Colonial Cities of Colombia 2


Colombia contains a wealth of centuries-old colonial cities. Some go as far back as the early 1500s, making them amongst the oldest European settlements in the Americas.

Popayan

Popayan, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Take Popayan, founded in 1537, during the very early stages of Spanish expansion across the South American continent. At the time the entirety of this vast, unknown land mass (of South America) was referred to as the Kingdom of New Granada.

Popayan, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Popayan was a strategically important city as it fell between the Spanish ports of Quito, Lima, and Cartagena. The gold recovered by the conquistadors in Peru transited through Popayan on its way to Spain.

Popayan, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Popayan maintained its political importance over the years, rearing no less than 17 Colombian presidents, as well as giving birth to notable poets, painters, and composers. La Casa Museo Guillermo León Valencia (shown in picture above) is the home of the much acclaimed poet Guillermo Valencia (whose son went on to become president).

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Not all Colombia’s colonial cities are historically significant. Villa de Leyva, for instance, was founded in 1572. Its claim to fame is having one of the largest town squares in South America.

Barichara

Barichara, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

And then there is Barichara, founded in the 1700s, which is famous for… not a whole lot actually. These days the town is often used as a film set for Colombian telenovelas (television dramas).

Guane

Guane, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

And the nearby town of Guane, which has no particular notoriety, apart from being one of the sleepiest towns in existence.

Cartagena

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

But for colonial charm nothing matches that of Cartagena, also known as Cartagena de Indias, situated on the Caribbean coast.

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Cartagena has a long, fascinating history, full of bloodshed, weighed down with gold, and overflowing with pirates.

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Founded in 1533 (making it the second oldest city in Colombia, after Santa Marta, which was founded in 1525), Cartagena went on to became a major trading port. Its most profitable goods were gold and silver (plundered from the tombs of the Zenú people, and quarried from the mines of Peru and New Granada). Cartagena was also one of the few cities in the Americas authorised to trade in slaves.

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The city’s wealth made it a prime target for pirates, many of whom were in fact English privateers, and French corsairs, and thus heroes in their own countries. The most famous pirate to attack Cartagena was Francis Drake (who was awarded a knighthood by Elizabeth I of England for his efforts).

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Francis Drake attacked Cartagena in 1574 and quickly took control of the city. He received a ransom equating to US$200 million in today’s money to hand it back. Drake’s attack set into motion the prolonged reinforcement of the city’s fortifications that would continue for the next two centuries. When completed, in 1756, Cartagena had city walls that extended for 11 kilometres, and which included twenty mini forts, the pinnacle of which is Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (pictured below).

Cartagena, Colonial City of Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White


More on Colombia:

Southern Colombia:

Popayán – the illustrious White City that delivered 17 Colombian presidents

San Agustín – cartoonish statues that protect the dead?


Central Colombia:

The salt mines of Zipaquirá – ever been to a salt cathedral?

Bogotá – gold, graffiti. and Botero

La Candelaria Street Art – world famous graffiti in downtown Bogotá

Barichara – sleepy colonial town where they eat fat-bottomed ants

Villa de Leyva, Colombia – Casa de Antonio Ricaurte, El Fósil, and a colossal public square


Northern Colombia:

Santa Marta – oldest continually inhabited colonial city in Colombia

La Ciudad Perdida – four day hike to the Lost City of the Tayrona priests


More on South America:

Argentina:

Perito Moreno Glacier – colossal ice wall

El Chaltén – meringue-like glaciers and jagged peaks

Bolivia:

Salar de Uyuni – largest salt flats in the world

La Paz – highest capital city in the world

Chile:

The Moai Quarry archaeological site, Easter Island

Mount Villarrica – trek to the top of an active volcano

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 thoughts on “Colonial Cities of Colombia