Bogota, Colombia

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This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Founded by gold-seeking conquistadors in 1538, today Bogota is Colombia’s first city in every way. It’s the fourth largest capital with the third highest altitude in South America; a commercial and intellectual hub; home to world-class museums, a charming colonial quarter and a vibrant dining scene. Every visitor’s first stop is La Candelaria quarter, whose centerpiece Plaza de Bolivar is framed by grand old mansions, the Cathedral and the San Carlos Palace. Ornate churches, flowering patios, crafts markets, lively cafes and the architectural gem, Teatro Colon—open only to those attending concert, opera or ballet performance—are other attraction musts in this historic district. Bogota’s terrific museums include the fresco-lined Santa Clara Church-Museum, the Museum of Colonial Art, and the Donacion Botero housing the splendid 208-piece collection of artist Fernando Botero who donated 123 pieces of his own work, as well as those of an impressive range of European masters from Giacometti to Dali. And, of course, the must-see museum is the Museo de Oro with more than 14,000 gold pieces from most of Colombia’s major pre-Hispanic cultures. Bogota North is the more upscale area of the city, offering the liveliest scenes for restaurants, classy shopping malls and Sunday flea market, as well as a bevy of five-star hotels such as the Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia in the Zona Rosa neighborhood, Casa Medina in the Zona G, with Harry’s Restaurant, a beefeaters paradise nearby.

From Bogota, a day-trip to the salt mine of Zipaquira and its immense Salt Cathedral 450 ft. below ground is a highlight. Longer rides will take you to neighboring Boyaca state and Villa de Leyva, a gem of a colonial town and well worth an overnight stay. Seaside Cartagena, another colonial treasure, turned fun-filled resort, is just an hour away by air from the capital.

Facts

  • Best time to go:
    December to March, mid-June to mid-August
  • Fun fact:
    On Sundays and holidays, Bogota offers cyclists and roller bladders 80 miles of car-free roads and 200 miles of cycle paths
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta and New York (JFK) to Bogota
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport
  • Currency:
    Colombian peso
  • Must-try local food:
    Ajiaco, a creamy chicken and potato soup, topped with corn, avocado and capers (served superbly at Casa Vieja in Bogota)
  • Best buys:
    Clothing and accessories in leather and wool, straw crafts, reproductions of pre-Columbian gold jewelry, emeralds
  • Information please:
    Tourism Promotion Fund in Colombia, represented in Miami by ProExport-USA—turismocolombia.com