Encircle Cartagena

Encircling the Old Town of Cartagena, Colombia, are several other neighborhoods. Each of them has something unique to explore and enjoy.

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1 Outer Wall of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena’s landmark fort was first built on the Hill of San Lázaro during the early 16th century. When the citadel was significantly expanded in 1657, it was named in honor of Felipe IV. He was the King of Spain from 1621 until 1665. The Castillo has the distinction of being the largest military fortification ever built within the Spanish colonies. It is easy to see how these massive walls repelled an attack by over 23,500 British soldiers in 1741. The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Cra. 17 #30-35, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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2 Inside of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia

When visiting Cartagena de Indias, a must-do attraction is walking up a huge ramp to explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This fortress played such an essential role in the city’s defense since it was built by the Spanish beginning in 1536. One word of caution: it is hot. The thick walls intensify Cartagena’s average high temperature of 88° Fahrenheit. The only respites are a few tunnels. But the perspiration and admission charge are worth the historic experience.

Cra. 17 #30-35, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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3 Cannon at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia

After the expansion of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas was complete in the mid-17th century, it was armed with 63 cannons. Most of them are gone but a few remain along the upper bulwark next to a watch tower. These mortars were very effective against the British in 1741. The Spanish called it the Defeat of the British Armada. Although outnumbered by almost ten to one, the Cartagenans sunk six Royal Navy ships and damaged 17 others.

Cra. 17 #30-35, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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4 Entrance to Centennial Park in Getsemaní, Cartagena, Colombia

This arch, crowned with a statue of an angel protecting a soldier, celebrates the first 100 years of Cartagena’s independence on November 11, 1811. It is also a gateway to Centennial Park. Extensively renovated in 2013, this refreshing greenspace offers plenty of trees, gardens, benches and fountains. If you are lucky, you might also spot some resident iguanas and sloths.

Cra 9 No 31-72,Cartagena, Getsemaní, Colombia
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5 Pegasus Statue and Clock Tower in Getsemaní, Cartagena, Colombia

Pegasus was a white stallion in Greek mythology. He flew Bellerophon on his back during battle with a monster. This winged horse is an appropriate symbol at the Paseo o Camellón de los Mártires. In 1811, Cartagena de Indias declared its independence from Spain. In retaliation, Pablo Morillo and his army of 10,000 men starved the city before overthrowing it in 1815. Over 7,000 residents died. The Spaniards then publically executed resistors now called the Nine Martyrs. In 1821, an army brigadier general from Venezuela named Mariano Montilla defeated the Spanish during the War of Independence. This Pegasus sculpture is one of three in the Getsemaní neighborhood across from the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower).

Pier Los Pegasos Cl. 32 #821, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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6 Nol Me Tangere Monument in Getsemaní, Cartagena, Colombia

In the center of a narrow square dedicated to the Nine Martyrs of Independence is the Nol Me Tangere Monument. Skillfully carved from white Carrara marble by Felipe Moratilla, it was erected in 1911 on the centennial of Cartagena de Indias declaration of independence. The name translates to the warning, “Touch Me Not.” This means Cartagenans always stand ready to defend their freedom.

Nol Me Tangere Cl. 24, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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7 Convention Center in Getsemaní, Cartagena, Colombia

The Cartagena Convention Center was built in 1982 along the Bahía Las Ánimas waterfront in the Getsemaní neighborhood. It is a few steps away from the Clock Tower and the entrance to Old Town. The 215,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space of Centro de Convenciones was renovated in 2011.

Cl. 24 #8A-344, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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8 Beach Facing Caribbean in Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

If “Caribbean Beach” conjures up images of secluded white sand beneath swaying palm trees, then you will be disappointed in the Bocagrande beach facing the Caribe. It resembles a gritty Miami Beach. The narrow shore in the shadow of endless high-rises is jammed with tourists and hawkers. The waves are rough despite rings of breakwaters. Yet it is close to the new major hotels so it is convenient for a quick dip or tanning in the sunshine.

Cra. 1 #812, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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9 Painting of City Landmarks in Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

The rusted metal box wedged into the seawall of the Bocagrande beach seemed like an odd canvas for a painting. However, the colorful images are immediately recognizable as the city’s landmarks. They are, from left to right, a sentry tower on the defensive wall, the Torre de Reloj or Clock Tower, and the Cathedral Cartagena’s belfry.

Bocagrande Beach, Cra. 1, Bolívar, Colombia
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10 Bigfoot Statue in Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

If you stay at the Hotel InterContinental or are just walk down Carrera 1 in the Bocagrande neighborhood, you can’t miss this sculpture by Israeli artist Idan Zareski. The bronze and resin statue is appropriately called Bigfoot. It seems Zareski has created similar works in all sizes: small, medium, big, and baby big feet. Apparently none of his art features Sasquatch.

Carrera 1 #51, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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11 Beach Facing Bay in Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia

The Bocagrande district is built on a narrow peninsula. If your hotel is along the Caribbean, it is worth the short walk to reach the beach facing Bahía de Cartagena. The water is calmer and it attracts more locals than tourists. Other beaches nearby are at El Laguito and Castillogrande. However, if you are an aficionado of sand, surf and sun, then go to one of the picturesque outlying islands. Some of the best are San Bernardo, Baru and del Rosario.

Cra. 5 #8a150, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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12 Convent de la Popa Church in Cartagena, Colombia

In 1607, an Augustinian monk named Fray Alonso Paredes was told by the Virgin Mary to travel to Cartagena and establish a monastery on the highest elevation. The Spanish called the 492 foot hill Cerro de la Popa. This means Stern Hill because it resembles the back of a ship. The cloister was confiscated from 1822 until 1961 by the government and occasionally used as a military barracks. It was then given back to the Augustinians. This historic church and convent is best reached by cab or guided tour.

Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa Cl. 37, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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13 Convent de la Popa Altar in Cartagena, Colombia

In the center of the gilded altar at El Convento de la Popa is the image of La Virgin de la Candelaria. She is shown as a Black Madonna holding a dark skinned baby Jesus and a candle in her other hand. The image is patterned after a statue appearing on a beach in 1594 in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. This shrine was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1986. An annual pilgrimage is held on February 2, the feast day of the Virgin of Candelaria.

Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa Cl. 37, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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14 Convent de la Popa Courtyard in Cartagena, Colombia

The Convent de la Popa is definitely worth a visit for its historic value, the museum and incredible views of the city below Stern Hill. Without question, however, the most beautiful feature is this inner courtyard. Blooming bougainvilleas and other gorgeous flowers grace the two-story, stone arcade in all four directions.

Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa Cl. 37, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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15 Panoramic View of High-rises in Cartagena, Colombia

This panoramic view of Cartagena from Convent de la Popa shows its very modern cityscape. There are about 150 high-rises and skyscrapers. The majority has been built since 2003, especially in the Bocagrande neighborhood in the background. Most of them are condominiums to house the population of about 900,000 people. Several are luxury hotels with lots more planned before the 2017 tax incentive expires. The towers in the middle stand on Manga Island. Some experts have compared Cartagena’s construction boom to Panama City and Miami.

Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa Cl. 37, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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16 Casa Román on Manga Island in Cartagena, Colombia

This exquisite, 19th century Moorish mansion along Calle 25 on Manga Island is the life-long residence of Teresita Román Vélez and her collection of 1,500 dolls from around the world. Her countless civil contributions to Cartagena earned her the title of honorary mayor in 2006. A noted chief and writer, she published her first collection of local recipes in 1963 called “Cartagena de Indias en la Olla” which means Cartagena in the Pot. Since then, her books have sold over 600,000 copies. This splendid home should not be confused with the Hotel Casa Cordoba Román in Old Town.

Cl. 25 #18-101, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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17 Azulamarillo Macaw at Cruise Terminal in Cartagena, Colombia

This handsome blue-and-yellow macaw is native and abundant to the forests in the northern half of South America including Colombia. He is among 30 other macaws delighting cruise ship passengers as they disembark at the Manga Terminal Maritimo. The colorful parrots loudly greet all who walk through the port’s enjoyable aviary.

SPRC Terminal Cl. 28 Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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18 Male Indian Peafowl at Cruise Terminal in Cartagena, Colombia

As the bird’s name suggests, the Indian peafowl originated across India but has been introduced into the wild of numerous countries including Colombia. The male’s head crest, iridescent feathers and long, eye-spotted train have also made the peacock a popular resident at zoos across the world. This impressive male is among several strutting freely near the cruise ship piers at Manga Terminal Maritimo.

SPRC Terminal Cl. 28 Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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19 Keel-billed Toucan at Cruise Terminal in Cartagena, Colombia

This keel-billed toucan is another Colombian native on display at the aviary in Cartagena’s cruise port terminal. Perhaps the alternative name – rainbow-billed toucan – best describes its most prominent feature. The red, green, orange and blue bill can extend up to six inches. Equally colorful are their yellow chest and blue feet. Their natural habitat is forests extending through Central America and northern South America.

SPRC Terminal Cl. 28 Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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20 El Laguito Peninsula At Sunset in Cartagena, Colombia

Along the tip of El Laguito Peninsula in the Castillogrande neighborhood is a lighthouse. Faro Castillo Grande provides a welcoming beacon into the Bahía de Cartagena. A few steps away is the Naval Officers Club. The glass balconies of Club Naval provide an outstanding view of the sun setting over Cartagena.

Cra. 14a #5a-91 Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
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