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Bogotá Backpacking – Colombia’s Capital Full of Art, Culture and Adventure

My last stop in Colombia was the capital, Bogotá which is a huge city. I didn’t get to really get under the skin of the place as it was such a short time. Moreover, I felt really exhausted as travelling in Colombia and seeing things everyday was really demanding and energy draining.

Another Nightmare Bus Journey

I took the bus from Armenia to Bogotá and I seriously wish didn’t. I tried to book a flight on the Avianca website. Unfortunately it did not seem to work, despite the fact I tried multiple times. After waiting 20 minutes at the bus terminal, a woman shouted my name in a thick Colombian accent. She told me I could get on the next bus to Bogotá. Despite getting a bus earlier than the one I had book, I still arrived in Bogotá ridiculously late.

A Boring Bus Journey

The Bus left at 9AM and did not arrive until 8PM, making it 11 hours of absolute vexation. There was no wifi or TV screens on the bus so I just listened to my audiobook. Furthermore, some of the other passengers were being irritatingly inconsiderate. Some of them not using earphones to listen to music and others speaking on the phone really loudly.

Once I arrived, I had to deal with a rude taxi driver who didn’t understand where I wanted to go. Despite telling him a multitude of times and explaining I did not live here. He could have just looked the address up in Google Maps. Rather than asking me, a person who has never been to Bogotá before.

“You arrive better” – absolute lies!

Staying in Selina in La Candelaria

Having already stayed in two other Selina hostels on this trip in Costa Rica, it was a no-brainer to stay in another one. Yet again it was another stay of first-class quality with a nicely decorated interior and cool library. However, it was frustrating to be top bunk again and there was a Colombian man in my room who was being obnoxious. He was playing music on his phone at 2AM and threatened another guy in my room. One of the Americans in the hostel told him to stop and he was being very reasonable.

Things to do – The Gold Museum

An absolutely golden attraction in Bogotá is to go to the Gold Museum located near La Candelaria. About a 10 minute walk from Selina and in the middle of the city. It is not too much of a big museum, it will take you at least 40 minutes to look at everything. It costs less than a pound to enter which is an absolute bargain. This place has a special reputation as being one of the most visited places in Colombia. It is also the largest collection of gold artefacts in the world.

Walking Over to the National Museum of Colombia

It took over 25 minutes to walk from La Candelaria to where the National Museum is. I stopped at an Oxxo to get something to drink. I bumped into a man wearing a Scotland top which I didn’t expect in the middle of Bogotá. Just like the gold museum, the admission fee is about 80p which is also a bargain. However, I didn’t think it was that much of an interesting museum.

Everything was too scattered out and wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be. If you’re going to Bogotá I can’t say I recommend going all the way just to see this museum, especially if you’re not massively interested in history.

Admiring Art at the Botero Museum

Right next to Selina is the Botero museum which houses the art of Fernando Botero. I recommend coming here as it is completely free of charge for a visit and it does not close until 7PM. Even though it’s in a small building, it took me just over an hour to get a good impression of the whole museum as there is more than one exhibition.

One of Colombia’s most famous painters is Fernando Botero as he is famous for his depiction of people being oversized and one of his works became a meme. Furthermore, the other exhibitions had some displays of art from various artists from Latin America. The art reflect the tumultuous past of the region such as Chile’s conversion into dictatorship in the 70s and the Palace of Justice Siege in which the guerrilla group, M19 had shook the nation.

The Excruciating Walk up to Monserrate

I managed to make friends with an American guy from San Diego who happened to look exactly like Chris Pratt. He was with 5 of his friends and he invited me to join him in walking to the top of Monserrate. Being in Bogotá, you’ll notice that the mountains encircle the city, one of them is Monserrate whose peak you can see while walking the streets of Bogotá.

A Big Walk for Views of the City

The walk up to Monserrate is very far from an easy one, I do not recommend doing this walk in jeans. The walk up the mountain is free of charge, however if you want to get up there without exerting yourself and in a time-efficient way, there is a funicular and a cable car. However, there was a big queue at the entrance, so we opted to do the hike instead. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the top and I recommend taking your time on this one.

The Bogotá humidity makes it quite challenging, however you don’t need to worry. There are a lot of people selling fruit and water for less than a pound around the place. Once you get to the top, the views of Bogotá’s concrete jungle will blow you away. Behind there was a massive forest as far as the eye could see.

Once you get to the top, there are a few places to get some coffee and empanadas. It also seems that this place is a holy site as there is a massive church and you can see a statue of Jesus in the distance. There are also a lot of places where you can sit down and have a beer with views of the forest.

In these places there are also loads of people who can speak English trying to sell souvenirs. What surprised most me was that for the first time ever, I saw people selling coca leaves which was an interesting thing to see. To get back down, we decided to take the cable car, it costs about £3 for a ticket and the wait was about 20 minutes.

Walking Around Plaza de Bolívar

Unfortunately, this place has been made known only for being the location of some of the most iconic scenes in Narcos. However, for the Colombians, this place is where the main government buildings are such as the Capitolio Nacional. This is where the Colombian government is located and the house of Colombia’s president is here. The president’s house is closed off to the public with guarded fences. Without knowing, I awkwardly asked if I was allowed to pass through, the answer from the soldier was a definite no.

The Colombian equivalent of DC’s capital or in a British context, the parliament

Discovering Some of the Best Arepas I’ve Ever had

I found a great hole in the wall place to get Arepas. The name of the place is Arepa’ Gourmet and for less than a pound you can get a really good bit of food. It isn’t the kind of place that was geared towards tourists which is also always a good sign.

Anything Else to Know About Bogotá?

First thing’s first, Bogotá is a massive city, 2 days is not nearly enough to get to know the city. It can be compared to something like NYC, but the people are nicer. The streets are cleaner and everything is 1/5 the price. Furthermore, the colonial architecture contrasts it from modern Medellín. It’s the Latin American urban space with the most colonial buildings I have ever seen.

A misconception about Colombia is that it’s a really hot place, it was quite humid and it was July. It was not too warm, the weather was neither too hot nor too cold. I saw the Colombians wearing thick coats and scarves. I found this to be a bit extreme as it wasn’t exactly winter. Furthermore, Colombia has an undeserved reputation for being dangerous, despite being a country that’s a hotbed for drug trafficking. Bogotá does not feel any less safe than any other big city. I walked around La Candelaria in the dark and nothing happened to me.

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