Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1980s, Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities of Colombia and possibly the world. Cartagena was one of the first cities founded by the Spanish in South America and the first commercial port of Colombia, eventually during the 16th century becoming one of the most important seaports in all the Americas.
A wall around Cartagena was built at different times to protect the city from the many attacks by French and English ships. They would wait for Spanish galleons leaving the bay laden with silver and gold, of which Colombia was the main exporter in Latin America. Cartagena was dubbed The Heroic City because it endured multiple attacks and sieges over the centuries, its inhabitants having suffered hunger, drought and disease. The most cruel and significant one was the siege by the Spanish army during the re-conquest of Colombia in 1816.
Modern Cartagena has spread out from the original coral-stone walls, but within the old walled city the majority of buildings are well preserved, with 16th and 17th century architecture in colourful abundance: hence it has become one of the most popular destinations in Colombia. Its colonial Spanish-style houses with overhanging wooden balconies, ornate windows and terracotta roofs now house a mix of intimate boutique hotels, good restaurants and lively bars. Its plazas are popular gathering places and its wall perfect for enjoying the night-time breeze coming off the ocean. The nearby Islas del Rosario archipelago provides a Caribbean for those willing to take the short boat ride.