Treasures and pirates abound in the history of Cartagena de Indias. Founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia, this Caribbean city on the coast of Colombia is surrounded by high walls and the most extensive fortifications in South America. And those walls weren’t just for decoration. Treasures brought from all over the Americas were stored here before being transported to Spain, which attracted the attention of infamous pirates like Sir Francis Drake.
Tired of getting sacked by pirates, the Spanish crown decided to fortify the city; and to protect all that money, they had to fortify it well. Cartagena soon became one of the most protected colonial cities, and the principal Spanish port in South America.
Today, the narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site are filled with colonial architecture, friendly people, and beautiful balconies dripping with flowers, all adding up to an Old City enchantment that’s unique to Cartagena.
There’s plenty to see in the area of the Old City and just beyond, including the landmark Clock Tower, pre-Colombian gold pieces that are on display at the Gold Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the historical arches of Las Bovedas. For more colonial history, discover a priest’s fight against slavery at the San Pedro Claver church, learn about a fascinating but dark moment in Cartagena history at the Palace of the Inquisition, visit the oldest church in Cartagena on the Santo Domingo plaza, learn more about the independence of Cartagena at the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, and end your day at the Cerro de la Popa for excellent views of the sunset.