In 1984, the Port, Fortresses and Monuments, including the old town of Cartagena were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mystified in romance, legends and beautiful colonial era antiquity, this city captivates visitors and travelers with its cobbled alleys, enormous balconies draped in bougainvillea and horse-drawn carriages. The backdrop to movies such as “Romancing the Stone” and more recently the film adaptation of “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Nobel Prize winning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, Cartagena has a long history of fairy-tale mystique. Capital of the department (state) of Bolívar, Cartagena is currently the fifth largest urban area in Colombia. During the colonial period, Cartagena was the most important bastion of the Spanish overseas empire and influenced much of Colombia’s history.

Cartagena’s calendar is packed with festivals -the biggest bash is the Carnaval de Cartagena, which culminates with the Miss Colombia beauty pageant on November 11 – one of the biggest cultural events in the country! Cartagena also hosted the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, finishing fourth of the overall medal count.

Today the city hosts numerous annual intellectual and cultural events. The town is painted with beautiful colonial restored homes among exotic, highly attractive and dynamic plazas, waterfronts and other public spaces. The city plays host to many conventions but the two of major interest to Europeans and North Americans are without doubt the classical Music Festival held during the first two weeks of January and the South American version of the (UK) Hay Literary Festival at the end of January. Both are particularly imaginative with world class performers, writers and critics.

Check out some of the cooler events and festivals in Cartagena below.  We’ll keep adding to this list as we discover new things to do – submit a comment below if you have any ideas!