Paisa Tours: Guide to Medellin and Colombia


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Bogota & Cundinamarca


Colombia's cosmopolitan capital city Bogota (population 8 million) is a tourism attraction in it's own right, in addition to being a gateway for travel throughout Colombia. Bogota has a beautiful old quarter (La Candelaria), some fantastic old colonial buildings and palaces, must see museums such as the Gold museum and a vibrant nightlife. The city is perfectly safe to visit. The main problem with Bogota, however, is the traffic, which is absolutely awful. Expect to spend a lot of time sitting in taxis. Bogota is of a high altitude - you'll need a jacket in the evenings.

Things to do in Bogota

Two to three nights in Bogota is enough to see the main tourism attractions.

  • Stroll the streets of the old town (La Candelaria) where you'll find Bohemian cafes, art galleries, theatres and beautiful old colonial houses.
  • Visit the amazing Gold Museum - one of South America's best museums. There's various other museums in addition, including; the Donacion Botero (bizarre paintings of fat people, though Medellin's Botero museum is the better); the National Museum, which is South America's oldest museum and exhibits various works of art and historical items; the Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Colonial Art.
  • Visit the stunning governmental palaces and plazas nearby.
  • Consider travelling to nearby Monserrat for fantastic views over the city (reached by furnical railway and cable car) - sunset is a great time to visit.
  • Go partying - Bogota has some of Colombia's best nightlife, and friendliest people - La Zona Rosa is one of the best nightlife spots.
  • In Bogota one can also often see bullfighting, and also arrange horseriding in the nearby countryside.
  • Learn Spanish - there's various Spanish Schools in Bogota.
  • Go shopping - there's dozens of excellent, modern shopping malls in Bogota. Other areas specialize in local handicrafts and also in emeralds.
  • Visit to the enormous Paloquemao market - a fruit, veg and flower market (the flowers are the real highlight - visit before 10am.)
  • Day Trips from Bogota

    Bustling Bogota isn't a particularly relaxing capital city. There's a few places a little outside of town that are well worth a visit, and make a pleasant escape from the crowds. All of these places will be much busier if you visit on the weekends.

  • The nearby salt cathedral of Zipaquira, carved into a huge salt mine, is a must see travel highlight. It really is amazing - you must visit. Zipaquira is North of Bogota, on the way to Villa de Leiva, though can easily be visited on a days tour [if you ever played the Temple level on Goldeneye multiplayer on the Nintendo 64, you'll feel like you're on a James Bond set at Zipaquira]. If you visit on the weekend arrive early otherwise you'll be queueing for ages.
  • Guatavita is a man made lake 2 hours from Bogota, and provides are relaxing place to get away from the bustle of Bogota. There's whitewashed buildings, good restaurants and plenty of watersports and boat tours offered. It takes about 2 hours to walk around the Laguna de Guatavita.
  • Suesca is located up in the mountains just an hour from Bogota. Outdoor activites here include rafting, hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking. There's dozens of hotels and campsites in the area.
  • Just 20km West of Bogota lies the very small Parque Natural Chicaque, where there are various well marked trails through the cloudforest.
  • Go rafting in Toiba, which is 70km outside of Bogota.
  • An hours drive East of Bogota is the usually ignored but none the less beautiful Chingaza National Park. Chingaza National Park has a very modern and high quality campsite, or alternatively take a day trip from Bogota.
  • Visit the colonial town of Honda (4 hours drive more Bogota - so this is really an overnight trip).
  • Safety Issues

    Bogota is no more, or less, safe than other capital cities in South America. It's a lot safer than places such as Caracas, Rio or Guatemala City for example. Don't get paranoid about getting kidnapped - that just doesn't happen here now (I read that Buenos Aires has a higher kidnap rate than Bogota these days [2010]). Everywhere you go you'll see the police and the military. Take normal precautions such as not walking around empty streets at night, and trying to pre-order taxis rather than picking them up of the street (of course this is not always possible - but don't worry about it). If you stay in La Candelaria (Bogota's colonial quarter), try not to walk around late at night - take a taxi.

    Bogota Hotels

    Bogota has a range of excellent luxury, and colonial, hotels. There are many high rise modern and chain hotels that are rather boring - below there's a few more interesting, smaller, boutique style options. La Candelaria (the old colonial part of Bogota) is the best part of town to stay in for travellers. If you're here on business, or for whatever reason you don't want to stay in the old town, Northern Bogota is the best part of town to stay in - around the Zona G (great for restaurants), Zona Rosa or Parque 93. Alternatively, consider renting an apartment in Bogota - prices can be very reasonable for short term lets (see www.aptscolombia.com for example).

    La Opera - a delightful small boutique style luxury colonial hotel with a fantastic location in La Candelaria. Spa and small swimming pool included.

    Hotel Casa La Botica - just 10 rooms, excellent service and beautiful interior courtyards with fountains. La Botica has an equally fantastic location in Bogota's La Candelaria district.

    Abadia Colonial Hotel - lovely small intimate hotel in the old town - La Candelaria.

    Melia Santa Fe - a larger, more modern option, but none the less very good.

    Casa Medina & Charleston Hotel - both the Casa Medina and Charleston hotel are modern, luxurious and stylish options in Bogota. Found in the Zona G district in Northern Bogota.

    Casona del Patio - a lovely small guesthouse with pleasant rooms in Zona G.



    Bogota Hostels & Cheaper Hotels

    Casa Platypus - a highly regarded hostel in La Candeleria, doubles cost $75, or dorm beds cost $20. Platypus was the first hostel to open in La Candelaria.

    Cranky Croc - an Aussie run hostel with dorms and private rooms.

    Anandamayi Hostel - a whitewashed colonial home converted into a hostel.

    Hotel Albama - another colonial hotel in La Candelaria, rooms are from $30.




    Bogota, Colombia:
    Bogota
    Main Plaza of Bogota.

    Colombia's Parliament:
    Cows & Bogota's Presidential Palace
    Cows in front of Bogota's Parliament.

    Bogota's Old Town:
    La Candelaria District of Bogota
    La Candelaria District.

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