Cartagena is so much more than its rich colonial history and stunning Caribbean beaches. This vibrant, Caribbean port is a cultural melting pot, luring in an all-star cast of constantly changing cultural heavyweights flown in for a giddy selection of festivals, parties and celebrations throughout the year.
Cartagena may only have two seasons - hot and hotter - but the city's cultural climate changes from week to week depending on which tribe is in town.
So pick your clan carefully for a perfect Cartagena vacation. From hip film-makers to high-brow writers and architects, it pays to check out This Is Cartagena's cultural calendar before planning when to visit.
From vibrant festivals and pop-up parties, to cultural gatherings, concerts, exhibitions and exciting sporting events, you’ll find something that’s guaranteed to put a smile on that dial.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on the best times to visit sunny Cartagena, then this is as good a place to start. Our team keeps its ear to the ground so you don't have to.
Cartagena’s International Music Festival pulls in a sophisticated crowd from Colombia and abroad and offers the quintessential experience for anyone who appreciates the beauty found in classical music.
The festival launched in 2007 and has consistently attracted some of the finest classical talents from around the world.
Each year carries a different theme that is explored and interpreted in fascinating ways by maestros of the genre, all played out to the perfect backdrop of Cartagena’s architectural splendor in locations like the Adolfo Mejia Theatre and San Felipe Castle and some other stunning open air venues.
You’ll find performances both free and paid that cater for all tastes. The organisers offer packages which include 5-star accommodation and access to all the glittering events.
Even if you don’t live and breathe classical music, you’ll appreciate the sheer talent on display, with the hauntingly beautiful orchestral sounds blending into the starry Cartagena night sky.Read More Plan a Trip
Trouble trouble, they fry and bubble, get me a frito on the double! Cartagena’s Festival del Frito (Fried Food Festival) is back for another year of lip-smacking goodness, so ditch the diet and make sure you come hungry.
If you’re familiar with the frito, you’ll know it’s one of Cartagena’s signature street snacks – a crispy, golden-fried pocket of corn flour typically filled with ground beef and other delicious ingredients.
The festival includes a competition between dozens of frito chefs going head-to-head to prove their variations of the popular snack are the best. With competition so fierce, you’re guaranteed to find something delectable.
The festival takes place in the week before 2 February near the famous San Felipe Fortress.Read More Plan a Trip
An unparalleled feast of culture; a celebration of literary and creative genius – Cartagena’s Hay Festival has been described as one of the most important literary events in the Hispanic world, bringing writers, musicians, poets, journalists and scholars together to discuss their work and other important socio-political issues on a public stage.
This immense creative cauldron is cooked up every year over four days in January, where you can expect to find everything from plays and literary readings to exhibitions, workshops and inspirational talks.
Ticket prices depend on each event, but are usually in the range of USD$15 each. Notable guests in the past have included Nobel Laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and JM LeClezio, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Shirin Ebadi, the first Islamic woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.Read More Plan a Trip
As the largest carnival outside Brazil, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll have an epic time at Barranquilla’s biggest party of the year.
The Barranquilla Carnival is an explosive celebration of life, where the entire city shuts down to party over four days in a flurry of bright carnival colours, upbeat music and free-flowing aguardiente.
And since the city is only a short two-hour drive north along the coast from Cartagena, it’s incredibly easy to fit the carnival into your holiday planning.
Don’t leave it until the last minute to make reservations – Barranquilla’s best hotels and vacation rentals fill up fast. Get in touch with our talented team and we’ll take away the stress of planning your trip.Read More Plan a Trip
They say Cupid doesn't come to Cartagena because he doesn't have enough arrows... With its fiery sunsets, balmy evenings, enchanting colonial architecture and lamp-lit cobbled streets, there's a reason it's one of the world’s most seductive cities.
All this makes it the perfect backdrop for a holiday romance this Valentine’s Day. The city has inspired great writers and poets, and has all the ingredients needed for a heart-melting romantic experience.
Booking a romantic trip is sure to score you some major bonus points with your special plus one, so read on to find all the inspiration you’ll need to woo your loved one in Cartagena.Read More Plan a Trip
The five-day Cartagena Film Festival shines a spotlight on the filmmaking and some of the region's most important creators, giving you the chance to see not only some of the best movies in Latin America but also some incredibly important films from across the world.
A handy timetable will show you which films are playing at the various locations across Old Town.
While the festival is essentially free, a pass will set you back about USD$50 and gives you priority entry to any film shown during the festival – a great way to avoid the queues and ensure you get to see the films you want to.
Join the action in March every year and immerse yourself in the cinematic brilliance of Latin America.Read More Plan a Trip
Flip the script and turn Colombia into your next Spring Break with an action-packed trip to Cartagena. Its famous mix of Caribbean islands, breath-taking scenery, delicious food, friendly people and seemingly eternal summer sunshine make it an irresistible place to enjoy the school holidays.
Pack your week with wonderful adventures. From a day spent boating around crystal-clear island waters, enjoying drinks on white sandy beaches with friends and not a care in the world…to sinking sundowners around your private villa rooftop pool, tucking into a sumptuous dinner at one of the hottest restaurants in town before setting off on a pimped up party bus adventure around one of the best cities in South America.
There's plenty of fun to be had in Cartagena in March. Have fun and do something to help out at the same time.
There are a host of group activities for those that want to travel with a purpose as well. Help build a house for someone less fortunate or create a new park for one of Cartagena's most troubled neighbourhoods. You decide how you want to leave your mark.Read More Plan a Trip
Easter in the sleepy town of Santa Cruz de Mompox is a stunning spectacle of regligious devotion. Spanning eight days, the festival celebrations are arguably the biggest and most unique Colombia has to offer – most definitely a change from the traditional chocolate eggs and family lunch!
The festival processions on Good Thursday and Friday are known for the unique “two steps forward, one step back” rhythm adopted during the parades, a mesmerizing and solemn dance that you won’t see anywhere else.
The celebrations infuse Catholic tradition with mythical pagan customs unique to the region, with the women bedecked in in their most expensive sparkling jewellery.
It’s an awe-inspiring celebration, rich in culture and tradition. Be sure to make all necessary bookings well in advance as the best hotels and houses get booked up months ahead of the Easter celebrations.
It can take up to eight hours by car to reach Mompox so you will also need to organise transportation to and from the event.Read More Plan a Trip
Easter is a fascinating experience in the predominantly Catholic Colombia. While cities like Medellin and Bogotá become ghost towns over Semana Santa (Holy Week), Cartagena and particularly Mompox turn into a bustling hub of Eater parades and celebrations.
And with so many awesome things to do and see, this is a great place to take the family over Easter, especially if you’re up for broadening your cultural horizons. Plus you’ll find loads of activities to keep the kids happy.
Read on to find out how you can break tradition and treat your family to an incredible Easter egg hunt they’ll never forget.Read More Plan a Trip
Hip daddy-o. Every September, thousands of people from around the world flock to the laid-back town of Santa Cruz de Mompox for a sizzling jazz festival brings out the musical heritage of a village lost in time. Showcasing the very best local and international talent, the Mompox Jazz Festival has a lovely vibe, bringing to life this magical town.
Lying southeast of Cartagena, Mompox is a wonderful mix of charming colonial architecture - the historic city centre named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 - and ryhtmic folklore. The highly-anticipated jazz festival features a mix of styles, with merengue, bachata, porro and others from across the Atlantic featuring across an impressive line-up of local and international acts.
It’s the biggest parties in the city all year, making the eight-hour trip south from Cartagena well worth it. It's such a small place that the best hotels and houses get rented out early for this toe-tapping, hip swinging, happening.Read More Plan a Trip
Another month, another great reason to throw a party in Cartagena! This ain’t no ordinary celebration – it’s the commemoration of Cartagena’s independence from Spanish rule.
Not only that, it coincides with the annual Miss Colombia beauty pageant. Both events merge into a peculiar clash of cultures to create a crazy Cartagena carnival.
The city builds up to the independence parties for a couple of months with the celebrations reaching their climax with a week of street parties, fireworks, music and dancing. Señorita Colombia takes the celebrations to another dimension with a raucous battle of the boats in the bay, glamorous pageants in the streets and parties that go deep into the night.
It’s the perfect event for people who love to get down and dirty and don’t mind mixing it up with a rowdy bunch of boozed up locals.Read More Plan a Trip
The Iron Man triathlon is no joke, let’s be honest. It takes months of hard work and dedication to prepare your body for the gruelling challenge, so why not reward your efforts by completing it in one of the world’s most breath-taking Iron Man locations? Cartagena.
Say goodbye to the ‘copy and paste’ concrete city blocks and hello to sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and quaint colonial architecture. Even if you’re not taking part, the vibe in the city becomes infectious during the race with locals and internationals cheering from the sidelines.Read More Plan a Trip
New Year in Cartagena is the the busiest week of the year. A smorgasbord of glittering end of year parties, feasts and fireworks to see in the New Year in style.
There's always a host of events taking place from pop-up parties on the walls to celebrated tasting menus in the city's best restaurants.
As well as a host of pre- and after-parties to think about. If you want to do New Year in Cartagena in true, effortless Caribbean fashion, pitching up last minute and expecting things to fall in place is a big no no.
Like most of the world’s hottest New Year destinations, getting organized is key to making the most of the biggest night of the year.Read More Plan a Trip
If you're looking for help organising a culture-packed itinerary with recommendations on where to stay, the most cultured tours and exclusive access to all of the hottest happenings, reach out to This Is Cartagena's team of talented travel advisors for help crafting the perfect visit.
If you're looking to plan your trip yourself then check out the hottest happenings in our What's Happening section filled with ideas and top tips on when to come and the best things to do in Cartagena this year.
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