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Cartagena, Colombia Travel Guide

Tourist Guide

The Fabulous Dream of Columbus

A view of the city
The view over the rooftops of Cartagena

Cartagena is not just confined within the walls of the old town. Over time it has expanded left and right. A comprehensive tour will first take you 500 feet up the hill of La Popa (The Stern) thus named because of an imaginary resemblance to a ship's stern.

The terrace of the Augustinian church and the restored monastery of Santa Cruz built in 1608, offers a beautiful view of the bay. In the church, the faithful worship the representation of the Virgin de la Candelaria who is said to have protected the city from the plague and pirates. To express their gratitude, each February for one week, the people of Cartagena climb the hill chanting and holding candles.

Colonial house
Colonial house

The story goes that in Pre-Columbian times, this hill was the seat of a pagan cult, in which the Indians adored a gold goat. To erase the superstition, the Augustinians threw the gold idol in the ravine. If someone ever found the statue, he never reported his finding.

The Spaniards never built in South America a larger bigger stronger citadel than The San Felipe de Bajaras fortress. It is worth a visit for its massive impressive structures, its tunnels dug into the rock and the views from the top of the fortress, standing at 120 feet. The Spaniards bragged that it was so well engineered and defended that no one could ever take it. However, a French corsair; the Baron de Pointis did so. But no one else repeated this exploit.

East of the old city, along the coast Bocagrande (at a walking distance from the Clock Tower, but take preferably a taxi) is the new Cartagena harboring modern standard beach hotels and residences. Castillo Grande is the other residential development. Wealthy Bogotanos keep secondary homes there. Bogotá, where the weather is always cool if not cold, is only an hour and a half away by plane from these sunny beaches. For visitors, it's not such a good idea to spend a day on the sand of Bocagrande or of Marbella, (on the West side). Save it for the next day.

Continue to Day 3


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