Bogotá

In many ways Bogotá epitomizes the Latin American city, with its mix of crumbling colonial architecture and modern office blocks, vast divide between the rich and poor, and soaring population. It is both highly cosmopolitan and, in some regards, stuck in the past. With much to attract the artist, the historian, the pleasure-seeker and even perhaps the naturalist, Bogotá has become a big destination for world travelers, though it is so markedly different from other Colombian cities.

Located in the center of Colombia atop an Andean plateau, Bogotá is flanked by the Cordillera Oriente to the east and smaller mountain ranges to the west. With an altitude of 2,600 meters (8,530 ft) above sea level, the capital takes third place for highest major city in the world. Travelers will find that, much like Medellín, Bogotá has recently undergone a serious makeover: with massive investments in reviving public spaces, expanding infrastructure and improving social services, the Colombian capital now thrives as a case study of urban transformation in South America. In due time, its reputation will catch up. However, crime is still prevalent and visitors should be alert around tourist areas and government buildings.

The colonial part of Bogotá is alternately called La Candelaria and Centro Histórico. This area provides travelers with a pleasant sense of history and a great selection of cafés, theatres and museums. Considered by many to be the intellectual and cultural center of Bogotá, La Candelaria is a must-see district. A strong university presence here results in low prices and a prevalent bohemian culture.

In contrast to the historic La Candelaria, in the north of Bogotá (which comprises the neighborhoods of Centro Internacional/La Macarena, Chapinero, Zona Rosa, Parque de la 93, and Usaquén), a far more modern, commercial atmosphere presides. Luxury hotels, glitzy apartments and swanky shopping malls, like the Hacienda Santa Bárbara in Usaquén, are the norm. The Museo de “El Chicó” Mercedes de Pérez (formerly the Hacienda de El Chicó) offers an expansive collection of 18th century art.

Day trips outside of the city are also popular due to Bogotá’s central location. Restless travelers can stretch their legs as they explore the surrounding landscape. The cliffs of Suesca offer world-class rock climbing, while short journeys to La guna de Guativa provide great views of the Cundinamarca countryside.

Telephone Code: 1
Altitude: 2600 m
Population: 7,457,000