ROL Cruise recommends…
The walled city
Hidden behind thick walls that took 200 years to complete, Cartagena’s old city is a delightful mix of Colonial architecture, colourful homes and quaint shops. The Murallas de Cartagena (walls) were started in 1586, following the city’s capture and two month occupation by Francis Drake and his men. Take a short stroll along these walls for beautiful sea views before passing through the Puerta del Reloj clock gate to discover more of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Exploring El Centro
At Plaza de los Coches you’re greeted by vibrant Colonial buildings with balconies at every window. Amble along narrow cobbled streets and through communal plazas to soak up the delightful atmosphere of El Centro and San Diego. Stop awhile to admire the sixteenth century cathedral, the restored Santo Domingo church and the San Pedro Claver Church, resting place of the Jesuit Saint of the African slaves. Browse gold and emerald jewellery en route, then make your way to Plaza de Bolivar where the Palacio de la Inquisicion offers a macabre insight into the historic eradication of heresy, by means of torture and death.
The greatest fortress
Outside the old city, on the Hill of San Lázaro, stands the impressive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. The largest, and the most impregnable, Spanish fort built in the Americas, it resisted numerous assaults and was enlarged on various occasions to offer even better protection. Take a guided or audio tour to learn its full history as you explore inside, even creeping along its underground system of sound-amplifying tunnels.
A seafront walk, or horse and cart ride, from the old city leads you to Bocagrande, Castillo Grande and El Laguito – Colombia’s version of Miami. This fashionable peninsula boasts chic restaurants, boutique stores, trendy coffee shops and art galleries aplenty. The central backdrop of contemporary skyscrapers can be seen from the volcanic sand beaches that stretch along the north shore, and also from the bay-side promenade. Many snorkel and scuba tours head out from here to the coral reefs around Islas del Rosario.