5 Things to do in Cartagena
5-Learn More about Cartagena’s History at the Naval Museum
Cartagena is well known for its history. A walk along its city walls and a visit to the impressive Castillo San Felipe Fort are some of the can’t miss activities in Cartagena. But an under the radar attraction is the excellent Museo Naval del Caribe. It is hands down Cartagena’s best historical museum.
Downstairs, you’ll learn about the city’s colonial era, including the major attacks on the city by Francis Drake and Edward Vernon. Upstairs, you’ll learn about Cartagena’s leading role in Colombia’s independence and the modern Colombian Navy, including interactive exhibits of the inside of a submarine and destroyer.
There’s a wealth of information here, and the dioramas, models, and explanations will give you a deeper appreciation of Cartagena’s history. The only downside is the exhibits are only in Spanish. Still, the museum is undoubtedly worth the visit.
4-Visit the Colombian National Aviary
Located about 90 minutes outside of Cartagena, the Colombian National Aviary is very impressive and also well worth a visit.
There are over 135 different species of birds on display, many of which you can see up close and personal in their natural habitats. You’ll get to see tropical birds like toucans, coastal birds like storks, pelicans, and flamingos, and the stunning Harpy Eagle and Andean Condor. You’ll also get to see lots of parrots and macaws.
The complex is very well done, with all the habitats extremely clean and well maintained. Be sure check out the presentation “Birds in Flight” during your visit as well.
To reach the aviary, you can arrange for tours from tour agencies and operators, most of which will include the morning at the aviary with lunch and the afternoon at the nearby Playa Blanca. You can also take the bus to the town of Pasacaballos, where you can find motorcycle taxis or collective taxis to the aviary.
3-Watch the Sunset with a Cold Drink and Beautiful Views
Every list of things to do in Cartagena is likely to include watching the sunset from atop the city’s iconic wall at Café del Mar. Looking directly out to sea, there is no more charming place to watch the sunset. In addition to great cocktails, they also have an excellent limonada de coco, or coconut limeade.
For another great sunset spot, be sure to check out the rooftop bar at Hotel Movich. The bar sports an incredible view of the city with the San Pedro Church in the foreground and Cartagena’s bay in the background. Get there early to make sure you get a good seat.
Other great sunset watching spots include Restaurant El Muelle overlooking the beach, Townhouse Rooftop Bar, and 51 Skybar, atop the tallest building in Cartagena.
2-Make Your Own Chocolate at the Chocolate Museum
Cartagena’s two Choco Museo sites are great places to check out for some free samples as well as picking up a souvenir or gift to take home for friends and family.
They also have make your own chocolate workshops. There is a shorter one as well as a longer, more in depth one. Our niece had a great time when we took her. You get to choose between milk or dark chocolate and add the ingredients you want.
Besides getting to take your chocolates home, you will also get an explanation of the entire bean to chocolate process. This makes for an interesting and memorable experience for all ages.
1-Try a Cocada at the Portal de los Dulces
While we are on the topic of sweets, you should not miss stopping by the Portal de los Dulces. Under the archways just inside Cartagena’s Clocktower, it has long been a place for locals and visitors alike to satisfy their sweet tooth with traditional sweets and candies.
The one you absolutely have to try is a cocada, a patty made from shredded coconut and milk. You can get plain, caramel, or even pineapple ones. There are also packages to take home as souvenirs. You can also try one of the many other sweets sold at the stands.
Huge thanks to Adam McConnaughhay for writing this great post. Adam has lived in Cartagena since 2011 and writes about it and other destinations in Colombia at cartagenaexplorer.com
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