Updated on 01/25/2024
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Cartagena Trip Summary
Day 1 – Cartagena
Day 2 – Cartagena
Day 3 – Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque – Cartagena
Day 4 – Cartagena – Rosario Islands – Cartagena
Regarding tourism, Cartagena is probably the most important Colombian city after Bogota. It is the capital of the department Bolivar, on the northern coast of Colombia. It has an average temperature of 32°C (89°F), the climate is hot but breezy since it is located at sea level. There are over 500 years of history to be found here and Cartagena was also cataloged as UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. Its perfect location right on the Caribbean Sea and its beautiful colonial old town (Ciudad Amurallada) enchant national and international tourists, who also choose to arrive on cruise ships. In the historical part, you will find many sights, boutique hotels, and restaurants. The walled city is known to be a common honeymoon destination due to the romanticism of its streets and architecture. Cartagena is a city with a lot of history and fascinating places to visit, such as San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the historic center.
San Basilio de Palenque
San Basilio de Palenque is a historic town located in Colombia, renowned for its unique cultural heritage and historical significance. Situated about 50 miles southeast of Cartagena, the town is often considered the first free African community in the Americas. It holds a special place in history as a symbol of resistance against slavery and oppression.
During the colonial era, when the Spanish brought African slaves to the Americas, some slaves managed to escape from their captors and formed independent communities known as “palenques.” San Basilio de Palenque, founded by escaped slaves around the 16th century, became one such palenque.
The community developed a distinctive Afro-Colombian culture, preserving its African traditions, languages, and customs. Palenquero, an Afro-Hispanic creole language, is still spoken by the residents, making it a living testament to their heritage.
The inhabitants of San Basilio de Palenque have always shown a strong sense of identity and unity. They fiercely resisted Spanish attempts to re-enslave them, and their community became a safe haven for other escaped slaves seeking freedom.
In recognition of its cultural importance and historical significance, UNESCO declared San Basilio de Palenque a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. This designation highlights the community’s efforts to preserve its unique heritage amidst the challenges of modernization and globalization.
Today, San Basilio de Palenque remains a vibrant and proud community, with residents committed to preserving their cultural heritage and sharing it with the world. Tourists and researchers visit the town to learn about its history, witness its vibrant traditions, and gain insight into the resilient spirit of its people. The town serves as a living reminder of the strength and determination of those who fought for freedom during a dark period in history.
The Rosario Islands, known locally as “Islas del Rosario,” are a group of idyllic and paradisiacal islands located in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. This archipelago is famous for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, and diverse marine life, making it a sought-after destination for beach lovers and snorkelers.
The Rosario Islands offer a true Caribbean paradise experience with their white sandy beaches, palm-fringed shores, and warm tropical waters. The islands are an escape from the bustling city life of Cartagena, offering a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere.
The archipelago is part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, which was established to protect the valuable marine ecosystems, coral reefs, and diverse aquatic species found in the area.
The Rosario Islands are a haven for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The coral reefs are teeming with colorful marine life, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and rays.
Isla Grande is the largest and most popular island in the archipelago. It offers various accommodation options, restaurants, and beach clubs, making it a convenient base for exploring the area.
The Rosario Islands are easily accessible from Cartagena, and many tour operators offer day trips and excursions to the islands.
Day 1: Cartagena
Arrival to Cartagena
You will be picked up at the airport and driven to your hotel.
The bilingual guide will be waiting for you at the exit of the airport.
Here you will find the best hotel recommendations in Cartagena
Day 2: Cartagena
Full Day City Tour and Mercado Bazurto
Your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel to take you to the Bazurto market, a very busy place in Cartagena, a maze of colorful stalls, exotic foods and local handicrafts. This guided tour will take you to the heart of the market, where you will have the opportunity to meet the vendors, watch the artisans at work, taste local delicacies and if you prefer, enjoy a delicious typical Colombian lunch.
On the way back you will have a 3 hour tour of the city of Cartagena, visiting the residential neighborhoods that border the Bay of Cartagena. You will visit the Monastery of San Pedro Claver and its church, built in honor of the patron saint of slaves – Pedro Claver. The church is considered a national monument and, because of its history and charm, is one of the favorite churches for weddings in Cartagena. You can also visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the most important work of military engineering in the New World. This fortress was built by the Spanish during the colonial era (from 1536) to protect the city from pirates and invaders. Today it is one of the 7 wonders of Colombia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 3: Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque – Cartagena
Full Day Route Of Liberty
San Basilio de Palenque is a place where music, language, medicine and other daily traditions permanently remind us of the continent that five centuries ago became the main source of slaves in the world. It is known for its mark in the history of the eighteenth century, as it was the first black slave town in America to free itself from the Spanish crown.
55 km from Cartagena, in Palenque, one of the first free towns of the continent and cradle of important boxers like Antonio Cervantes ‘Kid Pambelé’. Learn about the Afro-Caribbean history, the past, present and future of Palenque and enjoy its typical food, guided by young people from the community.
Day 4: Cartagena – Rosario Islands – Cartagena
Private Boat tour to Rosario Islands
The driver will pick you up at the hotel and take you to the pier. Where you will have a tour through the Rosario Islands, an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea formed by 28 islands. The natural national park was created to protect one of the most important coral reefs of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. From Cartagena, it takes about 45 minutes by boat. During the private boat excursion to the islands, the captain and an assistant will take care of you. Cold drinks such as champagne, beers and water, as well as delicious snacks, will be the perfect accompaniment to the views over the blue ocean. You will be able to discover the beaches and islands at your leisure or do other activities.
You will be picked up at the hotel and driven to the airport Rafael Nuñez in Cartagena