Cartegena on the Rise

A hotel boom signals that Colombia’s Cartagena may be the next big thing in South America

Salsa is Columbia\’s signature sound; don\’t leave Cartegena without hitting at least one salsa bar, like the legendary Café Havana.
Though Cartagena de Indias (the city’s official name) is only Colombia’s fifth-largest city, it is the country’s most popular tourist destination, primarily for its Ciudad Amurallada, the walled historic district, but also due to its port on the Caribbean coast, which is a convenient stop for cruise ships.

In the span of just a few years, Cartagena has seen dramatic growth in its restaurants, hotels, and attractions. US airline Jet Blue has taken notice and is now flying to Cartagena nonstop from New York City.

Changes are most apparent in the Ciudad Amurallada, the oldest part of the city, founded by the Spanish in 1533. Here, historic buildings along the narrow stone streets with open-air cafés are being renovated to house trendy new hotels like the Charleston Santa Teresa, a converted 17th-century convent.

Big beachfront hotels are launching along the coast in “modern Cartagena” as well, with the 280-room InterContinental Cartagena, due to open in 2014 in the tony Bocagrande district and other well-known hotel groups (Sheraton, Iberostar, Holiday Inn, Hyatt) poised to open properties there soon as well. All told, the city is expecting nearly 10,000 new hotel rooms in the next three years.

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