Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Eastern cordillera, ‘The Athens of South America’ stands at 2625 metres on a high Andean plateau – the Altiplano Cundiboyacense.
Now one of the largest cities in South America, Bogotá began life as a few huts and a chapel. Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Santa Fe de Bogotá (now Bogotá) in 1538 near the indigenous Muisca capital of Bacatá.
The city offers cultural, retail and culinary opportunities to rival any. Parks provide open spaces and the Ciclovía is the world’s largest cycle network.
Universities, libraries and theatres abound and the Transmilenio rapid transport system, though crowded at times, provides relatively quick travel across the city.
In Bogotá, perhaps more than anywhere else in Colombia, inequality is glaring.
Swanky upmarket districts like Zona Rosa contrast harshly with the poorer areas to the south of the city.
Middle-class professionals enjoy the affluent lifestyle that the country’s economic success has brought, whilst the poorest pick through rubbish bags for discarded takeaways.
But there is much that is worthy of the visitor’s attention. Here are just a few examples:
The old district of La Candelaria is a delight. Brightly painted three-hundred-year-old Spanish colonial houses line the streets and a bountiful scattering of churches and museums beckon.
In the Botero museum, chubby dancers, politicians and campesinos clamber, swirl and recline in the paintings and sculptures of Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero.
The gold museum houses an impressive collection of pre-Colombian gold from all over the country.
Exhibits include shamans transmuted into condors and humming birds, figures used for votive offerings and the museum’s centrepiece – the Muisca raft.
The raft depicts the Muisca ceremony surrounding the appointment of a new chief. Clad only in gold dust, he sailed onto Lake Guatavita with his entourage before diving into the sacred waters.
When early Spanish settlers witnessed this ceremony, the legend of El Dorado was born.
Plaza de Bolívar
Bustling with people, llamas and pigeons, the Plaza de Bolívar is Bogotá’s epicentre.
The Primary Cathedral, Palace of Justice, Congress building and Mayoral offices surround the square and its bronze statue of Simón Bolívar, liberator of six South American nations.
Cerro de Monserrate
Over 3000 metres above sea level, the Cerro de Monserrate can be seen from most of Bogotá. Atop the mountain sits a sanctuary that houses the statue of El Señor Caído (The Fallen Christ).
A funicular and a cable car carry pilgrims and tourists up and down the mountain, though it is also possible to walk.
Breathtaking views of the city, beautiful natural surroundings and a variety of restaurants contribute to the mix of faith, nature and gastronomy.
Quinta de Bolívar
Nestled at the foot of the Cerro de Monserrate, the Quinta de Bolívar was given to Simón Bolívar for liberating the nation from Spanish rule.
Lush gardens surround the house that now hosts a museum featuring period furniture and some of the Liberator’s possessions.
From fine art to street art, culture to nightlife, architecture to street life, Bogotá is a photographer’s paradise and a fantastic travel destination.
There is plenty to see and do, just be careful to avoid the ubiquitous uncovered drain holes.