When people are planning a trip to Colombia, Bogota is often overlooked as they head to straight to Medellin and Cartagena. I’ve been in Bogota for nearly four years now and I’ve done a number of the tours that are on offer here. So here’s a list of some of the Bogota tours that I think will convince you to spend more than just a couple of nights in the capital!
The Free Walking Tour is a great way to see some of downtown Bogota. You’ll travel back in time to the first settlers in Colombia, hear about the legend of El Dorado, and meet the heroes of Bogota’s independence. You’ll also learn about the history, gastronomy, architecture, culture and get an insight into the character of the typical Bogotano. You’ll see the best of the Candelaria district and your guide will point out museums and other places of interest that you might like to explore after the tour. The tours start outside the Gold Museum every day at 10am and 2pm.
This is my favourite of all the Bogota tours and it’s the first tour I recommend to people visiting Bogota. If you like street art, you’ll love this tour. Street artists lead the tours and are therefore experts in Bogota’s urban art scene. This was the first tour to look specifically at the street art in Bogota, and will give you a detailed insight into the most influential artists, including Bogota’s own ‘Banksy’. The tour will take you to different parts of downtown Bogota. You will walk through the quaint streets of the Candelaria while appreciating and learning about the best of Bogota’s street art. The tour meets every day at the Parque de los Periodistas, near the statue of Simón Bolivar, at 10am and 2pm. I recommend doing the morning tour as afternoons in Bogota are notorious for their heavy rainfall at certain times of year!
The philosophy here is that the best way to Bogota’s heart is through your stomach! This tour from Bogota and Beyond introduces you to all kinds of different Colombian cuisine and to some of Bogota’s coolest neighbourhoods, including the Candelaria (the historical centre), La Macarena (Bogota’s ‘Soho’ or bohemian district), and the Zona G (the ‘G’ stands for ‘Gourmet’!) and you’ll also visit the famous Paloquemao food market. The tour includes private transport, a bilingual guide and – naturally – all food and drink!
After the Foodie tour, you may be hungry for more tours with food at the heart of them. Look no further! The Bogota Street-food Tour with La Mesa is another great option if you want a tour of the Candelaria and to learn more about the local gastronomy. I recommend skipping breakfast for this one! People often advise against buying food from the street when visiting Latin America to avoid potential stomach problems. But in my experience, the best and most authentic food often comes from the streets, so it seems a shame to miss out on it! La Mesa knows exactly where to take you so that you’ll taste the best of Bogota! You’ll go to a local neighbourhood food market and try typical foods including arepas, tamales, ajiaco, Colombian-style hot chocolate and a nice ‘surprise’ at the end of the tour, hormigas culonas!
Colombia is well-known for producing some of the world’s finest coffee. Karen Attman moved to Bogota five years ago and founded the renowned food blog ‘Flavors of Bogota’. She developed a special interest in coffee and gradually became aware of a hidden world of specialty coffee shops all over the city and an expert in the subject. She now runs a tour which explores Bogota’s best coffee shops, so that others will have the chance to experience the art and science behind the preparation of the perfect cup of coffee!
How can you really tell how good the coffee is? Where was it grown and in what climatic conditions? What other plants, fruits, and flowers might have affected the flavour? Which method was used to prepare it before it reached your cup? The Bogota Coffee Shop tour answers all of these questions and more! (one coffee shop even has its own coffee laboratory!). If you want to learn more about Colombia’s coffee, Karen has just published a book, Permission to Slurp, available to buy from Amazon.
Colombia isn’t famous for its chocolate, but in my experience, Colombian chocolate is some of the best in the world. (I particularly like the Chocolate Santander brand, which you can buy in Carulla). As with wine and coffee, you can learn to detect all kinds of aromas and flavours in high-quality chocolate. Chocolate is also playing an important role in putting an end to the civil conflict in Colombia, as farmers are being given incentives to cultivate cacao and coffee instead of coca, the crop used to produce cocaine.
The Colombian Chocolate Club will introduce you to the secret world of Colombian chocolate, giving you a divinely tasty experience! You will learn about the chocolate-making process, its origins and different qualities. You’ll try a range of chocolate from the different regions of Colombia during the session and have the chance to buy some to take away with you. This is always a great activity, but as the whole experience takes place inside, it’s a perfect way to spend a rainy Bogota afternoon!
You might now be starting to wonder what’s beyond the city borders. Mountains, lakes, páramos, coffee farms, and stunning landscapes. But if you don’t feel confident traveling out of Bogota on your own, Andes Ecotours will take you there. You will travel out of the city in private transportation with a bilingual guide and tour different coffee farms, drink some freshly-brewed coffee, help with the harvest and learn how to play an explosive game of Tejo! If you’ve already done the coffee shop tour, the coffee farm tour will complement it perfectly!
If you’re an experienced hiker and are looking for a challenge, this is the tour for you. Andes Ecotours will introduce you to a variety of ecosystems during this trek through the cloud forest, sub-páramo, and páramo in the eastern Andes. You’ll hike up to an altitude of 3,150m, and each hour of activity at this level will require the same amount of effort as two hours at sea level, so you will need to demonstrate your fitness before you set off. You’ll also need strong hiking boots and waterproof clothing. But if you know you can handle it, the rewards are breath-taking!
If you are looking for 100% unspoiled nature and breathtaking views outside of Bogota, Chingaza is your best option. The park’s lagoons were the grounds where indigenous people went to worship but now serve as reservoirs feeding water to the surrounding farm land. The park is home to over 1,000 different plant species and 187 different species of bird. You’ll learn about the páramo ecosystem and its significance in terms of water provision in Colombia, and if you’re lucky, you might also spot some of the park’s native mammals, such as deer, Andean bears, and small wild cats.
Have I convinced you?! Please let me know if you do any of these tours and if you enjoyed them! Please also let me know about any other Bogota tours you’ve done!