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Bogota: Best Things to Do & Eat + What They Didn’t Tell You Before Going

I've visited Bogota twice, collectively for five days: in May 2023 and Jan 2024. While preparing for my first visit, I was surprised to learn one thing that didn't seem to be commonly-shared knowledge:

Bogota sits at over 8,000 feet above sea level. This is higher than the mile-high Denver, Colorado!

Therefore, one must be prepared for the elevation change or risk altitude sickness (like I felt while in Colorado). This means giving yourself two days to acclimate by drinking lots of water, and avoiding strenuous exercise and alcohol.

Another option is to get prescribed altitude meds, taken 1-2 days before the trip, and for the first two days during the trip. This is what I did. But be careful; that doctor visit cost WAY more than I anticipated -__-

Now that you're prepared, here are:

Top Attractions You Shouldn't Miss!

Plaza de Bolivar

This is the lively historic square honoring Simon Bolivar, the military leader who led the independence of Colombia and many other South America countries from Spain. You'll find his statue in the center of the square, and surrounding it, four notable buildings: the Basílica Metropolitana de Bogotá, the National Capitol, the Lievano Palace, and the Palace of Justice.

Carrera 7 leading up to it is lined with street vendors, food stands, and performers. Make sure to try an arepa or canelaza (more on these below in the section on Colombian Staples to Try)! You also shouldn't miss taking pictures with the adorable llamas (for 20,000 pesos ~$5 USD).

Mount Monserrate

Take in the best views of all of Bogota from the top of Monserrate! There are 3 ways up: tram, cable car, or hike (1.8 miles ~1 hour 20 mins). It's open 365 days a year and very early (first tram up is at 6:30AM). On weekdays, in the mornings, the tram operates in the morning, and the cable car, in the afternoon/evening. On weekends, the hours for both overlap most of the day. At the top is also a Catholic sanctuary and shrine, as well as a Bogota sign!

Museo del Oro

The Gold Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Bogota, hosting a large pre-Colombian archeological collection of gold. Colombia is source to a LOT of gold; where do you think the legend of El Dorado comes from? Entry is 5,000 COP Tue-Sat and free on Sundays! It's closed on Mondays.

Bogota Botanical Garden

The largest botanical garden in Colombia with over 5,000 species of plants. Don't skip the Tropicario, the impressive five greenhouse circuit, each with a different bioclimatic condition replicated to cultivate the various ecosystems in Colombia. It's closed on Mondays, and you can save 2,000 COP with a joint General Admission + Tropicario ticket for 25,000 COP.

La Candelaria neighborhood

Explore this vibrant area of street art. But, be careful not to get too distracted with photos. We were told several times to put our phones away.

Lake Guatavita / Zipaquira Cathedral (day trip)

Book a day trip to the most famous and holiest lake to the indigenous Muisca people. I booked this tour on Expedia for less than $100.

First, at the entrance, grab some natural coca tea to aid with hydration for the hike. Also two things that are important to note:

  1. You must be part of a tour group to hike up to the lake.

  2. NO disposable water bottles! Bring a reusable one, or buy one at the entrance.

Then, you'll take an easy to moderate hike (with some stairs) about an hour to the multiple viewpoints while the guide shares the history of the lake and the Muisca people along the way.

Unfortunately it seemed the Spanish guide explained a lot more than the English guide we had, but there are informational placards along the way you can also read.

After the hike and a lunch stop (great food, drinks, and live music), they took us to Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, a stunning, active, underground cathedral built in a salt mine! It's considered "the First Wonder of Colombia" and is certainly impressive!

Coffee & Chocolate Farm tour (day trip)

Colombia is one of the largest producers of coffee and cacao in the world. Why not take a day trip to visit, learn about, and engage in the production process from farm to table!

We spent the full day (7am-8pm) at the Chocolate and Coffee Farm Experience with Andes EcoTours. After a 3-hour drive (not including our breakfast stop), we started at a coffee farm, touring and picking the berries, deshelling, seeing the drying process (in the attic of their own home), and finally, partook in roasting and grinding of the beans. The coffee was smooooth, and I NEVER drink black coffee!

Another hour drive brought us to the chocolate farm, where we went through a similar process and were able to purchase some chocolate at the end. Both farmers were warm, welcoming, and full of knowledge, as was our tour guide!

OK now that we've covered the main attractions, let's talk about FOOD!

Bogotá had delicious and super affordable food! I rarely spent more than $10 USD per meal.

Be sure to try these Colombian staples:

  • Arepas - ground cornmeal cake stuffed with cheese and/or meat

  • Empanadas - every Latin American country seems to have their own variety!

  • Canelaza - a hot spiced drink made from spices, fruits, and can have added cinnamon and liquors like rum or aguardiente! Get it from a street vendor near Plaza de Bolivar!

  • Ajiaco soup - a traditional chicken and potato soup

  • Changua soup - milk-based soup with bread, cheese, and egg

  • Hot chocolate with cheese - let the cheese melt into the chocolate.

  • Pandebono - a cheesy bread ball, sometimes filled with guava or other paste

  • Bocadillo con queso - that's guava paste and cheese, a yummy, small candied treat!

  • Fresh fruits - Have them with breakfast or in a smoothie

  • Margarita (Lays) pollo flavored chips - ADDICTED!

  • Hormigas Culonas - these “big ass ants” are a delicacy, if you dare…I did not!

Some specific places I loved:

  • La Puerta Falsa - for the Tamale Puerta Falsa, the changua, and the Divorcio dessert.

  • Saudade - After Monserrate, stopped here for a cheap, delicious bite! I LOVED their arepa de queso and empanadas!

So that's all I have! How are you feeling about Bogota? Subscribe to receive emails whenever I post! And if you want more of Colombia, check out my post on Cartagena in Related Posts below!

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