What To Do If You Only Have One Day In Colombia’s Capital City!
Bogota is Colombia’s capital and largest city, so it was a shame that we only had 2 nights/ 1 full day on our itinerary to experience what seems a bustling melting pot of cultural and historical elements. In short, one day is not enough!
That’s the downside of overlanding sometimes. Our route across South America is vast and extremely ambitious for 6 months. So our itinerary is jam-packed, with no room to manoeuvre if we’d like to stay longer at a destination, unlike if we were travelling independently.
Even so, we made the most of our one day in Bogota by visiting a few of the main sites and enjoyed some much needed Colombian coffee! Here’s what we got up to…
TrekSnappy’s Top Picks For 24 Hours In The Capital
Plaza de Bolivar
After a tasty breakfast of ‘huevos caldos’ (filled omelette) from a local Panaderia selling desayunos (set breakfasts), we headed to Plaza de Bolivar, the main square. It is marked by a bronze statue of the revolutionary Simon Bolivar, and as well as the usual food stalls and trinket sellers dotted about the plaza, it is inundated with pigeons!
Museo del Oro – The Gold Museum
Next on our list was the famous Gold Museum – Museo del Oro. Containing more than 55,000 pieces of gold from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia, it is Bogota’s most famous museum. The entrance fee was only $3,000 Colombian pesos, less than £1 GBP. And if you are able to visit on a Sunday admission is free!
I’m not usually one for lingering long in museums but I did find the gold artefacts on display really interesting. Each section of the museum is also very informative with an English translation next to each account in Spanish.
Wayne’s favourite part was the solid metal vault style doors that allowed access to the second floor’s exhibits.
Museo Botero – Modern Art Museum
After an ice-cream pit-stop we then headed to the Botero Museum. This is a FREE museum displaying the work of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist. The museum holds a collection of his paintings and sculptures dedicated to all things ‘chubby’.
Our favourite piece was Botero’s quirky interpretation of a chubby ‘Mona Lisa’.
His other work includes chubby hands, fruit, naked men and women, animals, Mother Superior, children and the family.
His work is both appealing, light-hearted and fun and breaks all the modern conventions imposed on society about the body.
Great Colombian Coffee
After two museums we were ready for a coffee break. There are a number of good cafes around La Candelaria selling top quality locally produced Colombian coffee. We settled on one near to the Botero Museum that has tables outside so we could do a spot of people watching too.
After wandering around some more, what we liked about the city in particular were the pedestrianised areas that make it easy to walk between the many museums in ‘La Candelaria’ area. (Daily from 8am – 6pm the Septima, between Plaza Bolivar and Calle 24, is car-free).
We finished the day with a bottle of red wine and a meat feast platter at a local Parrilla near to our hotel. For a capital city, the prices were extremely reasonable. In total, the meal and alcohol (also including 2 beers) cost approximately $46,000 pesos (£15 GBP).
By then, the streets were thrumming with people, many just chewing the fat with friends and enjoying a drink or two themselves as it was a Saturday evening.
Location, Location, Location
A point to note: Arriving in the dark around 8.30pm is not a good idea for first impressions of the city. On first glance when driving through the capital, Bogota seems a rough, gritty city that has seen better days. Many buildings are covered in graffiti and general city grime, but as we discovered the next morning, it really depends on which barrio you are in.
Northern Bogota is known as the wealthiest part of the city, with boutique hotels and a lot of regeneration in the area. In the historic centre, colonial buildings are well preserved and with a high police presence, you generally feel safe.
The south and southwest has a reputation for crime and drugs, but we didn’t venture into this area.
We stayed in the city’s cultural epicentre, ‘La Candelaria’, which was a perfect location for us to wander Bogota’s cobbled streets, admiring colonial buildings and churches, and for us to soak up the general atmosphere.
Overlanding – Taking The Bad With The Good
So far on this trip ‘Truck Days’ usually involve covering around 500km and can mean arriving at a destination as late as 9pm if the roads are poor. Then we’re off again the next morning between 7 – 8am, literally hitting the road hard and covering the kilometres to reach the next place on the list.
It’s a fact for us that too many one-nighters in a row can make you travel weary as you only get to see a place through the windows of the truck. And that’s not how we want to experience it at all.
So when we do get 2 nights at a destination giving us a full day to discover what a place has to offer, we grab it with both hands! ‘Free Days’ become action-packed and fast paced as we want to make the most of our time when we’re not sitting on the truck.
In fairness, the main reason we have hurried through Colombia was to make it to Barranquilla in time for ‘Carnaval’, so it’s always difficult, if not frustrating, when having to work to set dates.
Even so, we were disappointed we didn’t have longer to explore Bogota and experience more of this developing and cool city.
The Final Verdict…
We would have loved a few extra days in Bogota as we know there is plenty more to do and see.
In one day we only just scratched the surface of this interesting Colombian city. I guess it just means we’ll have to plan a return trip some time in the future!