If you are planning to visit Colombia, a trip to Bogotá is likely on your itinerary.
Being a capitol city, it is easily accesible through the Aeropuerto Internacional El Dorado, just 7.5 miles from the city center. From the El Dorado Airport you can access all of Colombia’s must-see destinations!
Bogotá is a sprawling metropolis of nearly eight million residents. It is situated at 8,660 feet in Colombia’s Eastern Andean mountain chain, one of the three that run through the country.
One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear about Bogota is the traffic.
That is to be expected in any large city anywhere, so don’t let it deter you. Depending on the day and time you arrive, you can plan on spending from 15 minutes to an hour in a taxi ride to the Historic Center, La Candelaria.
La Candelaria is full of surprises: museums, gift shops, restaurants, artists, street performers, and vendors abound. There are even a few high end accommodations here. You can definitely spend a whole day eating, drinking and being entertained in this vibrant city center.
Be sure to stop by La Puerta Falsa, the oldest restaurant in Bogota, for a tamale with agua panela or a hot chocolate with cheese. Colombians love their cheese! Also, order a Canelazo from a street vendor, a steamy drink made of cinnamon, aguardiente, and tropical fruit!
Another complaint you’ll hear, especially about la Candelaria, is petty theft.
Don’t leave your phone in the outside pocket of your backpack, keep your belongings close, and you should be just fine. In Colombia we say “No dar papaya” – don’t give papaya, meaning don’t be an easy target.
Speaking of tropical fruits (papaya), Bogota’s most colorful market, Paloquemao, is definitely worth a visit.
Here you can get lost amongst the vendors selling anything you can imagine: fruits & vegetables, exotic flowers, orchids, plants, animals, artesanal meats and cheeses, and of course handmade souvenirs.
For someone not familiar with Latin American markets, and not fluent in Spanish, it might be best to take a tour where you are guaranteed to visit the fairest vendors who will let you sample the myriad varieties of their cosecha (harvest). Bring your appetite and plenty of pesos!
On a side note, as a tourist, it is easy to get taken advantage of. Our image comes across as dollar signs, so always bargain the price with the vendors, especially in the mercados (markets).
Another of Bogota’s top attractions is Monserrate at the top of Guadalupe Mountain, which you can access by a cable car, an aerial tramway, or by foot. Almost 10,000 feet up the mountain you will find the beautiful Basilica del Señor de Monserrate, which has been a site of religious pilgrimage since the colonial era.
If you decide to go, it’s best to avoid the crowds and go midweek. If you plan to hike, bring water and leave early as the sun is strong! Also keep in mind that on Sundays you will find countless people making pilgrimage to the top, barefoot and on their knees.
Whatever you do, factor in a couple of hours to spend at the top of the mountain, soaking in the views of the city, the giant statue of the Virgin del Cerro de Guadalupe, and the beautifully landscaped grounds. On a clear day you can see all the way over to the next Andean range.
A trip to Bogota would not be complete without a night out on the town.
A great place to do this is in the Chapinero area, a hip, upscale neighborhood where the streets are lined with bars, shops, and restaurants. The famous Zona Rosa boasts art galleries, exclusive boutiques, and high end fashion. Chapinero is home to some of the nicest hotels in the city and tends to be a safer option than the historic center.
One more noteworthy mention: Bogota has some of the coolest graffiti around, and the Callejón de los Murales in the Candelaria neighborhood is a great place to see some of the graffiti. Casa Colibri is a good spot to start, as the owner is a polyglot who loves to show people around his native city.
Bogota is a city full of surprises, and admittedly despite the pollution and the traffic, it is well worth a trip. Culture and history abound in Colombia’s capitol city.
Are you interested in more Bogota travel recommendations? Contact us today!