Bogotá pairs modern bohemianism with enough old school culture and sexy smart citizens to earn its “Athens of South America” nickname. Hanging out 9,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains, the Colombian capital city is fresh from its drug-ridden days of the past and ready to host the best of your backpacking adventures. Here are ten worth tackling.
Make Your Way Up Monserrate
Choose your method of transport–between cable car, funicular or the pilgrim-approved method of hiking–and watch the thriving bustle of Bogota shrink beneath you as you head up the city’s most famous mountain. Make sure you remember to breathe and keep your altitude in check; the view from up here can be seriously breathtaking.
The T Zone
A fuck ton of good Colombian food, loud music, bars, locals and other travelers unite in the T Zone, a central point in Bogota’s nightlife. Cleverly named for the shape of its streets (starting at 82nd and 13th ave) the T Zone is closed off from car traffic. Since there are no vehicles around to run over your disoriented ass, feel free to drink up; we certify this place to be drunken-stumble safe.
Cobblestone streets, awesome Spanish style architecture and plenty of cheap food joints flood Bogotá’s version of an old city. If you get through all of the museums, open-market fairs and free events (check out the Luis Angel Arango Library), visit La Candelaria to add a layer of politically-charged graffiti to the mix.
The 93rd street park is perfectly suitable for frisbee throwing, wine drinking, under-the-blanket groping or whatever it is that people do at parks. Break free from Bogotá’s fast pace and chill on the shaded lawn, watching the city’s life move around you. Hop right back in the scene at one of the surrounding bars, cafés or restaurants like Colombia’s Cheesecake Factory-ish chain, “Crêpes & Waffles.”
La Zona Rosa
Bogota’s “Pink Light District” shifts gears fast from high-class restaurants and lively bars on one block to plastic surgery-perfected prostitutes and cash-sucking casinos on another. Choose a side and explore it without abandon. If you've got the cash, treat yourself to balling out like you’re part of the Bogota elite, if only for a night.
Day Trip To Guatavita Lake
The legend of El Dorado starts with this golden lake, just 20 miles north of Bogotá . Take the Transmilenio to Portal del Norte, get on a bus toward Guatavita but get off in Sesquilé and transfer to the Laguna de Guatavita bus. Guatavita lake has supposedly been swept of all its treasures but the surrounding guards have us thinking otherwise. Keep those gold-digging eyes peeled and you might just turn this trip into a profit.
Cycle on Sunday
Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 in the afternoon, this city of nearly 8 million people virtually closes car traffic to promote the benefits of a cycling metropolis. Drop $10-$20 on a set of wheels for the day, break a sweat and take in the sights.
Open to the elements and decked out with high-quality speakers, strobe lights and even a backside ladder for rooftop dancing, chiva buses speed through the city provoking feel-good smiles and ass shakes to anybody in their path. $20 will get you on a 6-hour tour, food and drink included.
The Salt Cathedral
Carved into the world’s largest salt deposit, the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is a deep and dark maze of tunnels and the first official wonder of Colombia. Religious or not, the creepily LED-lit cathedral 600 feet underground is a perfect place to tell your own tales from the crypt. From Bogota’s Portal del Norte station, take a Zipa or Zipaquirá bus and tell the driver you want off at Zipaquirá.
Rock al Parque
Every summer, the ginormous Simon Bolivar Park hosts South America’s largest rock festival—and it’s totally free. Smack in the center of Bogotá, booze and cigarettes were banned at the event in an effort to try and keep the crowd under control. Three days of music and over a quarter million in attendance, this public party sidesteps the law and turns into an authentic Colombian shitshow for sure.
Like the rest of Colombia, Bogotá is flying fast down the road of recovery. Cheap hostels, year-round cool weather, endless culture and its central location make this city a perfect starting point for any South American adventure.