There is a common misconception of people who have never visited Colombia that it is one of the most dangerous places in the world; fueled by Tom Clancy novels and images of Pablo Escobar. Regardless of how true those images may have been in the past, today’s Colombia is a place of incredible beauty and sincere friendliness. The country was filled with hustle and bustle, but even in the main tourist areas, I heard only Spanish. The country feels genuine; not spoiled by foreign tourism.
The main tourist areas of Candelaria and Monserrate are beautiful and filled with Colombians enjoying themselves. The center is extremely colorful, and filled with far more museums and restaurants than I had time to visit. I would have especially liked to visit the National Museum, Gold Museum, and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural center (one of the principal reasons I learned Spanish was to read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Spanish).
One of Bogota’s most beautiful sights is the panoramic view of the city from the heights of Montserrate. While I would have liked to try the foot path, the elevation gain of over 1,560-feet (500m) is formidable. I chose the teleferico (gondola), especially because I had not yet acclimatized to the 10,000-foot elevation.
It was my birthday, and we celebrated with a wonderful lunch/dinner in the restaurant at the top of the mountain. Our waiter suggested taking this photo of everybody admiring the view; and later we joked that it was a trick and that he would run away with the camera while our backs were turned. But our waiter was right; it is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip.
I would recommend going up in the late afternoon, so that you can see the view both in the daytime and nighttime. The view from Monserrate in the nighttime is spectacular; and the lines to go up in the nighttime are usually double, triple or quadruple the length. The mountain was all dressed up for the holidays and was especially colorful.
The next day we went hiking in the Natural Park of Chicaque, about 30 minutes outside of Bogota. It was a full-day hike. While the first half of the day was all down hill, the afternoon was extremely strenuous as we climbed the nearly 2000-feet back to the canyon’s rim.