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Picture this: you’re ready to plan the perfect vacation. You imagine sun and sand, a new culture, and delicious food. You’ve diligently saved up your PTO and your travel partner is ready to go at the drop of a hat… the sky is truly the limit. You quickly decide on a trip to Cartagena after reading about the magical colonial walled city and beautiful Rosario Islands. Beach and culture in one trip?! What could be better?! But when is the best time to visit Cartagena? After planning a perfect trip, the last thing you want is for your trip to be ruined by poor weather or ruthless crowds from an event you had no idea was happening.
Have no fear, my vacation-ready friend. After visiting during the “rainy” season and doing extensive research I have the definitive guide on when to visit Cartagena. Whether you want to know what the weather’s like or when the busy season is, I have the answer for you right here in this post! Keep reading to determine when is the best time to visit Cartagena so you can get back to planning your perfect trip.
Cartagena de Indias is a large city on the Caribbean sea. It serves as the capital of the Bolivar department of Colombia. Cartagena is one of the most visited cities in South America and for good reason! The city was founded in 1533 after the Spanish took over the area and became a center for both slave trading and the Inquisition. Cartagena has a long and storied history from the days in the 16th century to when it became independent of Spain in the 1800s to the fighting that occurred thereafter. In the past two centuries, Cartagena has served as an important port and continues to serve as a center for imports and exports for Colombia.
Even though Cartagena has undergone revitalization and major growth, what brings tourists from all over the world is the famed walled portion of the city. The “Old City” of Cartagena is a walled portion of the city built during colonization. Many of the buildings are preserved and restored to reflect the original beauty and history of Cartagena. Today, over 1 million people call Cartagena home and it sees over 3 million tourists each year!
When to visit Cartagena
Cartagena is located in the northeast corner of Colombia right on the Caribbean sea. Its location allows it to have a rather moderate, tropical climate year-round. Which is great because it allows you to enjoy the sun and sand no matter what time of year you visit! While there are some months that have slightly more rain than others, you’re almost guaranteed to have wonderful weather at any time you choose to visit Cartagena.
The average temperature in Cartagena is between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit with lows in the 70s at night. The temperature is just about perfect but don’t forget about the humidity. The average humidity is about 1 billion %. Okay, I exaggerate… But not much! Humidity ranges between 70-80% throughout the year with *slightly* lower humidity levels in the drier months.
The driest time of year is January through March, with Cartagena averaging just 0-3 days per month of rain. From June through October, the number of rainy days increases steadily peaking to about 10 days a month in October. However, even the rainiest month isn’t that rainy! With the 10-12 expected days of rain in October, you’ll have a 60% chance of having a mostly sunny trip.
Even though Cartagena doesn’t have a lot of “rainy days,” you should be prepared for rain showers at pretty much any given moment. Similar to Florida or other Caribbean islands, there are frequent, yet short, rain showers many days of the year. We visited in June, which averages about 8 days of rain, and had short (<10 minute) showers on 3 of the 4 days we were there.
Festivals, events, and holidays in Cartagena
Want to visit in the middle of the action? Cartagena is perfect for all types of tourists but certainly has a great party scene!
One of the biggest festivals of the year is the famous Barranquilla Carnival. Carnival is the celebration in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, similar to Mardi Gras here in the United States. Barranquilla’s Carnival is the second biggest in the world, just behind Rio de Janeiro! While this festival isn’t in Cartagena proper, it’s just 2 hours outside the city and is definitely worth the trip if you are in this area anyways!
In November, you can experience a different kind of carnival right in Cartagena that celebrates Cartagena’s independence. This week long celebration is just before the Independence Day of November 11.
Christmas is an excellent time to experience the beautiful and historic Cartagena! It becomes even more beautiful and magical as its decked out with Christmas lights and decorations. You can find vendors all over the city and on boats selling every kind of gift imaginable. It’s traditional to have a big meal out at a restaurant on Christmas Eve and people seem to never tire of wandering the city shopping and drinking. What a magical time to visit!
What to pack for Cartagena
Given the warm climate, you’ll experience hot and humid weather year-round in Cartagena. But the heat and humidity was surprisingly welcomed after a chilly few weeks in the rest of Colombia! You’ll want to pack light and comfortable clothes.
I lived in sundresses while in Cartagena! Have a flowy maxi dress for nicer dinners and a couple of breezy dresses for hot days in the sun. Birkenstock sandals or a very comfortable, lightweight sneaker will be perfect for walking around. Don’t bother with anything heeled–the cobblestone streets and heels are a mix for disaster.
And don’t forget your swimsuit! You can’t visit Cartagena without enjoying the beautiful Rosario Islands.
The best time to visit Cartagena
The best time to visit Cartagena is anytime! The climate is warm and tropical all year and with very little rainfall, you are sure to experience great weather no matter when you visit. If you want to lessen your chance of those pesky Caribbean rainstorms, visit in the drier Winter months. This also gives you two chances to celebrate–both Independence day and Christmas! While summer is technically the “rainy” season, afternoon showers are short lived.
Unless you are specifically wanting to visit for a holiday or avoiding crowds, there is no bad time to visit!
Final thoughts/recommendations on when to visit Cartagena
Cartagena is a beautiful city that blends its colonial history, Latin American culture, and Caribbean flair expertly. There’s no reason Cartagena shouldn’t be on your Colombia itinerary! You’ll love strolling through the old city, island hopping, and eating all the delicious food! But when is the best time to visit Cartagena? Luckily, with excellent tropical weather year-round, you can visit just about anytime! The biggest limiting factor is you… so when will you choose? The busy summer months, the dry winter months, or during a large celebration? This article should help you narrow down when to visit when considering weather, events, and holidays!