Travel guide to Bogotá: bustling metropolis high in the mountains

Destinations

Travel guide to Bogotá: bustling metropolis high in the mountains

By
25 February 2020

By | 25 February 2020

On a plateau high in the Andes mountains lies a bustling modern city. Sometimes called Athens of South America, Bogotá has become the region’s major cultural and economic hub

Located high above sea level at 2,640 meters (8,660 ft) in the Andes mountains, Bogotá is the third highest capital of South America. While being landlocked, the city makes up for its lack of access to open waters by having become the artistic, cultural, sports, and economic centers of the country of Colombia. 

Bogotá is the third highest capital of South America — mehdi33300 / Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. Bogotá is the third highest capital of South America — mehdi33300 / Shutterstock

Before its official founding in 1538, the area was populated by the Muisca who were living in the area for centuries. They were defeated by Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and his younger brother Hernán Pérez. The newly founded city was formed by Europeans, mestizos, indigenous peoples, and slaves and its population was growing rapidly.

Currently, Bogotá, with its almost 7 million inhabitants, is the most populous city in Colombia. It prides itself with roughly 120 museums and galleries and about 45 theatres. Lately, the metropolis has been increasingly more recognized as a regional hub for the development of the arts. 

The pride of independence

La Candelaria is arguably the most important district of the city — Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. La Candelaria is arguably the most important district of the city — Shutterstock

One of the most notable leaders of the region was Simón Bolívar, who belongs among some of the most influential heroes of the Hispanic independence movements at the beginning of the 19th century. His memory has strongly been attached to sentiments of nationalism and patriotism and the traces of Bolívar are to be found all over the city of Bogotá. 

One of the living memories of the historic figure is La Candelaria, arguably the most important district of the city which saw many landmark events of the Colombian and South American independence. It was the place where Bolívar was nearly killed, but luckily, managed to escape. 

Bogotá literally grew around Plaza de Bolívar — Danaan / Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. Bogotá literally grew around Plaza de Bolívar — Danaan / Shutterstock

The main square Plaza de Bolívar is located in the heart of the city in La Candelaria. Bogotá literally grew around this square. Among other sights, it features a Bolívar’s statue. Sculpted in 1846 it became the first public monument of the city and it is surrounded by a number of impressive buildings, one of them being Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá and the seat of the Archbishop of Bogotá, Cardinal Mon. Ruben Salazar Gomez. 

If you have enough history and feeling slightly more adventurous, you should put Monserrate on your agenda. The mountain is a heaven for all keen hikers, and on its top, you can find a church with a shrine. The hike up will take you about 90 minutes and it offers stunning views over the city. 

The mount Monserrate is a heaven for hikers, but there is also a funicular leading to the top — Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. Mount Monserrate is a heaven for hikers, but there is also a funicular leading to the top — Shutterstock

The taste of the Andes

Bogotá offers some great traditional dishes that ought not to be missed. One of them is definitely tamale. It’s a paste made with rice and meat — depending on the region it is generally pork, chicken, beef. Other ingredients include chickpea and carrots and spices. This mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and steam-cooked.

Ajiaco, another of the Bogotá signature dishes, is a traditional soup prepared with chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob and usually served with capers and sour cream with a side of rice and avocado. 

The traditional dish of Tamale is a mixture of various ingredients wrapped in banana leaves and steam-cooked — Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. The traditional dish of Tamale is a mixture of various ingredients wrapped in banana leaves and steam-cooked — Shutterstock

After a traditional dessert, such as postre de natas (basically combining milk with sugar and egg yolks and topping it up with rum and some raisins) or cuajada con melao (milk, vinegar, and rennet custard mix), you can flush everything down with alcoholic drink canelazo or, alternatively, carajillo which is made with coffee.

Bogotá’s climate can be considered tropical, even though the two natural occurrences “El Nino” and “La Nina” can make the weather pretty inconsistent. From April through to July the city can expect the heaviest rainfall. Supposedly, December until March are the driest months of the year. As a general rule, places of higher altitudes, including Bogotá,  tend to have more variable weather.

Bogotá travel information

As is usually the case for any bigger city with an airport, there are several ways to get from the airport to the city center. If you decide to travel by taxi, you should avoid hailing a cab on the street as that can entail certain risks on you and your belongings. It is recommended to order a taxi by phone service. An alternative to taxis is Uber, which you can order via your smartphone. Another way is the local bus which is generally quite clean, inexpensive and efficient.

Bogotá has the largest network of bicycle routes in Latin America. On Sundays and public holidays, many main and side roads close for the Ciclovia between 7 am and 2 pm, and people there can cycle, skate, jog, or simply watch from the side.  

Late 20th century brought about bad reputation upon Bogotá. In the 1990s, the city was considered to be one of the most violent cities in the world. A lot has changed since 30 years ago thanks to active political campaigning. However, certain precautions are still in order when visiting the city of Bogotá.

 

Jana Brnáková

Jana Brnáková

"days like this. like your day today. maybe the rain on the window trying to get through to you. what do you see today? what is it? where are you?" CB