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Cartagena -- Walled City "On Your Own" ???????


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As I look at the excursions offered by NCL, there is no excursion for going to the 'Walled City' On Your Own.  The closest thing I see is an excursion entitled "Discover Cumbia Dancing and the Walled City".  Included in that excursion is an hour to an hour-and-a-half of free time.


Note to NCL:  Offer a "Walled City On Your Own" excursion, and you'll probably sell tons of tickets.


All of this said, is it easy and safe to walk to the "Walled City" of Cartagena ....  or is it safe and easy to find transportation to the "Walled City" of Cartagena?


Also....while we are on the topic....any good restaurants to recommend while there?

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I've been to Cartegena twice.  There were plenty of cabs at the port.  The first time, the cab driver stayed with us all day, took us to the fort, and the walled city, and back to the port.  The second time, we just went to the walled city and walked around on our own. I never felt that it was unsafe.  


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We took a taxi to the walled city area. It was easy to get to/from the ship. There were lots of taxis at the port and plenty at the walled city. We had a great time. 


I wouldn't want to take a ship tour. It's nicer to be able to stay as long or little as you like. As I recall, it was very hot & humid the day we visited. So we went back to the ship once the heat got to us. I'd go early. 

Edited by Mercruiser
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9 hours ago, Mercruiser said:

As I recall, it was very hot & humid the day we visited.

Not just the day you were there. That’s a typical day.  Cartagena is only 10 degrees north of the Equator. That’s why it’s good to get an early start off the ship.  😊

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  • 1 month later...
On 8/11/2023 at 9:23 AM, cruiserss said:

I've been to Cartegena twice.  There were plenty of cabs at the port.  The first time, the cab driver stayed with us all day, took us to the fort, and the walled city, and back to the port.  The second time, we just went to the walled city and walked around on our own. I never felt that it was unsafe. 


This sounds pretty interesting.


For the 1st time, do you recall the price for keeping the taxi the entire day?


For the 2nd time, if I understand correctly, you walked from the port to the walled city?

Edited by mpk
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We haven't been to Cartagena since 2011 (on a Panama Canal cruise), but this is what we did last time.




We had visited Cartagena on a previous cruise. On that visit, we took the ship’s “Best of Cartagena and Fortress” tour. That tour made photo stops at all the main sights of Cartagena, but did not allow much time to explore the fortress or the city walls.


We were the first independent passengers to make it out of the port area. Just outside the shops at the cruise ship terminal are tour guides and a bit further is the taxi line. The posted amount for a taxi to the Old City was $15 USD and the price for a trip to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was the same; perhaps you could negotiate a lower fare. The driver tried to talk us into letting him wait for us at the Castillo and then taking us to the Old City, claiming it was too far to walk to the Old City from the fort. However, we wanted to walk atop the city walls to reach the historic section. It took nearly 30 minutes in heavy traffic to make it to the Castillo.


The cost to enter the Castillo is C$16,000 pp, which only equals about $8-9 USD. However, if you pay in USD, the actual charge is $10 pp. There is also an audio tour for rent; we did not do that. We bought our tickets and headed up the long main ramp of the Castillo. There are vendors and panhandlers along the way, but that did not pose a big problem for us.


Once up the ramp, we climbed all over the various levels of the fort and enjoyed excellent views of Cartagena. We had the fort almost to ourselves; there were only two or three other couples and a few guards scattered strategically around. Eventually, the tour buses from the ship arrived. Even though it was still early in the day, the sun was already getting hot. By the time they made it to the top of the ramp, some of the tour participants looked in pretty sad shape --- and this was just their first tour stop!


In addition to great views, the Castillo has a warren of underground tunnels (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_San_Felipe_de_Barajas#The_castle). We explored a few of the shorter ones, and finally found the main entrance by following one of the tour groups into the maze. We took a parallel side tunnel and caught up to the tour group just as they were deciding they did not want to go down the main tunnel and instead wanted to return the way John and I had come. That was probably a wise decision for them as the ramp was steep and slippery in spots. We continued down and down, finally reaching an area where the floor was flooded; we may have been below sea level there. Also, the tunnels were not lighted beyond that point and, although we had brought flashlights, we were not inclined to go wading. We climbed back up, which was actually easier than going down, and explored a bit more. Before we left the fort, we took several pictures with a young man dressed up in a colonial military uniform ($2 tip). He was also playing an eclectic assortment of tunes (e.g., “Sounds of Silence,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Blue Danube Waltz”) on his trumpet.


After about an hour at the fort, we crossed the Puente Heredia to begin a walking tour of Las Murallas, the city walls. Although the walls begin right at the city side of the bridge, that section is not accessible. We walked along Avenida Carlos Lopez (a major thoroughfare) to Calle San Pedro Martír, where another bridge crosses from the mainland to the walled city. Here we had to cross the street to reach the ramp to Baluarte de San Pedro Martír (St. Peter the Martyr Battery). Looking back from the battery, we had great views of the fort and also the Monumento a la India Catalina, which stands atop a pillar in the traffic circle at the foot of the bridge. Catalina was an Indian woman who served as a translator for Pedro de Heredia when the Spaniards arrived in Colombia; a smaller, gold version of her statue is the Colombian equivalent of “Oscar.”


From here, we walked counterclockwise around the walls to the Old Town. Only about 2/3 of the walls are accessible to walkers and the distance is about 1-1/2 miles. The walls range from 20-30 feet high and 10-30 feet thick, putting you nicely above the traffic and providing good views of the city streets and the Caribbean; there was only one section where we needed to descend and walk a block or so before re-ascending. The walls are punctuated by batteries, each named for a saint, and most have cannons. We passed a derelict bull ring (Circo Teatro), the Fortifications Museum, Las Bóvedas (formerly dungeons, now shops), Teatro Heredia, and other sights.


We finally had to end our walk at the Baluarte de San Francisco Javier; the ramps to the remainder of the walls are gated, perhaps because the walls are too close to the Alcaldia (mayor’s office). We walked behind the Naval Museum, the St. Peter Claver Church/Cloister/Museum, and the Modern Art Museum to the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), where we forgot to stop at the Tourist Information Office to pick up a better map than the one we had printed from the Internet. From here, we walked to the Plaza de los Coches, where we would start our walking tour of the historic area. Everywhere we went, there were many pieces of public art --- both historical monuments and modern metallic sculptures. Although there were vendors and panhandlers, we were not bothered excessively. Perhaps they felt that the tour groups from the ship provided easier targets.


There are several good web sites with ideas for walking tours and descriptions of the sites of the Old City (www.cartagenainfo.net/mapas/caminando/flash/english.htm, www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia/caribbean-coast/cartagena/sights). People who taxi straight to the Old City are dropped off at the Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate); this is the only remaining original city gate. Atop the gate is a four-sided clock tower. This gate leads to the Plaza de los Coches, where one can engage a carriage for a tour through the historic area. From there, we walked back towards Custom Square, continuing on to Plaza de San Pedro, and passing the front of the buildings we had passed behind earlier. We had toured the Naval Museum and the St. Peter Claver Church (with the body of the saint in a glass coffin under the main altar) on our previous visit.


Now we were in Plaza de Santa Theresa. From here, we walked along Calle Santa Teresa to Plaza de Bolívar and its equestrian statue of the hero of South America. The Palace of the Inquisition, the Gold Museum, and the Cathedral are all adjacent to this square. Turning left on Calle Santos de Piedra and left again on Calle Santo Domingo, brought us to St. Dominic Church, reputedly the oldest in the city. Directly in front of the church is the bronze sculpture Mujer Reclinada (Reclining Woman) by the Colombian artist Botero. She is nude and generously endowed in all dimensions, so she is also known as Botero’s gordita (little fat one). John wondered what the priest must think about having her in front of the church, but I said it was OK because she must be the patron saint of cruise ship passengers.


From Plaza de Santo Domingo, we walked along Calle de la Mantilla and turned left onto Calle de Don Sanchoco. That street took us back to the Teatro Heredia and the Plaza de la Merced, which we had seen from the walls. Turning right, we walked along Calle de la Merced, passing Iglésia de Santo Toribio de Mangrovejo. This church is noted for having a canon ball come through a window during an attack on the city during a service, but miraculously no one inside was killed.


Turning left after the church, we entered the Plaza de San Diego. This square is surrounded by the Hotel Santa Clara (formerly a Clarist convent), the School of Fine Arts, and many stores and restaurants. From here, we went back towards the Clock Gate, along Calle Chochera del Hobo and passing Parque de Fernandez Madrid.


Once back at the Clock Gate, we exited the walled city and walked along the waterfront (Calle del Arsenal) of the old port of Cartagena. There are two large bronze sculptures, Los Pegasos, of a winged horse family at the head of the bay. By now, we were ready to return to the ship, so we found a taxi ($10). Back at the port, we discovered that the park-like area around the cruise terminal contained a number of birds such as macaws, flamingoes, and a peacock. Like any good theme park, the only exit to the cruise ship dock was through a gift shop. Our entire excursion took about 3-1/2 hours and we probably walked about 4-5 miles.

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