How to Spend a Layover in Bogotá

Bogotá El Dorado Airport
Bogotá El Dorado Airport | © Bernal Saborio / Flickr
Photo of Chris Bell
15 March 2018

Bogotá’s El Dorado Airport is considered one of the best in South America and is something of a travel hub for people flying between North America and the rest of South America. However, even though there is plenty to enjoy in the airport, should you find yourself with a decent layover in Bogotá, it’s worth heading out into the city to see some of the sights.

If you’re on a three-hour layover

Three hours doesn’t leave you with must time to play with, but the good news is that you can easily grab a cab to Simon Bolivar Park or the Bogotá Botanical Gardens. This shouldn’t take much more than 20 minutes, and you can easily enjoy a couple of hours wandering the large expanse of the park or marvelling at the remarkable flowers and trees endemic to Colombia at the Botanical Gardens. It’s a nice way to enjoy some of Colombia’s famous nature without having to go far from the city.

Park in Bogotá, Colombia | © diego vanegas / Flickr

However, be aware that traffic in Bogotá can be an absolute nightmare, so if you are unfortunate enough to have a three-hour layover that coincides with rush hour, it may not be worth taking the risk of missing your flight by getting stuck in traffic. The good news is that there are some good cafés and bars in the airport, so you can at least sample some good Colombian coffee and rum.

If you’re on a six-hour layover

You can do a lot on a six-hour layover in Bogotá. The historical centre of La Candelaria is a mere half hour away by taxi, so you can easily get there and spend three or four hours enjoying some of the attractions before getting back to the airport with time to spare. If you can, try and arrive in time to take the famous Bogotá Graffiti Tour: this almost three-hour walking tour starts at 10am and 2pm, and gives you the chance to enjoy a sightseeing tour of the historical centre, combined with a look at Bogotá’s amazing street art. You can also visit the Gold Museum, the Botero Museum or the National Museum, any one of which requires about two hours to see it properly.

Bogotá street art | Chris Bell / © Culture Trip

If you really want to get a sense of what Bogotá is like, then take your taxi direct to Monserrate, a mountain overlooking the city, which can be ascended and descended by cable car or funicular railway. You need a good three hours to enjoy Monserrate properly, but you’ll easily have time for that on your layover, especially if you just focus on the mountain. You’ll find a market and some restaurants at the top, so you can kill several birds with one stone and enjoy some traditional local food while also getting some souvenirs to take back home with you.

Monserrate cable car | © Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr

If you’re on a 12-hour layover

If you stay busy and spend your time sensibly, 12 hours in Bogotá allows you to experience most of what the average visitor experiences over a couple of days. Start off with some of the aforementioned activities – the Graffiti Tour, the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum – before making your way to Monserrate to enjoy the remarkable panoramic views of the city. With a layover of this length, you will easily have time to enjoy all of these attractions at your leisure.

Other must-visit Bogotá sights that you can now fit in include the Quinta de Bolivar, where Simon Bolivar once lived, the cathedral and Plaza de Bolivar, and the Chorro de Quevedo, the oldest street and square in the city, where modern Bogotá was supposedly founded. You will also have time to grab a typical ajiaco soup at La Puerta Falsa, Bogotá’s oldest restaurant, and a fresh coffee or coca tea at one of La Candelaria’s many small cafés.

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