Cartagena was the last port on the famous Spanish Main, from whence the riches of South America were shipped back to Spain. The old town still retains the narrow cobbled streets, airy piazzas and colourful colonial houses. Hotels in Cartagena range from converted colonial convents, to modern luxury hotels. The beach resort is just ten minutes away from the old town by taxi/bus. The quality of restaurants and night life is very high. In addition to the many charms of an unspoilt colonial town and a modern beach resort, visitors to Cartagena can take a fast boat ride to Islas del Rosario. This group of app. thirty small islands can be reached in 45 mins. Many of the islands are the privately owned retreats of wealthy Colombians, though some are available to visitors, both on day trips or for a few nights relaxation. We also offer extension to the Colombian owned Caribbean islands of San Andres and Providencia. San Andres is a fairly developed tourist destination with good quality All Inclusive beach hotels. Providencia, the island used as the English Pirate base for attcking treasure fleets, has a number of very simple 'no nonsense' hotels.
Cartagena de Indias is one of the origina Spanish Colonial cities of Colombia founded in around 1533 by the famous "conquistador" Pedro de Heredia. Cartagena was the first of the power-ful "Spanish Main" ports, a string of trading ports running from Colombia through Central America to the Caribbean. These ports were responsible for transporting the riches of the South American cam-paign, back to Spain. In the course of a year, dur-ing the 16th and 17th Century, the Spanish Conquistadors would stock pile the gold, silver and jewels captured from the Incas and other native civilisations, and transport them back to one or other of the "Main" ports. Here the valuables would be stored, then loaded on to ships for an annual flotilla to Spain. This flotilla would have to run the gauntlet of badly charted reefs, attacks from the English, French and various strong pirate fleets. Cartagena was probably one of the most forti-fied ports in the world at that time. The Spanish military engineers blocked off many of the approach channels to Cartagena meaning that the only way in was through a narrow channel guard-ed by a network of heavily armed fortresses. Some of the fortresses were linked by large chains, which were pulled tight across the entrance to Cartagena bay. As an extra precaution Spanish galleons armed with enormous canons were moored to these chains offering extra protection against attacking forces. This fortification was put to the test in 1741 when the British and American fleets, led by Sir Edward Vernon and Lawrence Washington.
George’s brother, attacked Cartagena. The fleets consisted of 8 tall ships, 28 liners, 12 frigates and 130 transport ships, carrying 15,000 sailors, 9,000 soldiers, 2,763 marines from the Anglo-American Squadron and 2,000 Jamaican slaves, around 29,000 fighting men. This incredible force was attacking a town with a total population of 20,000 protected by a total of 6 ships, 600 sailors, 1100 soldiers, 300 military men, 400 youngsters and 600 native indians, some 3000 fighters. Amazingly the Spanish force managed to hold back the Anglo-American fleet and wore them down over a number of months so that most of the English and Americans died from tropical diseases. Cartagena lived up to its name as being "impregnable". As a result of Cartagena’s importance, and the huge wealth of its population, the city grew and became a bustling trading post. Today Cartagena’s old town is still spectacular with its narrow cobbled streets, airy plazas and colourful colonial houses. In Cartagena a visitor has the choice of staying in one of the colonial style hotels in old town or in a more modern hotel nearby. There is even a smart beach resort hotel only ten minutes from old town offering a relaxed atmosphere and convenience for getting in to Cartagena to explore.