By Erin Hancock
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and has tons to offer any visitor. Despite the city’s rough reputation, most careful and aware travelers will have no trouble enjoying the city without running into any hiccups. If you’re traveling on a budget or trying to squeeze one more destination into your South American adventure, here are some ideas to consider.
Bogotá Grafitti Tour (pay what you want)
Some very smart locals have put together an excellent tour that not only showcases beautiful street art to dazzle the eyes but an excellent social and historical analysis of the city as depicted through the street art. Find the website here to get times, the meet-up point, etc.
On the tour, you’ll hear about Justin Bieber’s contribution to the city’s graffiti scene … that was quickly covered by local artists.
See a Kuna woman depicted below in traditional dress.
The colors, designs and the messages behind them are sure to get you thinking and certainly entertain you for an afternoon while exploring a pretty funky neighborhood of Bogotá – La Candelaria.
Botero Museum (free)
The neighborhood of La Candelaria is also home to the Botero Museum, a collection of Colombia’s most famous artist’s work. Fernando Botero is known for his rotund paintings where everything from the people to horses to the inanimate objects is curvy and slightly inflated. Other international artists are showcased in the museum as well. Hours found here.
Gold Museum/Museo del Oro (free on Sunday, $1USD other days)
Colombia and much of South America loves to tell of their riches in the mining industry – gold, silver, etc. Most Colombian cities have a gold museum. The sheer number of gold pieces in the Bogotá museum makes this a great stop even just to take in the visuals without reading the history or details of how it is processed. However, history buffs would appreciate getting to know the changing social and economic dynamics of the country that are illustrated through the history of gold production, use and export.
One room that is completely round is worth the visit all on its own. Music, lights and an immense collection of gold pieces of all shapes and sizes will turn a moment in the museum into a meditative and magical experience. Info on the museum linked here.
Plaza de Bolivar (free)
The biggest and most populated plaza in the city is a great stop to take a rest. You can people-watch to your heart’s content, feed the hundreds of birds that call the plaza home and also grab a snack. More info here.
Monserrate Hill (free if you hike or $5USD to take transport)
If you want the best view of Bogotá, Monserrate is the place for you. Those who like an adventure (or saving a few bucks) can hike up the steep hill (1.5 miles) on designated paths. Some travel sites warn against the safety of this hike but if you go in groups, it is now known to be relatively safe nowadays. There are two easier/faster forms of transportation which each costing around $5USD – the cable car and the vertical train. You can switch it up and do one on the way up and the other on the way back (your ticket works for either). Lines can be long so arrive early to get your ticket.
Ice cream, food, beer and souvenirs can all be found at the top. More details on getting there, amenities and special events here.
Sunday Market (free…well, that depends on you)
There are several in the city but if you like a good old-fashioned flea market with lots of random things all in one place, the San Alejo market is a good choice (located just off the septima in a pretty good location too).
Salt Cathedral (less than $25 USD)
Zipaquira is located outside of Bogotá (50 mins – 2.5 hrs depending on your form of transport) and is home to a very unique cathedral. I know what you’re thinking …. “another church, I’ll pass on that”. However, this church is something special. It is located underground! The Catedral de Sal was converted from a salt mine to the cathedral you see today in 1991, although the first iteration on that location was dated back to 1932. The miners wanted a place to pray so they created a designated religious space in the functioning mine to do so. Today the mine is non-operational and has grown into a key tourist destination for the region. Taking a bus will cost $2-8 USD each way. Admission for foreigners is roughly $15 USD. Cabs or carpooling as well as group rates on admission can be negotiated. More details here.
Lighting helps make the multiple cathedral halls even more spectacular.
Special tours and climbing excursions can be arranged for those who want to do more than just look (or pray).
And no Colombian experience is complete without taking in some of the world’s best coffee. Why not do it underground?!
Enjoy your visit to Colombia. Free free to contact me for more information or comment below.
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