flight ticket.

Getting to Cartagena by Bus from Medellin

The same goes with buses from Medellin: although the trip is shorter, it’s still long and tiring. Night bus from Medellin to Cartagena takes around 13-15 hours.

Getting to Cartagena from Santa Marta (By Bus or Shuttle)

If you’re already on the Caribbean Coast, bus travel is easy and distances at least a bit shorter. Still, we preferred a shuttle between Santa Marta and Cartagena. Bus trip between Cartagena and Santa Marta takes around 5-6 hours. Door-to-door shuttles are just a tad more expensive, much easier and more comfortable – and usually 1-2 hours faster.

Have you been to Cartagena de Indias? Please share with us your favorite activities, restaurants, tours, and things to do in Cartagena!

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