On a small Caribbean peninsula, discover Cartagena, Colombia, a city with a rich history and languorous charm. Find Spanish, Indian, and African influences in Cartagena’s colorful architecture and percussion-heavy music, and enjoy gentle trade winds that waft salt air from the nearby beaches.
- It's Included:
- Airfare from Panama City to Cartagena
- Accommodations: for 5 nights in Cartagena at the Superior First-Class Armeria Real Luxury Hotel & Spa
- 6 meals: 5 breakfasts and 1 lunch
- Included tours: Cartagena's walled city; mangrove canoeing; Gabo's tour
- Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
- Now included for 2015
- Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
Fly from Panama City to Cartagena and transfer to your hotel. Discover this charming city on an orientation walk with your Program Director before exploring further at your leisure. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight at one of Cartagena's many quaint restaurants.
Early in its colonial history, Cartagena was the most important—and beautiful—Spanish port in the New World, protecting the seas for the shipment of gold and silver from Peru. In fact, the city's official name remains Cartagena de Indias, a holdover from the days when Spanish explorers landed here seeking a spice trade route to India.
Today, this booming city is enjoying a renaissance. Travelers can find warm breezes, sandy beaches, a vibrant history, and colonial charm touched with Caribbean flair. You'll set out to discover it for yourself after breakfast this morning as you embark on a tour of Cartagena's Ciudad Amurallada, or Walled City—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll visit the 17th-century San Felipe Castle, a commanding fortress built by the Spaniards to protect the city from pirates, and admire the grand architecture and elaborate courtyards that are characteristic of the area.
Enjoy another view of the castle, and of the entire city, from the grounds of La Popa Monastery, where you'll see a statue of the Virgin Candelaria, Cartagena's patron saint. And you'll visit Las Bovedas, dungeons that were originally built for military purposes but now house a market with local handcrafts. Then stop at an emerald factory for a lesson on Colombia's famous green gem. Afterwards, you'll enjoy a panoramic tour of the Castillo Grande neighborhood, then take a walking tour inside the walled portion of the city to discover plazas named for San Pedro Claver, Simón Bolívar, and Santo Domingo. Enjoy lunch on your own in this historic part of the city before an afternoon at leisure and dinner on your own.
Or, tonight, perhaps you'll join us for an optional carriage ride through the historic neighborhoods of Cartagena, followed by a traditional Colombian dinner.
Today, enjoy a full day at leisure to uncover the charms of Cartagena on your own. Perhaps you’ll venture to the Plaza Bolívar, where you can visit the massive cathedral, completed in 1602 after being partially destroyed in 1575 by Sir Francis Drake. Here, you’ll also find the Palace of the Inquisition, where instruments of torture from the Spanish Inquisition as well as artistic masterpieces are displayed. And stop in at the Museo de Oro y Arqueloguía to view collections of gold and pottery.
You might return to the Walled City and brush elbows with the locals as you stroll its narrow streets, admiring charming homes with tiled roofs, balconies, and courtyards bursting with flowers. You’ll find maps and other information about this quaint neighborhood at the Casa de Marqués Valdehoyos.
Or simply relax on an idyllic Caribbean beach. Playa Blanca, a sugar-sand beach that is one of the finest beaches of all of Colombia, is right nearby.
Lunch and dinner are on your own today. Your Program Director will have plenty of suggestions for restaurants and activities.
After breakfast at the hotel, you'll head to La Boquilla, a charming fishing village outside of Cartagena, where you'll canoe through narrow channels of mangroves. As you go, you might see locals fishing in the shallow waters with their circular nets. You'll make a stop along the way at an Archaeological Park on El Eden Island.
After enjoying a traditional lunch, you’ll head back to Cartagena’s historic city center and begin Gabo’s tour. Renowned Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez—known affectionately in the Caribbean as “Gabo”—set many of his novels in Cartagena. You’ll discover the sites that inspired his work and hear stories about his life on an included audio tour.
Then spend your final evening making your own discoveries and enjoying dinner on your own.
This morning, enjoy free time to stroll Cartagena’s narrow streets, or perhaps explore the fashionable sections of Bocagrande or El Laguito. Located on the peninsula facing the Caribbean, these have become the fashionable location of upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Or join an optional excursion to the Rosario Islands. Actually coral reef formations that have grown up over centuries, these islands have been declared a Colombian National Park for their 1,300 different species of flora and fauna. Inhabited since pre-Columbian times, these islands were not permanently settled until the last century, when they became a center for fishing and coconut cultivation. Today, they are an unspoiled haven for wealthy Colombians and international visitors.
You'll begin your explorations by embarking a boat for an hour-long cruise through turquoise waters to Rosario Island. You can opt to snorkel among the coral reefs or stretch out on the beach. Savor a typical local lunch of fried fish, coconut rice, and patacones (mashed plantains). You'll then return to your ship for the trip to the mainland, arriving late in the afternoon.
Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight home.