Five Things to Do On Your Days Off in Bogota

 | Teaching House Nomads Blog

Colombia is a country which often brings to mind drinking from a straw out of a coconut on a tropical beach. The capital Bogota doesn’t however, cooperate with the stereotype! The city is high in the Andes, with often cold, rainy weather and more concrete than palm trees. It’s nevertheless an excellent destination for ESL teachers, as it’s home to more than 40 of Latin America’s top universities as well as stalwarts like British Council and International House. It’s also a great hub to explore the gorgeous countryside of the surrounding area. If you do end up in the city, here are some ideas of what to do with the numerous puentes (three day weekends) that fall on Colombian public holidays:

1. Mount Monserrate (1/2 day)

ESL teachers working in Bogota can visit Mount Monserrate on their days off to see gorgeous panoramic views of the city
Mount Monserrate photo: Inyucho

A brilliant white church sits atop Mount Monserrate, one of the tall Andean peaks that lines the eastern edge of Bogota. There are three ways to get to this church: a funicular ride, a cable car, or a 3km hike. Any of the options are worth the effort, but the hike is probably the most popular, and it’s free! In fact, many people choose to jog up the trail and back down as a morning workout as an alternative to a pricey gym membership. Once at the top, there is a market where local crafts and food are sold as well as gorgeous panoramic views of the city – if it’s not too cloudy!

2. Villa de Leyva (2 days)

This gorgeous colonial town lies about 160km north of Bogota and is accessible through the reasonably reliable public bus system. It’s a very popular weekend getaway for Bogotanos. There are often music and art festivals, but if there isn’t it’s still worth visiting for great restaurants, pretty architecture, and a quirky ostrich farm. It’s a bit far for a day trip, so you should plan to spend at least one night. There are some nice mid-priced hotels, but for those on a budget camping is a popular option.

Villa de Leyva is a gorgeous colonial town that is about 160km north of Bogota
Villa de Leyva Photo by: Mario Carvajal

3. Zipaquira (1 day)

Expat teachers working in Bogota can easily take a day trip to the historical Zipaquira
Zipaquira photo by: Jimmy Baikovicius

Zipaquira is only about 40km north of Bogota and is an easy day trip. The town is most famous for its Salt Cathedral, a neon-lit working church carved out of a salt mine. There are gigantic crosses adorning the tunnels on the way to the main temple, which can host up to 3,000 visitors for mass. In addition to the Salt Cathedral there are other notable architectural sights, such as the Spanish colonial buildings around the main square and the enormous Catedral Diocesana de San Antonio de Padua.

4. Chicaque (1 day)

The cloud forest of Chicaque, Bogota is absolutely worth the time and effort to visit
Chicaque photo by: Piere Pulido

Possibly the trickiest of the places to get to on this list, the cloud forest of Chicaque is absolutely worth the time and effort. It is only about 30km south of the city, but there is no direct public transport option. It might be worth renting a car or taking a taxi if you are interested in going. Once you arrive, you will have the opportunity to hike up to Eagle Peak and see incredible views of the Colombian countryside and understand why the park is called a “cloud forest”. You won’t believe how close you are to one of the most bustling metropolises in South America.

5. Salento (3 days)

English teachers working in Bogota can visit Salento for a long weekend on their days off
Salento photo by McKay Savage

A bit further out, Salento is accessible from the cities of Armenia or Pereira (each an overnight bus or cheap flight from Bogota) and is a nice option for a long weekend. Salento is a tiny, colorful town in the coffee-growing region of the country. Here you can visit a coffee farm and go on cycling tours, but by far the main draw is the Cocora Valley. This is home to the tallest palm trees in the world and some surreal landscapes. There is a challenging but short (about 30min) hike to the top of the mountain where you can rest your legs with a cup of traditional cocoa. There is also a lovely little hummingbird reserve on the way up.

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