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Cartagena Travel Guide

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Cartagena Square © Pedro Szekely

Visually, Cartagena is a paradise, with lush bougainvilla winding its way through a maze of cobblestone alleys lined by brightly-painted buildings. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is a popular tourist destination for both Colombian and international holidaymakers. Cartagena's history goes back to 4000BC, and today its skyline is a blend of modern skyscrapers and colourful colonial facades.

Cartagena's colourful past is evident in the many historical attractions in the city. Most are located in the walled Old Town, which contains beautiful examples of colonial architecture and excellent shopping and restaurants. Neighbourhoods like Centre, San Diego, Getsemaní, and the more modern La Matuna all have unique personalities that delight visitors. Old Town is also home to the labyrinthine Bazurto Market, which is more of an opportunity to glimpse the everyday life of a Cartagenan than stock up on souvenirs.

The Palace of the Inquisition, the dungeons of Las Bovedas and the Cartagena Gold Museum are good places to get a feel for Cartagena's history, while the San Pedro Claver Convent and the Santo Domingo Church offer their own perspective. A number of stately mansions and fortresses (including the impressive Castillo de San Felipe) dot the area as well.

The most popular attractions in Cartagena are its sparkling beaches. However, the best beaches in Cartagena are to be found a little ways out of the city. Playa Blanca and Sportbaru are popular resorts that offer watersports, boat tours, and other activities as well as a selection of restaurants and bars. Ferries are also available for excursions to nearby islands, including the Islas del Rosario.

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