I can usually tell if I will like a city within five minutes of arriving. With Bogotá, it only took three. Part of this instant knowing was my hired driver, Marta, who greeted me warmly at the airport and got me safely on my way to the hotel. But it was also the street art and the liveliness and the looming mountains that easily won me over.
Below are some of my favorite photos and experiences from the trip. They're recommendations for a visit to the city, yes, but I encourage anyone visiting Bogotá to wander and find their own magic. This city is full of it.
You won't have to look hard for street art...it's everywhere. Politically charged and socially conscious. Beautiful and encouraging. Americanized and thought-provoking. It's varied and worth stopping every few feet for.
CHICAQUE NATIONAL PARK
Only thirty minutes outside of the city, Chicaque National Park is a stunning cloud-covered forest. We hiked from the entrance to the lookout point ("La Playa", about an hour) and then onwards to El Refugio (another hour or so), which gave us a great overview of the park. El Refugio is a mountain hostel built entirely of wood, with accommodations for travelers and a restaurant with an incredible balcony viewpoint, plus delicious traditional Colombian food.
If you decide to explore the park, be sure to wear something other than jeans (oops)...not pleasant for the ever-changing jungle climate. Also, we hired a car back up to the top, but you can also go by horse!
Monserrate is the mountain that dominates Bogotá's city center. 10,341 feet above sea-level, reachable by funicular, cable car, or climbing, this gorgeous pilgrim destination is well worth a visit. The quick rise in elevation (we opted for the $4 roundtrip cable car ride) had me breathing shallow and feeling a little light-headed. Locals advise you to drink coca tea at the top to help ease the altitude sickness; plenty of the shops have it.
After wandering and taking photos of the Monserrate church and mountain-top scenery, My friend Vanessa and I enjoyed coffee at the lower restaurant, "Casa Santa Clara", and then indulged in truly one of the best meals I've ever had at the upper restaurant, "Casa San Isirdo". You can see all of downtown Bogotá, south Bogotá and some sections of the north of the city from the top.
Located in La Candelaria neighborhood, the historic center of Bogotá, the Botero museum was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated 208 art pieces, 123 of his own and 85 of other intnerational artists (Picasso included!), to the Bank of the Republic in 2000. The museum is free(!) to the public, with a gorgeous outdoor courtyard, cafe and restaurant ("La Manzana"), and, of course, a collection of incredible artwork.