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The Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, comprise the surviving remains of military constructions and an important way station for exploration and trade developed by the Spanish in the New World.

Cartagena, formally known as Cartagena of the Indies is a large city seaport on the northern coast of Colombia. Founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, it was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas.

A few years after it had been founded, the Spaniards designed a defense plan in which the main strategy was the construction of a walled military fortress to protect the city against the plundering of English, Dutch and French pirates.


Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
I love Cartagena de Indias, the most beautiful colonial city erected by the Spaniards in America.
I have been several times in Colombia and every time I have spent in that lovely city several days, always sleeping within its walls, in the old part.
Indeed, Cartagena is a work of art, and therefore is deservedly included in the UNESCO list of Patrimonies of the Humankind.
The last time that I was in Cartagena was in September 2008, after crossing overland the Darien Gap. And for the first time I entered in the Museo Naval del Caribe, with theintention to learn more about the history of that unique city.
There was a guide, a lady, explaining every hall. There was one devoted to a Spanish admiral, Blas de Lezo. During his services to Spain he had lost one leg, one eye and one arm and because of that he was called “Patapalo” (Peg leg). But still he was a great strategist in the Naval History of Spain.
He crushed a far superior contingent of British maritime and ground forces in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias of 1741, commanded by the Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon. The British fleet consisted on 186 ships and about 27,000 men, while the Spanish had a garrison of 3,500 men and 6 ships. That was the greatest and shameful maritime defeat of the British in its history.
As results of that battle Blas de Lezo died some time later. I asked for the cemetery where he was buried to pay him my respects, but the guide informed me that the whereabouts of his tomb is still a mystery.
Sadly, in Spain very few people know about this hero.
When I saw Blas de Lezo statue next to the Cartagena walls the day that I left that city in my way by bus to Venezuela, I felt admiration for his victory in that decisive battle, and at the same time sadness for the ignorance that the common Spanish citizens have about that great man.
Date posted: July 2013
Cynthia Webb (USA):
The day we arrived in Cartagena (Nov. 2010) it was pouring rain. The streets were flooded, traffic was backed up and it was hard to get around. Nevertheless, it was nice to be there during the rainstorm because we saw a unique side of the city. When it rains, the water comes off of the fort in large, cascading waterfalls. Whether that was by design or merely water finding any open outlet, it created a unique and interesting view. The local children gathered under these waterfalls to play and bathe. The old town area wasn't flooded and we spent some time exploring that area, too. The rain also meant that not as many tourists were there and that there were fewer street vendors competing for our attention (although several enterprising ones were selling umbrellas).
Date posted: January 2012
Silrad (USA):
We visited Cartegena in the spring of 2009 and took a harbor cruise. We were able to see how the Spanish organized the 8 forts defensively to protect against pirate attacks. The view of the city's skyline in fantastic! We saw the spires of cathedrals outlined against a pristine, blue sky. We could see the building of modern skyscrapers being constructed. And, most impressively, the size of the bay. It is immense! No wonder Cartegena has been an important port for centuries.
Date posted: November 2009
Kelly Henry (USA):
Cartagena is a port city known for its giant fort. Think old town San Juan, Puerto Rico or Campeche, Mexico only bigger. The town is extremely well preserved and receives few tourists most likely because of Colombia's violent drug trafficking.

The clean and tidy town is dominated by a huge, well preserved stone fort that can be explored from top to bottom. The streets beneath the fort are a cobbled jumble of colorful two story homes and shops. An elevated promenade along the water (appears to be a built up sea wall) allows you to see all over the historic centre. Spanish colonial architecture influence is evident throughout the old part of the city.

Cartagena contains some beautifully preserved churches and convents in the hills above the town as well as the requisite spanish baroque style cathedral in the city centre.

Cartagena also has some areas that are not tourist friendly but it is generally safe. You need to speak at least a bit of spanish though for an enjoyable visit. Prices are dirt cheap!!

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Site info

Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena
Country: Colombia
Inscribed: 1984
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (4) (6)
Category: Urban landscape, Colonial Urban landscape, Maritime

Site history:
1984 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Cartagena Travel

In the news:
Not available

Related links:
» Great series of photos of Cartagena de las Indias.

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Clock Tower . Equestrian Statues . Walled cities .
Caribbean Sea .
Sieges and Battles . Slavery . The Inquisition .
Human Activity
Sea Ports .
Individual People
Mapped or Illustrated by Blaeu . Sir Francis Drake . Visited by Alexander von Humboldt on his travels .
Religion and Belief
Cathedrals . Jesuits .
Built in the 16th century .
Built or owned by Spanish . First inscriptions . Hotels in Historic Buildings . Location for a classic movie . Named after a different location . Works by Nobel Prize winning authors .
WHS on Other Lists
Memory of the World . U.S. Ambassadors Fund . World Monuments Watch (past) .

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