How Many Days to Visit Cartagena in Colombia? (2021)

How Many Days to Visit Cartagena in Colombia? (2021)

How many days will it take you to visit Cartagena? The answer varies according to the type of traveler.

What do you like to do? What’s your budget? What’s your next destination?

The old town is beautiful and ideal for a romantic getaway or a bachelorette party. Rent a boat to explore the Rosario Islands and then dine by candlelight in the courtyard of one of Cartagena’s delicious restaurants.

There, you may also feel oppressed by the heat, the street vendors, and a large number of tourists. If that’s the case, plan to stay only 24 hours (or 0?), so you don’t accumulate too many grudges towards the sweaty travelers with sweaty foreheads who get in all your pictures.

Read this post to maximize your stay in Cartagena.

👉 Do you need to go with a Colombia Travel agency? We tell you everything.

Visiting Cartagena: Quick tips

If you’re in a rush, read the most important topics in this post. ⬇️⬇️

Where is Cartagena: On the Caribbean coast, opposite the Rosario Islands.

How to get there: in our guide about Cartagena discover all the possibilities to reach this city.

Security: You can come and visit Cartagena without any worries. As in any big city, stay watchful in the evening.

Budget: It is the most expensive destination in Colombia (with Providencia).

High season: There are many tourists all year round, especially from December to February and from July to August.

Climate: It is hot all year round with regular (but brief) downpours in May, September, and October.

The coolest activities:

Our favorite accommodation:

Why come to Cartagena:

  • You like good restaurants, shopping, and sleeping in nice hotels.
  • You wish to rest on the Rosario Islands.
  • You’re planning more stops along the Caribbean coast.

Our best advice:

  • Avoid Cartagena if you have a small travel budget.
  • Visit the Rosario Islands during the week and sleep there.
  • The majority of day trips to the Rosario Islands are not worth it.
  • Getsemani is more affordable than the old center, and the two districts are only 10 minutes away from each other.

Cartagena travel guide

Free online guide on Cartagena to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit this famous city.

Table of contents: Visiting Cartagena

Centro historico Cartagena
Centro historico

Should you visit Cartagena?

That’s the first question to ask yourself. Should you add Cartagena to your itinerary to Colombia?

The question may seem trivial, but it is of great importance.

Everybody thinks of Cartagena when they talk about traveling to Colombia. This jewel of the Caribbean is mentioned in many newspapers and its colorful facades will surely be all over your Instagram feed.

It becomes a plain fact. If I go to Colombia, I have to visit Cartagena.

Then comes… disappointment.

Sure, Cartagena has some very good sides, but there are also a lot of downsides.

Better be aware of it now and be able to really enjoy it.

Why you might not enjoy Cartagena

Click on the filters below to learn about Cartagena’s downsides

Too famous
Many tourists
It’s expensive
Unpleasant beaches

You’re just another tourist…

Although Colombia is popular with travelers, the country is not very visited either.

Colombians are warm by nature, and they are also very proud that people come to discover their country. They will do everything to make you feel comfortable. They like to exchange, and the encounters happen naturally.

In Cartagena, it’s different.

The city’s economy is mostly based on tourism, and there is nothing exotic about a blond head. The people who call you on the street are just salesmen. It’s normal; they have to earn a living. From that perspective, I find the atmosphere less pleasant.

There are thousands of them

Like you, everyone wants to visit Cartagena. There are direct flights from some major cities in the United States. Colombians also set their sights on this city as soon as they have a few days of vacation.

It is not pleasant to stroll through the alleys while slaloming between the cameras.

If you don’t like crowds, you shouldn’t go during the high season:

  • Mid-December to mid-January. These are the summer holidays in Colombia.
  • Holy Week. 1 week in March or April.
  • July – August. Europeans and Americans are on vacation.
  • The first 15 days of November. They celebrate Independence Day on 11/11. The city organizes many events.

Don’t worry, there are other much less crowded places you can visit in Colombia.

It’s expensive

You can have a wonderful vacation in Cartagena, as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

For me, the main interest of the city is to be able to eat well, sip good cocktails, enjoy a splendid architectural setting, and stay on the Rosario Islands.

With this lifestyle, it is necessary to count a fair hundred euros per person and per day.

You can, of course, visit Cartagena for half as much. But you’ll get bored after 24 hours.

Beaches are not pleasant

The water is murky, the sand is unpleasant and there are plastic chairs everywhere.

We’re nowhere near the perfect beach.

To enjoy a postcard setting, you will have to go on an excursion to the islands of San Bernardo, Rosario, or Rincon del mar.

Take this into account when you create your itinerary.

San Bernardo travel guide

Free online guide on San Bernardo to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit these islands.

Rincón del Mar travel guide

Free online guide on Rincón del Mar to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit this beach town.


Be a prince for a few days


Visiting Cartagena in 2 days

This can be sufficient in many situations:

  • You’re careful with your travel budget.
  • You’re planning cultural tours in other major cities in Colombia.
  • There are other places where you want to enjoy the beach.

In two days, you have time to appreciate the old town and the Getsemani district fully.

A 2 days itinerary in Cartagena

Since you’re not staying long, it’s best to arrive in the morning. The airport is only 15 minutes from the city center. On the other hand, it takes 45 min from the bus terminal (it is outside the city).

The next day, it will be better to leave before noon if you want to go to Santa Marta, San Bernardo, or Rincon del Mar.


The night begins around 6 pm in Colombia and most of the small buses and motorcycle taxis stop circulating at this time.

Finally, by staying only two days in Cartagena, you will only enjoy it for 24 hours.

Choose accommodation in the old town center or in Getsemani to be close to the various highlights.

There are many very nice hotels and hostels. We have compiled the best of them in our analysis of the best areas in Cartagena.

A 2-day stay Cartagena example

Click on the filters below to learn what to do during your 2-day stay in Cartagena

Visit the old center
Romantic Sunset
Delicious dinner
Perfect photos

1# Visit of the city

I love to learn anecdotes about every place I visit. The city of Cartagena has been attacked many times by corsairs. Plus, Cartagena has two independence dates. In short, story lovers will be over the moon.

Depending on your budget, you can book a Free walking tour (Beyond Colombia, Free Cartagena) or choose to visit the different areas with a private tour. The local agency Sion Tour is doing a perfect job. You can book your tour online.

Use it for:

  • Explore the old town center
  • Photographing Getsemani’s beautiful graffiti
  • Admire the plunging view of Cartagena from “la Popa.”
  • We give all our insider tips to enjoy Cartagena’s walled city.

Plan this experience

Don’t bother with the organization and go with this excellent tour company.| Private tour, hotel pickup; 2 entrances, Free cancellation (if 24h in advance); Easy booking; professional tour guide in English. 4 hours.

2# Sunset from the walls

Try to finish your tour around 5 pm and then settle down on the city walls. The sun is setting in the Caribbean Sea.

Many travelers go to Cafe del Mar. Their playlist is enjoyable, and the spot is ideal for drinking a bottle of fresh wine of rosé (or other).

There is an even better option. You can jump on a catamaran and watch the sunset from the ocean. Book this tour online.

Plan this experience

Jump on a catamaran and watch the sunset from the ocean.| 2 hours on a catamaran, snack & sodas, Free cancellation (if 24h in advance); Easy booking.

3# A nice candlelight dinner

There are some very good restaurants in Cartagena. It’d be a shame not to have them!

We’ve added quite a few of them on our Mapstr “Colombia Insider” map. Download it, it’s free!

It’s up to you whether you prefer the romantic atmosphere of the old town or the more relaxed and festive atmosphere of Getsemani.

A piece of advice, book at least a few hours in advance if it’s a gourmet restaurant.

Looking for something special? Book a 2-h dinner cruise!

Plan this experience

A 2-hour dinner cruise experience in Cartagena’s bay.| 3-course meal; 2 glasses of wine; Free cancellation (if 24h in advance); Easy booking.

4# Get up early to take pictures

Around 7:00 in the morning, there are few people in the alleys of Cartagena. It is, however, the best time to go for a walk.

The air is not yet too overpowering because of the heat, and a soft light begins to illuminate the colorful facades and flowery balconies.

You then have the whole morning to revisit the small corners you enjoyed, take a break in some great cafes, and eat 1kg of home-made ice cream. You’ll need this to taste all the flavors!

Do you travel to Cartagena for a special occasion? Hire a local photographer to take wonderful shots!

We have written a very complete article to discover the best things to do in Cartagena. You will find many ideas!


Tailor-made tour with your local guide


Visiting Cartagena in 3 days

Visiting Cartagena in 3 days allows you to be “tranquilo” as Colombians like to say.

In addition to the suggestions made in the previous section, it is possible to:

  • Take a boat trip to the Rosario Islands
  • Book a cultural tour specific to this region
  • Enjoy the nightlife of Cartagena.

A 3-day itinerary in Cartagena

If you stay 3 days in Cartagena, I advise you to book the 2nd day to organize the most prolonged activity. This avoids being stressed by the departure time of your bus or plane.

Here is an idea of a practical itinerary:

  • Day 1: City tour + sunset
  • Day 2: Morning photos + Activity or cultural tour + Restaurant and/or Fiesta
  • Day 3: lazy morning + walk

Ideas for your 3 days in Cartagena

Click on the filters below to learn what to do during your 3-day stay in Cartagena

Sleep on Isla Baru
Day trip to the islands
A cultural tour

1# Stay overnight on Isla Baru

I know that everyone tells you about Playa Blanca and Isla Baru, which are located 1 hour from Cartagena. It’s a white sand beach, with wooden huts built all along.

It was fun.

There are now far too many people.

I do, however, have a secret to making the most of it. All you have to do is sleep on the spot. Well, the cabins are basic, expensive and mostly without electricity. But that’s the price you pay for having no one there in the morning.

There’s a bus that leaves four times a day from the Mamallena hostel. It’s the best way to get there.

2# Day trip on a catamaran

There are dozens of different tours to visit the Rosario Islands.

Most of them are disappointing.

The companies squeeze as many people as possible into a boat, and then they take you snorkeling. The only problem, EVERYONE goes to the same place! The tours never stop at one of the beaches. Basically, it’s no fun at all.

Luckily, you can find nicer trips.

In this tour, you take the time to move between the islands and the catamaran stops in beautiful places. The activity is a little more expensive than the tours sold on the sly, but the experience is much better and lasts all day long!

Plan this experience

This is the perfect tour if you have little time in Cartagena but still want to enjoy the islands. | 7:30 pleasant hours on a catamaran; Snack, soft drink, lunch, mask and snorkel, taxes included; Free cancellation (if 24 hours in advance); Easy booking

3# Or opt for a cultural tour!

If you’re not the type to chill out on a boat, there are other activities to occupy your day.

We have selected the best cultural tours in this article. Take a look at them.

I give you my two preferences:

An atypical visit of the “Mercardo de Bazurto”: a local guide will show you the different facets of this large open-air market. Taste many flavors, learn to concoct a medicinal potion, chat with an artist who creates posters with spray paint cans… Many encounters that would not be possible without the help of Cartagena Insider.
Reserve your place now.

Crab hunting in the mangroves: La Boquilla is a small fishing village about 20 minutes from the town center. Cartagena has grown so much that the village has been surrounded by buildings. From La Boquilla, a local guide will take you in a small wooden boat to travel between the mangroves. Each fisherman has his own technique for casting nets and setting crab traps. The place is so peaceful that you forget even Cartagena.
Try it with them and book your place now.

4# Cartagena’s nightlife

The beginning of the week is not very busy in Cartagena (except during the high season). It is not until Wednesday that clubs and other trendy bars start to open.

The nocturnal atmosphere in the old town is rather posh while the one in Getsemani is more relaxed.

Cartagena is a big city, follow some simple safety rules to have a smooth trip.

Here is a short list of nice places to go out and/or drink:

  • La plaza trinidad (Getsemani)
  • Mister Babilla (Getsemani)
  • Bazurto Social Club (Getsemani)
  • Quiebra Canto (Getsemani)
  • Alquimico (Old town)
  • Bar tu Candela (Old town)

We’ve added quite a few of them on our Mapstr “Colombia Insider” map. Download it, it’s free!


Catamaran trip to the Rosario Islands


Visiting Cartagena in 4 days

It is not enough to visit Cartagena and stay on the Rosario Islands (unless you are willing to sleep in one of the cabins on Isla Baru).

In addition to the suggestions made in the previous section, you can book an extra cultural activity or go to Tierra Bomba for a night’s sleep. This island is 20 min away by boat. I recommend the Blue Apple Beach Hotel or the Fenix Beach hotel.

Travel like a local

After 5 years in Colombia, we wrote a mind-blowing Free guidebook to help you to travel through Colombia…

Only 10 min from Cartagena

Stay on Isla Tierra Bomba


Visiting Cartagena in 5 days

You need 5 days to enjoy Cartagena and the Rosario Islands. Depending on the means of transport used, the chosen island, and the conditions at sea, it takes about 1h30 to reach your destination.

A 5-day itinerary in Cartagena

With only an hour and a half of travel time, you may be tempted to spend only one night on the Rosario Islands.

Don’t do it!

It’s hard to have peace of mind when you only stay in a place for one night. And the check-out is always in the late morning. The purpose of a stay on the Rosario Islands is to relax. Sleep there for two nights.

You don’t need to worry about the weather.

Here is an idea of a practical itinerary:

  • Day 1: City tour + sunset.
  • Day 2: Departure to the Rosario Islands.
  • Day 3: Rest in paradise.
  • Day 4: Return to Cartagena in the middle of the day.
  • Day 5: Morning photos + departure to your next destination.

The best deal on Isla Grande

Enjoy the paradise of Rosario


See the previous sections for more information or consult our article for more possibilities of experiences in Cartagena.

How to pick your Cartagena island

Click on the filters below to find your future favorite island for your vacation.

Which island?
Our Island’s tips
San Bernardo islands

Which island to go to?

There are different options where you can stay in the Rosario Islands.

Find even more information in our article on the Rosario Islands.

What you need to know

  • The Rosario Islands are very popular. Avoid going there on weekends or in high season!
  • Many eco-lodges sell day passes and sometimes you find yourself sharing the beach with other tourists.
  • On weekends, it’s party time on Isla Cholon, and music can be heard from the hotels on Isla Baru.
  • The sea is rough from December to April.
  • The quality/price ratio is not excellent. You pay more because of the setting and the popularity of the islands.
  • You are on an island in the Caribbean. Smile, relax and everything will be fine 😉

San Bernardo islands are only 2 hours away!

San Bernardo travel guide

Free online guide on San Bernardo to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit these islands.

A little known corner of Isla Barú

Stay overnight on Barbacoa Beach


So, have you decided how many days you want to stay in Cartagena? Don’t hesitate to tell us about your program!

Plan your trip around Cartagena

Travel like a local

After 5 years in Colombia, we wrote a mind-blowing Free guidebook to help you to travel through Colombia…

How many days to visit Cartagena

I fell in love with Colombia in 2015. Through this website, we help every month thousands of travelers to plan their trip to this beautiful country.