We arrived in Cartagena around 9 pm and thought we would be too exhausted to do anything. But as our taxi pulled inside the walled city, we heard the blasting live music and saw the bright lights and floods of people walking around. Our energy levels immediately spiked and all we wanted to do is go out and play.
It didn’t take too long before we were ready to pass out. The non-stop traveling days were getting to us and we decided to sleep in. But I naturally woke up early the next day, as we have been the past few days, and decided to wander around El Centro.
At 9 am, this old colonial town was dead quiet. It was the complete opposite from the night before and a little refreshing to have the entire place to myself. I found the one place open: Juan Valdez Coffee, of course. I grabbed a coffee and strolled through the streets. I reached the top of the thick stone walls that had been built in the 16th century to protect the city from pirates. And then, somehow, ended back on the street our hotel was on. I
After my stroll, I took a break on our hotel rooftop. This picture below looks really pleasant and relaxing but it was actually hot as hell. It was so humid that my camera fogged up when I took it outside. The Carribean sun was so strong, I only lasted a few minutes and headed back into the room with the blasting air conditioning.
Palacio de la Inquisición
One of the top sites in Cartagena is this old Palace that is now a museum. The building is apparently one of the “best examples of late colonial, civil architecture.” In 1610, the Court of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established in Cartagena. This was a big port town and people came over from all over the world. The Spanish felt threatened and tried non-Catholics that were guilty for “bad customs which attacked [their] faith.” The museum had displays of torture devices that were used back then. It was a pretty disturbing.
There was also a section that discussed the history of Cartagena. Most of it was in Spanish and it wasn’t too interesting. I didn’t think this museum was worth the cost.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
Not far outside the walled city is the strongest fortress built by the Spain in any of their colonies. Cartagena was a very important port town for Spain and this stronghold protected the city from both land and sea invasions. It was built in 1536 and was expanded multiple times over the years until Cartagena fell in 1815. The fortress’s intricate maze of tunnels is the most impressive.
The fort is an easy 10 minutes walk from the clock tower at the edge of old town. Marc and I did the audio tour which provided a ton of information and even included battle reenactments. There are beautiful views of Cartagena from the fortress too.
Outside Old Town
That night, seven more of our friends joined us and we enjoyed a night on the town!
Cartagena is a fun Carribean port town and it’s a major tourist destination. Costs are definitely higher than the rest of Colombia here but its well preserved historical structures and the city’s energy should be experienced first-hand!