Planning Your Trip to Bogotá
Depending on how you look at it, the Colombian capital is either a sprawling metropolis or a collection of many loosely connected towns. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with so much space to cover, but the areas you'll want to see as a visitor are actually fairly compact. This means that the sites you'll be interested in are not too far from each other and close to most hotels.
Most travelers spend two nights in Bogotá, including the night they first fly in and then another one, allowing them at least one full day to explore. Extend this to three, and you'll be able to take your time and have leisurely walks or guided tours in several appealing neighborhoods like La Candelaria or Monserrate. You can also visit the city's top museums, including the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum, and take one half- or full-day trip, perhaps to Zipaquirá's Salt Cathedral or Guatavita Lagoon.
Extend your trip to four or five days, and you may be able to do an overnight trip outside of the city at one of the nearby colonial villages like Villa de Levya, do a full day of hiking in Chingaza National Park, or take even more time visiting some of the city's bustling markets for artisanal goods or produce. Another option is to take a food tour to learn why this city has become a culinary destination.
For more planning tips, see Ultimate Guide to Bogotá.
Bogotá in 24 Hours
If you only have a day in the Colombian capital, head to the historic downtown area, where most of the main sights are concentrated. Here, you can take in the views around La Candelaria and Plaza de Bolívar, including the neighborhood's colorful buildings, the green space known as Parque de los Periodistas, and the famous Gold Museum, where you can view stunning examples of pre-Columbian gold and learn about the Indigenous societies that existed here before Spanish Rule.
Make some time to stroll around Plaza de Bolívar to view its grand colonial buildings, including City Hall and the Cathedral. Don't forget to look out for the vibrant street art murals that have cropped up all over this central area, and make some time to wander down Calle del Embudo, a street known for its Chicha bars.
At dinner time, stop in at one of many restaurants serving the Andean dish ajiaco—a chicken and potato soup—including the perpetually packed, 200-year-old La Puerta Falsa, or journey to the outskirts of town to visit Andres Carne de Res, a restaurant as large as a village crossed with a kind of theme park, which you may find so entertaining you won't want to leave until morning.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Bogotá in 2-3 Days
With 2-3 days in Bogotá, you can start spending more time in the city's most exciting neighborhoods and add on a day trip. If you want to get a feel for just how far this Colombian metropolis stretches, take a cable car or funicular or use your own two feet to hike the 90 minutes (1,500 steps!) up to the top of Cerro Monserrate, a hill with incredible views of the city and the green valleys beyond. Check out the church at the top, once part of a monastery, and have lunch at one of the restaurants offering epic views.
You can also test out your bargaining skills at one of Bogotá's thriving markets, including Mercado de Paloquemao, a produce market covering half a city block. Here, you'll find exotic fruits and vegetables native to Colombia, such as deijoa (a cucumber-like fruit with a flavor similar to guava), guanabana (alien-like with spiky white flesh) and the sweet 'n' sour, star-shaped carambola. Food stalls at the back of the market serve homey lunch dishes that are local staples.
If you're more into crafts, check out the large Sunday flea market in Usaquen, where outdoor vendors sell paintings, textiles, jewelry, soaps, and shoes, alongside plenty of tasty regional treats.
If you have one day to spend outside the city and need to choose one memorable destination, make it the Catedral de Sal in the city of Zipaquirá, just a two-hour train ride from Bogotá. Here, a catholic church with all of its trappings—a dome and chandeliers, a cross, and religious icons—has been carved out of salt within a mine deep underground. If you have a full day to spend on the road, you can also pair it with the 19th-century Nemocón salt mine just east of Zipaquirá, which offers guided tours and has a Salt Museum.
You can also pair it with the Guatavita Lagoon, about an hour and a half east of Zipaquirá. This body of water was once central to a sacred ritual of the Muisca tribe, one-time inhabitants of the area, in which the tribal leader would cover himself in gold dust and bathe in the lake while other members of his rafting expedition would throw intricate works of gold into the water. Treasure hunters have been drawn to this lake for centuries, and the Muisca's rites inspired the legend of El Dorado (not to mention supplying Bogotá's gold museum with many of its artifacts).
On this nine-day tour, you'll spend two days in Bogotá before heading to the wax palm forests of the Cocora Valley. Check out more ideas for getting out of the city with our roundup of the 5 Best Day Trips from Bogotá.
Bogotá in 4-5 Days
With 4-5 days in the Colombian capital, you can tour some of the city with an experienced guide, delve deeper into the city's culinary heritage, or go farther afield on your day trips. Cycling tours are offered regularly from the historic area of La Candelaria and range far and wide, covering most of the city's popular sites, including Plaza de Bolívar, the barrio of La Merced with its British-style homes, and the green Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar. You can also choose themed bike tours that take in just one element of Bogotá, such as the colorful street art all over town.
If you get hungry after pedaling for several hours, consider joining a food tour. A guide will take you through a bustling local produce market and to restaurants specializing in Colombian delicacies like ajiaco soup and lechona, a roast suckling pig. You'll also get the chance to delve into the country's legendary coffee scene during a workshop that lets you taste different beans and learn how to steep them.
For a truly epic day trip that can easily be extended into an overnight, check out Chingaza National Park in La Calera – a sprawling area of varied landscapes, including alpine tundra, glacial lakes, and mountains. The park shelters endangered species like the spectacled bear, as well as deer, condors, and pumas, and its rolling terrain means you can hike up hills and summits for panoramic views. Several distinct locations within the park offer cabins or camping sites, so you can take along a small overnight pack and sleep there for a second day of exploration.
About three hours from Bogotá, the colonial village Villa de Levya also makes for a good long day trip or an easy overnight. Its whitewashed houses and huge Plaza Mayor (town square) are like a quiet, contemplative antidote to the bustle of Bogotá, and you can also take some hikes to archaeological sites up in the Andean hills. Don't forget to pay your respects to the site of the Battle of Boyacá, where national hero Simón Bolívar defeated the Spanish in 1819.