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Experience the Best of Bogota, Colombia: Machine Guns, Museums, and Massages


Assault is unexpected on a busy street in Bogota. But a small group of guys in their early thirties can spot a tourist in the distance among the umbrellaed corn cob carts, sugar cane juicing machines, and tropical fruit vendors. Walking slightly faster to catch up, they bump against you and, in a loud voice, tell you to “buy this bracelet” and “why you don’t like it.” Avoiding eye contact, you turn and walk away. They follow, but only for a moment because they know that somewhere in the distance is a private guard, a lime green uniformed officer, or a camouflaged soldier with one automatic weapon slung over his back and another with his finger on the trigger. 

Soldiers with machine guns in Bogata.
Tourist safety. Armed military and security are always visible on the streets of central Bogata.

The La Candelaria neighborhood surrounding the Plaza de Bolivar is a haven for government buildings, tourists, and museums. The best museum in Bogota is the Museo del Oro, not for the 55,000 pieces of gold and gems but for the stories it tells by paralleling human culture with advances in metallurgy. Gold is an ornament representing hierarchy for those in power. It also adorned the mystical shaman who transformed into a bat to control the dark, wet, and female worlds or a jaguar to gain sacred power with psychic visions.

Bat art on museum wall.
Muy murciélago. Bats are a symbol of the underworld, a common theme throughout the best museum in Bogotá, Museo de Oro.
Bicycle riders on street in Bogata.
Sunday streets. Biking is the main event on closed streets every Sunday morning.

The next best museums are the Botero Museum, with works by Picasso, Monet, Salvador Doli, and Van Gogh, and the adjoining Banco Museum, with the most creative and interactive rooms that, on one floor, take you on an acid trip through a commemorated theatre. Another tells the gruesome story of Pablo Escobar without ever mentioning his name or showing anything horrendous. 

Botero painting of woman's large bottom.
Super-sized. Botero paints everything larger. His showcase includes art by Picasso, Monet, Van Gough, and Salvador Doli.
People in art exhibit of a party.
You are art. In the Banco museum, exhibits are both disturbing and mind blowing creative.

Skip the National and Santa Clara museums. Instead, relax with a massage in the secret basement floor spa of the Hotel de la Opera. The treatment begins with dropping your robe and lying face up on a massage table which is only awkward for a moment before they place cucumber slices over your eyes and cover your exposed body with a warm moist towel. After a healing manipulation, wet and dry saunas, and a warm pool, the memory of an earlier assault washes away.

Empty hallway in museum.
Empty museum. Maybe the National museum had few visitors for a reason. Go to the Museum de Oro instead.
Church with art on walls and ceiling.
Santa Clara Chapel. A church turned museum, probably not a must see.

Fear of the street fades to the peace-loving Spanish-speaking locals’ warm smiles and genuine kindness. Bogota is a foodie town with vendors selling aromatic cocktails and restaurants serving typical meals of cranberry beans, rice, plantains, blood sausage, chicken soup, and tamales. The exchange rate makes everything a bargain. By knowing your boundaries and staying off the streets at night, Bogota is safe enough with rich history, relaxation, and plenty to eat.

Woman with a cart making a drink.
Street drinks! Have an aromatic with rum, whiskey, or tequila.
Wall outside of hotel.
It’s downstairs. Besides a great place to stay and eat, there is a spa in the lower level.
Woman floating on her back in a pool.
Secret spa. Included is a massage, wet and dry saunas, and pool time.
A man selling corn from his cart.
Corn cobbler. The large-sized kernels taste like popcorn.
Taxi's on street in Bogata.
Tourist streets. Keep safe by knowing the boundaries and staying in at night.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

The African savanna with three acacia trees.
Amazon Jungle
Costa Rica

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