All That Is Bogota !
Imagine a sun-drenched city filled with serene colonial architecture, juxtaposed to sky scrapers AND breathtaking mountain views. It almost seems that such a complementing contrast could not exist, but indeed it does, in BOGOTA! Prior to my trip, I was heavily forewarned of the many crime-filled dangers of Colombia; but I can now confirm it really isn’t all that Narco’s has made it seem.
So What Do You Do If You’ve Only Got 10 Hours?
Bogota is action packed with a ton of must see adventures! From city tours, mountain viewing, Mass Services, Food, and Museums, it almost seemed that it would be impossible to do it all. But guess what… in only 10 hours we visited many of the the most important stops!
Here’s how to enjoy the best of Bogota during your next layover!
Flights to Bogota
From YYZ there are some amazing direct flights to Bogota provided by Air Canada and Avianca. Direct Flights to Bogota at the time of our travel were in the mid $800 CAD range. So we took a layover flight (That stopped in Panama City) with Copa Airlines which was in the low $500’s CAD. FYI, Latin airlines flying to Colombia are open bar, so long as you are not flying in the morning !
Language Must Knows
The language spoken in Bogota is Spanish and very few people speak English ! What I recommend is that you have the Microsoft translation app ready at all times, so you can communicate with the locals (drivers, people at the airport, servers, etc). This will mean you will need to be connected to wifi and/or be using your data. ** You can purchase a CLARO Sim Card with a data package of 5gbs for about 20,000 – 30,000 COP (This is definitely worth it !)
When leaving the airport you may notice that it feels pretty chilly. However, while Bogota is cooler than some other regions in Colombia, it is still very warm and in our case hot. So when planning your layover adventure-fit feel free to throw on a t-shirt and shorts because once you leave the airport I promise you will not want a sweater!
Currency and Banking
The main currency used in Bogota is the Colombian Peso (COP), HOWEVER, within the area of the airport taxis and vendors may charge you in USD so always be sure to ask (ask me how I know -_-). At our time of travel the COP was at a rate of about 0.00047 from currency exchange banks which means that every $1 CAD = 2,500 COP approximately. You are able to use your credit and debit cards almost anywhere; however in most artisan markets and for all taxis you must use cash. I’d recommend taking cash out at a bank or an ATM as they offer lower rates and are more reliable (Look for Cajero or BBVA Machines ).
Although we all know and love the use of Uber, due to most recent Taxi Union strikes, Uber no longer operates in Colombia. Therefore when leaving the airport you may resort to taking a yellow taxi (they normally try to charge you in USD and can be bargained down). Another app I strongly recommend using is the Cabify app, which operates very similarly to Uber and is far cheaper than taking a traditional taxi. ** (One tip I must add about Cabify however, is that it does not auto populate your location so make sure you put in the CORRECT airport/attraction name for pick up). Also, when leaving your tourist attractions (ie. Monserrate, La Candelaria, Simon Bolivier) be sure to budget an extra 10 – 15 minutes waiting time for Cabify to locate a driver for you.
This square is well known and favored by tourists and locals alike. It contains many eclectic sights in just one quarter these sights include; the Gold Museum , Place of Justice, Bogota’s Parliament, and the work-space of the current Mayor. In addition there are a ton of other sights to see like Llamas and PE classes that occur just outside of the school nearest the museum. BUT, the most obscene thing I think you can see here is the heap of pigeons that gather in the square. There are vendors selling corn, for you to feed the birds and potentially get pictures of the birds with/on you. If you know me well at all, you should already know I was terrified and therefore did NOT take any photos with the birds!
Lunch at Carbón D Leña
This Lebanese styled restaurant is located in the warm center of La Candelaria, serving grilled and flame roasted meats. Not only was this restaurant well recommended by Colombian locales but it also was home to Colombian brewed beers that paired extremely well with the meal. While the preparation of the meats are similar to that Lebanese cooking, very traditional Colombian items still made the plate; such as our delicious cheese Arepas and oven roasted plantains. I would definitely recommend checking this restaurant out, and would also say that it is absolutely necessary to try this WICKED flame grilled veal!
Cerro De Monserrate
For the most breathtaking views of Colombia’s capital it is a must to climb and or ride up to the top the Monserrate Mountain. Not only is this mountain beautiful but it is also extremely symbolic to the city religiously and culturally. The lines to pay for your ticket can get pretty lengthy so aim to get there as early as you can in the morning. The cable car or the Funicular costs 21,000 COP for a return ride up and down the mountain (in the event that it is too windy please note that the cable car will be closed). When on the mountain feel free to stop at one of the many restaurants / food vendors in between taking pictures! You can also pick up souvenirs for your loved ones or even drop in for a prayer / mass service at the Mountain’s Catholic Church.
Take a stroll through the colorful and creative markets of La Candelaria, as well as those on top of the Mountain of Monserrate. The markets are amazing areas to haggle and enjoy true artisan culture. Most importantly, these markets also prone to showcasing the most colorful and stylish handwoven Wayuu Mochila bags for ladies, which make for perfect gifts but also extremely cute keepsakes.
Take Photos in La Candelaria
Last but not least, whilst completing all of your shopping and eating in La Candelaria district, be sure to stop and get an eye catching photo amongst the colorful buildings !