Updated: May 7
If Colombia isn't on your travel radar yet, then you were just like me. Now that I’ve visited, I am delighted to share with you more about this unique country. Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, and is one of the largest cities in the world. It sits beautifully on a high plateau in the Andes Mountains. Not only did the gorgeous, green landscape delight me, but the people and culture here are passionate and colorful as well. I traveled to Bogotá with a group of friends from Minnesota to learn more about this city's history and what it’s like living there now. Our trip was professionally planned and guided by Joe Sandillo from Almaz Journeys. We explored Bogotá for four days, and covered so much on our trip that it's hard to truly put it all into words...which is what makes for a great trip in my mind.
If you haven't seen Disney's new movie, Encanto, it's based on Colombia's culture and is a vibrant portrayal of what it's like growing up and living there. In the movie, you'll see parts of Colombia's challenging political history and strong family traditions — both are very true. Family is extremely important to Colombian's and while I was there, I was welcomed with warm smiles and genuine appreciation. Colombia is trying to put their tourism back on the map, and I'm more than happy to share why I'm so grateful I traveled there and why I think you should open up your mind (and passport), too.
For this travel guide, I will share with you what my group and I did day by day. To begin, I'd like to point out that we also had a professional tour guide with us that was born and raised in Bogota, Julio. Joe and Julio guided us in and around Bogotá each day, as we traveled by private bus and by foot. Bogotá felt very safe to us as we toured, even by foot. That said, with any big city, there are both "good" and "rough" neighborhoods. Each day was completely different, as we immersed ourselves into Bogotá's deep history, bustling economy, as well as their emerging food and art scenes. Now, let's get this tour started!
Day 1: Walking Tour, Museums, & the Lookout
Every morning, we were able to have breakfast and coffee downstairs in our hotel's restaurant at The Four Seasons Bogota. This contemporary hotel is located in Zona T, which is a very hip neighborhood. Here, you'll find high-end shopping, sophisticated and modern restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.
Morning in La Candelaria historic center: home to some of the most popular museums and attractions in Bogotá.
Gold Museum: The Museo del Oro is one of the most impressive museums in Colombia. It hosts more than 55,000 pieces of gold. Our guide lead us through the museum and gave us detailed information on the history of the artifacts.
Botero Museum: Fernando Botero is one of Colombia's most famous artists. His work is displayed in museums around the world, but the collection in Bogotá is the largest. Other works from artists like Degas and even Picasso can also be seen at the museum.
Lunch at Casa Vieja: Traditional Colombian food in a picturesque spot.
Monserrate Sanctuary cable car ride: We took a private cable car up to the top of Monserrate Sanctuary for a breathtaking view of the city. The church, statues, views, and restaurant at the top were all so beautiful. Definitely a highlight of my entire trip.
Dinner at El Chato: Cotemporary, intimate restaurant featuring creative dishes sourced from small, local suppliers. Some of our interesting dishes included: chicken hearts, squid-ink-stained rice crisps with crab, and an amazing tomahawk steak.
Day 2: Flower Farm & Coffee Tasting
Flower Farm Tour: We took a short bus ride out of the city to visit a local flower plantation, Vista Flor. Colombia is one of the world's top flower producers. Over 70% of all cut flowers imported into the United States come from Colombia. The flower plantation we visited was of "medium size" and had extremely charming and beautiful grounds. The family that owns the plantation invited us in for a tour, lunch, and great conversation.
The plantation's residence has now been transformed into a boutique hotel. What a charming place to stay, especially for special events.
Private Lunch: we had a lovely lunch inside the residence at the flower farm. We were served a traditional Colombian stew that contained chicken, potatoes, corn, rice, and avocado.
Coffee Tasting: after lunch, we had a local coffee company owner speak to us. We learned about coffee production and the export business, followed by a complete Colombian coffee tasting.
Dinner at Gamberro: Very contemporary and high energy restaurant in a great location surrounded by bars, restaurants and shopping. We had another interesting dinner featuring octopus, lamb, and "rabo de toro"...bulls tail.
Day 3: Market Visit, Private Lunch, Art Scene
City Market Tour: In the morning, we went to tour the local Paloquemao Market with private chefs and our guides. It was a bustling place with so many vendors selling everything from flowers, spices, bread to fresh fruit and meat.
Food Tasting at Market: we got to try local and unique fruit and fresh empanadas.
Lunch Meeting: after the market, we had lunch with the former Vice Minister of Tourism, Industry & Commerce at El Principal restaurant. He was so interesting and carried a wealth of knowledge about Colombia's history, politics.
Private Art Gallery Tour: Sandra Montenegro is a well-known art dealer in Colombia. She has transformed her stunning condo in Bogotá into a private art gallery. She invited us into her home to show us the local artists she supports and shared knowledge of the growing art scene in Colombia.
Dinner at Di Lucca: After a long day, our group stopped in next door to our hotel for an Italian dinner featuring some of the best pizza I've had in a while. We had a great outdoor table, as well.
Day 4: Peace Tour, Shopping, Private Dinner
Constructing Peace Tour: What I really appreciated about this tour was our local tour guides' graciousness to share their own personal stories about growing up in Bogotá at such a difficult time in Colombia's history. The conflict between the Colombian government and guerrilla groups. It was a very dark time in Colombia's history that is hard to talk about. Today, the country has made leaps and bounds to overcome that time and restore peace and safety in the country.
Fragmentos: our first stop was to the contemporary art museum, Fragmentos. As part of understanding the root of the violence in Colombia, contemporary art create s spaces like this to never forget what happened, to allow people to grieve and allow foreigners to go beyond the media portraits of Colombia.
After some (AMAZING) local ice cream at Selva Nevada, we continued our tour to Casa de la Trocha, a former home that has transformed into a safe place for victims of the conflict. Through this organization, they have found entrepreneurship a way to save memory and make their stories know. We purchased the beer they make, and shopped in their "market" for handmade goods. There was a feeling of tragedy inside the home but also an overwhelming sense of hope and a strong community.
Lunch at Salvo Patria: We had an outstanding lunch here! The hummus and fresh tortilla chips were perfect. But, nothing could beat this dessert that was served to top off our last lunch in Bogotá.
Free-Time: walking out of our hotel and around Zona T, we did some shopping and discovered a handful of awesome Colombian brands. Some of my favorites are: Petra, Eugenia Fernandez, Loopzu, and Nora Lozza.
Dinner at Private Casa: The couple that owns De Tal Madre, a private catering company, opened up their home to us for an evening of delicious food, fun conversation, and an amazing way to end our journey. Anamaria and Miguel were also the couple that toured us through the market. They are a beautiful couple that have a passion for life, food, and sharing their Colombian heritage with others.
Reflecting on our trip to Bogota, I'm feeling very honored to have met the most wonderful people and grateful for these unique experiences. None of this would have been possible without Joe, our faithful tour guide and planner, and also the community members of Bogota that opened their homes, and businesses to us like we were longtime friends. If you would like to plan your own Colombian excursion, I would be happy to answer any questions, but the true expert is at Almaz Journeys. Adios, until next time!