Castillo de San Felipe
Cartagena, as the center of the Spanish slave trade and gold plunder, is the most heavily fortified city in the Caribbean. The jewel of the fortifications is a well-preserved vestige of Spanish military architecture and one of the biggest attractions in the city.
A short distance from the colorfully painted and ever bustling historic Ciudad Amurallada, lies the giant fortress of Castillo de San Felipe. This seemingly impregnable structure that once guarded the city from military strikes and long-since-vanished pirate attacks now sees a steady stream of visitors from everyday tourists to government delegations. Nighttime brings on the most impressive views of the castle itself, when it’s illuminated by various lights, but exploring the inside is an activity for the daylight hours.
You can either walk from the center or avoid the sweltering heat by taking a taxi taxi to the fort, located strategically at the top of San Lázaro hill, overlooking both land and sea. Unfortunately there’s an entrance fee, currently 17,000 COP for adults and 8,000 COP for students, but it’s not terribly expensive with the dollar currently valued around 1850 COP.
From the bottom there’s a decent climb, past old canons and vendors selling Colombia memorabilia, till you reach the batteries and parapets that thrust towards the sky. There’s little regulation and you’re free to wander around the fort, explore the darkened tunnel system, and sit along the battlements that offer panoramic views of the surroundings.
An hour is plenty of time to discover most of what the castle has though if you have the foresight you’ll bring your lunch to the top where you can eat while being serenaded by the lone trumpeter, playing for tips, and watch the ships in the harbor.
Hopefully I will go to Panamá soon…to explore the islands of San Blas.