In stark contrast to the humble colonial cities in the mountains, 500-year-old Cartagena has a rich political history and was a critically important port. It was responsible for sending silver and gold back to Spain; and for many years it was also a slave port. Today, Cartagena is the brightest and most vibrant of the Colombian cities that I have visited (notably lacking both Cali and Medellin).
For me, Cartagena has everything that I love in a historic city; old city walls, a castle on the hill, a lovely city center. But what sets it apart from other cities is the lively Caribbean vibe. It is extremely energetic, and becomes even more lively after the sun goes down. The party-like atmosphere feels a little like New Orleans.
The first time I even thought about visiting Colombia came 30 years ago in the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” Later I realized that it wasn’t even filmed in Colombia. In 1997, Cartagena was the place in Colombia I ever set foot. It has changed a lot, cleaned itself up, and has become one of the premier destinations in Colombia.
The huge fortress; Castillo San Filipe; overlooks the walled city of Cartagena. It is an impressive fort, and it’s unique shape made it extremely difficult to single out one battery for attack without controlling the entire system of defense.