Things To Do In Bogota
Colombia produces about half of the world’s emeralds -- brilliant green gemstones which are used to make valuable jewelry. Raw emeralds are found in the Andes, particularly in the northern part of Bogota, the capital city. They have to be carefully cut to make them into sparkling gems. Sometimes, huge, high-quality emeralds weighing as much as three pounds (1.4 kg.) can be found in Bogota’s mines. The mountains are the source of Colombia’s wealth, but they can also be dangerous. Occasionally there are earthquakes – and in 1985, a volcanic eruption triggered a massive mudslide that engulfed the northwest part of Bogota and killed more than 20,000 people.
When To Go:
Bogota sees the majority of its precipitation during the late spring months, although it can rain here any month of the year. Basically, April and May normally have the most frequent heavy downpours, and the same is true in June and July. December, January and February are customarily the months when it rains the least.
Half of Colombia sits north of the equator and the other half faces south of the equator. Bogotá is on the north side. The closer to the equator, the more sweltering and tropical the atmosphere becomes. Additionally, in the higher areas the climate is a great deal more variable. The best time of year to make a trip to Bogotá is most likely during the months of December, January, February and March. These are the months when the climate is driest. On the other hand, there is no assurance of either totally great or totally awful climate at any time of the year.
At any time of the year, you can expect a low in the mid 40's and a high in the mid 60's. The city gets a lot of downpour amid the year, and because of its height (8800ft) above sea level it never sees high temperatures. Because of its nearness to the equator, there are no seasons in the city and daylight changes barely amid the year. A tip for Bogota explorers: bring a hooded outfit or a raincoat and an umbrella.
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These are the top things to do and place to see when in the city of Bogota:
Museo Botero del Banco de la Republica
The Museo Botero del Banco de la Republica is located near the city center, next to the cultural center named after Gabriel Garcia Marquez. On Sundays, admission is free and most families visit this attraction. The works of the famous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, who is known for his love of the "fat image" -- of men, women, children, cats, dogs, even fruit -- attract attention and provoke a great deal of reaction.
The Botero Museum is housed in a complex of museums near Candelaria. Most of the work of Botero has to do with sensuality, nudity, and curves, highlighting the chubby impressions that have become his trademark style.
Everything inspires a humorous approach to the human body, a relief from the dictatorship of thinness. It is worth considering each painting and sculpture carefully, because they not only show large bodies, but also old Colombian customs and traditions. The most amusing work is the Mona Lisa Gordita Botero, a chubby version of DaVinci’s famous painting. All his works in general are unique and worthy of admiration. You will be welcomed in the lobby with a large open hand and as you walk through the museum you live a moment of beauty that is priceless.
Gold Museum (Museo Del Oro)
The Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) is located in the center of Bogota, near the Plaza Bolivar and presents the legacy of Pre-Columbian civilizations. Every Sunday the entrance fee is waived (as in most of the museums in the city). It is interesting to see handmade gold created by the Muiska tribe and other tribes who lived on the territory of modern Bogotá and its surroundings.
This place is really worth a look -- the museum is considered the best in the city. It is a very large and interesting museum with the largest collection of gold in the world that was gathered from ancient times.
The contemporary museum is housed in a modern four-story building, where in addition to gold pieces there are a gift shop, restaurant, meeting rooms, and a cozy place to relax. Taking a snapshot is free, but has to be done without the flash.
The exhibits are very impressive and most of the gold items have been raised from the bottom of the Lake Guatavitta, which is considered as the famous El Dorado of Bogota. A visit here is like a journey through time. It gives visitors a detailed and comprehensive understanding of how the treasures were discovered, and the infinite value of gold that dates from the original indigenous people of Colombia.
The Mount Monserrate is over 10,000 feet above sea level and from its peak you can see the whole city of Bogota. It can be reached by cable car or if you are physically fit, take the hike to reach the top. In the cable car it is more exciting, but either way you will have a series of visions of Bogotá that is truly extraordinary. In particular, from one of these viewpoints you can see together the city center and the wild vegetation of the mountain. It dominates the view of a 360-degree panorama that is truly breathtaking. And there are also two restaurants situated on the slopes where you can have a picnic or spend a weekend afternoon with your family.
For early risers, there is a field here that is equipped for doing physical exercises. Go up and down with the funicular cable car, it is a unique and worthwhile experience when in Bogota. Do not miss the Sanctuary of Monserrate. It is located on the hill of the same name at 10,000 feet above sea level; it is one of the main attractions of Mount Monserrate. It can be reached by walking through an ancient forest of eucalyptus, or by cable car or funicular. The panoramic view is amazing, the city and the Andean forest that surrounds it is declared as a nature reserve.
In this city of 8 million people, a good part of the main roads running through the city are transformed into 'ciclovie' or bicycle lanes that are closed to motor traffic and opened to an incredible number of bicycles, skates, fitness exercises, walking, and recreational activities. Here in Bogota’s Ciclovia, everyone participates and no one complains because it is fun and a healthy way to keep physically fit. In every corner of the famous Ciclovia, you can find volunteers of all ages that serve to regulate traffic and maintain 'order in disorder'.
Pupils in the secondary school are obliged by the government to perform 60 hours of community service once a month and this is one of the favorite ways to fulfill the obligation. This place is an ideal example of 'good citizenship'. Joining the bicycle tour is great, and most importantly an inexpensive way to see all the sights of the city. Certainly, it is one of the best and most fun things to do when in Bogota.
Jardin Botanico Jose Celestino Mutis
The Jardin Botanico Jose Celestino Mutis is a beautiful horticultural park where you can see the different vegetation zones of Colombia and enjoy the recreation of the natural environment. It is worth seeing the variety and bio-diversity of the entire flora and fauna of Bogota. The Jardin Botanico is the “green heart” of the city that is located within the athletic complex of Simon Bolivar Metropolitan Park. It is pure nature at its maximum splendor.
You can stay and relax for hours in this place, doing what you prefer, while surrounded by lots of immaculate green, nature, beautiful specimen of birds and insects, a variety of exotic flowers and trees, and a huge collection of orchids which is one of the national symbols of Bogota. If you like natural vegetation, it is a very good place to go. Although it is between two noisy streets, in the botanical garden you can find peace and quiet. At the entrance, you can buy arranged flowers.
Iglesia de San Francisco
The Iglesia de San Francisco is an old colonial church with many relics, located in the center of Bogota City. To reach this religious structure, you must take a train ride (Transmilenio) and stop at the station near the Avenida Jimenez. The church was constructed during 1611 and had a recent renovation in 2011. After more than 400 years of existence, it is a living example of the deep devotion of the locals to the Franciscan evangelization in Colombia. This church has an interesting façade and the altar is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and adorned with an impressive display of wealth.
From both inside and outside it is a colonial jewel. It was one of the first churches in the city and is steeped in history. The old church even has small balconies from which the Mass was done centuries ago when there was no access to voice amplifiers and loudspeakers. The altar and ceiling are worth admiring and are considered the best examples of colonial baroque art in Latin America. This church is right next to the prominent Museo del Oro and located one block away is another historic church called the Church of Veracruz.
Luis Angel Arango Library
The Luis Angel Arango Library is a place where you can get all kinds of knowledge and find a great inventory of old books with very interesting information. The library is situated in one of the most pleasant places of the capital city. Its architecture is very interesting and the nicest thing is the amount of books available, no doubt you will find what you want.
They have a room for featuring some exquisite crafts, a gallery of Colombian authors and artists, and an exhibition about musical instruments and the music of Bogota. This library stands right across from the interesting Botero Museum. Most conferences, seminars, and literary events are held within the premises of this huge library and landmark of Colombian art and culture.
The historic district is located at the foot of the Monserrate Mountain and covers most of the city center. Walking through La Candelaria is magical. From the large Plaza de Bolivar, where you can see the Capitol and the Cathedral, to its picturesque streets, amazing colonial mansions, old libraries, and beautiful museums, the place is a definite must-see. Famous for being the cultural and religious center of the city, the flagship sector of Bogota prides itself for being a center of colonial architecture. In this sector are the most important churches and museums, but also the most prestigious schools in the city.
On the streets of this traditional neighborhood in Bogota, you can find plenty of cafés that offer drinks (absinthe beverages) and typical Colombian desserts like the Dulce de Leche, Cholados, and the traditional Arroz con Leche. You can admire the contrast between old and new. In this sector there are many things to appreciate and it's practically impossible to see it all in one day. It is best to spend several afternoons to check out all the important attractions. The Candelaria is where everything comes together (food, points of interest, history, and entertainment) to make the best collage of a cultural city.
Parque Central Simon Bolivar
If you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the big Bogota – visit the Parque Central Simon Bolivar. In general, the city itself is very green with lots of parks. This is the central park named after the main character and liberator of South America. It is beautiful, welcoming, expansive, and green -- as befits a central park. It is a very good option for walking, running, or other sports without having to spend long hours in traffic to get out of the city.
Sometimes it is the site of major events such as concerts and festivals. It is much larger than the central park in NY, with lots of greenery, a lake with boats that can be rented, areas for sports and entertainment, walkways and beautiful people doing all kinds of exercises. The Legislative Palace and the main historical buildings can be found here as well as the official residence of the ruling President of Colombia.
Laguna de Guatavita
The Laguna de Guatavita, 35 miles northeast of Bogota, is like a place in the clouds where the pre-Columbian civilizations celebrated their rituals to the gods. Legends say that El Cachique (El Dorado), the high priest, sprinkled himself and this lake with gold dust and performed a ritual aboard a boat that reached the middle of the lake -- where he immersed himself while dropping gold and jewelry in the deep waters.
When the Spaniards arrived in Cortez, (based on the writings of an Italian abbot who had lived there for years) before they began to dredge the lake, they tried to tear off a rock wall to drain the water, but without any real success, as the lake formed a very deep basin instead of getting drained. Only a few gold trinkets were harvested and are now in the Museum of Gold in Bogota.
Guatavita Lake is located about 2 hours from Bogota and one of the most popular destinations for a relaxing trip in the outskirts of the city. It is a typical "Pueblo" -- colonial with excellent restaurants, craft shops and a museum of artifacts and indigenous materials. It is a truly magical place where the visitors can experience a mystical encounter with the legend of El Dorado, surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes near the city of Bogota.
Cascada La Chorrera
The Cascada La Chorrera is an amazing place that is very close to Bogotá, the perfect place to unwind and get in touch with nature. It has a spectacular landscape, delicious food, and a beautiful waterfall. The cascade is immense and the feeling you have when you see it for the first time is fascinating. You can start the trip with a visit to the Sanctuario de Guadalupe located on the foot of the hill leading to this falls. This haven of tranquility is located just 45 minutes away from the city center.
The former old jail -- now the Museo Nacional -- offers visitors a large collection including the paintings of Colombian artists, pre-Columbian figures, and preserved fossils. It is a fantastic museum that is very large, and one where you must devote many hours to understand and absorb everything because of its excellent collection of works. Everything is kept and preserved within a marvelous building with a unique architecture.
Most of all, the entrance is free and you can get there by bus or Transmilenio, through an underground station.
The building is impressive and the exhibits are impeccably shown in a wonderful format that shows the history of the country since the pre-Hispanic times up to the present. There are some amazing treasures and you will be surprised by the wealth of information shared by the custodians of gold and precious stones, regarding their origin and discovery.
It has a welcoming atmosphere and walkways that guide visitors through a meandering path or ramps equipped with benches under the trees. The tour allows you to visit various environments to appreciate Columbian historical objects and works of traditional, modern, and contemporary art. It has several rooms, bathrooms, café and a shop where you will find wonderful design objects that can only be obtained in the enchanting city of Bogota.
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