For the last ten days my mom was in town visiting from Kerrville, Texas. I got to live life as a tourist and see Colombia from a new perspective all over again. The last time I was a tourist here was over two years ago!
I am often asked by potential visitors what my "must sees" are, so with my mom's visit fresh in mind I want to share a bit about what we did, what we learned and some tips on how to navigate Colombia as a visitor.
The ideal (starter) trip that I would recommend would be the Colombian Trifecta: Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena. Why? Bogotá for history and food, Medellín for pleasure and Cartagena for relaxation.
In my mom's case we just visited Bogotá and Medellín. Cartagena is on tap for Visit Melissa in Colombia Part II. Right, Momma?
First off, knowing the Spanish basics helps a ton. If you are planning a trip to Colombia anytime soon I really recommend you dust off the 'ole 501 Spanish Verbs or buy a beginner's Rosetta Stone CD.
While my mom was in Bogotá I wanted her to get a true feel for the city's history, grandeur and culture.
Here is what we did:
- Power walked the Ciclovía
- Danced and dined at the famed restaurant/bar/dancehall Andrés Carne de Res
- Visited the Gold Museum
- Bought Emeralds
- Dined at the posh El Bandido Bistro
- Shopped at Bogotá's fancy shopping mall, Andino
- Brunched at Masa (I heart Masa)
- Walked the outdoor flea market in the Usaquen neighborhood
- Day-Tripped to the underground Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá (Colombia's First Wonder of the World)
- Ate dessert at Alpina's countryside marketplace La Cabaña
- Took the cable car (teleférico) up to Montserrate (alt. 10,000 feet!)
Things we didn't have enough time to do:
- Visit the Emerald Museum
- Go to the Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva
- Brunch at the classic Club Colombia restaurant
- Walk around the historic and colorful La Candelaria neighborhood
- Lunch in the hilly and scenic La Calera outside of Bogotá
Bogotá is cool year-round...think San Francisco. Plan to pack scarves and a light jacket and leave your sandals at home. It is a city of about 8 million people and it feels like it. It's chaotic, furious and moves at the same pace as any other 5 million+ person city. It is also steeped in history--it was founded in 1538.
I recommend that you stay in the northern part of the city, say between Calle 100 and Calle 70 between the Avenues (Carreras) 4 and 15. If you stay within that rectangular block you will be close to all of the action and in a safe area. I also recommend that you get around via pre-arranged cabs and private cars (which run about $10/hour). If you travel with your iPhone/Blackberry/whatever download Tappsi and order your cabs through the Tappsi App. I use it almost daily.
Of all the things we did in Bogotá, I highly recommend...all of them. We had a blast! My mom's favorite tourist activity was riding the teleférico up to Montserrate. From there we had incredible views of the entire city. Go up for a night cap of hot canelazo (a sugar cane and cinnamon cocktail) and be sure to have your camera handy.
To learn more about Bogotá here is a great BBC vlog, as created and narrated by a bogotano: BBC Vlog Episode 13.
Next week I'll share the deets on our short visit to Medellín!
Founder, Azulina Ceramics