The distance between Medellín and Cartagena is 389 miles (636 km). The easiest way to make the trip is to fly, which takes about an hour. Buses run from Medellín to Cartagena numerous times every day and are an economical way to go; you can expect at least thirteen hours on the road. Private transfers are recommended over self-driving, though it can be an expensive option at this distance.
If you have more time in the country, consider this 7-day itinerary—it includes trendy Medellín, along with visits to the Zona Cafetera and Cartagena. Enjoy a day in Salento with a hike through the rolling hills before flying north to Cartagena. If you crave adventure, this 8-day itinerary combines river rafting in the heart of the rainforest with the culture of Colombia’s cities, including both Medellín and Cartagena.
Duration: 1-hour flight
There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellín to Cartagena. There are two airports that serve Medellín, Jose Maria Cordova Airport (MDE) and Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH). Most flights depart from MDE in the nearby city of Rionegro for a direct flight into Cartagena. In Cartagena, you will arrive at Rafael Núñez International (CTG) Airport, which is located about 4 miles (6 km) from the city center. In Cartagena, the easiest way to get to and from the airport is using yellow taxis that have a fixed fare to your final destination.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 15 hours or more
Taking a private transfer from Medellín to Cartagena takes over fifteen hours. At this distance, it can be an expensive option, but having a private driver gives you the freedom to leisurely explore the route to Cartagena.
You can certainly make the drive in one day, though many travelers opt to take their time and add an overnight at one of the pueblos along the way to break up the drive. Consider stopping in Sincelejo, known for its beautiful colonial architecture, plazas, and churches. Further toward the northwest, Tolú has quiet beaches if you want to relax a bit before heading north to Cartagena.
Another attraction worth a stop is Los Colorados Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is a prime destination for photography, bird watching, and a nice place to stretch your legs and admire the natural beauty of the region.
Duration: About 13.5 hours
Buses depart Medellín for Cartagena from the Terminal del Norte bus station in the early morning or early evening for the overnight bus. Buses are an affordable option, especially if you have time to spare. Buses can take anywhere from 13 to 15 hours depending on traffic in the mountains.