Bogotá travel guide: hiking, history and more –

On a high plateau in the Andes Mountains lies the vibrant and modern city of Bogotá, also known as the Athens of South America. Immerse yourself in all that Bogotá has to offer: the mountains and history.

At 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) above sea level in the Andes, Bogotá is the third highest capital of South America. While being landlocked, the city compensates for its lack of access to open water by having become the artistic, cultural, sporting and economic centers of Colombia. The city has a rich history; from museums to Monserrate, there is a lot to see and do in Bogotá. Let’s go!

History and development of Bogotá

Bogotá is the third capital of South America – Shutterstock

Before its official foundation in 1538, the area was populated by Muisca who had lived 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, half-breeds, natives and slaves, and its population was growing rapidly.

Currently, Bogotá, with its nearly 7 million inhabitants, is the most populous city in Colombia. It boasts some 120 museums and galleries and around 45 theaters. Lately, the metropolis has been increasingly recognized as a regional center for the development of the arts.

La Candeleria, pride of Bogotá’s independence

La Candelaria Street, BogotaLa Candelaria is arguably the city’s most important district – Shutterstock

One of the region’s most notable leaders was Simón Bolívar, one of the most influential heroes of the Hispanic independence movements of the early 19th century. His memory has been strongly attached to feelings of nationalism and patriotism, and traces of Bolivar can be found all over the city of Bogotá.

One of the vivid memories of this historical figure is La Candelaria, arguably the most important district of the city, which saw many milestones of Colombian and South American independence. This is the place where Bolivar was almost killed, but luckily he managed to escape.

Bolivar Square, BogotaBogotá literally grew up around Plaza de Bolívar – Shutterstock

The main square, Plaza de Bolívar, is located in the heart of the town of La Candelaria. Bogotá literally grew up around this square. Among others curiosities, it has a statue of Bolívar. Carved in 1846, it became the city’s first public monument and is surrounded by Simon Bolivar Park, as well as a number of impressive buildings – one of them being the Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá, seat of the Archbishop of Bogotá, Cardinal Mon. Ruben Salazar Gomez.

Monserrate: Hike around the Andes

Funicular to the top of Mount Mounserrate at dusk, with a view of Bogota in the backgroundMount Monserrate is a must see for hikers, but there is also a funicular to the top – Shutterstock

If you’ve got enough history and you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you should put Monserrate on your agenda. The mountain is a must-see for all avid hikers, and at its top you’ll find a church with a shrine. The hike will take you around 90 minutes and has amazing views of the city.

Located at 3,152 m (10,341 feet) above sea level in Enrique Olaya Herrera National Park, Monserrate is one of the most famous places pilgrimage to Colombia.

There are several ways to access the sacred mountain. The easiest way is to take the cable car (funicular). Especially on the funicular, which was inaugurated in 1955, you will have a magnificent view of Bogota and its financial district. The alternative to this is the mountain railway.

90 minutes up

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - Monserrate MountainPilgrimage walks around the monastery are a great way to practice mindfulness and meditation – Shutterstock

If you’re up for a short hike to experience nature up close, take the 5.2 km (17,060 ft) trail from the Sant Joan funicular station via the Serra Llarga trail and the Sacred Grotto . This 90-minute walk offers stunning views over the Llobregat Valley and the Llobregat River.

120 minutes of nature

The longer route via Sant Jeroni and Flat of Els Ocells brings you to the highest point of Montserrat, with stunning views of some of the most incredible parts of the national park. Begin your 7.5 km (24,606 ft) hike at the San Joan funicular station and follow the path northwest. You should reach the monastery in about two hours.

Meditation and mindfulness

I reached the top but I still feel restless? The 30- to 60-minute pilgrimage walks from the monastery to Santa Cova or Degotalls are a great opportunity to calm down and meditate.

Venture outside of Bogotá for other hikes

A girl looking at the Chorrera waterfall near Bogotá, ColombiaAt 590m above sea level, La Chorrera is the largest waterfall in Colombia – Shutterstock

Colombia is a true hiking paradise with varied terrain ranging from dense jungle to dizzying mountains. You don’t need to venture far from the big city to see amazing natural wonders.

Just 45 minutes by bus from Bogotá is La Chorrera, Colombia’s largest waterfall. To get there you will have to walk through beautiful farmland and various cloud forests for around 2.5 at 3 o’clock. On the way back you can pass the smaller waterfall of El Chiflon.

The taste of the Andes

Bogotá offers good traditional dishes that you should not miss. One of them is definitely tamal. It is a paste made from rice and meat – depending on the region, this is usually pork, chicken or beef. The other ingredients include chickpeas, carrots, and spices. This mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

Ajiaco, another iconic dish of Bogotá, is a traditional soup made with chicken, potatoes and corn on the cob. It is usually served with capers and sour cream with rice and avocado.

Tamale on a dinner tableTamale’s traditional dish is a mix of various ingredients wrapped in banana leaves and steamed – Shutterstock

After a traditional dessert such as natas post (basically a combination of milk, sugar and egg yolks topped with rum and raisins) or cuajada con melao (a mixture of milk, vinegar and pastry cream), you can wash everything with the alcoholic drink canelazo, Where alternately, carajillo, which is made with coffee.

Bogota Travel Considerations

The best time to visit

Bogotá’s climate can be considered tropical, although the two natural phenomena El Nino and La Nina can make the weather quite inconsistent. The city can expect the heaviest rainfall from April to July. Supposedly, December to March is the driest time of the year and therefore the best time to visit Bogotá. Generally, the weather in higher elevation places is more variable.

How to get around

As is generally the case with any large city with an airport, there are several ways to get from the airport downtown. If you decide to travel by taxi, you should avoid hailing a taxi on the street as it may pose a risk to you and your property. Instead, order a cab over the phone, or better yet, use Uber. Another way to get to town is by local bus, which is usually inexpensive and efficient.

Bogotá has the largest network of cycle paths in Latin America. On Sundays and public holidays, many main and secondary roads close to Ciclovia between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. People can cycle, skate, or jog freely, or just look to the side.

Safety Precautions

The end of the 20th century gave Bogotá a bad reputation. In the 1990s, the city was considered one of the most violent cities in the world. Much has changed in 30 years, thanks to an active political campaign. However, some common sense precautions are always in order when visiting Bogotá.

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