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3 days in Bogotá to fall in love with the city

Catalina Oquendo

Victoria Holguín

The capital of Colombia has lots of attractions: traditional restaurants with beautiful views, a vibrant cultural scene, history and the warm reception of people who make visitors feel at home

 

Day 1 - La Candelaria

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10h Bogotá’s gold

Imagine seven whole floors of gold. There are little filigree figures, engraved vases, arrows and boats made with the most precise techniques of pre-Columbian goldsmithery floating inside display cases. The Museo del Oro, located in downtown Bogotá, doesn’t just boast one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the world, it’s also a veritable feast for the eyes and the best way to kick off a tour of the city. There are four permanent exhibition spaces, and seeing them all will take you an entire morning. The crown jewel is located in the La Ofrenda room: in the dim lighting and surrounded by six cylindrical display cases (which simulate heaven and earth), you can experience a spectacle of lights and sounds. This visual explosion allows you to relive the shamanic journeys of the indigenous peoples who used gold in their offers as a form of spiritual connection.

 

14h With prudence

If you want a real experience of the La Candelaria neighborhood, you’ll have to climb and eat. There’s no way around it. As you make your way up the hills, the rule is to stop at every corner and try an empanada here, some juice there, or a “Mick Jagger oblea,” a sweet made with arequipe (Colombian dulce de leche) which tickled the singer’s fancy on a visit to Bogotá. This is the way to whet your appetite for lunch, which you should have nearby Chorro de Quevedo, where the city was founded. Installed in an old plaster house from the republican era and equipped with a smoker oven, Prudencia is the most highly recommended restaurant in the area. Mario Rosero and Meghan Flanigan prepare dishes inspired by home cooking all around the world – a delightful place where there’s no set menu, but instead appetizing complete menus that come with succulent desserts, change week to week and never repeat. It’s also a great option for vegetarians.

 

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18h30  Ghosts in the city

Downtown Bogotá is mysterious. Maybe it’s the cold that blows in from the hills. Or maybe the city’s 500-year colonial history. But there’s no doubt that a walk through La Candelaria, among the mansions with large internal patios, has a spooky touch. José Ayala, a designer and fan of folk legends, combined 12 ghost stories and assembled a tour around them. “There’s nothing paranormal. They’re just ghost stories that help you get to know this place,” he says. As such, no one leaves without hearing the story of Louca Margarita, who used to wander the neighborhood from the 1920s to the ‘40s, or the Espeluco de las Aguas, a girl whose hair was said to have been transformed into serpents. Spending two hours with the Ghosts of Bogotá is the perfect way to wrap up your afternoon.

 

Day 2 - Cacao, coffee and rumba

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10h  The cacao factor

Here are two words you need to know: chocolatico santafereño. This is how Colombians say it, in the diminutive. Factor Cacao transforms the tradition of drinking hot chocolate by adding Amazonian fruits and other local flavors. The owner, famed Mexican chocolatier José Ramón Castillo, fell in love with a Colombian woman and the country’s cacao, and opened this space where both chocolate with ginger and chocolate with anise yield moments of glory. And though they’re quite non-traditional, the blends are served in the typical little pots for drinking hot chocolate and they’re all prepared with cacao from farmers in conflict zones. If you’re more of a chocolate purist, the best option is La Puerta Falsa in downtown Bogotá, which has 200 years of history.

 

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15h  Love thy coffee

It might seem pretentious, but it’s possible to find true love in Bogotá. In the land of coffee, it couldn’t be any other way: Amor Perfecto, located in the neighborhood of Chapinero, is where you can enjoy delicious coffee and cappuccino from the brand of the same name, as well as tasting sessions. The Huila prepared in a siphon (a temptation for any caffeine addict) is not to be missed. But the most interesting option is a two-hour experience sampling five coffee varieties prepared by baristas who are experts in this brand of roaster and learning about the preparation methods. It’s recommended that you make reservations for your tasting session.

 

21h Where three wake up

The best definition of the restaurant Andrés Carne de Res came from Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez: “Andrés Carne de Res, where two people go to bed and three wake up.” This is how promising a night out at Andrés can be: in true Macondo style, this quintessential Colombian hodgepodge is packed with juxtaposed objects, with performances by stage actors and music to dance to as long as your feet can take it. And be sure to try some of the typical delights of Colombian cuisine at this restaurant ranked as one of the 50 best in Latin America. Located in Chía, 40 minutes from Bogotá, this “rumba” is essential for anyone visiting the capital. There’s also an affiliate in town that boasts the same style and spirit of entertainment. If you’ve got a night in Bogotá to spare, stop by Casa E for some culture. There, you can see a play while enjoying a drink or two.

 

Day 3 - Outside Bogotá

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During the day  • Salt Cathedral

Sunday is the perfect day to visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, where you have to go down 590 feet [180 m] underground to see the geological formations, as well as a chapel sculpted out of salt. Arriving at the mine is an epic experience: the touristy train in La Sabana leaves bright and early from the station in downtown Bogotá or from the neighborhood of Usaquén (more recommended). Throughout the hour-long ride, you’ll want to keep your eyes glued on the mountain scenery – or else get out of your seat and dance with musicians entertaining the passengers. Meanwhile, in Zipaquirá, the mine unveils all its grandeur thanks to the blue lights that enhance the salt stone and make the ride lined with illuminated crosses and reflecting pools solemn as you arrive at the famed cathedral sculpted out of salt.

 

During the day • Villa de Leyva

Located three hours from Bogotá, Villa de Leyva can provide you with a more peaceful, cultural experience in the colonial village, or an outing for extreme sports. The first option is to visit the town square, one of the biggest in Colombia, whose Spanish design remains intact, try the traditional ajiaco at Mi Cocina and, after dark, have some wine at a romantic bar, like Entrepanes. The adventurous option is 8 miles [13 km] from the historic city center, inside La Periquera Ecological Park. Among the 50-foot [15 m] waterfalls, you can experience spelunking, canopy tours, abseiling and nature hikes. Still, no matter which path you choose, you can’t miss a jaunt up to Pozos Azules, a series of manmade green and blue lakes that stand out from the desert landscape – a great spot to sit and rest after a horseback ride.

 

LATAM has direct flights to Bogotá from Lima, Santiago, Miami and 17 other destinations.