Historic Cartagena the Caribbean City in Colombia

It is true to say that Colombia has a bit of an image problem, but sometimes reputations can be wrong, and the situation in Colombia is improving quite rapidly.

One place in Colombia that has a reputation for welcoming visitors is the city of Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

It is called the `heroic city’ because it was one of the first places in the Americas to give slaves their freedom. Also, because many battles were fought here, both against invading colonial forces and pirates who were searching for loot.

Today’s city is a tantalising mix of modern, contemporary, high rise architecture sitting cheek by jowl with historic buildings which hark back to Spanish colonisation in the early 16th century. The city was home to Spanish royalty and their viceroys who built magnificent homes and well-protected fortresses that is so impressive the old city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some of those buildings could tell an interesting tale or two, particularly the Palace of the Inquisition, where hundreds of people were tortured and killed in the name of Catholicism, and the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas. The streets of the old walled city ooze with the romance of a time when Cartagena was a major port that was exceedingly lively and filled with the wealth of its many traders.

One of the best places to view Cartagena is from atop the 150 metre-high La Popa Hill. There is a monastery on top of the hill, and from the top of La Popa you can see both the old and the new cities, the Caribbean coastline and out to Tierrabomba Island. There is an entrance fee when you reach the top, but the people to watch are the taxi drivers who may try to charge an extraordinarily inflated fee to get you up the hill.

The city has long been a popular tourist resort for Colombians, so does cater well for visitors. There is an abundance of good hotels, of all standards, good restaurants and it is a place which becomes active at night with some great bars and clubs.

For those wanting to fully appreciate the Caribbean, there are good beaches and island nearby. The Rosario Islands are quite popular, but book through a reputable agent as there are touts by the waterfront who will rip you off. Playa Banca has a reputation for being the best beach, and Baru Island is more upmarket but also less crowded.

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