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There's no real need for a map or a schedule in Cartagena; every street is picturesque, every turn in the road reveals another cobblestone street, colourful floral window boxes, and yet another picture perfect plaza. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bougainvillea-draped city is often compared to Antigua in Guatemala or Cusco in Peru and really is one of Latin Americas most attractive colonial cities, with boutique hotels and endless photo opportunities.

Whether you choose to explore Cartagena on foot, by horse and cart, or on the back of a brightly-coloured chiva (traditional bus), there are many specific sights to see, as well as indulging in the delightful pastime of simply soaking up the atmosphere on the streets and in the cafés and bars.

The heart of the city is the old town, which is divided into inner and outer sections, and south of here lie the three affluent districts of the peninsula. The real colonial architectural gems are within El Centro and San Diego, in the inner section of the old town, where churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions appear round every corner.

Cartagena's walled old city is itself a fortress, and around the city there are others to visit; notably Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, generally considered to be the greatest ever built by the colonising Spanish.

The film adaptation of Colombian Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 'Love in the Time of Cholera' was largely filmed in Cartagena's historic quarter and as a testament to the city's charm, the film's director Mike Newell has now bought a house in Cartagena.

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A Note on Price

Colombia is very much about the experience, so if you’re happy with more basic accommodation, there are lots of charming haciendas that are full of character - and which won't break the bank. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, private villas and high end hotels in Cartagena over New Year can easily set you back thousands a night.

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