3-Day Local's Guide: Sightseeing, Food and Wine in Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia

3 days

Fortified Castle of San Felipe
Cholon Island
Portrait of Palenqueras woman, the symbol of the city

About Cartagena, Colombia

Experience the vibrant culture and rich history of Cartagena, Colombia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a treasure trove of colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and colorful buildings. Explore the historic walled city, visit the imposing Castillo de San Felipe, or relax on the stunning beaches of Islas del Rosario. Indulge in local cuisine, featuring fresh seafood and tropical fruits, and immerse yourself in the lively nightlife. Cartagena is also a gateway to explore the biodiversity of Colombia's rainforests and national parks. With its warm, tropical climate, Cartagena is a year-round destination, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1

Exploring the Walled City


Start your day with a visit to the historic Walled City. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit for its colonial architecture, vibrant streets, and local shops. Take a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone streets, soaking in the city's rich history and culture.


Enjoy a traditional Colombian lunch in one of the local restaurants in the Walled City. Try the local delicacy, Bandeja Paisa, a hearty platter of rice, beans, meat, and plantains.


After lunch, visit the Palace of the Inquisition. This museum offers a glimpse into the city's dark past during the Spanish Inquisition. The exhibits include historical artifacts and information about the inquisition process.


For dinner, head to one of the seafood restaurants near the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy a meal of fresh seafood while watching the sunset over the sea.


End your day with a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride around the Walled City. The city takes on a magical charm at night, with the colonial buildings beautifully lit up.


Start your second day with a visit to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a massive fortress that offers panoramic views of the city. Explore the tunnels and battlements of this impressive structure.


Have lunch at a local restaurant near the fortress. Try the local dish, Cazuela de Mariscos, a delicious seafood stew.


Spend the afternoon at the Rosario Islands, a group of beautiful islands in the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy the pristine beaches, clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs. You can also go snorkeling or scuba diving.


Enjoy a beachside dinner at one of the restaurants on the Rosario Islands. Try the local dish, Coconut Rice, a delicious and creamy rice dish made with coconut milk.


End your day with a relaxing walk along the beach, enjoying the cool sea breeze and the sound of the waves.


On your last day, visit the Cartagena Gold Museum. This museum houses a large collection of gold artifacts from the pre-Colombian era. Learn about the history and culture of the indigenous people of Colombia.


Have lunch at a local restaurant near the museum. Try the local dish, Arepas, a type of cornmeal bread filled with cheese or meat.


Spend the afternoon exploring the Getsemani neighborhood. This vibrant neighborhood is known for its colorful street art, lively music scene, and local shops. You can also visit the Plaza de la Trinidad, a popular gathering spot for locals.


For your last dinner in Cartagena, head to a local restaurant in Getsemani. Try the local dish, Sancocho, a hearty stew made with meat, potatoes, and plantains.


End your trip with a visit to the Clock Tower Gate, the main entrance to the Walled City. The tower is beautifully lit up at night, making it a perfect spot for some last-minute photos.

Attractions in Itinerary (7)

Walled City

Walled City

The Walled City is the historic heart of Cartagena, filled with colonial architecture, charming plazas, and a myriad of restaurants, bars, and shops. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Palace of the Inquisition

Palace of the Inquisition

A historic museum housed in a large late colonial style building in the city's main square. It served as the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

A fortress located on the Hill of San Lazaro in a strategic location, dominating approaches to the city by land or sea. It was built by the Spanish during the colonial era.

Rosario Islands

Rosario Islands

A group of private islands off the coast of Cartagena, known for their vibrant coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and abundant marine life.

Cartagena Gold Museum

Cartagena Gold Museum

A museum dedicated to the display of archaeological objects, especially gold pieces and ceramics from different indigenous cultures of Colombia.

Cultural Experiences


A vibrant neighborhood known for its bohemian atmosphere, street art, and nightlife.

Cultural Experiences
Clock Tower Gate

Clock Tower Gate

The main city gate of the historic walled city of Cartagena and its most recognizable landmark.


Local Food and Drinks (12)



Arepas are a type of food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia. They are often filled with cheese, meat, or eggs.



Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of Colombia, especially in Cartagena. It is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with chili peppers, onions, and cilantro.



Empanadas are a type of baked or fried turnover consisting of pastry and filling, common in Latin American and Filipino cultures. In Cartagena, they are typically filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

Posta Negra

Posta Negra is a traditional Cartagena dish made from beef, cooked slowly in a sauce of spices, panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), and cola soda.



Sancocho is a traditional Colombian soup made with large pieces of meat, tubers, and vegetables. It's a staple dish in Cartagena and is often served with a side of rice and avocado.

Pargo Rojo Frito

Pargo Rojo Frito is a popular dish in Cartagena, consisting of red snapper fried whole and typically served with coconut rice and fried plantains.

Arroz con Coco

Arroz con Coco is a traditional Colombian side dish made from rice cooked with coconut milk and sugar. It's a staple in Cartagena and is often served with fish dishes.



Raspao is a popular street drink in Cartagena, made from crushed ice and flavored syrups. It's a refreshing treat in the city's tropical climate.



Refajo is a traditional Colombian cocktail made from a mix of beer and Colombian soda. It's a popular drink in Cartagena, especially during festivals and celebrations.


Obleas are a popular dessert in Cartagena, made from two thin wafers filled with arequipe (sweetened condensed milk) and cheese.

Chicha de Maiz

Chicha de Maiz is a traditional Colombian beverage made from fermented corn. It's a popular drink in Cartagena, often served in clay pots for added flavor.


Enyucado is a traditional dessert from Cartagena, made from yuca, cheese, coconut, and anise. It's a sweet and savory treat often served during holidays and celebrations.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Cartagena, Colombia is during the dry season, which runs from December to March. During these months, you can expect warm, sunny days perfect for exploring the city's historic sites and beautiful beaches. This period also coincides with the city's high season, so it's a vibrant time with many cultural events and festivals taking place. However, if you prefer a less crowded time, the shoulder months of April, May, October, and November can also offer good weather with fewer tourists.

National holidays

Here you can find the national calendar of all public holidays for the year. These dates are subject to change as official changes are announced, so check back regularly for updates.

DateDayHoliday Name

January 1


New Year's Day

January 8



March 25


Saint Joseph's Day

March 28


Maundy Thursday

March 29


Good Friday

May 1


Labor Day / May Day

May 13


Ascension Day

June 3


Corpus Christi

June 10


Sacred Heart

July 1


Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

July 20


Independence Day

August 7


Battle of Boyacá Day

August 19


Assumption of Mary

October 14


Columbus Day

November 4


All Saints' Day

November 11


Independence of Cartagena

December 8


Feast of the Immaculate Conception

December 25


Christmas Day

Please note that during national and public holidays, opening hours for establishments, museums, etc. may vary. Don't forget to check in advance!

How to get around

Cartagena's Old Town is compact and easy to navigate on foot. It's the best way to explore the city's colonial architecture, vibrant street life, and numerous shops and restaurants.

Taxis are plentiful in Cartagena and can be hailed on the street or ordered through a hotel. They are a convenient way to get around, especially for longer distances or when carrying luggage. However, they do not have meters, so it's important to negotiate the fare before starting the journey.

Ridesharing services like Uber and InDriver are available in Cartagena. They offer a convenient and often cheaper alternative to taxis. You can order a ride using the app on your smartphone, and the fare is calculated and paid electronically.

Bicycles are a popular mode of transport in Cartagena, especially in the Getsemani neighborhood and along the beachfront. There are several places where you can rent a bike for the day.

Public buses are a cheap way to get around Cartagena, but they can be crowded and the routes can be confusing for visitors. They are best used for longer distances, such as going to the beaches in the north of the city.

The Chiva Bus is a traditional, brightly painted wooden bus that is often used for city tours and party buses at night. It's a fun and unique way to see the city, but not the most practical for everyday transport.

Horse-drawn carriages are a romantic and traditional way to see the Old Town of Cartagena. They can be hired for a leisurely tour of the city's historic sites.

Boats can be hired for trips to the nearby Rosario Islands, a beautiful archipelago with clear waters and abundant marine life. This is a popular day trip from Cartagena.

While we strive for accuracy in our "How to get around" section, the information may not always be up-to-date or 100% accurate; we highly recommend cross-checking with local resources before your travel.

Important information

Currency$ COP

Time zoneUTC-5

Driving sideRight

Emergency phone119

Drinking waterOpt for bottled water

Power sockets

Power socket type APower socket type B

Voltage110 V

Things to know about Cartagena, Colombia as a first time visitor


Cartagena is located on Colombia's Caribbean coast and is known for its tropical climate. The average temperature is around 82°F (28°C).


The official language is Spanish. While some locals and staff in tourist areas may speak English, it's beneficial to know some basic Spanish phrases.


The local currency is the Colombian Peso (COP). Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and shops, but it's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller vendors.


Tipping is not mandatory in Colombia, but it is customary to leave a 10% tip in restaurants if service charge is not included in the bill.


Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, but like any city, it's important to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night and in less crowded areas.


Public transportation is available and includes buses, taxis, and 'colectivos' (shared taxis). Uber is also available.


The city is divided into various neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. The most famous is the walled Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The local cuisine is a mix of African, Spanish, and indigenous flavors. Be sure to try local dishes like 'ceviche', 'arepas', and 'empanadas'.


Tap water in Cartagena is generally safe to drink, but if you have a sensitive stomach, it's recommended to stick to bottled water.


Cartagena is in the Colombian Standard Time zone (COT), which is 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-5).


The city is known for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues. The party often continues until the early hours of the morning.


The dress code is generally casual due to the tropical climate. However, it's recommended to bring a light jacket for cooler evenings and air-conditioned places.


Colombians are known for their friendliness and hospitality. Don't hesitate to ask for help or directions if needed.


It's common to haggle in markets and with street vendors. However, prices in shops and restaurants are usually fixed.


The city has a strong Afro-Caribbean influence, which is reflected in its music, dance, and festivals. Don't miss the chance to experience a live 'cumbia' performance.


The sun can be intense, so it's important to wear sunscreen, especially between 10am and 4pm when UV levels are highest.


The city is a popular destination for cruise ships, so it can get crowded during the peak tourist season (December to April).


Public restrooms are not always readily available, especially in the Old Town. It's common to use the restroom in a cafe or restaurant, but you may be expected to make a small purchase.


Colombia uses a 110-volt power system, the same as the United States. If you're traveling from a country that uses a different voltage, you'll need a power adapter.


Cartagena is a city of contrasts, with modern high-rises next to colonial-era buildings. It's a place where you can experience both the old and the new, so keep an open mind and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

Basic Spanish to know as a first time visitor

English phrase

Native phrase


When to use it




Greeting someone




Leaving or saying goodbye


Por favor

Por fa-vor

Making a request

Thank you



Expressing gratitude



Agreeing or confirming




Disagreeing or denying

Excuse me



Getting attention or apologizing

I'm sorry

Lo siento

Lo see-en-to


Do you speak English?

¿Hablas inglés?

Ab-las in-gles

Asking if someone speaks English

I don't understand

No entiendo

No en-tee-en-do

When you don't understand what was said

Where is...?

¿Dónde está...?

Don-de es-ta

Asking for directions




Looking for a restroom




In case of emergency




When looking for food




When asking for water




When ordering a beer

Check, please

La cuenta, por favor

La kwen-ta, por fa-vor

Asking for the bill

How much does it cost?

¿Cuánto cuesta?

Kwan-to kwes-ta

Asking for the price

I would like...

Me gustaría...

Me gus-ta-ree-a

Making a request or order

Good night

Buenas noches

Bwe-nas no-ches

Saying goodbye in the evening

Packing List

  • Clothing

  • Lightweight clothing

  • Underwear

  • Socks

  • Swimwear

  • Beach cover-up

  • Sunglasses

  • Sun hat

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Evening wear

  • Light jacket or sweater

  • Toiletries

  • Travel-sized shampoo and conditioner

  • Body wash

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Deodorant

  • Razor and shaving cream

  • Sunscreen

  • Insect repellent

  • First-aid kit

  • Prescription medications

  • Contact lenses and solution

  • Travel documents and essentials

  • Passport

  • Driver's license or ID card

  • Credit and debit cards

  • Cash and coins

  • Travel insurance documents

  • Hotel and tour reservation confirmations

  • Emergency contact information

  • Electronics and gadgets

  • Smartphone

  • Charger for smartphone

  • Headphones

  • Camera

  • Charger for camera

  • Power adapter

  • Portable power bank

  • Miscellaneous items

  • Travel pillow

  • Earplugs and eye mask

  • Snacks

  • Water bottle

  • Books or e-reader

  • Travel guide and map

  • Spanish-English dictionary or phrasebook

  • Umbrella

  • Laundry bag

Weather Conditions

When visiting Cartagena, Colombia, it's important to be prepared for a tropical climate. The city experiences high temperatures throughout the year, typically ranging from 76°F to 88°F (24°C to 31°C). Humidity levels are also high, often reaching 80-90%, which can make the heat feel more intense. The city has two main seasons: dry and wet. The dry season runs from December to April, and it's the best time to visit if you prefer hot, sunny weather. However, even during the dry season, brief rain showers can occur, so it's always a good idea to carry a lightweight, waterproof jacket or umbrella. The wet season, from May to November, sees more rainfall, particularly in the months of September and October. If you're visiting during this time, be prepared for sudden, heavy downpours. Despite the rain, temperatures remain high, so pack lightweight, breathable clothing. Regardless of when you visit, don't forget to pack sun protection. The sun can be intense in Cartagena, so bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of high-SPF sunscreen. Also, remember to stay hydrated, especially when out exploring the city's beautiful historic sites. Finally, keep an eye on the local weather forecast during your stay. While Cartagena is not typically affected by hurricanes, it can experience heavy rainfall and storms, particularly during the wet season. Being aware of the weather can help you plan your activities and stay safe during your visit.

MonthHi / Lo (°C)Weather Overview


31° / 23°

January is one of the cooler months in Cartagena, but still very warm with average temperatures ranging from 23°C to 31°C. It's a great time to visit for those who prefer less intense heat.


32° / 24°

February sees a slight increase in temperature, with averages between 24°C and 32°C. It's a perfect time for beach activities and exploring the city.


33° / 25°

March is one of the hottest months in Cartagena, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 33°C. Make sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.


33° / 25°

April continues the hot trend with temperatures similar to March. It's a great time to enjoy the beaches and the Caribbean Sea.


33° / 25°

May is still quite hot, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 33°C. It's a good time to visit if you enjoy hot weather and want to avoid the peak tourist season.


33° / 25°

June sees consistent temperatures, similar to May. It's a great time to explore the city's historical sites and enjoy the local cuisine.


33° / 25°

July is a hot month with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 33°C. It's a perfect time for water activities and exploring the city's vibrant nightlife.


33° / 25°

August continues the trend of hot weather, with temperatures similar to July. It's a great time to visit the beautiful Rosario Islands.


33° / 25°

September is a hot month, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 33°C. It's a good time to visit if you enjoy hot weather and want to avoid the peak tourist season.


32° / 24°

October sees a slight decrease in temperature, with averages between 24°C and 32°C. It's a perfect time for beach activities and exploring the city.


32° / 24°

November is a warm month with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 32°C. It's a great time to visit for those who prefer less intense heat.


31° / 23°

December is one of the cooler months in Cartagena, but still very warm with average temperatures ranging from 23°C to 31°C. It's a great time to visit for those who prefer less intense heat.

Did you know?

Did you know that Cartagena, Colombia is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved colonial architecture and city walls?

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