CartagenaPhoto: Kevin Faingnaert

Cartagena is Colombia’s vivacious Caribbean jewel. The port city is steeped in history amid stories of conquistadors and battles for independence, and its colourful colonial architecture has lived to tell the tales. The old town is encircled by a magnificent 13km-long stone wall, which has acted as protector of its inhabitants since 1796. Inside, smartly painted houses in vibrant hues sporting polished wooden balconies, brilliant blooming bougainvillea and intricate door knockers abound. In the adjacent up-and-coming Getsemani neighbourhood, winding streets lead to Plaza Trinidad, a square basking in the shadow of a picturesque 17th-century church, where old men meet to play scrabble and children hone their football skills.

While away hours exploring the cobbled streets, sampling street food and exploring iglesias or simply soaking up the laid-back Caribbean vibes. If in doubt, or in need of a little inspiration, consult This Is Cartagena and This Is Colombia Travel.

Cartagena

isn’t known for its beaches, but the Rosario Islands are. A smattering of islets a mere 40-minute boat ride from the city, this is where you’ll find crystalline waters and fish so fresh you can still taste the sea salt.

By night, dinner is al fresco, in leafy restaurant courtyards bathed in moonlight or lively plazas serenaded by street performers. After dinner? This is when the city really comes alive to the pulsating, heady salsa beats.

To Stay

Las Islas

Located 45 minutes outside of the city centre, these magical tree houses are the perfect spot for quiet contemplation and penning your thoughts. Kayak, scuba dive or snorkel with tiny fish during the balmy days before settling down for sunset drinks overlooking the island.

Townhouse Cartagena

After the sun slips into the Caribbean Sea, head to the rooftop of this contemporary hotel to sip on award-winning cocktails (there’s also a view of Fermina Daza’s house from here). The creation of the founders of the nearby Blue Apple Beach Club, expect an unpretentious and playful vibe.

Casa San Agustin

The historic frescoes and old-world furnishings of this bijou hotel make it the perfect place for romance. Sun yourself by the pool – a 300-year-old aqueduct – in the palm tree-filled courtyard by day before savouring ceviche de coco and delectable cocktails at the bar when night falls.

San Pedro

This enchanting boutique hotel, formerly a colonial mansion, has just eight rooms and offers every guest a free welcome massage. Relax in the elegant courtyard under fairytale arches covered in draping ivy, or cool off in the plunge pool or rooftop jacuzzi. Tucked away on the edge of the old town, San Pedro is an oasis that many locals are yet to discover.

  • + 575 664 5800
  • Go to Website
  • B. San Diego
    Cll San Pedro Mártir 10-85
    Cartagena de Indias

Casa Don Sancho

With French-inspired decor, this six-bedroomed hotel is equipped with a sun deck, swimming pool and cosy library. Named after a famous Spanish general, the hotel has been lovingly restored to showcase its original colonial features. Combined with contemporary luxury and sea views, the Casa makes for a perfect city retreat.

  • +575 660 0276
  • Go to Website
  • Calle Don Sancho
    No 36-126
    Centro Histórico
    Cartagena de Indias

Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo

Romantic interiors featuring wooden-beam ceilings, pale hues and flower-adorned balconies make Casa del Coliseo a sophisticated spot for travellers. Climb the beautiful winding staircase to take a dip in the secluded rooftop pool or curl up under the wooden awning for a lazy afternoon nap in the shade.

  • +57 5 660 0566
  • Go to Website
  • Centro Historico
    Calle del Coliseo 35-23
    Cartagena de Indias

Mansion Tcherassi

Owned by designer Silvia Tcherassi, who has just finished a two year-long renovation, this chic seven-room hotel features wooden floors, private balconies and huge open-plan bathrooms. The pièce de résistance is the rooftop, offering a 360-degree panoramic view across Cartagena’s skyline and the Caribbean Sea. Pick from four pools to recline by, and dine in the top-notch Italian restaurant.

  • +57 5 6517050
  • Go to Website
  • Calle del Curato No. 38-99
    Centro
    130001 Cartagena de Indias

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