10 THINGS TO DO IN & AROUND BOGOTA
A sprawling metropolis of 613 square miles, Bogota is a modern city dotted with reminders of its colonial past. Flanked by mountains and plenty of distinct natural features, Bogota offers as much in the way of day trips outside the city as it does urban activities. Forget the outdated notions that Bogota is a crime ridden city and hop on a plane to the Colombian capital.
1 | Visit Candelaria & Plaza Bolivar
The colonial and historic center of Bogota, La Candelaria, is a must visit for anyone coming to Bogota. The neighborhood is lively, colorful and perhaps more authentically beautiful than the rest of the city, replete with a mixture of Spanish colonial, baroque, and art deco architecture. The Plaza Bolivar, surrounded by government buildings and the Primatial Cathedral of Bogota is one of the more iconic sites in the city.
2 | Botero Museum
Even before arriving in Colombia, I had a particular affinity for the artwork and sculptures of Fernando Botero, the most famous Colombian artist. Botero uses exaggerated volumes and overly plump figures in his work both for humor and perhaps for criticism of the traditional vanguards. A spin through this charming museum is necessary for a good laugh. Entry is free.
3 | Take a Bike or Walking Tour
See the real Bogota on either a guided Bike Tour or Walking Tour. Bilingual guides offer a new perspective on the city, provide insight into Colombia's troubled past, and give you a true taste of the city. Curate the tour to your preferences and time restrictions. Find more information or schedule a tour here.
4 | Eat Colombian specialties
Although not known worldwide for their culinary prowess, Colombia has some unique dishes that are definitely worth trying for an authentic experience. One of my favorite Colombian dishes is ajiaco, a potato stew served with chicken, rice, avocado, corn on the cob, capers and cream. Some good places to try it are at La Puerta Falsa in Candelaria, Club Colombia in Chico, or in a local's home! Other Colombian specialties you can find around town are arepas (everywhere), hot chocolate with cheese (that is not a typo), changua (the supposed ultimate hangover cure), bandeja paisa (the national dish), and arequipe (caramel).
5 | Visit Monserrate
Seeking higher ground is always a good idea. In Bogota, to grasp the sheer size of the city and for a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, a trek up to Monserrate is well worth your time. See my post on visiting at Golden Hour for more information.
6 | Take a Graffiti Tour
Bogota has a rich graffiti culture, and the fruits of this art form can be found throughout the city. Twice a day (10am and 2pm), a 2.5 hour graffiti tour guided by street artists leaves from Parque de los Periodistas. The tour is donation based, so pay whatever you think it is worth. Book your spot here.
7 | Visit the local craft markets
Buy your souvenirs at one of the numerous local craft markets throughout the city. One of the more popular markets is the Sunday Market in Usaquen, a cute colonial neighborhood in northern Bogota. The handwoven bucket bags found at this market are famous across the region.
8 | Hike Quebrada La Vieja
Start your day with a 2.5 hr roundtrip hike to Quebrada La Vieja, a peak overlooking the city. The hike starts in the Chapinero neighborhood and must be completed before 10am (the path is guarded by the police from 5am to 10am to avoid theft on the trail - don't worry it's completely safe). The trail is fairly strenuous but affords you impressive views of the city and a sense of accomplishment. Don't do this hike your first few days in Bogota as you need some time to acclimate to the altitude.
9 | Visit La Chorrera Waterfall
The largest waterfall in Colombia is just an hour away from Bogota. Escape the city for a day and hike in the incredible Andean Cloud Forest, a lush and verdant oasis complete with two waterfalls and impressive scenery. See my post on the hike for more information.
10 | See the Paramo ecosyStem at either Chingaza National Park or Sumapaz National Park
One of the most otherworldly landscapes I have ever hiked in, the paramo is an ecosystem unique to the northern Andes (specifically Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru) characterized by being above the treeline, but below the permanent snowline in tropical and semitropical climates. Various tour outfitters offer guided hikes and transportation to either park (Andes Ecotours comes recommended), you can rent a car, or you can opt for the crazy do it yourself method involving hitch hiking, ubers, buses, and more like I did...to each their own, but the paramo is something not to be missed!