There is nowhere quite like Cartagena de Indias: The Colombian Caribbean’s most famous city is a magical place where romance and enchantment seem to be built into the very foundations upon which the stone walls and colonial houses stand. Each street is more beautiful than the last, and there’s history around every corner. With plenty of daytrips to picturesque Caribbean islands and historical towns available, and even dugout canoe tours around the biodiverse mangrove ecosystems surrounding the city. At the end of the day, as the sun sets over the Caribbean from the top of the city walls and the sea breeze blows across the rooftops, you will feel as if you’ve stepped right out of the pages of a Garcia Marquez novel.
Founded on June 1st, 1533 by a Spanish Commander while taking over an abandoned Caribbean village known as Calamari, he then named it Cartagena de Indias to differentiate it from the Cartagena in Spain. Due to its strategic location, Cartagena went on to become an extremely important city for trade and imported and exported goods from Colombia. This was the major port city for Spanish traders as it allowed access to the rest of South America.
As such, the city then went on to also become the major point of entry for many African slaves. Unfortunately, this was a time where the people of the city considered owning slaves a status of their wealth and would parade them around to show this status off. Eventually, these slaves (and many others around Colombia) would escape and form their own free communities, one of the first being the town of San Basilio de Palenque a town now rich with culture and history located outside of Cartagena. The cuisine, the music and the culture in Cartagena are all heavily influenced by the African heritage it carries.