This was my first trip to Bogota since first arriving in Colombia back in 2005. I left early in the morning from Medellin at around 6:00 a.m. and arrived at Jose Maria Cordova at around 7:00 a.m. My flight was the Avianca 9323 that left at 8:00 a.m. We did not actually leave until almost 8:15 a.m. and surprisingly enough landed by 8:45 a.m. The airtime was about 30 minutes tops and the terrain below is spectacular to say the least. I sat on the right side of the plane toward the back of the plane and had a window seat which was great for the views below. I was finished with my meeting by 3:00 p.m. and headed to the Abadia Colonial Hotel so that I could check-in and drop off my bags. After checking into the hotel, eating some pizza and catching a quick nap, I ventured out into the beautiful La Candelaria neighborhood of Bogota.
BOGOTA DAYTRIP DETAILS:
WHERE: Medellin to Bogota
WHEN: August 2010 / 2 days, 1 night
MODE: Avianca 9323 @ 8:00 a.m. departure/9334 return flight @ 8:15 p.m. ($227,030 COP)
PLACES VISITED: La Candelaria, Abadia Colonial Hotel, Casa Moneda, Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), Museo de Botero (Botero Museum), Plaza Bolivar & Monserrate.
- I purchased my ticket at the Avianca office in Unicentro Mall in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin.
- The taxi ride to JMC Airport in Rio Negro was $55,000 COP at the time of this report. It takes approximately 45 minutes from Medellin.
- The taxi ride from the airport to my hotel in La Candelaria was approximately $25,000 COP and it was approximately $22,000 COP from the hotel to the airport the next evening.
- TIP: Traffic in Bogota is called “trancón”. It is very heavy in the afternoon hours from 5 p.m. until about 8:00 p.m. It took me 20 minutes to get to my appointment that morning which was very close to La Candelaria. However, it took me over an hour to get back to the airport in traffic or trancón. You will need to allow for this if your arrival/departure falls within this timeframe.
BOGOTA | WHERE TO STAY
After researching online for over an hour, I chose to stay at the Abadia Colonial Hotel in La Candelaria. The price at the time of this travel report was $155,000 COP and seemed reasonable for the area based on other pricing from hotels in La Candelaria. Upon my arrival I was pleasantly surprised. The hotel was quaint and did not seem small or cramped. My room was a nice size as well and the food served at the restaurant was very tasty as well. I have entered this hotel into the Discover Colombia list of hotels in Bogota and you can access the information here – Abadia Colonial Hotel in La Candelaria.
- TIP: After researching hotels in the La Candelaria area of Bogota on tripadvisor.com, I noticed a common complaint regarding hotels in the La Candelaria area of Bogota was noise. My room at the Abadia Colonial Hotel was very quiet and I never had this issue. I stayed there on a Thursday night. If this is a concern for you and you happen to be at this hotel on the weekend, you can always request a room at the back of the property which seems to be the most insulated from street noise.
- TIP: Most hotels in Bogota offer free maps of the area (city). This hotel had an excellent map of the La Candelaria area.
By the time I awoke from my nap, the sun was beginning to go down and the area was beginning to brim with activity. People were beginning to finish work, students were walking about and the streets were beginning to become filled with more traffic. This all made for a great mix of activity to observe. As soon as you step out of the hotel and turn right, you can see one of the spires of the Catedral Primada at Plaza Bolivar. This is one of the most photographed tourist spots in all of Bogota. It is a very open area about the size of a football field. In addition to the church, the plaza is also surrounded by government buildings. After snapping some evening shots, I began to wander around the streets of La Candelaria.
PHOTOS of Bolivar Plaza in Bogota (twighlight hour)
Click on image for a larger view.
CASA MONEDA (The Mint)
This building was very interesting and housed a great collection of coins, bills, printing machines and presses as well as a lot of historical literature that accompanied the displays. There is a traditional art display on the second floor as well that contains painting and photographs. The building is two stories and has an open courtyard in the middle. There was some type of social function on the evening I visited as there was a large group of people on the second story sipping wine and congregating. Although I browsed through rather quickly, you could easily spend an hour or two if you take the time to read all of the historical literature.
PHOTOS of Casa Moneda in Bogota
Click on image for a larger view.
The next morning
The Abadia Colonial Hotel provides a complimentary breakfast with your stay. The breakfast is served upstairs where all of the tables are setup immaculate for the morning crowd. The crowd consisted of two other gringos who were in town to explore Bogota. After 5 minutes, I had the entire dining area to myself where I enjoyed huevos rancheros con cebolla y tomate. I was served fresh coffee and mango juice along with granadilla fruit. The hotel is owned by an Italian and the upstairs dining area is decorated in a complete Italian theme. The breakfast was excellent and gave me a great start to the day ahead. I was really excited to have this full day to explore Bogota.
La Candelaria, Bogota
Full of food and ready to walk off some of the excitement, I spent about the few hours walking around the various streets of La Candelaria exploring and taking pictures of the beautiful colonial architecture. The old world feel to this area is definitely one of the main draws and the variation in the colonial architecture and colors were amazing. This area of Bogota has undergone a tremendous revival in terms of renovations and real estate investment. Many of the old dilapidated homes have been bought and transformed into beautiful offices, hotels and restaurants. The options for the neighborhood are endless and it is always buzzing day and night with interesting sights, sounds and things to do. This area is a definite must for anybody considering Bogota for a vacation or short stop through.
PHOTOS of La Candelaria, Bogota
Click images for larger view.
Revisit Plaza Bolivar
A quick trip back through Plaza Bolivar to get some daytime photos reveals about the same amount of people moving about during the daylight hours. The sun is beginning to burn through much of the high mountain mist that is commonplace in the high altitude Andes cities and pueblos of Colombia. There is an interesting crafts and wicker type marketplace at the bottom sector of this plaza on the same side as the National Capitol building. You can enter through a small corridor on the right hand side that leads through a maze of similar indoor flea market type vendors who specialize in wicker type crafts, furniture and miscellaneous items. I had to break down and purchase my own cheap “mochila” so that I had a place to put my jacket, umbrella, camera and money.
On the other side of the bottom of Plaza Bolivar (North Side) you will find lots of custom tailor suit and hat shops that cater to the professional crowd. I did not venture into any of them, but I bet you can find some great bargains if you look.
- TIP: It rains a lot in Bogota, so be sure to bring an umbrella. Also, remember that it is cool in Bogota year around (approx. 58-65 degrees Fahrenheit), so bring appropriate gear. However, when the sun comes out, you may want to shed some of your warm clothing. This is where a backpack or mochila comes in handy to hold your items while you walk around and soak in the colonial culture of La Candelaria. Also, comfortable walking shoes are a must. You will be doing a lot of walking.
- TIP: Although beautiful to the eye, La Candelaria has the reputation of petty theft and muggings are not uncommon, especially at night. Be aware of your surroundings and remain alert. Take taxis if you are leaving bars, restaurants, etc. late at night – even if it is just a few blocks. *There were military and police all over the place when I was visiting this area and I never felt uncomfortable, but the history of this place still brings in the occasional banditos.
PHOTOS – 2nd set of Plaza Bolivar, Bogota (daytime)
*Click image for larger view.
After stopping off for a buñuelo and coffee in the custom suit and hat sector, I crossed back through Plaza Bolivar and stopped off at the Museo Botero (Botero Museum) to take a look at some Colombian art. If you are not familiar with Botero, take a look here for the Wikipedia page. Although I have already been to the larger museum in Medellin to see his works, this was nonetheless a great way to take 45 minutes and see a few pieces I had not seen before. There are a few rooms with other artist’s works as well. I also got to see some Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso amongst many others. There are also sculptures intermixed throughout the museum. They allow photos to be taken without flash at this site.
PHOTOS of Museo Botero (Botero Museum)
*Click image for larger view.
GOLD MUSEUM (MUSEO DE ORO)
Walking back north will take you toward the Gold Museum. There are lots of small jewelry shops and emerald dealers in this sector. This area is excellent for window shopping. At some point you will come to the Transmilenio route (street) and see the El Tiempo building. The Gold Museum is just north of there. Walk toward Monserrate and take a quick left into the next park (Santa Fe). The day I did this, there was a big ruckus as 5-6 green Toyota Landcruisers led by a police vehicle with lights and sirens blazing came toward us. As it turned out, it was motorcade for the new president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. He was visiting the Banco de La Republica building which also sits in Parque Santa Fe and is caddy corner to the Gold Museum.
There was a book fair in the park the day of my visit and it was buzzing with people and a group of students who came to visit the Gold Museum. There are also people selling black market emeralds and I was approached a few times by men who assured me I could make money buying and selling their emeralds. Some of the stones looked like green glass and since I know nothing about emeralds I passed on their offers. However, there are other certified dealers in the area who can show you some amazing jewelry and stones.
The Gold Museum cost $3000 COP at the time of this report and that is an absolute bargain for the tour. It has several floors and many different exhibits. Most of the information is translated to English and the tour gives a lot of historical facts and figures regarding the evolution of this trade industry and the geographic regions from which gold has been extracted from in Colombia. The gold artifacts that are on display are amazing and each piece has its own unique story. Be prepared to stay a while if you wish to read all of the information. I did not take the time to read all of the information and my visit was a little longer than an hour. There is a great restaurant and café on the first floor as well as a gift shop.
PHOTOS of El Tiempo, Transmilenio, Juan Manuel Santos, Santa Fe Park, Gold Museum
*Click image for larger view.
The massive mountain on the eastern side of this city sector is known as Monserrate. It rises over 10,000 feet and permits the tourist an amazing almost complete view of the city of Bogota. There is a church that is located on the top of the mountain that was built in the 17th century. There are monuments all over the area that are dedicated to Jesus. The pathways and garden areas are spectacular to say the least and numerous other buildings exist including 2 restaurants, a cafeteria, and souvenir shops. The gondola to the top cost $14,000 COP at the time of this report and it is open seven days a week. I visited the attraction during the week and the line to get onto the gondola only took about 10 minutes before we were on our way to the top of the mountain. The hours are below;
- Monday-Saturday: 12 m to 12:00 pm Sundays: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Follow the “J” route of the Transmilenio to get to the entrance building of Monserrate.
- Sunsets are popular at Monserrate and night service is available as well.
PHOTOS of Monserrate
*Click image for larger view.