Cartagena is the undisputed queen of Colombia's Caribbean coast and easily the most attractive city in the region – this given its apparent shortage of attractions in the classical sense of the word. Instead, what draws travelers in is the city itself: a microcosm of the Caribbean, walled-in by defensive ramparts built to ward off unwelcome visitors, the likes of Sir Francis Drake, who held Cartagena de Indias captive for months during his 16th century raids on the Spanish New World. Cumbia music fills the air in Cartagena's absurdly beautiful Old Town, while locals enjoy leisurely chats in inviting town squares, street vendors peddle their wares (look out for the incredibly photogenic palenqueras!), and vacationers explore streets lined with well-preserved colonial buildings, their balconies deluged with striking fuchsia-colored veranera. The first free town in the Americas founded by slave trade escapees – San Basilio de Palenque – is just an hour's drive from here.