Bogota is full of fascinating tourist sites and visitors from all around the world, yearning to discover the charm of the South American cities, keep falling in love with the Colombian capital. But the beauty of Bogota goes beyond the limits of the Capital District and a few kilometers away from this huge city you will find some truly enchanting landscapes. Complete your travel itinerary to Colombia with those 5 places to visit near Bogota that, without a doubt, you cannot miss.
1. La Chorrera
One of the best options to enjoy a very different trip full of adrenaline without going very far from Bogota is the Hike to La Chorrera Waterfall, the largest waterfall of Colombia. You will cross flower-filled fields and see beautiful turkey hens and impressive falcons. Only 45 minutes away from the Colombian capital, in Choachí (Cundinamarca) you will find this dazzling natural reserve: a symbolic place for the locals.
The waterfall is 590 metres high and is the sixth largest of Latin America. It is located in the middle of a cloud forest where colourful butterflies, rabbits and birds live. Its waters flow into the Meta river, the largest of the Colombian Orinoquia region. In La Chorrera you can hike in the middle of the woods – you must be accompanied by an experienced guide though – but this is also the ideal place to do rappel, cavalcades and camping. Definitely one of the places to visit near Bogota!
The main attraction of this Colombian town is the spectacular Salt Cathedral, considered as one of the principal religious attractions of South America. Apart from having a great religious influence, this is a true architectural jewel and has a truly impressive construction. Zipaquirá is 25 kilometers away from Bogota and is one of the most important salt exploitation centre of Colombia.
When visitors enter the Cathedral, the first thing they will see will be salt and marble sculptures with very peculiar visual effects. The experienced guide will then explain the historical details of the construction of this blinding place and the salt mines are also available for visit. You should also go to the Gonzalez Forero Plaza in Zipaquirá: almost 300 years old buildings and colonial mansions surround this square. The Casa Museo Quevedo Zornoza, where are being kept the remains of the Quevedo Family, recognised cultores of the Colombian art since the War of Independence.
3. Villa de Leyva
Among the places to visit near Bogota is the Villa de Leyva. This trip will be like going back to the remote past of Colombia since you will find there objects and constructions of the muiscas, an important indigenous people who has been living in the Colombian nation since the sixth century. Important colonial constructions will tell you the story of this city considered a national monument.
A day tour in Villa de Leyva will be more than enough to discover the most important points of interest of the town, such as the Archeological Park “El Infiernito”, the Astronomical Observatory of Zaquenzipá, where the muiscas calculated the appropriate time to harvest the fields. This is also the ideal occasion to buy souvenirs, especially handcraft memories made out of ceramic and to walk through its beautiful streets as you taste the local gastronomy. If you visit the town on a Saturday, do not forget to visit the Mercado Campesino of Villa de Leyva. It offers a lot of handicrafts, typical food and fruits and vegetables to buy and taste.
60 kilometres to the Northwest of Bogota is Guatavita. This is a touristic Colombian town, famous for its lovely Laguna Dorada, or Lake Guatavita, located in the neighbouring town of Sesquilé. Just as Villa de Leyva, Guatavita is a natural space sacred for the Muisca civilisation and this is where the El Dorado legend originates from.
This legend says that when a cacique (indigenous leader) was chosen, he should go to the Lagoon, pure of thought, place dusty gold on his skin and then immerse himself in the lagoon in order to gain wisdom. The community then made its offering; they threw gold and other jewels in the water. It is said that when the colonists learned this story, they tried to empty the lagoon to find the gems.
Travelling tip: Listen to the details of the El Dorado legend from the mouth of the locals with the Guatavita Golden Lake Tour: you will also taste the delicious national Colombian gastronomy in the dazzling Oriental Colombian Cordillera mountains.
Video from sarepa.com:
5. La Calera
La Calera is 18 kilometers away from Bogota and is an excellent option if you wish to escape the bustle of the capital and enjoy charming valleys and lovely hills. Among the places to visit near Bogota, you can go to the mirador, the Capilla Colonial, the San Rafael dam and the Chingaza National Park in la Calera, ideal to walk through amazing landscapes of the Colombian moor. If you do not have enough time to visit everything, make a choice between the Suasie Path and the Siecha Lagoons Path; they are the quickest visits but the most impressive.
During your visit to La Calera, enjoy the typical Colombian gastronomy in restaurants such as El Molina and El Tambor, where the specialty are the famous parrilladas (barbecues). To finish, do not forget to bring home wool fabric made by the local craftsmen and if you have a car with enough space, you can even take with you wicker or wooden furniture, with gorgeous designs, typical of this region.
Extra Tip: Andrés Carne de Res, one of the places to visit near Bogota
“Entering this Pagan Paradise will open your eyes and your mind to a new world of possibilities where enjoyment and happiness are the unique immediate goal. Give your palate and your eyes the best there is, because here we cook and feed you the best of the best of the earth.”
With this affirmation are you received in the Andrés Carne de Res restaurant. This is much more than just a place to eat, it offers a culinary and cultural experience to all its visitors.
No trip around Bogota can be considered complete if you have not spent a night in Andrés Carne de Res – among the World’s 50 Best of Latin America, a listing with the main restaurants of the region: definitely one of the places to visit near Bogota if you like the Colombia gastronomy. This is a symbol of the night life of Bogota, ideal to have a drink, eat or dance with your friends or family. This place has about 2,000 seats – on weekends the restaurant is full – five kitchens and two dance floors.
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Extend your travel itinerary and include this fascinating places to visit near Bogota. They offer you the perfect combination of exuberant landscapes, precolonial legends, architectural emblematic works and flavor. Do not be afraid to try new things, to experiment, to enjoy every second of your journey to this beautiful and exuberant country.
By: Keilma Roja, Venezuelan journalist, specialised in culture and actuality. Writer in Spanish for Daytours4u. Translated to English by Grégory Noël