Cartagena de Indias: How to spend a weekend on Colombia’s Caribbean coast

(The Independent) An historic 16th-century port city nestled alongside the Caribbean Sea, it’s no secret that Cartagena de Indias (commonly known as Cartagena) is one of Colombia’s prettiest jewels. Come for the old town’s stunning Unesco World Heritage Site’s colonial architecture, stay for the tropical islands and eternal summer weather. While the cobbled streets and vibrant façades might teem with cruise ship passengers, escape with a sojourn to nearby beaches. November is dedicated to Carnaval, the ultimate Caribbean fiesta that takes over Colombia’s fifth-largest city.

Get your bearings

The compact walled old town is Cartagena’s heart and soul, home to charming leafy squares, colonial mansions converted into boutique hotels and well-preserved churches. Sir Francis Drake tried – and failed – to destroy Santa Catalina de Alejandria Cathedral (1) in 1586. Two miles away, San Felipe de Barajas Fortress (2) overlooks the city. Cross through Torre del Reloj (3) past the docks to reach hip Getsemaní neighbourhood (4). Beaches run along the northwest and southwest, and the latter is home to Bocagrande (5), Cartagena’s answer to Miami. The tourist office is on Plaza de la Aduana (6) (0057 5 6601583; and is open Monday to Saturday from 9am-12pm, 1pm-6pm; Sundays 9am-5pm.

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