By Janice Strong
It was a flying trip to Bogota, Colombia’s intriguing capital city. Quite literally. Three days with so much to see and not much time to see it. There is the history – pre-hispanic, colonial and modern. There is the Columbian food. Did you know Bogota is among the gastronomic capitals of Latin America? And the shopping (emeralds anyone?) ranges from haute couture to intricate folk crafts. Here is a look at some of the city’s special places.
Fernando Garcia via Flickr.com/photos/gogeid (CC by 2.0)
This is Bogota’s historic centre. Located in the downtown area, its houses and buildings date back to the time of revolutionary Simon Bolivar.
Highlights include: the Plaza de Bolivar surrounded by government offices with republican, neoclassic and modern architecture along with the colonial Catedral Primada; Chorro de Quevedo, the place where Bogota was founded; Quinta de Bolivar House Museum, a hacienda where Bolivar lived; and the National Museum.
Also in La Candelaria, the Botero Museum houses 123 of Fernando Botero’s paintings, drawings and sculptures in a building that was once the home of the Archbishop of Bogota. The museum also boasts 85 works by art superstars like Picasso, Leger, Renoir, Monet, Dali, Giacometti, Beckmann, Freud, Calder and Bacon.
El Cerro de Monserrate
A pilgrimage church and sanctuary on one of Bogota’s guardian hills, the original chapel was dedicated to the Black Virgin of Montserrat in Barcelona in 1640, and the monastery was completed in 1667. You can head up on foot, by cable railway or aerial cable car for amazing city views and a meal at one of four restaurants.
Edward Guerrerov via Flickr.com/chinoedw (CC by 2.0) - Edited
About an hour’s drive outside Bogota, sacred Guatavita Lake is the home of the legend of El Dorado. The story says that the Muisca Indan chief, covered in gold dust, would arrive at the lake on a raft with four priests and the gold offerings from his community. After throwing the offerings into the lake to honour their gods, the chief would then plunge into the lake. When the story came to the attention of the Spanish, they organized expeditions to loot the treasures from the lake and send them to Spain. Today you can hike to top of the hills surrounding the lake for views of it and the surrounding farmland.
Zipaguira Salt Cathedral
An awe-inspiring structure, the cathedral is carved out of solid rock salt 180 metres underground. The building includes Stations of the Cross, connected by tunnels, and three naves that represent the birth and baptism of Christ, his life and death, and his resurrection. Of note are the sculpture of La Piedad, the Guardian Angel, and the enormous cross in the entry hall. Guided tours explain it all.
Over the millennia, the salt from the mine has generated wealth for those who control it, from the Muisca people, to the liberators Narino and Bolivar who financed their revolution selling salt.
The Gold Museum
One of the most impressive sites in Bogota is the Gold Museum in La Candelaria. The collection has been declared a national monument and is considered the largest of its kind in the world holding nearly 34,000 pieces of gold and 20,000 objects of bone, stone, ceramics and textiles. But it is not just a collection of pieces in showcases. The second floor tells the political story of the peoples who made these things, while the third floor explains their ceremonial and religious beliefs.
Have you toured Bogota?
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