Bogota has become one of my favorite cities!
Being the capital of what some people see as a controversial country, I was not sure what to expect. It was bad enough that I do not speak an ounce of Spanish and I also expected people in Colombia to speak English.
I was definitely in for a culture shock!
I stayed in Colombia for 1 week and I only met one person who spoke English fluently. He was my Uber driver who attended high school in America and came back to Colombia for University. Moreover, I stayed in a hotel called Colombia at home which was a beautiful and comfortable residence, but the receptionist did not speak English either. At that point, more than ever, I wished I took Spanish classes in high school or college. Even though the language barrier was a huge let down, I did not let it affect my trip. Colombia was my first international destination, and I was determined to make the very best out of it.
With my google translate app in one hand, and my typed, well researched Bogota itinerary in another hand, I was ready to explore this busy city.
Here are the 10 things travelers absolutely should not miss in Bogota:
Plaza de Bolivar
Plaza de Bolivar, also known as Bolivar Square, is located in the heart of La Candelaria, which is a historic area in the city. The plaza is very easy to locate since there are signs and guides leading to the plaza from downtown La Candelaria. The square hosts a statue of Simon Bolivar who is a Venezuelan military man that played a leading role in the establishment of Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. The statue, which was the first public monument in the city was sculpted by the Italian sculptor, Pietro Tenerani.
Plaza De Bolivar.
There is an overwhelming amount of birds present in the plaza. As a result of this, there are vendors selling bags of bird feed in the plaza. The birds will rush over to feed from an outstretched hand with the bird feed in sight. A large number of people bought bird feed and took pictures and videos as they were in awe by the amount of birds that flocked around them. I thought this was really cool, but i did not try it since the birds were overwhelming!
A man feeding the birds in Plaza de Bolivar
Casa de Narino
Casa de Narino is the President of Colombia’s office and resident. It is located in La Candelaria, a few minutes walk from Plaza de Bolivar. The building was not open to tourists when I visited, and from the outside, you could see the military parade. The soldiers marching in unison was quite the intriguing sight.
Casa de Narino from the closed gates
Soldiers parading Casa de Narino, and tourists watching the Soldiers march inside the compound.
Casa de Narino is heavily guarded both inside and outside. It is guarded by the Presidential Guard Battalion of the National Army of Colombia.
Day Trip to Coffee Plantation, Fusagasuga
What is a trip to Colombia without a visit to the coffee plantation?
Colombia is a well known manufacturer of coffee beans worldwide. I am not a coffee drinker, but I felt it would be an experience to take a tour of a coffee plantation. The coffee plantations are quite the distance from Bogota, so it is best to go with a tour group. I opted to go with Bogotravel tours, because it was a private tour, and their prices were affordable. It cost $83 per person at the time for a group of two people. I was picked up from my hotel at 8am, and we drove down to the plantation. The drive was pleasant and picturesque since there were a lot of mountains and pastures on the way.
Coffee tasting before the tour started
The coffee tour started with coffee tasting, and visitors were given a chance to buy coffee beans at the plantation’s store. After the coffee tasting, the guided tour started. The tour guide took us through the plantation and explained the different stages of growing coffee from planting to harvesting and drying. As stated, I am not a coffee drinker, but I appreciated this tour.
Market in Fusagasuga
After the tour, bogotravel tours staff took us to a market in Fusagasuga. We were able to taste a lot of exotic fruits which I had never seen before in America. The fruit that stood out to me the most was called Lulo. The fruit looks almost like a tomato and has a distinctive taste. We tried about 6 different kinds of fruit and we were taken to a restaurant for lunch. The coffee tour, fruit tasting and lunch were all included in the tour fee.
Disclaimer: I recently just got over my fear of heights. I did not experience Monserrate since I was too afraid but this is my friend’s account of this magnificent mountain.
Monserrate is a mountain easily accessible from the city center of Bogota. Monserrate is so huge, it can also be seen clearly from the city center. At the top of Monserrate, there is a church, and a shrine devoted to El Senor Cadio (also know as The Fallen Lord). A cable car goes to the top of Monserrate and tickets can be bought at the ticket center at the foot of the mountain.
Views from the top of the mountain
The view of the city from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. Tall buildings look so small and the whole of Bogota looks like a picture from a post card. The city looks beautiful, even on a cloudy day.
Beautiful city views from the top of Monserrate
Day trip to the Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira
The salt cathedral (Catedral de sal de Zipaquira) is an underground Catholic Church, which was built within the tunnels of a salt mine. The Cathedral is 200 meters underground.
The salt cathedral is indeed a magnificent site. The Cathedral is monumental, and it is considered one of the greatest achievements in Colombian architecture.
Wall of Salt
A guided tour of the Cathedral is included in the ticket price and it started shortly after purchasing the ticket. The tour guide took us through several tunnels in the mine, and we saw walls of salt, and structures representing the different stages of the life of Jesus. The Cathedral is found deep inside the mine, and it was a beautiful and dimly lit. The cathedral is said to have as many as 3,000 visitors on Sundays.
The Salt Cathedral
Several tour companies offer day trips to the Salt Cathedral from Bogota. I took an Uber to the Cathedral from Bogota since I found that to be cheaper, and took a bus back.
Botero Museum (Museo Botero) houses quite a number of Latin America’s art collections. The museum is located in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Bogota. The Museum consists of 208 works of art from artists like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, among others. Artists and art enthusiasts will greatly appreciate the vast collection this museum has to offer.
Salvador Dali sculpture in Museo Botero
Sanctuary of our Lady of Carmen
Sanctuary of our Lady of Carmen (Santuario Nuestra Senora del Carmen in Spanish) is a Catholic Church in Bogota, located in La Candelaria. Its architectural style is Gothic, and the color both inside and out is similar to a candy cane. The Church is very picturesque and beautiful especially because of the vibrant colors.
Jose Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden
The Jose Celestino Mutis botanical garden is the biggest botanical garden in Colombia. The garden houses about 19000 live plants and around 2346 taxons of cultivates plants. There are several themed gardens in this beautiful establishment, which houses many collections including Greenhouses, Andean woodland plants, aquatic plants, medicinal plants among others.
Rose shaped plant found in the Botanical gardens.
Bogota Street Art and Murals
The murals which line streets of Bogota should not be missed. They are found in several locations across the city. I stumbled upon this mosaic found close to downtown Bogota and was in awe. I later found out that Bogota is very famous for colorful street art. Majority of the graffiti can be found in La Candelaria, the historic neigbhourhood in Bogota, and they can also be found in other parts of the city.
Mosaic street art in Bogota
A daily tour takes tourists through the streets of Bogota. The tour was created by a famous street artist named Crisp is called Bogota Graffiti Tour in La Candelaria, and it runs twice a day from 10am to 12 30pm, and 2pm to 4 30pm.
The Museum of Gold (Museo Del Oro)
When you think of Gold I think Colombia is the last place that comes to mind. Colombia definitely has Gold- lots of it. The Museum of Gold has 3 floors of exhibits showcasing a collection of 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials from several Colombian archaic cultures.
Right outside the Museum, there are shops that sell jewelry made of gold and emeralds. I was able to buy an earring made out of white gold with emerald studs as a gift for my Mom. It came with the certificate of authenticity stating the location of mine where the gold used to make the earring originated. The gold used to make the products sold at the shops are all mined in Colombia. My Mom loved the earring!
Colombia should be on every traveler’s list of potential destinations because it houses a wide variety of monuments and it is not overflowing with tourists. As a result of this, Colombia is a great environment for education and exploration. Did I also mention that the city looks beautiful in pictures?
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