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Cartagena – The Hip and The History

CARTAGENA – THE HIP AND THE HISTORY:  A few interesting facts about this Colombian treasure.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Cartagena is a tropical port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, founded on June 1, 1533 by the Spanish Commander, Pedro de Heredia, in what was formerly an indigenous Caribbean village. It was named after Cartagena in Spain where his sailors had resided and became the main trade port between Spain and its overseas empires as early as the 1540s. It was also a center of political, ecclesiastical, and economic activity – the centre of the Spanish Inquisition and a major slave market.

Today, Cartagena paints a new picture, but celebrates its rich history with a mixture of empathy and pride.


The Neighbourhoods

There is a profound sense of contrast in Cartagena between the old and the new, with the main new area being the sky-scraper-filled Boca Grande, and the old being the Old Walled City.

Within these 2 areas however, the city is made up of a few more defined neighbourhoods: The Northern Area, Downtown, San Diego, Getsemani and Boca Grande.

The Northern area houses the Rafael Nunez International Airport, and several education institutions.

The architecture of the historically-rich Downtown area attracts many tourists, and ranges from colonial to Italian and republican. There are several squares, museum, tunnels, religious buildings and sculptures to delight the intrepid travelers.

San Diego was named after the local San Diego Convent and is also a historically rich neighbourhood.

Getsemani has been rescued from a recent-past of crime and notoriety and is now a hip and happening hotspot with boutique hotels and trendy plazas.

Cartagena – Getsemani. Pic : Wikipedia

Boca Grande (Big Mouth) is the main beachy tourist area with many skyscrapers, restaurants, hotels, shops, galleries and nightclubs.

We recently came across a really unique little website – a wedding website – which described the old town so well, have just have to include it here: “Constant live music on the streets, great restaurants and quirky bars, are only a glimpse of the magical wonders of Cartagena”

In 1984, Cartagena’s port, the fortresses and the group of monuments were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The Economy

Economic activities include the processing of sugar and tobacco, cosmetics, textiles, fertilizer, and leather goods. Colombia’s main exports however include manufactured goods, petroleum (although declining in recent years), coal and coffee. Tourism also now plays a significant role in the economy of the city.

To facilitate trade, the city has 3 open ports within the main port specializing in container management and grain storage, and several private ports including a SAB Miller Brewery Port.

Pic: Vesselfinder (Click for link)

The Cultural Classics

Cartagena also offers many cultural delights such as the many festivals that happen during the year. Among these are the Cartagena International Music Festival in January, which takes place in the walled city of 10 days; the International Film Festival in March; the Miss Colombia Pageant; the Summer Festival in June and July; and the Jaz Festival under the Moon in December.

The city has also seen the filming of a few classic movies in its time such as the 1969 movie ‘Burn!’ with Marlon Brando and The Mission in 1986 with Robert De Niro.

Pic by Invest in Bogota (Click for Link)

The ‘Colombian National Park’ at Sea

Cartagena is also lucky enough to be situated within relatively close sailing proximity a collection of protected Caribbean islands named the Rosario Islands. This ‘Colombian National Park’ contains over 120, 000 square kilometres of mostly uninhabited marine area and land, although a small number of the islands are privately owned by hotels who offer accommodation or day trip packages to the islands with snorkeling, diving, and swimming opportunities.

Pic by The Culture Trip (click for link)

The Famous Shipwreck

The Spanish ship San Jose, shipwrecked around 1708 in a battle, was discovered by divers in December 2015, just off the coast of Cartagena. The wreck unearthed over 17 billon U.S.D. in treasure and gold, ownership of which is still hotly disputed as several countries and organizations are fighting over who has the rights to the wreck.

Despite this ongoing tug-of-war, the Colombian government plans to display the treasures discovered in the wreck in a public museum.  However, the exact location of the wreck remains a state secret, per the directive of UNESCO.

Pic: Wikipedia


We hope you enjoyed our hip and history online tour of Cartagena. Did you know that Port of Call services vessels for hull cleaning alongside at the Port of  Cartagena? Call us for more info.