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Cartagena de Indias

Within the ramparts of the historical center of Cartagena de Indias lie the most extensive, well-preserved and restored vestiges of the colonial era in the Americas.  Almost five centuries of history, art, culture and tradition come alive in the vibrant heart of the walled city, reminding even the most casual visitor that this imposing complex of fortifications and massive stone edifices was for centuries the undisputed symbol, the jewel in the crown, of Spanish imperial power in the New World. Within its 100 square blocks, covering some 100 hectares, lie architectural gems: military fortifications, imposing government edifications, and churches and cathedrals, almost all painstakingly preserved or restored.

The predominant architectural style is colonial baroque, a direct legacy of the Spanish colonization, which especially flourished in this city because of its size and political and commercial significance to the empire. Blessed with one of the most sheltered natural harbors in the Americas, Cartagena de Indias was coveted by kings and corsairs alike, making it the frequent object of raids and invasions during the 300 years of Spanish colonization, and contributing to its imposing fortifications which, by the 18th century, made it all but invulnerable to outside attack.

In 1984 UNESCO declared Cartagena de Indias a World Historical and Cultural Heritage Site. An hour’s walk through the old city will imbue even the most indifferent visitor with an irresistible impression of the city’s past power and glory, and the magnificence of an epoch long lost to us today.

But the Old Town isn’t just a snapshot of history frozen in time; it’s also home to teeming communities of trades people, artisans, and all the segments of a productive society that make a town a living entity. Its busy streets remind one of Andalusia, but here the people are clearly a mix of Afro-Caribbean, with Spanish and indigenous influences, and their cheerful, friendly disposition will make any visitor feel at home.

Imposing palatial residences, once home to noble and wealthy trading families, have reincarnated as intimate, exclusive boutique hotels. Others have been transformed into exquisite restaurants where local flavors and gastronomic traditions influence a variety of delightfully adventurous and successful experiments in Made in Colombia haute cuisine. Several larger hotels occupy today what for hundreds of years were convents or ecclesiastical edifications. Night life here is always hot; from intimate clubs, lounges and bars to vast outdoor brasseries where people-watching is the order of the day. Or night.

Religious architecture runs the gamut from the stately to the sublime, with its exquisite collection of temples and convents culminating in the grandiose Palace of the Inquisition, mute yet powerful testimony to the once-undisputed power of the Roman Catholic Church.

Eleven kilometers of massive, continuous ramparts and fortifications surround the Old City, powerful reminders of the invincibility of Cartagena de Indias at the height of its influence. One cannot help but be impressed when one tours the forts, with their once-secret connecting tunnels, dungeons, armories, garrisons, towers and bulwarks, and marvel, even today, at the indomitable logic of defensive military engineering.

Of general interest:
Founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia
Situated on the Caribbean coast, latitude 10° 25´ 30´´ N by longitude 15° 32´ 25´´ W. 
Average relative humidity:  90%
Population: 1 million
28° C  (82° F) average temperature
Currency:  Colombian peso (1 USD = approximately 2,000 pesos)