Sure, Cartagena flaunts its fabled Caribbean beaches and colonial architecture all year round, but it’s so much more than that… During special events the city exudes a magnetic energy that threatens to suck you in and never let go.   

So if you’re looking to turn a good holiday into an unforgettable one, read on to discover the best times to visit this South American paradise.

January to March

Peak season in Cartagena may get packed, but the city comes alive and it’s a great chance to meet new people. Weather-wise, tourists and locals also agree that this is generally the best time to visit. You’ll set out each day under sunny blue skies with almost no rain, with a light sea breeze to take the edge off a moderate heat. Okay, boring weather talk out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff – what’s happening in the city…

Cartagena Fireworks Old Town

Of course, December/January means New Year, and New Year in Cartagena is epic. Glitzy pop-up parties take over the few derelict Cartagena ruins and the sensual champeta and reggaeton rhythms reverberate through the streets; the locals drink, dance and celebrate like only Colombians know how, while fireworks light up the night sky and glitter across the bay. 

Check out This Is Cartagena’s comprehensive guide to spending New Year’s Eve in Cartagena, from the best places to eat and stay, to those can’t miss New Year’s Eve parties happening across town.

As Cartagena recovers from its New Year hangover throughout January, you’ll find more of a cultural slant to events – the perfect opportunity to get to know its history, people and food.

Festival del Frito Cartagena Colombia

And what better way to cure the booze blues than with a good dose of delicious fried food, Cartagena style. The city’s incredibly popular Festival del Frito (Fried Food Festival) hits the streets on 20 January and celebrates one of Cartagena’s most famous snacks, the frito, for the week leading up to the Fiestas de la Candelaria, the celebrations surrounding Cartagena’s patron saint (another reason to visit in itself).  

And the best part? The festival also includes a competition between some of Cartagena’s finest frito chefs, meaning you’ll find some mouth-wateringly different takes on Cartagena’s fabled fried treats.

January also means it’s time for the annual Hay Festival – an inspirational meeting of brilliant minds where writers, musicians, poets, scholars and journalists from around the world come together to share ideas, discuss or perform their work and tackle other important issues of the day at public events hosted throughout Cartagena.

It’s the perfect creative outlet for anyone who wants to learn more about South America’s fascinating culture and sink their teeth into some stimulating conversations.

March welcomes the return of Colombia’s oldest film festival, Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias (or just FICCI if that’s too much of a mouthful); a five-day celebration of the Latin American film culture which includes workshops, special screenings and glitzy after-parties where you also have the chance to rub shoulders with some local and international celebrities. 

spring break cartagena colombia

Cartagena is also booming during Spring Break in March, and for good reason. The weather is perfect, the beaches are straight off a postcard, the locals know how to party (so you’ll fit right in), and the food is delicious – what’s not to like? Find your own private villa, rent a yacht for an island adventure and let the fun begin…  

Check out our Spring Break guide for all the info you need to plan an epic Spring Break vacay.

August to November

While you might have to bust out the umbrella more often, you’ll find more respite from Colombian visitors during the rest of the year. Having a bit more room to breath makes this a great time to feel how Cartagena used to be.

Having said that, you won’t find much tranquility during one of Cartagena’s most important celebrations – the Independence Day parties which kick off in October and build up to independence day on November 11. Cartagena celebrates its independence from Spanish rule like only Cartagena can – think fireworks, dancing, carnival parades and plenty of fun-loving boozed up locals and you’ll start to have an idea of what to expect.

So all in all, we think November through to March is generally the best time to visit Cartagena. We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg here, so be sure to check out our comprehensive City Guide for the lowdown on Cartagena’s cultural calendar, which has all the info you’ll need to plan an incredible Caribbean adventure.