If Cartagena is on your bucket list and you've been planning your trip for a while go straight to our guru's list of hotel recommendations. If not here are some of her charms, and some of the best places to stay in Cartagena to enjoy them!
Cartagena de Indias feels like it belongs to a different era. Once an important (read rich) port on the silver and gold trade route, this city was wealthy and fortified, the impressive remnants of which are why it's:
This is not the Columbia where danger is easily encountered, in Cartagena the most dangerous things are probably the horse drawn carriages which carry tourists around the narrow streets of the pristine Old Town. In fact while it feels like an exotic destination, Cartagena is also a good place to go if you want to relax - one of the best things to do here is stroll the sea wall of an evening, followed by some mojitos in a cafe/ bar and some people watching.
This may make it sound small though - it's not, it's the fifth largest city in Colombia.
Because of the rich trading, Cartagena is also the Caribbean port most associated with pirates. So it makes sense that Cartagena's famous fortifications are slightly set off from today's city - focussed around the bay. The best of the forts are the Castillo de San Felipe of Barajas, the Battery of San Ángel in Tierrabomba, the Castillo Fuerte of San Fernando and the Battery of San José in Bocachica. These were all major artillery sites as well, set up to return fire - against Sir Francis Drake at one point
The other highlight of Cartagena is the walled Old Town - everything you'd expect a Spanish Colonial settlement to look like. This is one of the best places to stay in Cartagena if you're 'hanging the expense' and want to really be in the beautiful heart of things. Despite being ravaged numerous times (Drake destroyed about a quarter of it before ransoming it back to the Spanish for about $200million), this area is full of beautiful buildings. Some of the places worth visiting are the cathedral and the Palace of the Inquisition.
Built for the middle classes, San Diego is where you'll find many of Cartagena's most beautiful old colonial homes. Some of which have been converted into boutique hotels, which makes it one of the best places to stay in Cartagena. These hotels don't always have a lot of rooms but the charm of staying in this area is worth the effort.
Elegant 5* hotel in 18th century building. Characterful rooms have exposed bricks, traditional mosaic tiles and light marble bathrooms. Outdoor pool on roof terrace, inner plant-filled courtyard, solarium, hot tub and massages. Caribbean and Colombian fare in romantic restaurant. An authentic stay.
A beautiful 18th century palace with traditional facades and classical suites to match. Chequered stone floors, romantic balconies, four poster beds, pastel walls, gilt mirrors and winding staircases. Stunning roof top swimming pool and cocktail bar. Very ethereal.
Cartagena (Barrio San Diego)
A Former convent in the heart of Cartagena with four bars and the biggest swimming pool in the city. Fun, fun, fun - the original occupants would not approve...
Contemporary B&B in colonial house. Elegant rooms are awash with white furnishings, antique furniture and granite bathrooms; some with open air showers. Two outdoor pool, rooftop bar with superb views and shady courtyard. Spa treatments available. Chic and romantic with lots of personable touches.
A romantic manor house in the old town of Cartagena. Traditional understated elegance throughout suites. Stone floors, wooden furnishings, all the mod cons. Lovely pool, spa and restaurant. Calm, simple, sophisticated.
Romantic and grand traditional Cartagenese house in the old town. White washed colonial buildings have frescoed ceilings, hand painted tiles, and coral stone walls. Enormous rooms and suites have high ceilings, four poster beds, and marble bathrooms. Lovely courtyard pool, restaurant and terraces.
An absolute gem of laid-back style in a historic location with enormous bedrooms and bathrooms and a fabulous spa offering exotic luxurious treatments.
Cartagena (Calle 38)
One of the trendiest hotels in Cartagena. Sleek interior design makes use of original elements in contemporary formats. White washed archways framed by modern art, contemporary furnishings against exposed stone work etc. Award-winning restaurant, pool, and fresh suites.