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Trip Report

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Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
Trip Report

A friend and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Bogota, and I want to thank all of those who offered advice for our trip. Everything went so well, and we really loved the city. I’ll admit that I went into this trip somewhat half-heartedly, as I had not had time to do much planning and for some reason could not get excited about Bogota. Anyway, I am so glad that we chose Bogota and would recommend it without reservation.

We arrived on a Thursday night, and were pleased to find a large, modern, efficient airport. Customs/immigration/baggage claim was a breeze, and we found several ATMs before we exited. On the advice found on this forum, we went to the official taxi queue, ignoring the touts with private cars who offered rides. I should have written this report closer in time to our trip so I’d have remembered what everything cost, but my recollection is that the taxi to our hotel, the Hilton in the Zona Rosa, was around $20 US.

We were pleased with the hotel, as the staff was friendly and spoke better English than we spoke Spanish. The bar was stylish and well-stocked, and the included breakfast buffet was massive. We did have a complaint about the tiny room first assigned to us, but the front desk staff immediately moved us to a more suitable room. My only other complaint is that rather than hailing a taxi from the street, the bellmen would summon the hotel’s own drivers, who cost more than twice as much. We just started crossing the street and flagging down our own taxis. Other than that, the hotel was ideal.

Friday morning, we took the hotel car to the Montserrate. As the teleferico did not open until noon, we took the funicular to the top, and then the teleferico back down a couple of hours later. The view from Montserrate was stunning. I’ve never seen skies so vivid and dramatic, and must have taken fifty pictures just showcasing the sky. The gardens on the top of the mountain were beautifully maintained, and there were concession shops and clean public toilets. You can’t ask for much more than that. I’d been on the telefericos/funiculars of Santiago and Quito, and almost skipped this one for that reason. I’m so glad we didn’t, as this significantly surpassed the others.

Afterwards, we meandered down to La Candelaria, where there was a salsa festival in the main plaza. We were not able to go inside the cathedral, or inside Iglesia de Lourdes, which is really the building I’d most wanted to see in Bogota. Based on my guidebook’s hours, both were supposed to be open. But, this wouldn’t be the first time the Michellin guidebook led us astray. We stopped in a sweet shop, La Puerta Falsa, and enjoyed a sampling of traditional pastries. I really loved something that was basically a mound of coconut mixed with caramel.

Afterwards, we headed towards the Museo del Oro. Our guidebook, the Michellin Guide, led us wrong here too, as its map depicted the museum as being about 1.5 blocks away from where the museum actually was. Fortunately, some kind locals spotted our confusion and walked us to the museum entrance. We enjoyed the museum and were overwhelmed by the amount and intricacy of these artifacts. But we were also hot and tired and in need of some cerveza.

We hopped in a taxi to Zona T, and wandered around, primarily looking for places that seemed happening and had free wifi. We wound up at a bar just across from the Harley Davidson shop, selected because there was a big event going on at Harley and we liked the people watching. We had a couple of local beers here, and liked them all. My experience with Latin American beers has been that they're usually watered down lagers, akin to Bud Light, but Colombia has really stepped up its game. This pub was massive (can't recall name) but didn’t have wifi, so we wandered around some more before settling on Irish Pub, which was mobbed with people on its lovely patio. Not exactly an authentic Colombian experience, but we tried and enjoyed several local beers (BBT Candelaria was my fave).

By this time we were hungry, and our guidebook again was totally uninformative as to restaurants in the area. We saw a lot of Asian and Italian choices, but wanted something more unique. I pulled up Google Maps and saw that we were around the corner from Andres DC, so we headed there. We already had plans to go to the Andres in Chia the next night, but Andres DC seemed like a safe bet and we were too hungry to spend any more time researching. I can’t say much about this restaurant that hasn’t already been said, but it was such a fun and crazy experience and the food was quite good. We selected several appetizers and shared those rather than ordering entrees and, though pricey, it was a great choice for dinner.

I can see this is going to be long, so I’ll break these up by day. Next up will be the day trip to Zipaquira.

20 replies to this topic
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
1. Re: Trip Report

The next day, we went to the Salt Cathedral. Now, I had done a good bit of research on how to get there. We ruled out the tourist train because, ugh, tourists. We considered taking buses because they were cheap and seemed simple enough, but we did want more control over our schedule and we did not want to spend all day in transit. The hotel’s driver would take us there and back for 200,000 pesos, and would charge us (I think) 20,000 pesos per hour to wait while we had dinner at Andres in Chia on the way back. In the end, we decided to try our luck with hailing taxis off the street, thinking we could beat the hotels’ price and not be stuck to a schedule. We took taxis from Bogota to Zipaquira, Zipa to Chia, and then Chia to Bogota, and came in at about 180,000 - 200,000 with a tip, and without paying the wait time. So we saved a little money, but condition of the taxis off the street is really inferior to that of the hotel car. The taxis were tiny, often old, with worn out shocks. I think we would have been more comfortable in the hotel car, but also we were not miserable in taxis. One issue to be aware of, though is that the taxis have to fill out paperwork in order to cross jurisdictional lines, so if your taxi stops on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, don’t freak out, he’s just pulling out the forms for you to sign.

We enjoyed the Salt Cathedral, though it gets repetitive after a while and the area at the end with shops and cafes is kind of tacky. We took the Spanish tour rather than waiting an hour for the English tour to start, but it didn’t make a difference. The group that was admitted was so large that only about 30% of the people standing in the front of the group could have heard the guide anyway. As such, this was not a very informative experience for us, though we filled in some blanks using Wikipedia afterwards. My advice would be to linger towards the back of the group and wait, so that you are not in the crush of the crowds fighting to take pictures of every one of their relatives at every one of the stations of the cross.

Afterwards, we took the like train into the center of Zipaquira, which was really a charming colonial town. We were dropped off at the train station, where there was a market going on, and meandered around, taking in the Plaza Independencia and the main square, which was lined with pubs. We stopped in one for a few beers, and enjoyed a traditional music concert going on in the square. This was really a pretty setting, with a white colonial chapel halfway up the hill and the mountains in the background. The beers were REALLY cheap too.

After some negotiations, we found a taxi who could drive us to Chia. It was one of those experiences you only get traveling, as the driver had his wife and baby daughter with him (in the wife’s arms, not a car seat) and we were in this tiny, tiny little Hyundai. Also, he did not know where Andres Carne de Res was, and rather than calling or stopping to ask he took several wrong turns. We didn’t really care, though, and got there eventually.

To describe Andre Carne de Res as sensory overload does not do it justice. It is simply massive. It has its own car wash! It had a separate restaurant and market for takeout, and gift shops. Even though we got there at a weird hour, about 4:30 pm, it was lively, with all sorts of performance artists and musicians. The service was great, and they singled out the newbies with special musical performances along with a ribbon sash and crown. This restaurant is an event unto itself, and I can’t wait to take friends to the outpost in New York. The restaurant had a taxi official just outside, naturally, and she coordinated a taxi to return us to our hotel. We could not find much nightlife in the immediate area of our hotel, so settled for drinks in the hotel bar that night.

On Sunday, we slept late, had breakfast at the hotel, and took a taxi to Parque 93, just to check out the neighborhood. As it was Sunday morning, it was pretty dead, and this is probably more of an area for nightlife. We did wander around the shops some and walked through Parque Mercedes Sierra de Perez, which was quite pleasant. From there, we hailed a taxi to Usaquen, where we were set on some serious shopping. The market here was rather small, but was more upscale than a lot of Latin markets. There was little haggling, and low pressure from the vendors. The items were unique, largely jewelry and handicrafts, and we made several passes through all of the stalls. We stopped at Bogota Brewing Company for some refreshment in between, and thought its patio was a great spot for people watching.

After another lap through the neighborhood, we stopped at Abasto for an early dinner, having read excellent reviews in Conde Nast. We both really enjoyed our meals, and the atmosphere was eclectic and quaint. My after dinner coffee was exceptional. After dinner, we had more beers at Irish Pub in Usaquen, which had a great back terrace featuring a living wall. It was a pretty and pleasant spot in a totally charming neighborhood. Usaquen was a spot that appealed to me more than Zona Rosa, where our hotel was located, and if I return to Bogota I think I’ll look for lodging in this area instead. Zona Rosa was clean and efficient, but didn’t have a great deal of personality. We kept commenting that we could have been in any large city in America when in the neighborhood of our hotel.

Bogota, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Colombia
posts: 2,450
reviews: 7
2. Re: Trip Report

JAtlanta, brilliant stuff!!!

I'm pleasantly relieved to see you enjoyed your inaugural visit to Bogota;most importantly your cerveza requirements were more than satisfactorily fulfilled... 8 )

Considering all the informative Colombia TA posts - I'm a little surprised you chose to use a Michelin Guide, after all we take pride in helping our community.

Muchas gracias for sharing your most excellent trip report.

Hasta pronto!

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
3. Re: Trip Report

We wanted the guide for the maps, and to give an overview of the attractions. I think guidebooks are better at this than TA, as some truly odd attractions can find themselves highly ranked, while major sites fall to the middle of the pack of the Things to Do section because of unjustified reviews. For example, in Atlanta, the crown jewel attraction is our phenomenal aquarium, but it's currently ranked #9, in large part because people think its too expensive. Guidebooks keep you from missing anything major that might fall to the bottom or middle of TA's list. Also, they're good for making decisions on the fly, as I don't want to plot out every minute of a trip before I leave. But, this guidebook was crap, and I'll never get a Michellin book again. I prefer Moon's or Time Out for Latin America.

Edited: 12:11 am, September 06, 2013
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
4. Re: Trip Report

The End:

We were scheduled on the redeye home Monday evening, which gave us a full day in Bogota. That morning, we visited the Botero Museum, which was a real gem. I find his work so amusing and entertaining, and could not believe the number of paintings in this collection. We were impressed by the collection of art from prominent European artists as well. All of this was just steps from the street, and the museum was totally free. It was really a highlight of our trip.

Afterwards, we wandered around La Candalaria some. Carrerra 7 was closed to vehicular traffic for the holiday, Annunciation Day, and it seemed that the whole city had come out to celebrate. There were bicyclists, runners, walkers, strollers, all making their way up and down this vast street, which had vendors and markets along the side. This provided for some great people watching and photos, and was such a festive and pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon. It was our intention to walk to the La Macarena neighborhood, but we really only had a vague idea where it was located. The guidebook naturally contained no mention of the neighborhood or the modern art museum, and I was having trouble getting a phone signal to enlist the help of Google maps. We wandered around for half an hour or so and didn’t see it, though later realized we had been within a block of so of the neighborhood all along. Didn’t matter, though, as we’d formulated an excellent Plan B.

We headed back to our hotel, smartened up, and headed to Harry Sasson for the lunch of a lifetime. I cannot heap enough praises on this restaurant, but I’ll review it separately and post some photos. The prices were rather reasonable for a restaurant this stunning, and we enjoyed a long, leisurely late lunch/early dinner before heading off to the airport.

We got to the airport unnecessarily early, and went to the LAN Lounge, which really has nothing to recommend it. Free wifi. That’s about it.

All in all, Bogota was wonderful, and I’ll enthusiastically recommend it to my friends. Again, thanks for all of your recommendations. I think we managed to hit most of the bars on the list you guys provided, and those we didn't hit will give us a reason to return.

UK it's a OK
posts: 277
reviews: 6
5. Re: Trip Report

Interesting trip report.

I never fail to be amazed by posters who don't want to be viewed as 'tourists' but then proceed to stay in the most touristy and expensive area, eat\drink almost exclusively in restaurants/bars recommended and visited by other tourists and almost purposely avoid contact with locals by traveling throughout in taxis rather than using public transport.

I'm pleased you enjoyed your cocooned visit to Bogota.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
6. Re: Trip Report

Who said I didn't want to be viewed as a tourist?

There's no reason to be such a jerk just because I travel differently than you.

New York, NY
posts: 159
reviews: 3
7. Re: Trip Report

Actually, I did enjoy your report very much, although I won't be checking bars since I'll be traveling with my kids ;)

Being originally from Bogota, I think you did great visiting neiborhoods like Usaquen (where my aunt lives) that other tourists would not visit. Thank you for the tips about where to eat yummy food and about the museums (we're all into art). I'm still having difficulty finding a suitable place to stay so if you have more info about lodging, I'd appreciate it (I won't be staying at my parents' house since it will be too small for all of us).

I'm so excited about my next summer trip to Colombia... Having been since 1999!!

UK it's a OK
posts: 277
reviews: 6
8. Re: Trip Report

JAtlanta

In the first reply you stated "we ruled out the tourist train because, ugh, tourists". To me that is an indication you didn't want to be viewed as a tourist. My apologies if I mis- understood your posts.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
posts: 8,824
reviews: 73
9. Re: Trip Report

You did misunderstand, as that comment was a self deprecating joke. But even if you understood perfectly it doesn't justify the tenor of your response.

Bogota, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Colombia
posts: 2,450
reviews: 7
10. Re: Trip Report

JAtlanta, personally I'm beside myself for cutting in on you before the end of your eloquently prepared trip report; furthermore I'm totally flabbergasted by the ensuing rude and unintelligent comments you had to endure.

Now that I’ve regained my composure, I can discuss clearly the finer points of your most excellently thought out Trip Report. I for one can appreciate all the extra work that Trip Advisor DE like you put into this forum; sometimes your tireless work goes unnoticed – it’s the little things like thanking all of those who offered advice that makes the job well worth it…

Edited: 12:31 am, September 08, 2013
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