Surviving the Holy Week in Bogota. A foreigner’s guide

Easter is already upon us and for most of the western world this means a time to relax and perhaps take some time off.  A lot of people will be taking a well deserved break during Easter and of course, we expect a great many of our readers to be visiting or staying in Bogota during the Holy Week bank holidays.

But, the Holy Week is quite a special time in Colombia: people will also go on holidays, roads and airports will be full and most businesses (including some tourist attractions) will be closed. Others will be observing the catholic traditions associated with these religious dates. The normal patterns in cities like Bogota will be completely altered during this week.

All of this could be a bit disconcerting for a visitor. There will be a lot of people out and about in some areas, while other places that are normally busy, might look like ghost towns during the holidays. This could be seen both as a problem and as an opportunity from a traveller’s perspective.

With this in mind, we decided to share a few tips with you, fellow Bogota explorer, to help you survive and enjoy the Holy Week. If you happen to be among the lucky ones visiting Bogota this week, here is our list of DOs and DON’Ts.

The Prime Cathedral in Bogota - One to avoid during Easter

The Prime Cathedral in Bogota – One to avoid during Easter

DO…

…check Holy Week processions / celebrations

In Colombia, as in most countries in Latin-America, Catholicism is by far the prevailing creed among the local population.  A lot of people will be attending religious services during the holy days. Some communities would have invested a lot time and effort preparing for the special celebrations of the Holy Week, and in particular for the processions taking place on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Whilst places like Monserrate and ‘20 de Julio’ will be absolutely full of people (see ‘DON’T’ section below), it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the street processions marking ‘the stations of the cross’ organised by every local parish on Friday morning.

Many churches in La Candelaria have carried out these processions for centuries and they are quite interesting to watch, even if you are not catholic. One of the most famous Good Friday celebrations in Bogota takes place in the parish of ‘Nuetra Señora de Egipto´ (a few blocks east from La Candelaria) where local parishioners give life to the characters of the Gospel and enact the last hours of Jesus before the crucifixion.

A word of caution: The ‘Egipto’ neighbourhood has improved a lot over the past few years in terms of street crime but unfortunately, the area is still not 100% safe for visitors. If you are attending the Via Crusis organised by the parish of Egipto, it’s better not to take any valuables with you.

Basilica de la Virgen the Chiquinquira - Day trips from Bogota should be planned carefully

Basilica de la Virgen the Chiquinquira – Day trips from Bogota should be planned carefully

… Walk around La Candelaria and visit the Museums

As most locals will be either in church or travelling out of the city, this is possibly the best week to have a nice and quiet stroll around the streets of La Candelaria. Enjoy the nice colonial architecture and immerse in Bogota’s history walking down streets that would otherwise be heaving with office workers and passersby.

Make sure you visit the Museums too, specially the Gold Museum, which will remain open for visitors on Thursday and throughout the Easter Weekend but will be closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Chances are you will have the opportunity to enjoy the best pre-hispanic gold collection in the world all by yourself.

Church in la Calera

Church in la Calera

…take Transmilenio and other public transport

Locals will be off work and many would have travelled out of the city. This means, Bogota’s transport system won’t be as busy as it normally is. This is a good chance to take Transmilenio and travel to other parts of the city in relative comfort. Get out and explore!

The path to Monserrate and its temple will be very busy during Easter

The path to Monserrate and its temple will be very busy during Easter

… go shopping!

Shopping centres might not be as busy as usual. So there is an opportunity to buy a few souvenirs in Bogota during the Easter break.

Also, street flea markets should be open as usual and you might have a better chance to bag a bargain! (check our article on flea markets below).

… take a city tour 🙂

We’re bound to recommend this since we are a tour operator (so much for impartial advice). But on a serious note, if you are considering booking an organised tour, we recommend you to go for a Bogota city tour and not for a day trip to Zipaquira or any other nearby town. Traffic in Bogota will be easier than normal making it more pleasurable to move around, while the roads to nearby towns will be quite busy.

The Gold Museum - have it all for yourself!

The Gold Museum – have it all for yourself!

DON’T…

…go to Monserrate or visit the historic churches

As you can imagine, all churches will be very busy across Bogota during the Holy week. This is especially true for the famous historic churches and for the church at Monserrate.  The path to Monserrate will also be full of pilgrims and there is a good chance access will be restricted during peak hours.

On top of this, access to most part of the historic churches will not be allowed for visitors during the services (which normally take most of the day) unless you are attending the celebrations.

Finally, most churches will be closed during the Easter week. In summary, your visit to the beautiful historic churches of La Candelaria might have to wait until your next trip to Bogota.

…travel by road

Roads will be full during the festive season so, expect considerable traffic delays. Buses departing from Bogota to other towns and cities will be packed. If you still want to travel away from Bogota by bus, your best bet is to go straight to the central bus terminal and be prepared to queue for a long time to get a ticket.

El Dorado airport will also be extra-busy. Even if you have a ticket, make sure you arrive early to the check-in counter since over-booking is common during the Easter break

Central bus station in Bogota - Arrive early if you plan to travel

Central bus station in Bogota – Arrive early if you plan to travel

…run out of food

Finally, make sure you check the opening times of your local supermarket or that special restaurant you plan to visit. Most businesses would be closed at some point during the Easter break. Most will close from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. It might be a good idea to stack up some supplies if you are staying in Bogota during the break.

Hopefully these tips will be helpful. We welcome your comments as usual and we wish people staying in Bogota this week a wonderful time with the many activities that Bogota has to offer.

Furthermore, we’d love to hear from expats in Bogota and locals who wish to contribute to the above. Are there any other useful tips or things to do in Bogota during the Easter break?

Make sure you leave your comments below.

Happy Easter!

The Uncover Colombia team

Related articles

Advertisements

One thought on “Surviving the Holy Week in Bogota. A foreigner’s guide

  1. Reblogged this on Limitless Colombia and commented:
    This weekend isn’t just any weekend. It’s the end of Semana Santa (Holy Week), and we here in Colombia know how to party! As a tourist, this might seem like an intimidating time to visit but don’t let it scare you! Check out this blog on great tips for surviving Easter in Bogota!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s