Bogotá really surprised me! It’s actually a big high altitude city, but on the other hand if you look for the nice areas in town it gets cozy and friendly. My hotel was located in the Chapinero District, which is the financial and gastronomic center of the city. It’s a safe neighborhood and I walked there alone even in the evening. The area has many trendy restaurants, so this is a good base to start your holiday for 3 days and get used to the altitude and overcome your potential jetlag. I wrote the 5 must do’s in Bogotá below, you can do these is 3 full days and still have enough free time.
One USD is worth around 2,900 Colombian Pesos (COP).
1. 1. Bike Graffiti tour
We booked our Bike Tour with Bogotravel for 75,000 COP only one day in advance and it was on a popular Sunday. You can image that there are a lot of tourist organizations offering these types of tours. I understand why it so popular, you see the city in an original way and because Bogota is so big, you can travel some distance with the bike. The route is manageable with the bike, I mean the jet lag and height will cause some early exhaustion but that is only at one or two parts in the tour. Sunday is the safest day to do the bike tour, a lot of the streets are closed for cars and bus traffic due to the weekly cycling day in Bogotá (and you see that in more South American countries).
Tip: Leave on time to get to your bike starting point, because traffic jams will occur as a result of this blockage on Sunday!
Our route addresses several divers topics like a fruit tasting stop, coffee tasting and factory stop, graffiti stops, several neighborhoods (even the red light district….), memorable buildings and crossings. Our guide was very passionate about his country and told us a lot about the deeper meaning of all the graffiti along the route. I could really feel the pain and desperation by the way he was talking but also the hope that the people have at the moment. So a really must do in Bogotá!
2. Zipaquirá daytrip
If you really want to see something that you probably have never seen before, you have to visit the Catedral de Sal in Zipaquirá. This is a unique attraction only 50 km out of Bogotá. This underground cathedral is carved out of salt and is one out of the three structures in the world. It is not even that old; it was made during 1991-1995 and is a great Colombian architectural achievement.
You can book a tour via many travel agencies, but we were a bit lazy and took a private driver to bring us there for 170,000 Colombian Pesos (COP). One USD is worth around 2,900 COP. Sometimes money will buy you comfort and that is what we did. Local busses (daily) and even a train (Saturday and Sunday) run to Zipaquirá for much cheaper, but will take longer as well. Still in a jet lag we thought it was worth it. Our driver even took us to a local place for lunch after the tour as well.
Before you enter the largest underground church with the huge cross, you pass 14 in total small chapels with smaller crosses. The lighting is nicely done, so it gives a modern look to the atmosphere. All I could think by myself, what a work this has been to create all of this! You have to join a guided one hour tour (this is included in the entry price of 50.00 COP) before entering the Cathedral, which you can abandon once you are inside. We stayed with the guide the whole tour and gathered some nice information. At the end you can buy souvenirs if you want. Did you know that the huge cross was not carved out and massive, but the light made it seems like that! You have to see it for yourself to believe it!
After this trip my driver dropped me at the Zona Rosa district, here are the main shopping malls and other brand stores. Not too spectacular I have to admit but nice to see and check out if you have time left.
3. Monserrate trip
Because I put this at number 3, doesn’t mean it is less worthy than number 1 or 2. Actually I think the people out of Bogotá will put this trip at number 1. How come?! The white church Cerro de Monserrate is a major mecca for pilgrims, because many miracles happed near the altar statue of the Fallen Christ dated 1650. That is why it could get really crowed in the weekends, so avoid if you can. I went on a Monday and it was beautiful weather with blue skies that will help to see the spectacular view over big high Bogotá.
There are three ways to get up to the Monserrate Peak. I took the funicular for 20,000 COP return, because I am a women alone and I was advised not to do the walk by myself. Besides it were 1,500 steps (60 to 80 minutes) from elevation 2,707 to 3,143m, I was not tempting either…. The third way is the cable car. See Cerro Monserrate for more information on this trip.
Ones you are up the mountain you have the amazing view over whole city of Bogotá. I was lucky with the weather, so choose your best day when you go on this trip. On top you can find the famous, religious and white Cerro the Monserrate. Behind the church you can find shops and restaurants. On this side the walking path is ending or beginning, depending how you see it. The restaurants have a beautiful view too, not over the city but over the green Andes. Perfect getaway out of the big city and you feel literally on the top of the world!
4. La Candelaria & City Centre
I started my walk all the way from the Monserrate Station to the City Center or called La Candelaria neighborhood. When I passed the University of de Los Andes, many students on the streets were buying their lunch and get some fresh air, it had a great nice atmosphere. By that time I was hungry too and searched for a nice restaurant and run into the French owned restaurant Sant Just at Calle 16A No 2-73. The food was amazing and the place has a good vibe.
After lunch I had enough energy to walk through the colorful backpacker’s neighborhood of La Candelaria. Passed for example the Museo Botero (Calle 11 – Carrera 4) and other historical buildings. Because I’m learning Spanish and in my Spanish classes we talked about the famous Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, I had to visit the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez. I even bought two books….hoping I can read them soon.
Following the Calle 11 you end up at the Plaza Bolívar, a big square with on each side beautiful historical buildings; Capilla de Sagrario, Catedral Primada, Capitolio Nacional, Edificio Lévano and Palacio de Justicia. This part of Bogotá is safe and touristic where you can find the most historical building, museums, hotel and restaurants. Good to combine with must do number 3 and 5!
5. Museo del Oro
To be honest I’m not a huge museum fan, but I ‘m really enthusiastic about the Museo del Oro. Maybe because I like jewelry….. and here you can find the basis of jewelry and everything blings!
This museum is the most famous and fascinating in Bogotá and even in South America. I was impressed by the modern look and feel of the museum and the clear descriptions in both Spanish and English. The more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other metals are from mayor pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia.
The figures representing different animals, cultures and rituals; even war pieces are presented. You can easily spend a couple of hours in the museum and that for only 4,000 COP per person, so an educative and cheap attraction.
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