Eclectic, energetic, and just a little bit misunderstood, the city of Bogota is the heart of Colombia and it’s dynamic and gritty capital. Located at 2640 metres above sea level, Bogota sits nestled in the Andes and is the 4th highest capital city in the world. Against a mountainous backdrop, the urban sprawl includes a heady mix of beautiful colonial architecture, historical landmarks, skyscrapers and shanty towns. Whether you are looking to immerse yourself in local life, visit world-class art galleries and museums, or witness intoxicating local festivities, Bogota is bound to impress. Here are 6 unmissable experiences for you to have while enjoying Colombia’s compelling capital city.
Lose Yourself in La Candelaria
The cobbled streets of Bogota’s beautiful historic district La Candelaria, are the perfect place to begin your exploration of Colombia. Amongst the cobbled streets and beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, you will find some of the best museums and galleries in the city. The historic Plaza Bolivar is here, and you will also find treasures such as the Church Museum of Santa Clara, one of Bogota’s oldest churches and considered by many to be its most beautiful. Currently a museum, its interior is full of detailed paintings painted mostly in gold. On the topic of gold, in La Candelaria, you will also find the Gold Museum, a giant treasure chest of glittery artifacts that cannot fail to impress. Over 55,000 pieces of gold are housed in this museum with 6000 of them on display and they include beautifully intricate carvings including the famous “Muisca Golden Raft” estimated to be from the time period between 600 and 1600AD and believed to represent the story behind the myth of El Dorado.
Feast Your Eyes
Whether you prefer your art hung in a gallery, painted on city walls, or even just sewn into your clothing, Bogota has you covered. Bogota has a dynamic art scene with many exciting galleries including the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists and known for his signature style of art called ‘Boterismo’ where he enlarges and exaggerates features of anything he paints. At times his artwork has been comedic, such as his take on the Mona Lisa, at other times overtly political, revolving around topics such as the violence inflicted by Colombia’s drug cartels. The Museo Botero features not just his work but many other famous artists from his private collection including Picasso, Monet and Klimt.
For those who prefer their art a bit more al fresco, Bogota has an exciting street art scene. Artists use these murals as a canvas to express themselves and communicate the story of their city, leading to artworks that are often very moving. The streets of La Candelaria are where some of the most poignant pieces can be found, giving you a whole new insight into the experiences of its inhabitants.
Get High on Cerro de Montserrat
In the east of the city, the imposing mass of Cerro de Montserrat dominates the skyline, and is the perfect place to go for panoramic views over the city. At 3030 metres from sea level, the vista is (quite literally) breathtaking. This location is significant not just because of the religious site on top which is believed to be a place of miracles, but because the indigenous people noted that the sun rose from directly behind this mountain during June solstice. Aside from the church on top, there is also a park and some restaurants. To reach the peak, you can take either the cable car or funicular or for the more active, a strenuous hike is possible. If you are finding it a tough climb, spare a thought for the pilgrims who will sometimes do this on their knees!
Join a Celebration
Bogotanos love any excuse for a celebration and so it isn’t hard to time your visit with an exciting event on the festival calendar. Just some of the festivals on offer are to celebrate film, theatre, Independence Day, Gay Pride, flowers and food. Once a year, the historic Simon Bolivar Square even gets turned into a giant moshpit as Bogota hosts South America’s biggest rock festival. For something a little less loud, if you travel in August your trip will coincide with ‘kite month’, where colourful and quirky kites fill the blue skies, taking advantage of the stronger winds associated with that time of year.
Meet Colombia’s Peace Weavers
Colombia’s story is one of incredible progression, as it forges its way from a past full of conflict into a brighter future. The peace-weavers are a brave group of indigenous communities who have taken on the challenge to change the country for the better. These range from chocolate shop owners who allow thousands of peasant families to leave illegal coca farming behind by building a future through cocoa, to the Tejedoras de Mampuján, a group of afro women from the Caribbean who received the National Peace Prize and started the tradition of creating woven tales of Colombia’s armed conflict victims. Crooked Compass can organise for you to meet these inspiring people and see first-hand how they are changing their communities for the better.
An incredible day trip to do from Bogota is to visit the incredible Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira. Here you can go underground in a tunnel deep inside a salt mine, to where an incredible church has been built. The interior is dark and magnificent and includes a 50ft high illuminated cross at its centre, as well as 14 separate chapels some of which are decorated with intricate scenes carved into the rock. Still a working church that can hold 4000, this cavernous cathedral is a piece of stunning design.
Dreaming of exploring Colombia? Crooked Compass offers both small group tours and private touring through Colombia and Bogata, the countries beating heart. Contact our team today to make this experience yours.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.