Also known as “La Popa,” this 400+ year-old monastery sits on top of the highest hill in Cartagena (150m, to be exact).
La Popa grants a holistic view of the city: Cartagena Bay, Bocagrande, La Boquilla, and Old City can all be seen from the top.
Take a quiet moment to overlook the landscape and appreciate the city’s unique topography. Make sure to check out La Virgen de la Candelaria, a statue of the patroness of the city.
Though it’s recommended to take a cab up there for safety reasons, the monastery and surrounding gardens are perfect for an afternoon stroll and enjoying the lovely Caribbean weather.
Located just a one-hour boat ride from Cartagena’s shores is an archipelago of dozens of small private islands, which were once upon a time Pablo Escobar’s Caribbean getaway.
The Rosario Islands’ crystalline waters, vibrant sea life, and beautiful coral reefs make it the perfect destination for snorkeling and marine sightseeing.
There are also tons of other activities to do nearby, like seeing dolphin shows at the Oceanario Aquarium, walking through the interior of Isla Grande (the biggest island), and laying out on sandy white beaches.
Make sure to enjoy a fresh lobster lunch caught by the local fishermen!
There are several places to visit for the perfect Cartagena day trip.
Start by seeing Bocagrande, located between Cartagena Bay and the Caribbean Sea. This sparkly, commercial neighborhood is laden with glaring white skyscrapers, towering condominiums, shops, art galleries, and long beaches.
Next, stop at San Fernando de Bocachica Castle, a marine fortress on the nearby Tierra Bomba Island formerly used in defense from pirate raids.
Before heading back to the city, visit the Pueblo of Tierra Bomba, famous for creating the artisanal art that is sold in the streets of Cartagena.
A small fishing village located in the outskirts of northern Cartagena, La Boquilla still gives visitors an idea of what parts of the city looked like before the influx of tourism.
Inhabited by Afro-Colombian ethnic groups, La Boquilla remains relatively untouched.
The beaches are lined with palm-thatched huts serving traditional fish dishes and, if you go around sunrise, fishermen casting their nets into the water and later selling their catch.
There are a variety of activities to further explore the village and culture, including canoe tours through mangrove swamps, bird watching, taking a bath in medicinal volcanic mud, watching a traditional dance, and of course, learning about fishing from the locals.
Old City, Cartagena’s most popular attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is encased in a walled compound remnant of a fortress built during the 16th century Spanish conquest.
The city’s mild temperatures and idyllic cobbled streets make it perfect to sight-see in a horse carriage ride during sunset hours: the soft light that caresses the roofs and flower-laden balconies of the Spanish colonial houses feels like a scene right out of a movie.
Half the fun of exploring Old City is wandering through its many quaint cobbled streets, visiting the plazas (such as Plaza de la Trinidad), and watching the ocean from atop of the city walls.
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