Bogota – Colombia
I had the pleasure to visit Bogota a few times. Bogota is the largest City in Colombia and the capital. It is about 613 square miles. Current population (2017) is 8.1 million people. Personally I like Bogota, but I meet a ton of people who just do not like the city. The main reason is the climate. It is damp and cold. Additionally it is about 10,000 feet above sea level. The first time you are in Bogota there is a good chance you might get hit with a case of altitude sickness. The first time I visited the City I felt light headed, had a bad headache and just tired like I was coming down with a bad cold. I am in great shape, but I felt short of breath. I began to get upset that I was getting sick my first day in Bogota. It was not until later that night that I looked around the city and realized the high and looked up altitude sickness. I did some research on the web on the altitude of the city and realized what I had and how to ease the conditions. Once I knew what I had I felt a lot better and I was able to deal with the condition. Just take some Aleve for the headache and learn to slow down. Just walk slower and chill. Drink a lot of liquids.
Make sure you take a jacket and long sleeve shirts to Bogota. The temperature can get into the high 40s at night.
I grew up in the New York metro area, therefore I like large cities. A few neighborhoods in Bogota reminded me of NYC. There is a lot to do and plenty of places to visit. The night life is great. There are a few nice areas which are very active all night with clubs, casinos, and restaurants open all night. One such area is called Zona Rosa. Tons of things to do on the weekend nights. Personally I think there is a lot more to do in Bogota than any other city in Colombia. Be warned, traffic is very bad. However, what would you expect in a large city. No difference in LA or NYC. We were stuck in traffic Saturday morning going out of the city to visit the Catheral de Sal. Imagine stuck in traffic at 10am on Saturday. Four lane highway packed with vehicles. Where are so many people going that early on a Saturday? At least I had a reason (tourist). They have a decent cheap public transportation system. It is called the TransMilenio. It does get very crowded during the weekdays. It reminded me of the NYC subways where people are packed and crushed together like sardines in a tin. When it is your time to get off you better make sure you are close to the door or be prepared to push and kick people out of your way so you can exit. Even though it gets packed it is a cheap way to get around the City. It is also a cheap way to get from your hotel to the airport. I took it from my hotel in the center of the City to the airport. It was less than $2.00. It took me right in front of the terminal.
Places to visit:
In my opinion the 4 must see places are: a) I took a tour of the downtown municipal area with the governor’s palace and all the beautiful government buildings. b) There are 3 great museums in the city (Gold – National – Botero). My hotel was within walking distance of the National Museum. You will need about 3 hours for a good tour. It is well worth it. c) Catheral de sal d) Monserrate church at the top of the hill overlooking Bogota.
I would definitely recommend a day trip to the Catheral De Sal. It is located a few hours by bus in the town of Zipaquira. They build an underground church in a salt mine approximately 200 meters inside the mountain. Everything in the cave is made of salt. They have a tour which takes you underground through the mine. It is an active salt mine. However, the section with church is not being mined. It is a big tourist attraction. Everything you touch in the mine as you decent is 100% salt. There is a souvenir shop at the end of the tour underground which sells items which are made of 100% salt. I guarantee you will definitely pick up a few items for friends and family.
The Monserrate is also a must see. It is on a hill overlooking Bogota. You will actually see how large the city is from this location. The ride up on the cable car was spectacular. On the return trip down you will have the option of the cable car or the small train type covered car on tracks running downhill. I recommend taking the train down. Very cool ride. At the top there is the church and a section where they sell the usual tourist stuff. You can also catch lunch at the top. This is a great place for pictures. The gardens are beautiful.
National museum: This is located downtown Bogota. Well worth a few hours of your time. Next trip I will see the Gold Museum.
Government buildings downtown.
The 4 places I just focused on are just a very small list of places to visit in Bogota. I actually believe there are more things to do and places to visit than any other city in Colombia. Do not let people scare you away from Bogota. I also visited an old section of the City and took a 2 hours bus out of town to visit an old haunted hotel. I forgot the name of the attraction. It is overlooking a waterfall.