Bogota Travel Guide
Introduction to Bogota
While Bogota is only located four degrees north of the equator, those flying into this Colombian city will be shocked at the bracing coolness that awaits them the second they step off the plane.
That won’t be the only thing that surprises them though, as the modernity of this capital city and its historic quarter will go a long way in erasing the mental image of a city teetering on the edge of collapse, as it was viewed during the worst of the drug wars that rocked Colombia twenty years ago.
Crime may still be a bit of a problem in some areas (don’t go flashing your cash and jewelry for everyone to see), but for the vast majority of visitors, Bogota will be a bold first impression in a country full of pleasant surprises.
Cultural Attractions in Bogota
One of the most dazzling attractions you can visit in Bogota is the Museo del Oro. With over 55,000 pieces gathered from various archaeological sites all over Colombia, it is easily one of the most comprehensive museums of its kind in the world.
Scores of Pre-Columbian civilizations crafted elaborate works of art from one of the most transfixing metals on the planet, which quickly made them targets of the technologically advanced Spanish once they arrived in the New World starting in the late fifteenth century.
While the tragedy of that time is one component to the story of the artifacts that exist in this museum, one can get a sense of the sophisticated nature of these societies by looking at the intricate detail that the artisans poured into pieces and sculptures.
While these artifacts were viewed as little more than items of wealth in the eyes of the Spanish conquistadors, they played a far more spiritual role for the locals, as they were typically used during rituals. One of those ceremonies saw these items thrown into the Laguna de Guatavita near the town of Pasca, an act that would likely induce a great deal of confusion in the eyes of outsiders, then and now.
Even if you aren’t into the historical and cultural aspects behind the artifacts in this museum, the beauty of these works of art is reason enough to pay the Museo del Oro a visit.
If you are into the visual arts, one place that you need to make time in your travel itinerary is Museo Botero. This institution is home to one of Latin America’s most comprehensive visual art collections, with many of the paintings hanging on the walls belonging to the likes of Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali.
With over 50,000 visits per year, this museum can get busy at peak times, usually during the weekends and during school holidays; with this in mind, plan your visit at an appropriate time.
There are many spectacular churches and cathedrals located within the boundaries of Bogota, but if you are short on time, one place that you should definitely not miss is Iglesia de San Francisco. Built about four hundred years ago, this church is easily the oldest Christian place of worship within the bounds of Colombia’s capital city.
It is a popular place for tourists to visit, as its Renaissance design has stood up to countless earthquakes over the centuries, and it contains a spectacular gold-plated sanctuary within.
Other Attractions in Bogota
While Bogota is a sprawling city that counts as one of the largest metropolitan areas in all of Latin America, you won’t realize it while you are within the confines of Bolivar Square. Dedicated to the memory of the revolutionary that led a continent wide resistance against Spanish colonial authorities back in the 19th century, it is a popular gathering place for many citizens of Bogota.
Ringed by a variety of important buildings including the National Capitol, where the seat of Colombia’s government is located, as well as the Palace of Justice, where Colombia’s Supreme Court sits, there is much to see during your time here.
During the holiday season, the square is home to some spectacular Christmas decorations, so be sure to drop by if you are visiting Bogota during that time.
While its location 8,500 feet above sea level means that finicky tropical plants are generally not able to grow outside, its equatorial position on the globe means that temperatures and precipitation are stable throughout the year, permitting the growth of a wide variety of plants in this unique climatic zone.
There’s no better way to witness that then to pay a visit to the Bogota Botanical Garden, as it is home to over 19,000 varieties of plants that grow here, as well as many others that exist elsewhere within the borders of Colombia.
The exterior gardens are a study in the various types of flora that thrive in Andean environments, while specifically climatised glass greenhouses are home to tropical and arid biomes that predominate in other parts of Colombia.
Finally, if you’re looking for a great place to take a panoramic shot of the entire metropolitan area of Bogota, taking a funicular up to the peak of Monserrate will give you plenty of vantage points to do just that.
When you are done taking all the pictures you can handle, this 10,400 foot peak also contains a number of other attractions that may interest you, including a church that is a site of pilgrimage for local Catholics, and restaurants that will provide you an opportunity to have an excellent Colombian meal whilst looking out over one of the area’s most spectacular viewpoints.