Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533 and is also known as the “Heroic City” for having resisted the Spanish reconquest for a long period. Today, Cartagena is one of the most popular destinations in Colombia as well as an important port situated on the Caribbean coast. The old town of Cartagena, surrounded by long fortifications (the most extensive in South America) that were built to protect the city from pirate attacks, is recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Cartagena reflects a romantic and astonishing combination of colours, music, gastronomy and traditions influenced by the indigenous heritage, the Spanish colonial architecture and the African culture.
In the historic centre as well as in the bohemian neighbourhood of Getsemaní you will find modern stores, boutique hotels and great restaurants. The best way to discover the city is to walk around the beautiful streets with the colonial buildings painted in different colours and the charming balconies filled in bougainvillea. Cartagena travels you to a different era. It’s no coincidence that the city was place of inspiration for the famous Colombian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez.
Cartagena’s lifestyle is laid-back, fascinating and full of colour. In the streets and plazas you’ll come across the iconic fruit sellers, the palenqueras. These Afro-Colombian women are known for their traditional colourful dresses and the basket of tropical fruits that balance on their head. The palenqueras come from San Basilio de Palenque, the first free town in the colonial America located outside the city of Cartagena. It’s about a place far from the colonial centres, where the African slaves escaped from in order to live free and with their own traditions.
Undoubtedly, Cartagena is the epicentre of culture and arts. Every year important international festivals and fairs take place in the city, including the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts and the International Film Festival, in January and March respectively.