Cartagena de Indias: the historic center

Cartagena de indias

As most of you know, my dog Shark and I moved to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia in january 2016. We are discovering this fascinating city and the wonderful region since then. We finally got the chance to take a private guided tour in the historic city thanks to the new online travel agency Juan Ballena. The great local guide Juliana took us back in time from the foundation of Cartagena de Indias to modern times, sharing her cultural knowledge as we explored the city with Shark.   

Cartagena de Indias

Click to enlarge © Google Maps

Some geography

Cartagena de Indias is located in the North of Colombia, on the Caribbean coast. If you look at the Google map on the left, you will see that the city is surrounded and crossed by water. Originally, there were many small islands and the historic center was one of them. But later, the Spanish connected it to Getsemaní by filling the “gap” between the 2 islands. By its location, among large commercial sea routes, Cartagena de Indias became a strategical city for the transit of gold and slaves between South America and Europe. It also held a prominent place in the history of world exploration.

Some history

What we call today Cartagena de Indias was initially the land of the Calamarí, a peaceful Amerindian tribe whose name means the people of the sea in their langage. The Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia founded the city in 1533. The name of the city was choosen by the Spanish because of the geografical similitudes with the city of Cartagena in Spain. But to mark the difference, they added “de Indias” since America was then known as the Indies. From 1550, the city became a major port of the Spanish colonial empire. Of the wealth resulting from its position, the city attracted all desires, both those of the colonial powers than those of pirates. Indeed, Cartagena was repeatedly attacked by French and English corsairs.

Cartagena de indias

The famous Torre de Reloj, Clock’s tower, the main entrance to the old city

Cartagena de indias

Statue of Pedro de Heredia, founder of Cartagena de Indias

The walled city

The specificity of Cartagena de Indias is that the historic center is enclosed inside a long city wall built by the Spanish to protect the city from pirates and foreign attaques. Therefore, Cartagena de Indias has one of the most comprehensive systems of military fortifications in South America. The walls are made out of local coral stones and are between 6 and 8 meters high. They were conceived by the military architect Juan Bautista Antonielli en 1586. The historic center is also called ciudad amurallada in Spanish, the walled city, which includes the Historic center and the district of San Diego.

cartagena de indias

View from the Walls

cartagena de indias

Shark exploring the Walls

Architectural heritage

From its founding in the sixteenth century and throughout the Spanish colonial era, Cartagena de Indias was one of the most important ports in America. From this period comes most of its artistic and cultural heritage. Colorful colonial houses face beautiful republican houses in the flowery streets. Cartagena de Indias is also called the Heroic City for being the first province to declare itself independant from Spain and win the legendary victory against the English fleet in 1741. The historic center was declared National Heritage of Colombia in 1959 and a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1984. In 2007, its military architecture was awarded as the fourth wonder of Colombia.

cartagena de indias

A beautiful colonial house

cartagena de indias

Plaza Santo Domingo

cartagena de indias


Squares: plaza de los coches, plaza Santo Domingo, plaza de Santa Teresa, plaza de la Proclamación, plaza de la Aduana

Churches:  Covento de San Pedro Claver, Claustro de Santo Domingo, Catedral Santa Catalina

Museums: Museo del Oro Zenú (free), Museo Historico, Museo de la Esmeralda, Museo de Arte Moderno, Museo Naval del Caribe

cartagena de indias

DOGGY TIPS: bring at least 1L of water for your dog. Give him to drink and wet his paws very often as the pavements of Cartagena can be really hot.

I thank Juan Ballena agency for inviting me to take this tour with my dog, and the guide Juliana who shared so much with us! 🙂

Juan Ballena

More about Juan Ballena agency:

Discover Cartagena and the region with the online agency Juan Ballena. They  focus on showing you the local and authentic side of Cartagena, giving you a full picture of its culture and lifestyle throughout their professional travel experiences. Tours in Spanish, English and Portuguese. Some of them are dog-friendly! Book tours and activities online! WebsiteFacebookInstagram

Photos & contents @ The Tropical Dog 2015-2017. 

Follow us on  logo facebook   logo-insta   


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.