So, you’re in Bogota and you’re ready to escape the confines of this modern metropolis…Where should you go? Let me tell you about three pretty awesome places to visit close to Bogota.
Villa de Levya
I’ve mentioned this incredibly charming colonial town in a previous post. However, it’s always worth mentioning again and it’s most definitely close enough to Bogota for a day trip. In car, it’s about 4 hours drive, a little more in bus.
In a day, you can walk the colonial cobblestoned streets, take a horseback tour, embark on a guided tour of the Museo de Antonio Nariño (a museum highlighting the life and death of famous independence fighter, Antonio Nariño), visit the local market, and shop for neat artisan products in the unique stores spread throughout Villa de Leyva.
If you have extra time before heading back to Bogota, look into a trip to Pozos Azules—some beautiful natural wells on the outskirts of Villa de Leyva, or tour the Marques de Villa de Leyva vineyard and taste some exquisite Colombian wine.
If you travel to Villa de Leyva by bus, be sure to check when the last bus leaves for Bogota!
The Puente de Boyaca is another historical destination lying about 2 hours outside of Bogota in the department of Boyaca. The Puente de Boyaca is not a town, but rather a park that has been set up on site of one of the most famous battles in Colombia’s fight for independence. The Battle of Boyaca, fought on site of the Puente de Boyaca, was the battle that ultimately gave Colombia her independence from Spain. Fought on August 7, 1819, in the Battle of Boyaca Simon Bolivar was able to defeat the Spanish troops and secure independence for the territory known as Nueva Granada that later became the countries of Colombia and Panama. To commemorate the battle and the fight for independence, there have been several monuments constructed, including a bridge, the Von Miller monument that contains Simon Bolivar and five female statues that each represent various South American countries, the Triumphal Arch, and the Flag Square that contain the Liberty Flame—a flame that is never put out and that represents freedom and independence. All of these monuments are within walking distance of each other.
This day trip is relaxing—you could easily take a packed lunch and spend the day beneath Simon Bolivar taking in the beauty and significance of the historical site you’re within.
On your way back to Bogota, be sure to stop and buy an arepa boyacense—a unique type of arepa found in the department of Boyaca. I promise, these arepas are amazingly delicious—you won’t be disappointed. The best ones come from roadside vendors who often have oven set up and are freshly churning them out to traveling tourists and Colombians alike.
Villavicencio is the capital of the Colombian department of Meta—a department known for its plains landscape and cattle ranches. Thanks to a “new” highway, Villavicencio is now easily reached in 2.5 hours from Bogota. This capital city is very hot—you won’t need the customary jackets and scarves you’ll surely have with you in Bogota; instead bring a pair of shorts, a light shirt and comfortable walking shoes.
In Villavicencio, you can visit the awesome BioParque Ocarro which allows visitors to see flora and fauna indigenous to the area up close. It’s also got a great restaurant that serves traditional regional food. I don’t know if it’s on the menu in BioParque Ocarro, but one famous regional food you might want to try here is chiguiro—capybara (the largest rodent in the world). Capybras are native to and are raised on farms in the department of Meta. And, if you’re not up for eating them, observe them in their natural habitat!
Villavicencio was also home to the assassinated presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. To this day, Gatian is a revered famous historical figure in Colombia. His home in Villavicencio has now been converted into a lovely museum where you can learn about the history of Gaitan’s fight for the lower and underappreciated classes in Colombian society and his untimely assassination through various historical objects and photographs. You can also see Gaitan’s personal library collection of over 3,000 books!
If you can, coordinate your visit with one of the region’s festivals: el Festival Internacional del Joropo and el Festival Llanero, both worth taking part in.
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- A traveller’s guide to the towns of Boyaca, Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Guatavita and Sesquile: Our new day tour to the spiritual home of the Muiscas (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- A traveller’s guide to the towns of Boyaca, Colombia (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Markets, Fairs, and Shopping in Colombia – Oh my! (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Weird and wonderful Bogota, a walking tour (notesfromcamelidcountry.net)
- Five must-dos for your Bogota itinerary (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Bogota, a city breaking free of its past (notesfromcamelidcountry.net)