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Plaza Bolivar, Bogotá, Colombia | © Leah Jones/Flickr
Plaza Bolivar, Bogotá, Colombia | © Leah Jones/Flickr
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15 Reasons You Should Visit Bogotá over Cali

Picture of Anny Wooldridge
Updated: 1 June 2017
Bogotá is well-known as Colombia’s capital city – located at around 2,640 metres (8,660 feet) above sea level, it’s not only one of the highest capitals in the world, but also has an urban population of nearly 10 million spilling across the Andes mountains and the savannah. Cali, meanwhile, is Colombia’s third largest city with just over three million residents, and is renowned as one of the world’s best salsa destinations. While Bogotá and Cali each have their respective highlights, here are 15 reasons why you should visit Bogotá over Cali.

Bogotá means business

Bogotá’s large population and capital city status make it an idea place for business. The city is home to a large number of people from all over the world as well as a large variety of businesses with established headquarters, which have rapidly developed the city in terms of an increase in technology and urban growth. Cali, meanwhile, is a small city and predominantly an agricultural and manufacturing hub, thanks to its close proximity to Ecuador and the port of Buenaventura.

It’s bigger

Bogotá’s urban area covers 374 square miles (601 square kilometres) – far bigger than Cali – which lends itself to more activities across different locations. It has a number of districts which are completely different from each other, offering variety and unique experiences or things to see, including colonial districts, a downtown area, and a number of financial districts, in addition to wealthy districts and large park areas.

It has history

Bogotá is the historic centre of the country, which was once home to the Mucis tribe, who created a settlement, located where the city stands today. The Spanish took over the city and established various buildings and neighbourhoods within the city, including the neighbourhood of La Candelaria which is still in existence. Travelling around Bogotá, it is still easy to recognise colonial buildings and cathedrals throughout the city today. Cali also has a historical centre, but it is a lot smaller than Bogotá, with a plaza and small number of cathedrals.

Bogotá is a city waiting to be discovered I
Bogotá is a city waiting to be discovered I | © Jorge Díaz/WikiCommons

Access is easy

Bogotá is located in the centre of the country, and its capital city status and newly-built airport have given the city more transport links. From Bogotá’s El Dorado airport, there are flights to over 40 cities in Colombia, 25 cities in Latin America, seven Europe cities and 10 US cities, making it the most connected Colombian city. In contrast, Cali only has flight connections to two US cities, one European city, eight Latin American cities and nine Colombian cities.

There are more people

Bogotá has a population of around seven million more people than Cali. People come to live in Bogotá from all over Colombia and the world, allowing cultures to join together and create a unique community where cultures blend and thrive across aspects as varied as cuisine, buildings and the city’s social structure. Cali is more of a traditional Colombian city, with Colombian roots, thanks to its agricultural influence.

Bogotá is home to the Monserrate

Bogotá’s historic landmarks include the famous whitewashed Monserrate Cathedral located on the top of one of the cities eastern hills, which can be seen from all over the city. The Monserrate is a major tourist landmark in the city, and can be reached by cable car, train, or by climbing a path to reach the top. The top of the mountain is also home to a small market and restaurant, offering visitors the chance to look out over the seemingly endless city and to really get a sense of its vast scale.

There are endless cultural opportunities

Bogotá contains a large number of unique museums including the Botero Museum, the Nacional Museum, the Gold Museum to name a few beyond the 55 additional museums, along with 62 art galleries, 33 library networks, 45 stage theatres and over 150 national monuments. Giving the city a large number of cultural and historical things to do, whereas Cali has 8 museums.

It has an underground salt cathedral

Located around 52 kilometres from Bogotá is the famous Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá. Opened in 1953, this park is a major tourist destination outside of the city, and gives an insight into the Colombian countryside and small town of Zipaquirá. The salt cathedral is 180 meters (650 feet) underground, and includes an extensive tunnel system with crystallised waterfalls, as well as depictions of the fourteen stages of the cross. The park also has a climbing wall, movie theatre, historic video screenings, art gallery, stores, restaurants and a café.

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá I
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá I | © ollie harridge/Flickr

Small town living is within reach

Bogotá has a large number of small towns located within a one-hour drive of the city, in every direction. These small towns have colonial buildings, plazas, traditional home-style restaurants, artisanal stores and strong communities. They give visitors an insight into Colombian culture, where farmers and traditional workers live and go about their day-to-day lives.

The landscapes are breathtaking

Bogotá is located high in the Andes mountain range, in a savannah surrounded by spectacular mountains. Even from within the city, visitors are exposed to the enormity of the mountains and their green-covered landscapes. To the west and east of the city, outside the urban area, the landscapes change from city views to endless mountainous countryside.

Land of mystery: there’s so much to know about Colombia
Land of mystery: there’s so much to know about Colombia | © Pedro Szekely Flickr

You can shop ’til you drop

There are plenty of shopping malls and districts in Bogotá, with a variety of Colombian and international products on offer, as well as a large number of local markets with food produce and more. In Bogotá you can buy and discover every type of brand or product possible, while in Cali – where there are three main shopping malls and a variety of Colombian stores and markets – the shopping isn’t as big or as varied as in Bogotá.

La Candelaria offers a step back in time

La Candelaria is the historic neighbourhood or downtown of the capital. This colonial neighbourhood is home to rolling hills lined with colourful Spanish architectural buildings, and a large plaza surrounded by a cathedral and government buildings.

La Candelaria, Bogotá I
La Candelaria, Bogotá I | © Pedro Szekely/Wikimedia Commons

Bogotá’s international restaurants are renowned

Bogotá’s extensive influence from other countries including England, Spain, France, Asia and Italy to name a few, gives the city a great variety of restaurants. Bogotá’s Zona G, Zona T and Calle 85, have a large selection of cuisine options, while Cali has a number of restaurant and cuisine varieties but not as many as the capital.

The nightlife is beyond compare

Bogotá has been heavily influenced by music from all over Colombia, the Caribbean and Africa. The city’s nightlife encompasses everything including luxury cocktail bars, clubs, basement clubs, small bars, local bars, tejo arenas and pubs. Each plays a variety of music from reggaeton and champeta, through to Colombian pop with Afro-Colombian influences. Cali, on the other hand, is the self-proclaimed salsa capital of the world, with a large number of salsa venues and dance halls.

You won’t find a more thriving calendar of events

Bogotá has a large number of events throughout the year, from music events to fairs and shows – the city is thriving with activities and things to do and see. Throughout the year, Bogotá’s Cofaires holds fairs including design fairs, travel fairs, art fairs, cultural fairs and everything in between. This, along with the other events happening throughout the year, make the city a thriving venue for special events.