Before I get to the top 5 individual recommendations, I’d be remiss here if I didn’t give an overview of Bogota. So far, it’s been our least favorite city for several reasons. We spent longer here than usual because I had plans to attend synagogue for Rosh Hashanah in the city, which might have impacted how we felt about it.
The biggest concern Nick and I had with Bogota was safety. It’s hard to gauge how accurate a city’s reputation is going to be when you’re on the road, because so many fellow travelers are constantly giving you their recommendations, so when we heard in advance from several people that Bogota felt less safe than elsewhere we didn’t necessarily think twice about it, because we heard that about other places we’d been. In reality, though, most hostels are located in the main tourist zone called La Candelaria, which isn’t the safest part of the city. Ultimately, we were fine, we did great things, we met great people, and nothing untoward happened to us, but the city didn’t leave us with the warmest of feelings the same way other places did.
Beyond that, we found that the pollution really did get to us – it left us feeling headachy and slightly ill after a few days there.
That said, if you do plan on going to Bogota, we have cool recs for you! The Blonde Abroad also has a good post on how to spend 48 hours in the city, which you can read here. We'd add in the Bike Tour to her list but overall she has good recs.
Hiking Up Mount Monserrate
Bogota is built at an extreme elevation (8,660 feet), built amongst and surrounded by mountains. This makes for extraordinary views (extraordinary wheezing sounds when you’re constantly out of breath.) The tallest mountain on the city’s edge is called Mt. Monserrate, and it offers stupidly amazing views of the city. There are two ways to reach the summit: via cable-car or by hiking. The often-chilly climate in Bogota actually makes the hike great, since you’ll work up to a comfortable temperature on the way up.
With the cable-car you’ll get amazing views on the way and once you’re at the top. But personally, I’d recommend the hike any day. It’s steep as fuck, there’s no question, but the rest points along the way offer continuously great views of the city that make the hard work worth it. If you go in the morning, local police are stations throughout the trail to ensure safety (pickpocketing and petty theft has been known to happen on the trail). It’s also free, which is a plus. Verdict: If you’re physically able, go.
Aside from great thai food and closet-sized apartments, one thing we’ve been missing about New York is the superiority that comes with hipsters having access to bikes all the time. How perfect, then, that our hostel advertised a bike tour of Bogota for us to attend?! We paid $40,000 Colombian pesos (about $13 American dollars) which included the bike, helmet, and free oxygen tank for when the altitude made riding a bike feel like a kamikaze mission. The tour lasts about 5 hours and because Bogota is so massive, you see a literal whopping 0.000000757488 of the city. That said, it included some amazing stops that made the price well worth it. We tried “exotic” fruits at a local market, played a traditional game of the Colombian working class involving beer, gun powder, mud, and rocks (idek guys, I’m just glad we’re not the only country obsessed with bringing guns into every aspect of our lives), and toured a coffee roastery. The tour leaves you feeling accomplished AF, so go.
Our hostel was a real-life Lonely Planet book so it also recommended a free food tour of Bogota. It usually takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes after my latest meal before the hanger kicks in again, so I was def down for humanitarian service I was being offered. The deal is this: the tour itself is free (with a pretty steep suggested donation for tip at the end) but you pay for all the food individually at each place you stop. In the end you get 7 courses for about $6 American dollars so the only reasons not go are being on a really tight budget or being an idiot. Everything can be made vegetarian, and everything was delicious. In order, we ate: empanadas, traditional Colombian soup, obleas, hot chocolate served with cheese (we’ll get to it in a minute), arepas, pandebono, and coffee.
All right, let’s really get into it. Empanadas are delicious. The only people that don’t think so are the MAGA crowd and they’re just bitter people not in America invented some great food. Check. The soup was delicious. It had vegetables, chicken (for those who want), cheese (for those who want), and magical unicorn dust or something because idk it was great. Check. Obleas are thin waffley wafers sold as a sandwich, and you can choose which dessert-y toppings you’d like as your “filling”. They’re sold as street food so Colombians historically bribed their children to behave in church by offering them obleas after services if they behaved. Not only is this a legitimate relationship bribery tool to use when your fiancé is being demanding, but the obleas themselves are delicious. Check AF.
All right now let’s get down to business here. See how I pressed enter and then tab so you KNOW I’m serious? Colombians traditionally drink hot chocolate with a provolone-esque semi-soft white cheese broken into bits and placed at the bottom of the cup. The idea is that you drink your HC first and THEN SUBSEQUENTLY HAVE A CUP-FUL OF MELTED CHEESE AT THE BOTTOM. Y’all. For those who don’t know me very well let me tell you that I pride myself on like two things: I still have all the state capitals memorized and I can eat a shit ton of cheese. I have the utmost disdain for two types of people: people who are bigoted and people who are lactose intolerant. Are you getting the gravity of the situation? Well, in this case, I voraciously tore through my cup of hot chocolate to get to the cheese (like any normal human being with a normal human being’s brain would do) and then it happened. My stomach turned into the incredible hulk and asked me WTF I thought I was doing. You guys, in that moment I became everything I despised. I couldn’t recognize myself and I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror. Then I started singing We Could Have Had It All to my stomach because I felt betrayed. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m not the person I thought I was and I understand if you don’t want to be my friend anymore.
Anyway whatever then the rest of the tour happened and we had more food and some dope coffee I guess but nothing really even matters anymore and go on the tour I guess if you still think life is worth getting out of bed for in the morning even though this really disturbing thing just happened to me and spun the earth off its axis.
I’ll keep it short – there is a museum dedicated to all the gold artifacts that have been found from Pre-Columbian civilizations. It’s cool and expansive but slightly monotonous. It gets an A+ on the antiracism front because more attention should be paid to first nations IG but like a C on the curation front. If you’re in Bogota you should go but don’t spend too long here. And we’re two gay men. We love shiny things. We pay to see shiny things all the time. If I could have a job looking at shiny objects all day I’d be employee of the month 12 times a year. But like….go for a short amount of time.
This is supposed to be the gay part of town. Yall. We found one gay bar and we couldn’t even tell if it was separate from the electronics store with a rainbow in its logo directly below it. Not cool, Bogota.