Sights and Sounds of...
Cartagena and Santa Marta

Tayrona National Park. Colombia
Tayrona National Park. Colombia © Graham Klotz/Istockphoto

If you’re looking to book a holiday to enjoy some sun, sea, and sand, Colombia deserves a spot at the top of your shortlist.

The country's extensive coastline contains dozens of world class beaches, and it has excellent beach weather all year round.

Colombia, in particular the area around Cartagena and Santa Marta, is also packed full with dozens of interesting sights and attractions, including conservation parks with exotic wildlife, stimulating museums and art galleries, impressive examples of architecture, and much more.

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This article will list 5 of the top sights and attractions in Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia.

#1 - Beautiful beaches and hidden coves

Cartagena and Santa Marta’s beaches are amongst some of the best in the world. They feature perfect, powdery snow that is ideal for sunbathing, and beautiful blue seas that are both picturesque and ideal for snorkelling.

While the beaches located in Cartagena and Santa Marta themselves are better than most beaches in the world, they pale in comparison to the beaches located on the islands near to the two cities.

Playa Blanca, a beach located on ‘Isla Baru’ (halfway between Islas del Rosario and Cartagena), a relatively small island located close to Cartagena, regularly tops lists listing ‘the best beaches in the world’, and it’s easy to see why. With its crystal clear waters, soft golden sands, and excellent sun coverage all year round, a visit to Playa Blanca is a must for beach lovers on Panama Canal cruises to Cartagena and Santa Marta.

#2 - Conservation Parks with a wide variety of exotic wildlife

Colombia’s wildlife is well renowned throughout the world for its remarkable beauty and diversity. With more than 1,800 species of birds calling Colombia their home, approximately 100 of which can only be found in the country, Columbia’s birdlife is amongst the best in the world. Colombia’s mammal-life is equally diverse, too, with new species being discovered very often.

The best way to take in Colombia’s exotic wildlife is in one of the country’s many conservation parks, many of which are located close to these two cities. The ‘National Natural Park Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo’, located 30 miles from Cartagena, is a particular standout. It’s a must visit for all nature lovers.

#3 - The ‘Old City’ quarters of Cartagena and Santa Marta

Cartagena and Santa Marta are both old cities. Each established by Spanish settlers hundreds of years ago, both cities feature a small cultural quarter packed full of churches, monasteries, and other rustic buildings featuring stunning examples of colonial architecture.

While Cartagena’s Old City is the more impressive of the two, Santa Marta’s Old City is still worth a visit. Make sure to schedule a day or two to wander around each city’s Old City at a leisurely pace. There are few better ways to spend a day in Colombia.

#4 - Museums and Art Galleries

Irotama, Santa Marta. Colombia
Irotama, Santa Marta © David Shankbone

Both Cartagena and Santa Marta are home to museums and galleries displaying interesting exhibits and art created by local Colombians.

For art, history, and culture lovers, these museums and art galleries are a must visit.

Of Cartagena’s many museums and art galleries, the ‘Palacio de la Inquisicion’, a museum containing dozens of terrifying Spanish torture devices, pre-Columbian paintings, and statues; and the ‘Museo del Oro y Arqueología’, a museum housing numerous works of art made from gold and other precious metal are amongst the best.

Also, the ‘Convento & Iglesia de San Pedro Claver’, a former convent turned museum featuring stunning architecture and excellent views over Cartagena is worth a visit.

In Santa Marta, the ‘Acuario y Museo Del Mar’, an aquarium and museum complete with sharks, dolphins, and other marine species, and the ‘Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino’, a museum dedicated to Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan military and political leader, are two particular standouts.

#5 - Colombian Cuisine

Colombian cuisine, a fusion of Spanish, African, and Arabian influences, is both spicy and tasty. A typical dish may include a serving of spiced fish or meat served with arroz de coco (coconut rice) and a variety of vegetables and salads. This food is normally paired with a tasty fruit juice made from exotic, locally grown fruits.

Cartagena and Santa Marta are both home to dozens of restaurants selling excellent Colombian cuisine at remarkably affordable prices. Both cities also contain a number of restaurants selling international cuisine from all over the world. Make sure to visit each city’s restaurants to sample their offerings.

Summing Up

Cartagena and Santa Marta are both home to dozens of interesting sights and attractions that are sure to please, of which the five listed in this article are amongst the best. Make sure to include them on your itinerary when ready to explore the top tourist attractions in Colombia.


About the Author:

Andres Ong is an advertising executive currently working for a full service Digital Agency. One of his passions is travelling to different places around the world, living vicariously and when his busy schedule permits, writing about his many adventures and mishaps while exploring life's myriad secrets. He plans to compile all his works into a book which he seeks to publish in the near future.

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