Things to do in Bogotá and the Cundiboyacense Plateau
With many places and attractions that are of great cultural and historical importance, the long list of things to do in Bogotá and the surrounding area make it both and excellent starting point for adventure and an essential stop-off for any trip to Colombia.
Sprawled out on the immense Cundiboyacense plateau or ‘altiplano’ located in the Eastern cordillera of Colombia, the metropolitan city of Bogotá is a wonderful mix of cultures, sights, sounds and smells that are the signs of a transformed city.
With a spectacular setting, at over 2630 metres (nearly 8,700 feet) above sea level , it won’t only be the thin air that will take your breath away.
Modern day Bogotá City
With a population of over 7.5 million people, Bogotá ranks as Latin America’s 6th largest city. In reality however, given Colombia’s burgeoning economy and growing stature on the world stage, Bogotá has become one of the most important and forward-thinking cities in the Latin American region.
Bogotá has a well preserved historical centre known as the Candelaria district with many great restaurants and beautiful colonial buildings, some of which date back to the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
It also boasts many excellent museums such as the famed Museo de Oro or Gold Museum which houses the biggest and arguably best pre-Columbian gold collection in the world; the Botero collection in the Botero museum, with some of the most well-known of Colombian master Fernando Botero’s paintings and sculptures, among others.
Bogotá, like all Colombian cities, has an excellent array of stunning natural areas and sites of great cultural and historical importance within its limits and outskirts. See below for a selection of things to do in Bogotá and the surrounding area.
Things to do in Bogotá
Soak up the Atmosphere in Bogotá’s Colonial Heart
Tight, cobbled-stoned streets lined with original colonial architecture define La Candelaria district: a collection of gargantuan stone-arched doorways and buildings, imposing wooden doors and intricate metal-work details that adorn the windows and over-hanging balconies, typical of colonial Colombia.
Finish your walk by visiting the Plaza de Bolivar – home of Bogotá’s First Cathderal – on its eastern side, built on the ruins of the city’s first church dating back to the 16th century.
This great square is home to the Palace of Justice on its northern edge, the National Congress to the South and the Mayor’s building to the West, recently re-opened to the public.
Ascend the Monserrate mountain…
Whether by cable car or funicular railway, this mountain offers spectacular panoramic views of Bogotá, over 500 meters below.
You can also visit the the Basilica of ‘Our Fallen Lord Monserrate’ the bright-white building that can be seen perched at the top from various points around the city.
Marvel at the Remnants of the Legend of El Dorado
With over 35,000 pieces of Tumbaga gold, the Bogotá Gold Museum holds the title of of having the largest pre-Columbian collection in the world. It is widely regarded as the best Gold Museum on the planet. Refurbished in 2008, the museum’s exhibition is split into four areas: The Working of Metals, People and Gold, Cosmology and Symbolism and The Offering. This last room gives some indication as to the rise of the legend of El Dorado.
Marvel at the skilled gold artwork and artefacts that comes from Colombia’s Tairona, Quimbaya, Muisca and Tolima pre-Hispanic tribes, among others.
Appreciate a Colombian Master at his Best
Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist. The Botero museum, home to his most famous collection that he donated to the Luis Ángel Arango Library, features 123 separate pieces of work by Botero himself and 85 pieces from some of the world’s other masters: Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Monet, Matisse, Degas, to name but a few. An excellent sculptor Botero’s various bronze work pieces can also be found within.
Things to do around Bogotá
Wonder about the Legend of El Dorado
When the Spanish conquistador Sebastián Belalcázar first heard the rumour in Ecuador of a chieftain dressed head to toe in gold, bathing himself in a lake, the legend of El Dorado was born.
Whilst the legendary city of gold was found to be a fantasy, this lake is thought to have been the epicentre of that story. A little over an hour outside of Bogotá, Guatavita Lake was drained several times in the search for the elusive gold offerings. And whilst some gold was found, its cement-like bed may yet hide further discoveries.
Visit the legendary lake for a day and then move onto northern Cundinamarca department and its collection of well-preserved colonial villages and towns.
Salt Cathedral - Zipaquira
Cathedral of Zipaquira, 200 Metres Below Ground
Built within immense rock salt deposits (the biggest in the world) north of Bogotá, this feat of modern architecture and engineering carved entirely of salt has to be seen to be believed.
This tour can be made from Bogotá in a day.