Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, is surrounded by mountains and disappearing in smog at the same time.
Besides the huge graffitis on the walls and the historical quarter "La Candelaria", the city isn't very pretty.
We walked in the streets of the historical quarter, went up to the peak of the mountain "Cerro Monserrate" and visited the gold museum.
Furthermore, we went on daytrips to Zipaquirá, where we visited the big cathedral in a salt mine and to Guatavita, where we walked to the legendary emerald green Laguna.
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and lies at an altitude of 2640 meters over sea level. The city was founded 1538. More than 7 million people live in the metropolis which is about 1587 km² big. The average temperature in Bogotá is 13,3•C.
According to some Colombians and travellers who we met during our trip in Colombia, Bogotá isn't very pretty and some parts are very dangerous.
Therefore, we mostly stayed in the area around our hostel. The historic quarter "La Candelaria" is safe and has a lot of police presence. It is very touristic, has some quite old and lovely streets with cobblestones, tasty restaurants, buildings with graffiti and is full with people.
On the East side of Bogotá is the Cerro Monserrate, a mountain with over 3 000 meters of altitude.
It's possible to walk up the steps or to drive up with a cable car or funicular. We chose the last option as the foot path was closed at the time of our visit. On the top is a church, souvenir shops and cafés.
The mountain was already well know by the Muisca, an indigenous group which lived in this area during the pre-Colombian time.
Today, it's a must see in Bogotá. The view over the city from the top leaves you speechless! I have never seen such a huge city. It is also possible to see the mountains of Los Nevados, a place we visited last week.
Not far away from our hostel was the "Museo del Oro".
The museum has a huge collection of gold pieces of the pre-Colombian era. The gold is behind big bullet-proof panes, well illuminated and with lots of information.
The highlight of the museum is a golden float (photo left) which shows the El-Dorado ceremony. On the lower level is a big collection with information about the Kuna Yala, an indigenous group who live in Colombia and Panamá. It shows the people, their tradition and how they create their unique clothes.
Another museum we visited was the "Museo Botero", Fernando Botero being an artist who is well know in Colombia for his paintings, drawings and sculptures of fat people and objects. His most famous artpiece is the fat Mona Lisa. The museum was huge, with plenty of Botero's paintings and other artists' workpieces.
The salt church in Zipaquirá
The city Zipaquirá is 50 km North of Bogotá and has about 120 000 habitants. The city is 197km² big and lies at an altitude of 2650 meters over sea level. It was founded 1600 and lies, like Bogotá, in the department Cundinamarca.
Zipaquirá isn't beautiful. The city is primarily know for the salt mines and the underground roman catholic salt church.
We went there for a daytrip. The entrance for the salt cathedral was expensive, almost 20€ each. The church was built in 1932 in an old salt mine with over 200m long tunnels. A guided tour in Spanish or English was included.
The way starts with different kinds of crosses which symbolize the stations of the cross. The church is impressive and different to others. At the end, there is a huge cross which is illuminated in different colours.
The last part of the mine was full with shops, places for performances, information about salt mining and a movie room. The church is very touristic, the number of tourists can reach over 3000 during the weekend.
The Laguna of Guatavita
Another day trip we did, was to the Laguna de Guatavita, a round green lake at an altitude of 3 000m. The lake was probably shaped by erosion due to the high salt content of the rocks in this region.
The Laguna was holy to the Muisca people who performed several rituals with their king covered in gold dust on a canoe on the sea. The golden float, in the gold museum in Bogotá, shows how the ritual could have been. The Laguna de Guatavita is as well the birth place for the legend of "El Dorado", the golden one.
A guided tour with information about the plants in this area and about the Muisca people is included in the entrance fee.
The legend says that the lake is where the Muisca celebrated a ritual in which the zipa (named "El Dorado" by the conquistadors) was covered in gold dust, then venturing out into the water on a ceremonial raft made of rushes, he dived into the waters, washing off the gold. Afterward, trinkets, jewelry, and other precious offerings were thrown into the waters by worshipers. A few artifacts of gold and silver found at bottom hold proof to this claim; however, to date, attempts to drain the lake or salvage the gold have yielded no more than these.
It is a quite long travel to the lake. It takes over 2 hours with the Bus from Bogotá over Sesquilé. A bus from Guatavita to the lake is only driving weekends. Therefore, we had to walk 7 kilometers on the streets through farmland.
On the way back we were lucky to meet a lovely couple from Bogotá. They did the same tour at the lake and offered to drive us back to the city.
We stayed 5 days in Bogotá, in the historical quarter "La Candelaria".
We droveup the Cerro Monserrate which is over 3000m high and offers a speechless view over the capital of Colombia.
The gold museum is also worth to visit. It has plenty of gold pieces with information how it was formed, what it means and which indigenous group built it.
Also the museum of Botero was very interesting.
Furthermore we visited the salt cathedral in Zipaquirá. It was impressive to see this church in the salt mine which was different to other churches, but the price was definitely to high!
Plus, the city isn't beautiful.
The travel to Guatavita is very long and the buses to the lake only drive weekends.
Therefore, we had to hike 7km and climb up to 3000 meters over sea level. The lake is emerald green and during the week are almost no tourist there.
Same same but different view