Cartagena, Colombia – the world’s best-kept secret

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Cartagena, Colombia is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. It is a destination that captured the imagination of Luxury Hotel Photographer and Luxury Travel Guide contributor, Antonio Cuellar.  With all that it offers, Antonio believes that it will not stay a secret for very long. Cartagena, he thinks, is set to be the next hot destination for global travelers.

About Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is the historic port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.  The jewel of Cartagena is its walled Old Town located by the sea.  It was founded in the 16th century and boasts multiple squares and cobblestone streets. These streets are lined with character-filled, colorful colonial buildings. The ancient city walls were constructed as protection from pirates who roamed the seas in the 16th century. Cartagena has a rich history that dates to the colonial era and was a principal port for Colombia.  Cartagena was vital to the export of Peruvian silver to Spain in addition to being the main import port for enslaved Africans.

Modern-day Cartagena, Colombia

Today, now the pirates have gone, Cartagena is one of the safest places in Colombia.  The very walkable Old Town is the main attraction for visitors to the area.  Cartagena has a tropical climate and is a popular beach destination.   Off the coast are multiple islands and Cartagena is known for its white sandy beaches and stretches of palm trees.  The stone fortresses and massive walls of the Old Town are in some places 20 meters thick, and the length of the walls is an astounding 11 kilometers.  Now rather than being a place of pirates and slavery it is a place that evokes historical romance.  With its multiple plazas, narrow cobble-stones streets and colonial charm, it is a place where you can quickly lose yourself in a by-gone era.

Behind the Walls

The area is so captivating that it inspired Luxury Hotel Photographer Antonio Cuellar to embark on a personal photography project entitled ‘Behind the Walls.’  This project really sums up the appeal and allure of the Old Town of Cartagena.  On a visit in 2009, Antonio was captivated by this historic walled city.  There has been an incredible resurgence in the area after an economic boom in Colombia. Due to this increased affluence, many of the colonial houses have been renovated and transformed into boutique hotels.   Antonio wanted to capture the charm of Cartagena and ‘Behind the Walls’ referred not only to the incredible walls that surrounded the city but also to the grandeur and opulence of many of the hotel’s interiors.  He wanted to show people the magic that existed both inside the walls of the Old Town and inside the walls of the incredible buildings of Cartagena.

The rise of the boutique hotel industry in Cartagena

Formerly the Old Town of Cartagena was a residential area that also included convents and monasteries.   With Colombia’s chequered history the city for a while struggled economically.  However, the improved economy saw the Old Town of Cartagena come alive over the last few 30 years.   Due to the growth of the tourism industry and the historical appeal of the Old Town of Cartagena, property values in the Old Town have skyrocketed over the last few decades.   This has resulted in many long-term residents selling their properties which were ultimately bought by savvy developers.
This change has seen an incredible boutique hotel industry form and subsequently thrive in the Old Town of Cartagena.   Many of the residences of the Old Town have been lovingly and, in some cases, lavishly restored. They are now available as boutique hotels, and they are among the world’s best.   Not only are there old residences but you can also find converted convents, monasteries and government buildings.   Spanish colonial mansions have been styled with contemporary design in mind, combined with an exotic Caribbean ambiance and the historic charm of the Old Town.  The beauty of Cartagena is as unique as its history. When entering the Old Town, the walls envelop you, and it is as if you are stepping back in time.

Enjoy a gastronomic adventure in Cartagena

Not only does Cartagena offer history and ambiance, but it is also filled with a vibrant vibe and the chance to experience a Colombian gastronomic adventure.   Within the walls of the Old Town, you will find a wealth of dining and wining options that are also an incredible drawcard to this area.   Whether it be sampling the best ceviche or enjoying food that is a fusion of Basque and Colombian cuisines, there really is an endless selection.   Enjoy sunset while sitting in a bar located on the top of the old wall or venture into an upscale bar in a former convent.  With its excellent climate, Alfresco dining is very much the norm in the Old Town, and you can enjoy freshly caught seafood alongside the best of Colombian, Basque, Spanish and Caribbean cuisine.

Getting to Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena has an international airport, the Aeropuerto Internacional Rafael Núñez, which is located only 3 kilometers from the city.  All major Colombian carriers operate flights to Cartagena, and from here there are flights to Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, San Andrés, and many other major Colombian cities. From America, there are flights available with American Airlines from Miami, Delta Airlines from Atlanta, JetBlue Airlines from New York and Spirit Airlines fly from Fort Lauderdale.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is known as the safest city in Colombia and the Old Town, with its ancient walls, weaves a magical spell.   It is a destination that is rich in Colonial history and abounds in charm.  It is also the sort of place that leaves an indelible mark on a visitor’s soul, and the stone fortress protects a destination that offers the visitor an insight into another world.  Not only that, Cartagena allows you to stay in boutique hotels that embrace this exotic Colombian town and will enable visitors to experience a thriving world of luxury,  alongside endless pristine beaches, world-class cuisine, and historical attractions.