Colombia is a country which had previously been dismissed by backpackers due to its past reputation. Over the last 10 years, however, the country has thrived. Tourism in the Colombia has increased more than 45 percent, and many backpackers are now longing to discover this biodiverse country.
Colombia has many major cities, but Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, welcomes the most tourists every year. This city, which is located 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) up in the mountains, has a lot to offer backpackers; in Bogotá you may not be close to the beach, be able to sleep in a hammock or soak up the sun, but you can explore Colombia’s art, culture and history. Bogotá is the perfect backpacker’s destination with cheap prices, good food and lots of places to explore.
What to do and see
This is the downtown area of Bogotá and is home to a number of must-see attractions – the colorful, colonial neighborhood is often referred to as the heart of the city. Stare in awe at over 55,000 individual pieces of crafted gold figures at the Gold Museum, and take a cable car or train up to the top of the Monserrate to take in the amazing view of the city. Walk around the cobbled streets and the famous Plaza Bolivar, discover the famous works of Colombian artist Botero in the Botero Museum, and learn about the country and the city’s history through its famous street art.
Bogotá has a large number of markets all throughout the week, but two of the best are San Victorino and Usaquén (only on Sundays). San Victorino is a market that stretches over seven streets and is home to fresh foods, clothes, household goods, indigenous traditional products and anything else you can imagine.
Usaquén’s Sunday morning market is famous around the city with locals and tourists traveling from far and wide to take a stroll around the stalls. This open air market is filled with artisan and traditional products as well as local delicacies. The cobbled streets of Usaquén provide the perfect backdrop: a colonial plaza and many unique restaurants.
Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá
Located 53 kilometers (32 miles) from Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral is situated in the quaint, historic, colonial town of Zipaquirá. This beautiful, sacred and spiritual place lies 180 meters (590 feet) underground and was built in one of four underground salt mine tunnels – in fact it’s still a functioning salt mine today. The Salt Cathedral is located within the bigger Salt Park that contains a large number of attractions including a climbing wall, a 3D movie of the mining history, a museum, light show, the route of the miner and the footprints walk of salt. Zipaquirá also offers an insight into the countryside of Colombia as it is surrounded by fields and mountains. This historical colonial town offers home-cooked style restaurants and locally owned traditional shops.
Tejo is a unique Colombian sport that is often referred to as Colombia’s National Sport. It involves throwing a lead, puck-like object at a rectangular wooden box filled with clay located at the end of the tejo court. In the middle of the rectangular box is a hollow lead tube in a circle shape that has gunpowder inside. The object of the game is to throw the puck-like object at the clay box and hit the gunpowder. This is a team game and is free to play with the purchase of a crate of beer; this is a great, unusual, cheap night out, or maybe it’ll just get your night going. Each and every town has a tejo court and it is very popular with locals.
Where to eat and drink
Andrés Carne de Res
Andrés Carne de Res (Andrés) is not just a restaurant, it’s a mind boggling experience. There are traditional Colombian foods, a variety of signature drinks, typical Colombian music and its unique decoration is unlike anywhere else in the world. Andrés has a number of restaurants referred to as Andrés Express: these plaza style restaurants serve the succulent meats and traditional foods without the crazy party factor. Andrés’ main restaurant is located one hour’s drive outside of Bogotá, in Chía; the original restaurant covers seven square kilometers (2.76 square miles) with 11 dining rooms, five kitchens and two dance floors. Andrés DC is located in Zona Rosa, Bogotá and has the same lively atmosphere without the one hour drive.
Andrés Carne de Res, Calle 3N #11A-56, Chía, Colombia, +57 1 589 3880
Andrés DC, Calle 82 #12-21, Bogotá, Colombia, +57 1 863 7880
Wok is a Colombian restaurant chain that offers a mix of flavors and delicacies from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and other Asian countries, with a Colombian twist. Wok’s focus, despite it being a chain, is on fresh ingredients and it has a number of locations all over the city.
Wok, Zona T, Carrera 13 #82 – 74, Bogotá, Colombia, +57 1 218 9040
Juan Valdez is a coffee producing chain whose aim is to bring high quality local Colombian coffee to locals by opening a large number of coffee shops all over the country. These coffee shops have a relaxed environment and serve a number of fresh pastries, desserts, and sandwiches as well as high quality coffees.
Where to stay
The Republica Hostel is located in the lively neighborhood of Chapinero with easy access to restaurants, shops and bars. This modern and unique hostel has eight rooms (a mixture between private rooms and dorms sleeping up to eight people), a bar, lounge area and front terrace. There is 24 hour security and free wifi available. Prices start from COP30,000 (US$10) a night including free breakfast. They often hold many events in the communal area such as DJs on Saturday evenings and weeknight entertainment.
Republica Hostel, Carrera 12 #68–28, Bogotá, Colombia, +57 1 704 9212
Mi Llave Hostel
Mi Llave Hostel is located close to a large number of restaurants, shops and bars in the neighborhood of Chapinero. The hostel has seven guest rooms with a variety of dorms and private rooms; there is also a communal lounge area, terrace and garden area. The hostel offers free wifi and prices start from COP25,000 (US$8.50) a night.
Mi Llave Hostel, Carrera 10a #67-29, Bogotá, Colombia, +57 316 805 1661
The Masaya Hostel is located in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Bogotá. The hostel has 16 guest rooms and is uniquely decorated with a mix of traditional Colombian and modern features. This hotel-style hostel has a mix of shared dorms and private or double rooms, and has a terrace area, a restaurant/bar, a communal lounge and a tour operator on site. Free coffee and tea are available as well as complimentary wifi. Prices start from COP85,000 (US$29) a night.
Masaya Hostel, Carrera 2 #12-48, Bogotá, Colombia, + 57 310 609 2782