Castillo San Felipe – Cartagena’s Fortress

Cartagena, Colombia.

Built high on a hill, the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a commanding sight across a canal from the walled portion of Cartagena, the old city. Originally built in 1536, and expanded in 1657, then again in 1763, the fort was the site of several battles over the centuries. At one point, the fort fell to the forces of a French privateer Baron de Pointis.

As you can see by the opening photo, the climb to the top is challenging for those of a certain age. Take your time as you climb. If you didn’t bring water with you, consider purchasing a bottle of cold water from one of the many of the vendors who surround the base of the fort. Fortunately, they apparently aren’t allowed to follow you up the ramp. Only a handful of vendors, strategically stationed along the way, offer any goods, none of them refreshments that I could see. I suspect there is some kind of permit/fee paid by some vendors to gain a choice space on the uphill climb.

According to Wikipedia, some 200 soldiers called the fort their home at first. It appears the expansions made it considerably larger and that it could handle far more than that in later times. The fort is now a museum and is a very popular attraction judging by the number of people visiting on this warm, sunny morning.

The fort contains a labyrinth of tunnels. Though the tunnels are generally closed to visitors, one entrance at the top is open to walk into the complex. It exits at the next lower level. Soldiers could move at will between the 68 gun emplacements as necessary.

At the back side of the fort, we could see a large compound high on a hill above the fort. When asked, the tour guide said it is a monastery. Now that I am writing the post, I find many references to the highest hill in Cartagena, some 500 feet (162 m) above the fort. The hill is known as La Popa. More references to La Popa reference a convent, not a monastery. So, it seems to be a convent by popular opinion in a random Google search.

The views from the top of the fort demonstrate why the fort is in such a desirable location. Built high on that hill, it provided the city’s defenders with a commanding view of the area.  It was well worth the stop. My travel advice: Pick a morning stop if it’s a warm day. That walk up the ramp is worth hundreds of steps on your fitness tracker. Be sure and keep hydrated. I submit for your review a collection of images captured during our tour of the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. As always, if your browser supports it, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

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