Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena

Bolivar Department
N10 25 0 W75 31 60
Date of Inscription: 1984
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Ref: 285
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Situated in a bay in the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena has the most extensive fortifications in South America. A system of zones divides the city into three neighbourhoods: San Pedro, with the cathedral and many Andalusian-style palaces; San Diego, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Gethsemani, the ‘popular quarter’.

Situated on the northern coast of Colombia on a sheltered bay facing the Caribbean Sea, the city of Cartagena de Indias boasts the most extensive and one of the most complete systems of military fortifications in South America. Due to the city’s strategic location, this eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was also one of the most important ports of the Caribbean. The port of Cartagena – together with Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico – was an essential link in the route of the West Indies and thus an important chapter in the history of world exploration and the great commercial maritime routes. On the narrow streets of the colonial walled city can be found civil, religious and residential monuments of beauty and consequence.

Cartagena was for several centuries a focal point of confrontation among the principal European powers vying for control of the “New World.” Defensive fortifications were built by the Spanish in 1586 and were strengthened and extended to their current dimensions in the 18th century, taking full advantage of the natural defences offered by the numerous bayside channels and passes. The initial system of fortifications included the urban enclosure wall, the bastioned harbour of San Matías at the entry to the pass of Bocagrande, and the tower of San Felipe del Boquerón. All of the harbour’s natural passes were eventually dominated by fortresses: San Luis and San José, San Fernando, San Rafael and Santa Bárbara at Bocachica (the southwest pass); Santa Cruz, San Juan de Manzanillo and San Sebastián de Pastelillo around the interior of the bay; and the formidable Castillo San Felipe de Barajas on the rocky crag that dominates the city to the east and protects access to the isthmus of Cabrero. Within the protective security of the city’s defensive walls are the historic centre’s three neighbourhoods: Centro, the location of the Cathedral of Cartagena, the Convent of San Pedro Claver, the Palace of the Inquisition, the Government Palace and many fine residences of the wealthy; San Diego (or Santo Toribio), where merchants and craftsmen of the middle class lived; and Getsemaní, the suburban quarter once inhabited by the artisans and slaves who fuelled much of the economic activity of the city.

Criterion (iv) : Cartagena is an eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the most extensive of the New World and one of the most complete.

Criterion (vi) : Cartagena, together with Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico (already inscribed in the World Heritage List), was an essential link in the route of the West Indies. The property fits within the general theme of world exploration and the great commercial maritime routes.

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Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias is a city and a world heritage site in Bolívar, Colombia. The city was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas. It is populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia’s own variety. Cartagena has almost 1 million inhabitants, and is on the northern coast at the Caribbean Sea. Founded by the Spanish in 1533, it was fortified and functioned as the center of the Inquisition in the region. The impressive buildings from the Spanish time today make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cartagena is the most visited city in the country by tourists. It gets extremely crowded in the December holidays and the holy week, when schools are out and most Colombians take their vacations. The city has basically two main parts where tourists go: the walled colonial city, which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande [read more].

Barranquilla is a city on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. Barranquilla is a cosmopolitan and primarily industrial city, often visited by businessmen of all nationalities. However the main attraction for tourism is its carnival “Carnaval de Barranquilla,” that takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday. In November 2003, UNESCO proclaimed it as one of 28 different “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. Barranquilla is also called by its residents and Colombians in general “Curramba” (from a language game, in synthesis, Curramba is a reference to “party”) and the Golden Gate to Colombia (Puerta de Oro de Colombia), this due to its location on the delta of the Magdalena river, making it the most important commercial sailing port to the Atlantic Ocean for the nation. Residents are known as “Barranquilleros” and are characterized by their outgoing and friendly attitude and relaxed behavior. This makes the average barranquillero an optimistic and open individual, as well as goal-directed and hard-working [read more].

Soledad is a municipality in the Colombian department of Atlántico, part of the metropolitan area of Barranquilla. It is 6th in population in Colombia and 3rd in the Caribbean region, after Barranquilla and Cartagena. It is also the city with the highest population growth in Colombia and in 2005 was 455,734 and 2019 683,486. On October 25th 2015 Joao Herrera Iranzo was elected by popular vote as the new mayor of Soledad. Bordered on the north by the special district of Barranquilla, where the boundary is the Arroyo Don Juan, on the south by Malambo, on the east with the Department of Magdalena, separated by the Magdalena River, and on the west by Galapa. Physical Description: The location of the municipality of Soledad in relation to geographical coordinates is as follows: 10°55’N and 74°46’W [read more].

4 replies »

  1. I’ve visited Cartagena several times, and it never gets boring. Cartagena greets visitors with a spectrum of bright colors, with bougainvillea hanging from the balconies of pastel-colored colonial buildings. When I’m in Cartagena, I love to stroll through the streets, explore the markets and boutiques, and drool over the gorgeous handmade Wayuu mochila bags being sold on the sidewalk. The street-sellers are expecting a negotiation, so remember to bargain! My favorite way to end the day is with a cold drink at Café del Mar on top of the city wall. There’s no beating those picture-perfect sunset views.


  2. There are plenty of attractions in Cartagena and we enjoy the gold museum, the cathedral, the Palace of the Inquisition and the Castillo de San Felipe Barajas – the impressive Spanish Fort perched on a hill overlooking the town. They are all fascinating, but what we enjoy most about Cartagena is simply wandering the old town at leisure, soaking up the atmosphere, admiring the architecture, taking in the bustling street scenes and having very long coffee stops in shady squares. And yes, all those extra policemen did make us feel extra safe but Cartagena has a justifiable reputation as a safe city anyway.


  3. Cartagena is the perfect walking city – getting lost in its winding streets an integral part of its undeniable charm.


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