Bogota

We arrived in Bogota after three weeks in the Yucatan, where we were immersed in nature and surrounded by cenotes, so the shock was big, not only because, suddenly, we found ourselves waiting in traffic for hours, but also because of the cold and the altitude.

The city centre of Bogota is very pretty, because from almost anywhere in it, you can see beautiful buildings, theatres and churches, with huge and impotent mountains in the backgrounds, all covered in clouds. Sometimes it feels like looking at a painting!

Things to see and do in Bogota:

  • Take the free walking tour
  • Go out in Callejón del Embudo and try chicha
  • Go to the Botero Museum and Gold Museum
  • Take a day trip to Zipaquira (if you have time to pass)

I really recommend taking the free walking tour of the city, since we found it very interesting and we could understand more about the history of the country and different cultural aspects. We took the tour with Beyond Colombia and we really enjoyed it, but there are several companies that take the same route

At the end of the tour we got to try some chicha, or a beer made from fermented corn. Its history is very interesting. It used to be made with corn that was chewed and then spat again to make it ferment, but today, they don’t use this technique anymore and this drink is delicious! This drink was so important in the past, not only in Colombia, but also in other South American countries, that it was used in religious ceremonies, but, when the Incas were conquered by the Spanish, Spanish people started erasing many traits of the culture, including the chichi, which they apparently considered (or wanted the native to consider) as a drug. According to our tour guide (who wrote a master’s degree thesis on chicha), the reason behind this was that they wanted indigenous people to buy their products, such as beer or wine. Anyway, today chicha is a popular drink again and, for indigenous people it is a symbol of union and pride.

If you go out in Bogota, you should visit Callejón del Embudo, the bohemian part of the city, full of artists and travellers, and here, you will be able to try some of this drink. This street, with a stone floor, has a very international vibe and you can find a lot of bars and places to chill.

Another one of my favourite things to do in Bogota is the Botero Museum. Fernando Botero is famous for his way of paining by exaggerating shapes and making people and animals looks chubby. This museum, where besides paintings you can also find some of his sculptures, is an explosion of colours and shapes, and each work of art is a representation of a particular aspect of the society at the time of the artist. Since this is the same time we have lived in, it makes it easier to understand and create a connection with the paintings, compared to other artists from the past. Entrance is free.

You can find that most of the museums in Bogota are either for free or very cheap (between 3,000 and 5,000 COP). It can be a nice way to spend a cold or rainy afternoon! When we took the free walking tour, our guide told that you cannot say you have been to Bogota if you don’t visit the Gold Museum. Most people are familiar with the El Dorado legend, which says that says that people came to Colombia to look for gold, since they believed this land was full of gold and gems. In this museum you can find different kind of gold and works create with it. Entrance is 4,000 COP.

If you have time to spare in Bogota, the most popular trip you can take is a day trip to Zipaquira, a village locate 50km northeast of Bogota where you can visit salt mines and the underground churches and crosses made mainly of salt, La Catedral del Sal. There are two ways of doing this: 1) you can go there through an organized tour, which includes transport, entrance and lunch, for 120,000 Colombian pesos – or 150,000 if you want to include a stop at the Guatavita lagoon, where according to the legend there is hidden gold – or; 2) take a public bus to Zipaquira and pay 50,000 COP entrance (30,000 for Colombian people). Do I recommend going to Zipaquira? Not sure! Overall, it was a nice day out and a good way to spend some free time we had, but I was expecting to see something incredible, similar to the Krakow salt mines, where there is an entire town built out of salt. Here instead, there is just an underground representation of the passion of Christ and the whole tour was very religion-focused.

Getting around

If you are visiting Bogota only for a few days – I wouldn’t spend more than 3 or 4 nights here – your best option is to stay in La Candelaria, the central and touristy area.  If you stay here, you can reach all the main attractions by foot. A taxi from/to the airport is around 30,000 COP and it’s between 30,000 and 40,000 COP to the bus station.

If you want to save money and the environment, using public transport, it easy enough to get to the bus station or the airport. You only need to get a tram to the main tram terminal, known as terminal Salitre, in the North direction until the last stop, which is very close to the El Dorado Airport and a bus or a short taxi from there to the bus station. However, since we were travelling in a rush our early in the morning, people in our hostel recommended to get a taxi.

Uber does work here, and it generally is cheaper than an official taxi. We have never used it in Bogota since we walked to most of the places, but we have heard differently stories. Some people have used it with no problems at all, whereas other people were stopped by the police who told them it was illegal to use it and that it’s taking away work from local companies.

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