Back in the ’90s, you’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone that Colombia might become the tourism hub that it is today. The nation has had a violent past, but many reaches of the nation have become safer due to improved infrastructure and a heightened presence of authority. Today, Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, has become a bona fide metropolis with enough diversity and destinations to cater to the tastes of any traveler.
With so many people to meet and places to discover, getting the whole picture of Bogotá can be dizzying even within the span of a year. Nevertheless, if you find yourself on a tighter schedule, here are some ways to experience the essence of Bogotá in 48 hours.
Visiting La Candelaria
Once you’ve arrived, there are a few places that I’d recommend first. For some historical background on the city, in addition to finding some perspective on how vastly Bogotá has progressed and changed over the decades, I’d recommend first seeing the old city: La Candelaria. Even if you’d rather spend time enjoying other activities, at least walking by to appreciate the historical Spanish colonial architecture is worthwhile.
La Candelaria also features landmarks like Simon Bolivar’s statue and notable buildings including El Museo de Oro, Museo Botero, and MamBo. Depending on your museum of choice, you’ll find exhibits of some the most eccentric and prestigious art and artifacts from the likes of Picasso, Monet, and more. There are also large prominent cathedrals and theaters throughout this dense area for tourists to explore.
However, the most essential way to experience the area is to make a pilgrimage to the mountain of Monserrate, which peaks near the center of Bogotá and lays in view high throughout the city. This hilltop area contains an impressive church, upper scale restaurants, and all manners of facilities for tourists. For a view, tourists generally prefer to access this peak via a scenic aerial tram. However, traditionalists and athletes might prefer to make the trip in the old way – by climbing. I’d recommend anyone to spend one of their days in Bogotá by climbing to this peak, which is one of the most symbolic reaches of the nation.
Other Popular Destinations
How you’ll spend day two would depend on your personal interests, and given the great array of destinations, how to manage it would be up to you. One popular area is Chapinero, which is a much more modern and business-oriented district as opposed to the old city. This bustling downtown region features hundreds of shopping centers and a vivid nightlife scene, including the world-famous nightlife hub of Parque de la 93.
El Salitre is an ideal biking destination and includes several other fields where tourists can enjoy all varieties of sports, including many open fields and parks which are always populated with games of soccer and other recreational activities. This area is also a central hub for the city’s bus system, making it an ideal place to find your lodging to easily access travel – though the hotels of Ciudad Salitre tend to be higher in the price range.
While so much to do should merit more than 48 hours, you should feel confident that there is never a shortage of things to explore in this Latin American metropolis. It can be worthwhile to research your potential lodging beforehand to ensure that you’re sleeping in a more affordable hotel in a district situated conveniently for the sites that you want to see.
Navigating the streets and finding lodging
Before arriving, it’s important to either use a guide or a map to make heads and tails of the roads. Streets around older historic areas such as the popular La Candelaria district are laid out with central plazas, which can be unusual for those unfamiliar with this road system. Additionally, more contemporary areas often have different structures entirely. Hotel managers usually recognize that Bogotá can be difficult to navigate for most tourists, which is why hotels on main streets in shopping and business areas charge an even higher premium than usually expected in prime locations.
It can be worthwhile to research your potential lodging beforehand to ensure that you’re sleeping in a more affordable hotel in a safe district. There are affordable options near tourist-oriented areas, and these are far preferable than finding hotels in the countryside. These areas are generally less welcoming to tourists and the time spent traveling to and fro can keep you from enjoying the sights.
Ciclorutas de Bogotá
With only two days to spend, you might be tempted to step straight onto the shuttles or taxis that frequent airports and travel throughout the city. But to travel like a true Colombian (and to avoid the potential hours-long wait on these overcrowded forms of travel), I strongly suggest considering bringing a bike. The biking network, called the Ciclorutas de Bogotá by locals, stretches over 300 kilometers while covering the historical district, shopping areas, sporting centers, and even back-road pathways.
These bike routes are extremely convenient and frequently used by the locals. On a daily basis, several hundred thousand people use these paths to make their daily trips to work and school. You might spend up to several hours of your visit on your bike, but the views afforded by these paths are well worth the time spent. These routes are constructed with Bogotá’s varied topography in mind, ensuring that most main paths have incredible views of the cityscape. In fact, many tourists opt to take special bike tours offered by some agencies to take advantage of this special travel option.
Dining on diversity
Regardless of what you enjoy, there are plenty of options available from street cooks, fruit and juice vendors, and various small cafes popular around dense tourism areas. There are even fast food vendors and sushi places available throughout the streets for a quick fix, but I’d strongly recommend checking out some more traditional fare for a more authentic experience. Tamales and chicharrón (or fried pig and chicken skins with spice) are very popular street fare. Ajiaco and sancocho are two different types of stew dishes that are extremely widespread in the area, and most places tend to serve their own special variations to twist the recipe.
These are essentially meat stews full of aromatic spices and vegetables. Ajiaco usually contains chicken, different kinds of potatoes, and guascas – although considered a weed by most, it is essential in giving ajiaco its hearty, distinct flavor. Sancocho is a lighter meat dish of chicken or fish (and occasionally even oxtail) with plantain bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, and various other herbs and spices. These two dishes are crafted with so many variations that you could spend your entire stay enjoying them without ever tiring of their fresh, unique flavors.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Colombia, following these tips will help guarantee that your time is exciting and memorable– no matter what your tastes are.