3 Days in Cartagena: The Ultimate Itinerary

3 Days in Cartagena: The Ultimate Itinerary

ViaHero · Updated October 21, 2019

You can do a lot of amazing stuff with three days in Cartagena. Since we believe that locals know best, we asked them to help design the ultimate Cartagena itinerary for three days in the city—here are the results!

Of course, your perfect Cartagena itinerary depends on how you like to travel—so for a custom guidebook based on your travel style and interests, connect with a Colombian local. With their help, you'll feel at home as soon as you arrive. Learn more

Day 1: Colombian food, Old Town, and salsa dancing

Although it depends on your travel style (and in Cartagena your options range from island life to city vibes) locals tell us that staying in the city's activity-packed Old Town is a solid option. If you're looking for something different, a local who lives in Cartagena can give you suggestions for your style and budget.

Add Old Town to your Cartagena itinerary
Old Town | F Delventhal/Flickr

Grab a Colombian-style breakfast to start the day

First things first: Colombian cuisine is fantastic, and locals recommend starting off the day by enjoying some Colombian classics. Get a cup of Colombian coffee or some tinto (consumed throughout Colombia, tinto is made from coffee beans but is more concentrated and served in smaller cups). 

Locals tell us that arepas (maize dough fried to perfection and stuffed with meat, eggs, or cheese) is a popular choice for breakfast or lunch. Arepa de huevo, which is the version stuffed with eggs and meat, can be found at food stands all over the city—which makes it a great to-go breakfast. (You can also ask for it without meat!)

Local tipCartagena has lots of great options for vegetarians. One of our local trip planners recently designed a guidebook that suggested Gokela—a healthy fast food spot that includes vegan and vegetarian options. 

Explore Cartagena’s colorful Old Town on foot

Often considered the most beautiful city in Colombia, Cartagena is the ideal city to explore on foot. Full of 16th- and 17th-century architecture, Cartagena’s charming and romantic Old Town boasts brightly colored buildings, fresh fruit and vegetable stands, and brilliant flowers that refuse to be contained in pots.

If you get hungry, locals suggest grabbing an empanada stuffed with egg and cheese (another Cartagena specialty) from one of the many local vendors that line Old Town’s streets. And since cars are limited and motorbikes are restricted, Cartagena's Old Town is a safe and fun place to get an on-the-ground feel for Colombia's Caribbean culture!

Local tip: Signing up for a walking tour is a great way to explore Old Town. Your local trip planner can suggest one and add all the details to your custom guidebook. One of our locals recently suggested a food tour in Cartagena which...we're sold.  

Check out the incredible history of Castillo de San Felipe

Put Castillo de San Felipe on your Cartagena itinerary
Castillo de San Felipe | F Delventhal/Flickr

Originally built to protect the city against pirates, Castillo de San Felipe is an incredible backdrop for an afternoon stroll. Only a ten minute Uber from Cartagena’s Old Town, this 17th-century fort is worth the trip, offering breathtaking views of the city and ocean.

Locals recommend renting an audio guide or hiring an actual guide (depending on your budget) when you buy your tickets. They say it's a great way to understand the fort's history. Oh—and locals also suggest bringing water and a hat. The old stones and Cartagena's famous sunshine means it can get toasty. 

Head to an outdoor cafe for an authentic Cartagena-style dinner

While you’re out and about in the city, you have to try Cartagena’s famed fritanga. Essentially a platter of fried finger food, fritanga is a medley of cheese, bread, and meat—all fried to perfection. If you’re looking for a more sit-down-style dinner, though, you have to try one of the innumerable seafood restaurants serving parga frita, Cartagena’s famed fried red snapper. 

Local tipOur Colombian locals say that if you're in Cartagena in January, definitely check out the Festival del Frito—a celebration of all of Cartagena's delicious fried foods! Other cool Cartagena festivals include the Hay Festival and the Cartagena International Film Festival

Take out your dancing shoes and soak up the incredible nightlife

Add salsa dancing to your Cartagena itinerary
Salsa dancers | Frank Romero/Unsplash

In Cartagena, salsa is the name of the game. Colombian culture emphasizes dancing as a means of connecting to others, and Cartagena’s endless selection of clubs reflects this cultural trait! Cartagena locals are full of advice about which salsa clubs to check out—Cafe Havana is a local favorite. Locals tell us that they often play live music!

Day 2: Gold Museum and Gestemani

Spend your second day in Cartagena exploring the city's intensely cool culture. First, at some of Cartagena's coolest museums. Then, in the hip neighborhood of Gestsemani, where you'll spend the afternoon and evening.

See all that glitters at Cartagena's Gold Museum

Locals tell us that the Museo del Oro Zenu (Cartagena's Museum of Gold) is a can't-miss. Free to visit, the museum showcases gold pieces—over 500!—from Colombia's indigenous Zenu people. It's a great way to start the morning—and get out of the sun for a bit. 

Local tip: Cartagena is full of great museums. Our local trip planners say that the Museo de la Esmeralda (Emerald Museum) and the Museo del Cacao (Chocolate Museum) are also cool to check out. 

Explore the hip neighborhood of Getsemani

Add Getsemani to your Cartagena itinerary
Getsemani | Fundación Gabo/Flickr

After a long lunch (perhaps some sancocho: a stew full of plantains, corn, rice, avocado, and that day's catch!) wander over to the Getsemani neighborhood.

Locals suggest starting in the Camellón de los Mártires (Walk of the Martyrs), Gestemani's gorgeous public plaza and definitely swinging by Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez where (you guessed it!) the famous author once lived. 

The Iglesia de San Pedro—on the water and surrounded by a gorgeous brick plaza—is also worth checking out. As you wander the streets throughout the neighborhood, be sure to keep an eye out for Getsemani's colorful street art. 

Stick around Getsemani and see where the night takes you

There's always something going on in Getsemani once the sun goes down! Locals can give more specific suggestions based on your travel style—more salsa? a nightclub? something more laid back?—in your custom guidebook. But many of our local trip planners suggest starting the night at the Plaza de Trinidad, where you'll find buskers playing for change, sizzling carts of street food, and tons of great bars and restaurants. 

Day 3: Day trip to Cartagena's idyllic islands

Cartagena's beaches are gorgeous—especially the island beaches close to the mainland. Take day three in Cartagena to go on an adventure, and explore some of the city's coolest islands. 

Add a few islands to your Cartagena itinerary
Baru Island | camilo_marino/Flickr

Boat out to the white sands and clear waters of Playa Blanca

Only a 40-minute ride away, Baru Island’s Playa Blanca is beloved by travelers and locals alike for its powdery sands and crystal clear water. Our local trip planners tell us that a highlight of Baru Island is its Aviario Nacional de Colombia—a spectacular aviary full of native birds. 

Frolic in the island paradise of the Rosario Islands

If you’re looking for postcard-esque beaches, the Rosario Islands are a must. One of the largest groups of islands in Colombia, the Rosarios are an idyllic spot to lay on the sand, enjoy fresh fruit or seafood, and experience island life. Locals tell us that taking a catamaran out to the islands is a fun way to travel! Just hold tight to your phone while you're framing that perfect Instagram shot. 

Day 4: Tell Cartagena: "Until next time!" 

We get it. You're ready to go back already. Well, Colombia is full of amazing cities—and our Colombia trip planners can help design an itinerary that'll match the way *you* like to travel. So what are you waiting for?

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The *perfect* Cartagena itinerary depends on you! No matter how you like to travel, our local trip planners can design a custom guidebook that fits your style, interests, and budget. You could see Cartagena like a tourist...but why would you want to? Learn more

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