I felt sad when I learned that that my stay in Chile was ending soon. But at the same time, I was so excited and grateful when I made up my mind to seize the chance of changing my travel plans and take the offer to visit a country that I soon discovered to be one of the few countries that I have visited which has preserved it’s history well, not destroyed by tourism, and lots of fantastic people everywhere you go. Bienvenido a Colombia!
Colombia has been one of the most dangerous destinations in the last 20 years. Its image abroad is commonly associated with crime and drugs, however, difference between reality and the perception of Colombia is staggering.
The country however, is beautiful and very diverse. The people are warm, generous and fun loving. During this visit to the country’s capital, Bogotá, I have have felt safe at all times, I can confidently recommend Colombia as a tourist destination. In fact, the country received an accolade at the Swiss Tourism Awards in 2007, under the category of “destinations to be discovered.”
On April 12, I had the opportunity to fly to Colombia with TACA and Avianca Airlines. The ground flight attendants in both airlines were efficient. I took the TACA flight (TA 054) to Lima and connecting flight with Avianca (AV 6592) to Bogotá. Another perk of the two airlines is the 2-piece baggage allowance per passenger.
The only thing that I wasn’t happy about is the hassle of transferring from Lima to an international flight, which is akin to traveling within the US – you have to surrender everything from shoes, scarf, bracelets, and jacket to belt when getting through security and scanner. The total travel time I spent from Santiago, Chile to Bogotá was 12 hours.
I was welcomed at the Bogotá airport by Camila, the gracious Metropolitan Touring tour guide. With her was the charming driver, German. Both patiently waited for my arrival even at the wee hour of the night. I finally arrived in my hotel, Cosmos 100 Hotel and Convention Centre, and settled in my room at 2 am (local time) on Wednesday, April 13. Both Camila and German made sure that I had everything I needed before they left the hotel. Staffed with friendly and experienced personnel, Cosmos 100 is located in the heart of Bogotá’s business district.
In this article, I am delighted to feature Metropolitan Touring, the leading travel destination management company in South America and the gracious sponsor of my visit to Bogotá. For more details on their products and services, visit www.metropolitan-touring.com and for Colombia specific travel, go to www.metropolitan-touring.com/Colombia
I started my day on Wednesday, April 13, with a good breakfast at the hotel. I had a free morning before I met German who drove me to meet with Metropolitan Touring executives, Andrea Uribe, Communications Executive and Michaela Huttar, Commercial Executive for Europe over lunch.
Lunch was at Crepes y Waffles, a Colombian chain, located in the T Street area of the city. T Street is a popular hang out spot, day and night, because of its great selections of restaurants. The choice of food here is definitely excellent and at a very reasonable price. One thing I learned is that this Colombian chain hires only “madres de cabeza” (single mothers).
After lunch, we strolled back to the office and met the rest of the team at Metropolitan Touring including Detlef, who took me around the city for the rest of the afternoon to start my “tourist activity” in the city of Bogotá. In the car, I was already convinced that I would learn a lot from Detlef as he was very knowledgeable with decades of experience in tour guiding.
Our first stop was at the Banco de Republica Gold Museum. The place is indeed a fascinating museum that houses an astonishing collection of Pre-Colombian gold in the world. Collections range from rings, bracelets, and necklaces to figurines. I must say that the gold collections here are among the finest in the world. From here we drove down to the colonial district of La Candelaria. We then toured by foot from the main square, Plaza de Bolivar (Boliva Square), located in the heart of the historical area of Bogotá. The buildings that surround this area are definitely beautiful. These include the Cathedral, Congress Palace, the French style City Hall, the modern style Palace of Justice and the House of Independence. This is truly a great place to people-watch and a perfect place for both tourists and Bogoteños for a nice stroll.
We then continued towards Iglesia de San Agustin via Carrera 7. The church is believed to be one of the oldest colonial churches in Bogotá. Its architecture is very impressive. We also visited Museo Botero, which is housed in a restored colonial mansion. The museo is known for its collection of voluptuous paintings and sculptures of people, animals and things. Then we passed through the main theatre of Bogotá on Calle del Coliseo. By 5.30 pm we were then back in the car to meet Haidy Brauer de Thorin, Metropolitan Touring Commercial Manager, for dinner.
Traffic jam is part of real life in Bogotá. It took us hours before we finally made it to La Brasserie, a fine dining restaurant located in the Chapinero neighborhood. In this restaurant, you have a choice of dining inside where you will enjoy the full ambiance of this beautiful restaurant or outdoors if you want an atmosphere of a natural garden. Food and service was excellent. Don’t miss this place if you plan to visit Bogotá.
After dinner, I was curious to take a short visit to one of the supermarkets to check out the fruits section and was amazed to find all sorts of tropical fruits.
A sunny morning on Thursday, April 14, marked my last day in the city of Bogotá, I started off my day with a visit to the biggest cross underground, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. Camila provided me a wealth of information about this amazing masterpiece. Built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres underground, this place is definitely out of this world. It is Bogotá’s most treasured masterpiece and main attraction. For an extraordinary experience, a visit to this spiritual architecture is a must for all travellers. Before entering the main cathedral through a nice and easy walking track (unlike the Potosi mines), you will see the spiritual symbol of the Stations of the Cross, the Capilla Guasa, and some amazing massive column structures.
Inside the cathedral was symbolic art constructed in boxes representing a tourism campaign. Each box contains a message from different tourists. Below is a message (translated in English by Camila) from Emma, originally from Australia now residing in Colombia.
“Since I arrived here I have only seen beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. It is a country still to discover, filled with things to do and natural wonders to see. The place is very different from what you expect. The cities, the beaches, and each one of the landscapes captivate you and do not let you leave.”
Your stay in Bogotá is not complete without a visit to the internationally renowned multi-million restaurant business, Andres Carne de Res located in Chia, which is 40 minutes by car from the city of Bogotá. I was fortunate to dine at this legendary and peculiar restaurant, well known to both locals and international visitors. For over 25 years Andres was notorious in collecting all sorts of useless items. So who would think that collecting rubbish could turn into millions of dollars? It is a massive place with 600 staff and caters to over 3000-seated guests.
The authentic food selection was endless but make sure to try one of their fresh juices. The list of fresh juices is a full page of the restaurant menu. Although the place was a little pricey it was worth a visit. The service was good and has all sorts of live entertainments. The performers even sang a song at our table and presented me with a sash with writings on it that says‘Bienvenido a la Tierrita’ (Welcome to our Little Land) and a made up paper crown. They also sprinkled some yellow cut paper butterflies on the table. At the end of the meal, a tin container was presented at the table with the bill inside an envelope, flashlight, magnifying glass and a pen attached to a chain hooked to the tin container. By the time we left, I decided to change the name of the place as ‘Museo de la Basura’ (Junk Museum).
The excellent service offered by the Metropolitan Touring staff from knowledgeable tour guides, Detlef and Camila, and the patient and great sense of humour driver, German, definitely added perfection to my short stay in Bogotá.
The happy experiences I have had visiting this country are worth sharing because the beauty and positive traits and features of Bogotá and its people are seldom reported. Colombia is certainly the new hot spot for a taste of its rich cultures and history.
© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.