473km (293 miles) NW of Medellín; 658km (408 miles) NW of Bogotá
Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the Venice of Colombia and the country's most romantic city, with one of the most impressive old towns in the Western Hemisphere. With just the right mix of sun, sand, and colonial charm, it's likely to be the highlight of your trip. Cartagena's tourism infrastructure is more developed than anywhere else in the country, so unlike most Colombian destinations, it's a pretty easy place to visit. In fact, with the 300,000 cruise-liner passengers who stop in Cartagena, it might be the only city in Colombia you actually see any foreigners. A walk through Cartagena's inner walled city feels a bit like stepping onto the set of a 16th-century telenovela, complete with cobblestone streets and grandiose balconies overflowing with flowers.
Whether you come to Cartagena to splurge on its many fine hotels and restaurants, to explore its 500 years of history, or to sunbathe on its popular beaches, you'll discover an enchanting place you're unlikely to forget. As Colombia's top honeymoon destination, the city is full of romance, five-star hotels, and excellent dining options. But all this ambience and charm comes with a price: Cartagena is by far Colombia's most expensive city for tourists and bargains are hard to come by, particularly during holiday weekends and Christmastime.
Note: One of the unpleasant effects of Cartagena's distinction as the tourism capital of Colombia is the presence of persistent beach vendors and Old Town musicians who can't seem to take "no" for an answer. And saying you don't speak Spanish won't help—these guys will talk to you in Hungarian, as long as they're selling you something. The best way to avoid unwanted solicitations or serenades is to say no firmly and avoid eye contact at all costs.