Founded in 1533 on an original indigenous Caribe settlement, the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Heredia founded the city of “Cartagena de Poniente” to distinguish it from “Cartagena de Levante” in Spain. Later the city became known as “Cartagena de Indias”, a name which remained until the end of the colonial era and the beginning of the Republic. This colonial city rapidly became the gem in the Spanish Crown’s territories. It was fortified between the XIV and XIX centuries and in order to protect it from the continual attacks by foreign buccaneers and pirates and when these fortifications were completed, it was the most impenetrable and largest in the Americas.

Cartagena was the first province of the Nuevo Reino de Granada which gained its independence from Spain on the 11th of November 1811 and the city still boasts architectural treasures in its civil, domestic, religious, military and governmental constructions.

Just walking through its narrow yet remarkable streets there is enough to understand why Cartagena is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This colonial area is split into three zones, the Centro, San Diego (both inside the wall city) and Getsemaní. This whole city harks back to a time when pirates routinely attacked the bay and when the Spanish Inquisition executed a great number of slaves accused of witchcraft; furthermore, strict rules were installed by the Dominicans who had the right to cast judgment over whomever they wished. Perhaps the real joy of Cartagena is exploring its streets on foot, an experience that awakens all five senses with the rhythms of cumbia and mapalé, with the flavours of the Caribbean, the blend of the natural world against the variations in architecture all the while buffeted by a Caribbean breeze making the city an incredibly romantic destination. 

To one side of the centre of the city is Bocagrande, a long spit of land that is home to the majority of modern buildings and hotels, connected to the barrios of El Laguito and Castillo Grande which make up part of today’s modern city. The outstanding beaches of the Islas del Rosario, Barú and Playa Blanca are located at approximately 45 minutes by boat from Cartagena. 

Culturally, Cartagena is renowned for its International Cinema Festival (FICC); it is the host city of the Hay Festival in January and is the seat of the National Beauty Pageant each November, the same month as the city’s independence celebrations. 

The cultural wealth that Cartagena enjoys is a result of the mix in backgrounds of the city’s inhabitants and its architectural beauty. The sea and the warm afternoon winds make Cartagena one of the Caribbean’s most fascinating cities.