Bogotá is a city people tend to pass through on their way to explore other areas of Colombia. They do their obligatory visit since they are in the country and go somewhere “cooler.”
Most travelers will tell you it’s only worth a few days.
Most travelers are wrong.
I loved traveling around Bogota. Devoid of a lot of the Gringofication you found on other parts of the country, it felt like the most Colombian of cities to me.
There is a lot to do here: tons of museums, parks, activities, walking tour, nightlife options, and an incredible foodie scene.
I think it is a really underappreciated city because too many travelers compare it to Medellin.
But, if you just take Bogotá for what it is, you’ll find it to be an amazing destination. I ended up staying a lot longer than I originally planned and can’t wait to go back. Give the city a chance and spend a few extra days exploring it.
This travel guide can help you plan the best trip to Bogotá (and hopefully make you love it as much as I do).
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bogotá
1. Check out the view from Monserrate
2. Admire the Street Art
3. Visit the Botero Museum
4. Take a Bike Tour
5. See the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum)
Other Things to See and Do in Bogotá
1. Book a tour of Casa de Nariño
Casa de Nariño is the president’s house. Beyond its attractive neoclassical façade, its interior is filled with furniture, paintings, and sculptures from the Roman and the Renaissance periods. They offer free tours Monday to Friday (you need to book online at least five days in advance), and they last around 45 minutes. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to request the tour in English. You can also watch the changing of the presidential guard on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 3:30pm.
2. Take a food tour
There are several food tours in Bogota, including the Free Food Tour Bogotá which meets outside the Museo de Oro at 2pm each day. The tour will walk you around a few of the markets and give you an overview of local fruits and traditional cuisine. Although the tour itself is free, you will have to pay for your own food. If you eat everything on offer, it will cost you only about 22,000 COP ($8 USD). You can register online or just turn up. There’s also Bogotá Food Tour (which costs 188,500 COP/$55 USD), which will take you around La Macarena, Bogotá’s bohemian and artistic neighborhood. The tour lasts three hours and will take you to three different restaurants where you can sample a local dish and drink. Tours also include pickup and drop-off at your accommodation.
3. Taste Chicha in La Candelaria
Chicha is Colombia’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Made from fermented corn, it has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as people reconnect with their native heritage. You’ll find many bars in La Candelaria serving it, especially on the street near Plazoleta Chorro de Quevedo.
4. Visit the Iglesia de San Fransisco
San Francisco Church is one of the oldest churches in Bogotá (built between 1557 and 1621), with an eerily dark interior and a gorgeous gilded 17th-century altar. It was one of the few buildings that remained standing in the city center after the killing of presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948. Admission is free.
5. Venture out to La Chorrera Waterfall
Just an hour outside of Bogotá is the tallest waterfall in Colombia. To take a tour here will cost you between 300,000-700,000 COP ($96-225 USD), so it isn’t cheap. The cheapest way is to take the bus to Tercer Milenio. The cost is 7,500 COP each way ($2.50 USD). Be sure to check the times of the return busses at the tienda with the green roof when you get off the bus. From here, you can walk down to the trailhead.
6. Take a free walking tour
There are a lot of free walking tours in Bogotá. BeyondColombia has a great free walking tour that will give you a solid introduction to the city as it takes you through the city center. For a more specialized tour, check out the Bogotá Graffiti Tour. This one operates by donation, using the money raised to reinvest in future community art projects. Be sure to tip your guides!
7. Wander around La Candelaria
La Candelaria is Bogotá’s historic and cultural neighborhood. The narrow streets are overflowing with artists selling their work, street art, hip cafes, and museums. It’s located between two of the city’s universities, so it’s often buzzing with students and young folks. Be sure to hang out on Plaza Del Chorro Del Quevedo (mentioned above). This small square often has a lot of street performers and an artist market.
8. Enjoy the nightlife in Zona Rosa
Most backpackers don’t venture out of La Candelaria and stick to the bars in that area. The Zona Rosa area is where most of the city’s expats live, and “Gringo Tuesdays” are always a lot of fun in La Villa nightclub if you want to party with the international crowd. Other popular places are Mint, the Colombian Pub, and El Campanario.
9. Visit one of the many Sunday markets
Sunday is a great day for browsing some of the local markets. There is one close to Las Aguas station and one all the way up Carrera 7 before the pedestrian section ends on the right. If you want to eat some delicious street food you want the one on Carrera 7. The most popular stand is always the Lechona Tolimense (roasted pig stuffed with rice).
10. Get on your Bike for Ciclovia
Every Sunday morning across Colombia the main roads in many of the big cities close for Ciclovia. Ciclovia is a government scheme to get people outdoors and exercising. People take to the streets on bike, rollerskates, or they walk or run. So rent a bike and enjoy being part of this Sunday Colombian tradition! The cost of a bike hire for four hours is about 55,000 COP ($20 USD) with Biking Bogota.
11. Visit the Cathedral of Salt
The Cathedral of Salt is just outside of Bogotá in a town called Zipaquirá. The Catholic Cathedral was built by the miners inside the tunnels of an old salt mine and is 200 meters below ground. Every Sunday, up to 3,000 people attend church services here. Just take the Transmilenio to Portal Norte and then take a small local bus to Zipa. Let the driver know where you are going, and he will tell you when to get off. Entrance fee for non-residents is 57,000 COP ($18.50).
12. Stroll in the Botanical Gardens
Opened in 1955, the Botanical Garden of Bogotá is home to almost 20,000 plants. There is a focus on regional plants, especially those that are endemic to the Andes and other high alpine regions of the continent. It’s a quiet, peaceful place to walk around, and there are some food stalls nearby, so you can grab a quick bite as you explore the gardens. Admission is 3,500 COP ($1.12 USD) for adults.
13. See the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen is a Gothic church located in La Candelaria. The church has a red-and-white striped pattern that makes it look like a giant candy cane. Completed in 1938, the church stands almost 60 meters tall has some incredible Byzantine and Moorish art inside it.
14. Visit Simon Bolívar Metropolitan Park
Created in 1979, this is one of the most popular parks in Bogotá and spans almost 1,000 acres. You can find people exercising, relaxing, or attending concerts here every day of the week. It’s a relaxing place to chill out on the lakes, stroll the walkways, or even pop into the public library. The park is named after the famous Simón Bolívar, who led the liberation of the region from its Spanish overlords.
15. Explore Parque 93
This is the area of town with some of the best restaurants, nightclubs, and bars in the entire city. The park itself is home to an ongoing rotation of temporary art exhibitions. Located in one of the nicer areas of town, you’ll find a lot of good restaurants and cafés lining the park.
16. Discover the National Museum of Colombia
Situated in the heart of Bogotá, this is the oldest and biggest museum in the entire country (and one of the oldest on the continent). Built in 1823, it’s home to over 20,000 pieces of art and historical artifacts, some dating as far back as 10,000 BCE. The building was used as a prison initially until it transitioned into a museum in 1946. If you’re a history buff or just want to learn more about the country, this museum is a must. Admission is 4,000 COP ($1.30 USD).
17. Wander the Usaquén Market
Every Sunday, artisans line the cobblestoned streets to sell all sorts of local crafts and goods. While it’s usually referred to as a flea market, things here are a bit nicer and more upscale than some of the other markets. It’s still quite affordable, though, and makes for a fun way to spend the day.
Bogotá Travel Costs
Hostels – Hostels with four to six bed dorms in Bogotá costs about 41,137 COP ($12 USD), while a eight-ten bed dorm will cost between 27,425-34,281 COP ($8-10 USD).
A private double room will cost around $90,000 COP ($29 USD) per night, though they can be found for as little as 68,562 COP ($20 USD).
If you just want to see the main tourist sites, I recommend staying in La Candelaria as you will be within walking distance for everything. If you are staying in the city more than a few nights and are more interested in enjoying Bogotá’s vibrant nightlife, then I recommend staying in the slightly pricier Zona Rosa or Chapinero.
Budget hotels – Budget hotels are plentiful in Bogotá and a room in a two-star hotel can cost about 100,000 COP ($20 USD) per night.
Airbnb is also available in the city, with shared accommodation (like a dorm) starting at 34,000 COP ($11 USD) per night, while a private room costs about 61,705 COP ($18 USD) per night. For an entire home or apartment, prices average about 222,826 COP ($65 USD) per night.
Food – If you’re on a budget, you can easily eat for under 37,709 COP ($11 USD) a day. Whether it’s an arepa for less than 2,000 COP ($0.70 USD), an empanada for 1,500 COP ($0.50 USD) or ajiaco (a hearty dish of chicken breast, potatoes, fresh corn, and more) for lunch for as little as 9,000 COP ($3.50 USD), there are plenty of cheap options for eating out in Bogotá when it comes to fast food. McDonald’s costs about 17,000 COP ($5.50 USD) for one of their set menus.
For a mid-range restaurant with table service, expect to pay around 20,000 COP ($6.50 USD) per main course. A meal at a higher-end restaurant will cost at least 69,485 COP ($20 USD) per course. (In total, you’ll spend about $50-60 for a nice dinner with a drink.)
My favorite places to eat in Bogotá are Mesa Franca, Salvo Patria, El Chato, and Prudencia.
A beer at the bar will cost about 5,000 COP ($1.75 USD) while buying it at a store will be half that price.
OXXO stores are a great place to stock up on snacks and alcohol — most are open 24 hours. For a week’s worth of groceries, you are best off finding an Exito, expect to pay around 63,000-94,000 COP ($20-$30 USD).
Backpacking Bogotá Suggested Budgets
If you are backpacking Bogotá, my suggested budget is 119,983 COP ($35 USD) per day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating street food, cooking some food (or getting a free hostel breakfast), visiting a few attractions, taking the free walking tours, and using local transportation or walking everywhere.
A mid-range budget of about 257,107 COP ($75 USD) per day will cover staying in a budget hotel or an Airbnb, eating out at basic restaurants for all your meals, visiting more paid attractions, and a few Ubers to get around the city.
If you want only private rooms in four-star hotels, private transportation, higher-end tours (including private tours and day tours), and eating out at nicer restaurants, expect to pay at least 651,339 COP ($190 USD) per day. At this budget or higher, the sky is the limit!
Bogotá is pretty cheap. If you stick to eating local street food, dorm rooms, and public transportation, it’s tough to break the bank, especially since so many attractions are free (and there are so many free walking tours here).
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Bogotá Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Bogotá is fairly inexpensive, especially if you’re coming here as a budget traveler. I didn’t find myself spending that much money while I was in the city. But, if you’re looking to save some extra money when you visit, here are my suggested ways to spend less in the city:
- Take a free walking tour – There are a few free walking tours available, making for a great introduction to the city. This is the best (and cheapest!) way to explore while getting a detailed overview of the city and its culture and history. Just be sure to tip! I recommend BeyondColombia or the Bogotá Graffiti Tour.
- Eat like locals – It’s easy to eat on a budget here if you stick to local Colombian food. You can also find a lot of cheap food like arepas for 4,000 COP ($1.50 USD), empanadas for $1,500 COP ($0.50 USD), or fish with beans and rice for lunch for as little as 10,000-16,670 COP ($3.50-5 USD).
- Couchsurf – Accommodation isn’t cheap here, but staying with a local will make it free! Not only will you save some money, but you’ll get firsthand knowledge from a local.
- Cook your own meals – While eating out isn’t too expensive here, if you’re on a budget it will be cheaper if you cook your own meals. Head to a local grocery store and save your budget!
- Skip the cocktails – Colombia has a lot of awesome cocktail bars now, but these drinks are expensive, usually costing around 20,000 COP ($6 USD). If you’re on a budget, you should skip the cocktails and stick to beer.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will help you save money and thousands of plastic bottles by purifying the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).
- Walk everywhere – If you don’t mind walking, this is the easiest and cheapest way to explore the city. Most of the main sights are well within walking distance if you are staying in the La Candelaria area.
Where To Stay in Bogotá
Bogotá is a huge city, and it’s divided into different Estratos, or zones. When booking accommodation, be sure to check the area as many areas in the city are unsafe. La Candelaria is the most popular with backpackers, although it is reasonably safe during the day you should issue caution at night. The two areas of the city considered safer are Zona Rosa and Chapinero; they are both more expensive areas, and they are too far away from downtown to walk to all of the main tourist attractions.
Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Bogotá:
How to Get Around Bogotá
If you like to walk places, stay in La Candelaria. All of the main attractions and sights are quite walkable from here, which will save you some money on transportation.
If you are staying in another area of Bogotá, or want to travel by public transport to one of the malls or places of interest outside Bogotá, you are going to need to use the Transmilenio.
Transmilenio – The main method of public transportation is on the Transmilenio. This is effectively a bus service that has its own bus-lane in the center of the main roads in Bogotá. If you want to get anywhere fast, it is often far better to travel by Transmilenio than by car, as the traffic in Bogotá can be dreadful.
To travel on the Transmilenio, you will first need to buy a TuLlave Card for 5,000 COP ($1.70 USD) and then top it up. This will need to be in cash as cards are not accepted. Once you have your card, you will just need to tap the card to enter the station. It is a fixed cost no matter how far you travel you will be charged 2,300 COP ($.75 USD) per ride.
The Transmilenio runs red busses and blue (urban buses). You should stick to the red busses as the blue ones go to the more urban areas and there shouldn’t be any need to use them. Using the Transmilenio during the day and in the early evening is safe, but I would avoid using public transport after 9pm, especially if you are alone.
To efficiently plan your route on public transport in Bogotá, download an app called Moovit. Google maps can be unreliable, and the transmilenio App is ok, but they only have a Spanish version.
Taking the Transmilenio from the airport to La Candelaria is the cheapest and quickest way into the city center. It will cost 2,300 COP ($0.75 USD). When you arrive at the airport just follow the signs to the Transmilenio then take a bus to Universidades. You will need to alight at Las Aguas and then walk through the park towards the OXXO. This is the start of La Candelaria. If you are staying anywhere else, you can change buses, or take an Uber or Tapsi Taxi.
Taxis – I would strongly advise against taking a taxi on the street in Bogotá. As a general rule, cabs are not safe for tourists, even during the daytime (more about this in the safety section).
If you want to get a taxi, then download an app called Tapsi or Easy Taxi. They work just like Uber although they won’t charge your card, so you will need to pay cash. It is by far the safest way to take a taxi if you need one.
The one exception is the airport taxis as they are safe. A taxi from the airport to La Candelaria should cost you no more than 50,000 COP ($15 USD). If you are staying in the North of the city it should cost no more than 65,000 COP ($20 USD).
Although Uber is not legal in Colombia, it is widely used and considered as safe as using Tapsi or Taxi Fast. I used it all the time while in town.
Bus – Buses run to and from cities such as Medellín, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cali, and Salento each day, with the night buses being the most popular. A bus to Medellín will cost from 60,000 COP ($20 USD), Santa Marta from 90,000 COP ($29 USD), and Cali 64,000 COP ($21 USD). If you want to take a night bus, be sure to book at least 24 hours in advance as these busses often get booked up quickly.
Word of warning when taking the bus: expect the ride to take at least 2-3 hours longer than they will tell you. If your bus is due to get in at 8am, you will probably get in sometime between 10am-12pm. There’s a lot of road work going on in the country, buses make a lot of stops, and traffic is crazy.
Budget Airlines – A flight from Bogotá to Medellín can be as low as 50,000 COP ($17 USD) whereas a bus will cost 60,000 COP ($20 USD).
Keep in mind that you’ll also have to pay to check your baggage on these cheap flights. It costs about 63,000 COP ($20 USD) for one checked bag.
When to Go to Bogotá
Bogotá doesn’t really have seasons, so there is no bad time to visit. Because of the altitude, it is often cold, and it does rain a lot. The drier months are from December to March, so if you prefer to avoid the rain, this would be the best time to go. Expect temperatures around 57°F (14°C).
If you prefer the heat, the warmest months are from May to June where temperatures average around 68°F (20°C).
The busiest time of year to visit Bogotá is during July and August, during Bogotá Carnival. Prices increase a lot during this time, however, and you’ll want to book accommodations well in advance.
How to Stay Safe in Bogotá
Safety is often one of the biggest concerns for people when planning a trip to Bogotá. They have a common saying in Colombia “no dar papaya” this translates as “don’t give papaya.” What it really means is though don’t give anyone the chance to steal your stuff!
That means no walking around with your phone out, never keep anything in your pockets (especially when on public transport), and always keep hold of your bag! If you are eating out either keep your backpack on your lap or place your foot or a chair leg through your strap. It is very common for someone to do a bag swap (meaning they swap their empty bag for yours).
You should issue caution when withdrawing money from an ATM. Try to avoid the ATMs on the street if possible and go into the bank to use the ATM, that way you can put your money away discreetly without being watched.
There aren’t many common street “scams” in Bogotá. Anything serious is going to revolve around theft.
So as long as you keep your possessions close you shouldn’t have any issues. If you do run into any problems, you will find tourist police all over the downtown area, often just shouting loudly will stop a thief in their tracks as the tourist police don’t take kindly to crime against tourists.
Trust me on this. My friend was robbed here. And so was I. I learned what happens when you let your guard down here.
Additionally, watch out for getting random taxis as the really serious crime against foreigners here is what is commonly referred to as “paseo millonarios” (translated as “millionaire rides”). This is why it is advisable not to take a taxi in the street. The taxi driver will pick up a tourist (quite often a solo traveler or a couple) and then the driver will make a stop to pick up some ‘”friends.” They will then take the passenger(s) to an ATM and make them withdraw as many pesos as you can get. They will continue to drive the tourist around, usually by gunpoint to different ATM’s until they have withdrawn all of the money possible. Then they will leave you somewhere to make your own way back.
There are a few “no-go” areas in the city, but as a tourist, you shouldn’t ever find yourself accidentally wandering into one of these areas. As a general rule, don’t go south of La Candelaria, and stay over on the eastern side of the city (the mountainside).
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom but, as much as I LOVE Bogotá, there is crime here and you have to really be careful.
If you don’t do it at home, DEFINITELY don’t do it in Bogotá!
For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Colombia, check out this post we wrote that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Bogotá Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel around Bogotá. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around South America, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Bogotá Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bogotá Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the new Colombia, by Tom Feiling
Short Walks from Bogotá aims to unpick the tangled fabric of Colombia. In this book history and travel writing meet to paint a vivid picture of Colombia in an attempt to help the reader understand how Colombia became one of the most dangerous places on earth. Written by writer and journalist Tom Feiling, in this book he aims to ‘paint a fresh picture of one of the world’s most notorious and least-understood countries’. It includes stories and interviews from former guerrilla fighters, their ex-captives, women whose sons were ‘disappeared’ by paramilitaries and retells countless other stories that ordinary Colombians tell.
Walking in the Clouds: Colombia Through the Eyes of a Gringo, by Michael F. Kastre Walking in the Clouds is a true story Michael Kastre, an American Writer who lived and worked in Colombia during the political upheaval and drug wars of the 1980s. The book is a collection of vignettes and articles pieced together from the authors many years living in Colombia to provide a unique glimpse into the history, politics, and culture of this complex and remarkable country. The writing is in simple conversational style but paints a vivid and colorful picture of both the people and places captured in his stories.
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself , by David Bushnell
This is one for the hardcore history buffs. Although is is written in plane English it is a history book and covers a lot of complex ground. It was also written in the 90’s so it doesn’t include anything about the peace process. That said, he sheds light on the modern history of Latin America as a whole and it is a great read for anyone traveling on the continent.
Oblivion: A Memoir, by Héctor Abad translated by Anne McLean
If you are interested in a more narrative driven story book, Oblivion is both a heart warming and, heartbreaking memorial to the author’s father who was murdered by paramilitaries in 1987. It paints a picture of life growing up in Medellín during the 1970’s and 1980’s and brings to life the danger ordinary Colombians faced every day. It took the author twenty years to write, and paints an unforgettable picture of a man who followed his conscience during one of the darkest periods in Colombia’s history and it cost him his life.
The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Bogotá born Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed as one of South America’s greatest literary stars and one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His award-winning novel has been translated in to English and it is a great read for anyone traveling to Bogotá. Set in Bogotá the protagonist, Antonio Yammara reads an article about an escaped hippo that was once owned by Pablo Escobar. The article transports him back to when the war between the Medellín cartel and the government forces were at its most deadly.
Beyond Bogotá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia, by Garry Leech
A hybrid of journalism and memoir that reads almost like a novel, independent journalist Garry Leech brings together a detailed and shocking account of the 8 years he spent working in the most remote and dangerous regions of Colombia. Through this book he uncovering the unofficial stories of the people he met living in conflict zones. The book is framed around the eleven hours that Leech was held captive by Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group, the FARC in 2006. Leech brings the readers a much needed humanizing account of the war on drugs, offering fresh insights into U.S. foreign policy, the role of the media, and how if effected normal Colombians caught in the middle of the brutal war.
Colombiano, by Rusty Young
This is the book that you will spot being read over and over again by backpackers in hostels all over Colombia (especially Australians as the author is Australian). Colombiano is Young’s first novel and he beautifully blends fact and fiction to create a powerful story of revenge and war. One of the things you learn quickly in Colombia is that the country’s history isn’t black and white. More often than not people had to pick a side to stay alive, or in many cases they were forced into joining a side. Colombiano is the story of Pedro Gutiérrez a teenager who swearing vengeance against the murder of his farther, joins an illegal paramilitary group. Part thriller and part come-of-age story if makes the perfect accompaniment for those long bus journeys.
Bogotá Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Colombia and continue planning your trip: